- Says what is needed at this critical time is mature leadership
- Appeals to president to restrain military from using brute force against protesters
- Says shooting, killing of unarmed protesters will reinforce anger, frustration
By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that Nigeria is on the edge of a cliff and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to act now before it is two late.
In a statement he issued on Wednesday, a day after soldiers shot at peaceful young protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, Obasanjo said “We are in a critical moment in this crisis and Mr. President must act now before it is two late. This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such.”
The former President therefore appealed to President Buhari as President and commander in chief to restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force as a way of ending the ongoing protest against police brutality across the country.
Noting that, “This is yet another moment when our nation is on the edge of a cliff,” the former President said, “Our individual and collective actions now and in the next few days will determine where we will go as a nation. May God help us in taking the right steps in the right direction”.
He said that the shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, had never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration.
The former President said such actions would reinforce the anger and frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution.
In the statement, where he appealed for calm as the protests escalate after the Lekki Tollgate shooting by the military, Obasanjo said: “It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of concern about the ongoing violence, chaos, and unrest in many parts of Nigeria that I make this appeal to the government and people of our dear country, Nigeria, to eschew violence and embrace peace and dialogue in finding solutions to the challenges we face as a country.
“I particularly appeal to President Muharnmadu Buhari, in his capacities as President of Nigeria, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and as a parent of youth like the ones who have in the last week come out in peaceful protest against police brutality and for improvement in their lives and their living conditions, to restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force as a way of ending the crisis.
“The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration. Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution.
“It is clear that Mr. President and his lieutenants did not exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to use of force. It is worse that there is denial of wrongdoing in spite of overwhelming visual evidence. Great harm has been done but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control.”
Obasanjo was of the opinion that most of the demands of the protesting youth, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State swiftly took to the President, were not unreasonable and can be met without anyone’s political interest or arnbition being threatened.
He noted that it was imperative that leaders at all levels, starting with Mr. President, must demonstrate meekness, humanity, and sincerity in meeting the legitimate demands of the protesters and ensuring that justice is served where it must be served, saying these are the most potent ways of ending this crisis now.
Obasanjo, however, called on the protesting youth give peace a chance while making their legitimate demands.
He said they must be mindful of miscreants who would infiltrate their ranks and give the protests a bad name only so that trigger-happy forces will kill them.
Obasanjo stressed that the destruction and looting of public and private properties would hurt everyone and set the country back.
He added that targeting of individuals and groups for attacks and reprisals would only further widen divisions, escalate the crisis and threaten the country’s fragile unity.