By Ishowo Oluwatosin
It has become very necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with the Security Chiefs. In the 2019 general elections, you bestowed on me your love and trust, that is why I am offering you my sincerity. Fellow compatriots, I speak to you today to address the matters that threaten our collective existence.
The independence of Nigeria was birthed as a result of the loud voice of our ancestors, I assure you that your voice is not only heard, it will be acted upon.
The recent demonstration by our youths is an affirmation that their determination to move this country from the pit of despair, to not only a growing nation but a progressive one, is unshakeable. We are not oblivion to the fact that a country where their leaders envision nothing is bound to perish.
Tonight, I stand before you to take responsibility not because of guilt but on the strength of principle of responsibility and on the obvious truth that you’ve always shared the burden of rebuilding this nation with me via your understanding and patience.
The Lekki Toll Gate incident is very disastrous and a national catastrophe. We are not people that embark on psychological exile, our memory is still fresh on protests that nearly brought this nation to her feet and those that generated reforms that transformed our lives and we are here because of our unnegotiable unity.
The greatest regret of our ancestors is not their death but the glaring fact that their dream ended as a dream. As living people, if we are thinking for them, we should make their dream a reality. For every one that stood on the streets in the past decades against the military as you demonstrated today, they fought for future generations and I’m certain they are proud of your generation.
Democracy was the product of their struggle, remember the democracy we have here is what other nations far and near are fighting for – and dying to have yet seeking opportunity to dialogue and disagree over decisions that affect their lives. We should not take that for granted but utilise it. That is why our agitation must be structured in line with democracy. As leaders, we are aware of our responsibilities but as Nigerian youths you also have your responsibilities. Without lending us your patience and understanding nothing can be achieved.
As your President, I am worried that the actions of some bad eggs in the disbanded F-SARS unit led us to this stage where the goodwill of our government towards police reform and adjustment was squandered. It has become crystal clear that goodwill is never enough as a driving force for good governance – this is why we will take drastic measures to curb the situation that is exploding – but that is not possible without your cooperation, understanding and reinvesting your confidence towards our efforts.
I urge you all to leave the streets. The 5 of 5 of demands you made have been considered and efforts will be made toward others to reassure our commitment to democracy and respect for your fundamental human rights – and that we are not deaf.
The demand to compensate the family of the deceased, probe irresponsible officers of the defunct SARS unit will be met. We have even extended it to the entire police force without restriction to the disbanded unit. This is an agitation against the brutality of men that are supposed to protect us and abysmal use of state force against the true owners of their lands – the people. Please, trust our efforts and commitment. After all, recent violent protests against police brutality in the US over the murder of George Floyd was not met by violent response.
We are not only planning to reform, we are making efforts for long term reforms that will be sustainable through legislation. It is clear we must not use the same thinking we used in creating something to solve the problems it is breeding, we must find a valuable, quality solution and alternatives that will not undermine the true purpose of a modern nation.
I condemn in totality the shooting of protesters either by soldiers, unknown gunmen and thugs. The service chiefs have updated me about the tragic situation and to reiterate our commitment, we are setting up an independent panel to investigate the killings. As the Commander in Chief, I didn’t give such orders and it is a national threat that unknown people were capable of subjecting us to international embarrassment and shame. They will be brought to book.
Fellow Nigerians, future generations won’t ask us the party we belonged to, the state we came from or the ideology and sentiments we have but what we did when we had the opportunity. This is an opportunity for us all to convert our expectations to achievable goals.
Conclusively, I sympathise with the family of the victims and true protesters, honest police officers who lost their lives during this trying time. People may forget you but the soil of Nigeria you walked on will forever be grateful and proud that such foots walked upon its surface. If “sorry” could change things, the world should have been a better place. However, I am offering our sincere “sorry” and apology, it may not bring back the dead nor reverse what we have lost, but it should console our soul and calm our spirit that this nation will achieve its full potential and be a safe and comfortable haven for the citizens.
President Muhammad Buhari
Regrettably, the President gave us a warning; sadly a threat, not a speech in the actual address. May God heal this nation and give us a true leader that will pick our future above power.
ISHOWO, Isiaq Oluwatosin.