By Thomas Uzah
The recent happenings in the country indeed call for concern from discerning minds. The EndSARS protest has opened a new vista in the battle for the soul of the country. Those against the interest of the country almost had their way, but for a timely intervention, which some segment of the country have decided to turn a blind eye to, instead, they have elected to turn the truth on its head in a most despicable manner.
The events of the past weeks have also brought to our consciousness how slippery the social media space can be with the propagation of fake news. In the social media space, the truth can be turned on its head, and the people would believe without verifying. Yes, that was the case with the EndSARS protest and the intervention of the Nigerian Army in the incidence at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos state. Some might say the approach deployed by the soldiers were wrong, I would agree to a degree, but I am of the firm belief that the intervention was with the best of intents because, before our very eyes, anarchy was looming with the attack on police units and formations, as well as government and private concerns.
Indeed there was palpable tension. That was what most Nigerians didn’t realize, and if decisive actions were not taken, we would have been singing a different song today and as usual, accusing fingers would be raised against the security agencies for failing to act, and in good time.
I must state that there were also a group of people that felt threatened by the commitment displayed by the Nigerian Army in dousing the tension and as such they capitalized on the Lekki Tollgate incidence to get their pound of flesh for daring to alter their plans towards destroying Nigeria.
The social media merchants fell easily for the trap and went to town to peddle all sorts of misinformation about what truly transpired. And the Nigerian Army was leveled with all sorts of accusations which in my opinion, was deliberate.
We thank God the dust has settled, and things are beginning to take shape. The Lagos State government set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution to investigate what transpired to make appropriate recommendations to the state government.
While it is indeed a welcome development, there seems to be a snag in the activities of the Judicial Panel that should give all a cause for concern. The way and manner the panel has been conducting its business is indeed worrisome. It seems the members of the panel are not in tune with the present reality and the task before them. They have arrogated to themselves the power of life and death and seem to have thrown in the trash can all the principle of decorum.
Their actions seem prejudiced, and I am forced to believe that at the end of the day, we might be seeing a Kangaroo contraption designed to cause more harm than good and we stand the risk of a bigger monster than the thugs and hoodlums that hijacked the EndSARS protest.
This fact Nigerians must come to terms with and be circumspect with the actions and inactions of the panel and the revelations that would follow very soon. It is expected that the members of the panel would stand firm in fulfilling its mandate. Ironically that seems to have been sacrificed on the altar of personal and selfish aggrandizement.
It is indeed a shame and quite depressing. So much so that I wonder when we would get things right in Nigeria. I also wonder when individuals entrusted with public trust would rise above board and do the right thing devoid of political considerations.
This is indeed not the time for selective judgment, but rather a time for sober reflection and ensuring that those found to have contributed to the escalation of violence across the country are brought to book to account for their nefarious activities.
So far, this hasn’t been the case with members that are meant to be steadfast in the discharge of their duties have been grandstanding in the media and saying all that is not meant to be said and granting interviews that further compound issues at stake.
This is the starkness of the reality before us, and it is hoped that things would take a turn for good; else we would have wasted considerable time and resources with nothing to show for it and back to square one with more issues to deal with in our plates.
The members of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution must quickly realize that posterity would not be kind to them if they continue in this fashion which by all indication negates the objectives for its establishment in the first place. This is not a time to play politics or engage in media grandstanding. They must understand that to whom much is given, much is expected.
Nigerians want the truth and all those that peddled false news that was responsible for the escalation of violence are brought to book unless they want to feign ignorance to the role of fake news in the violence that almost brought the country to its knees. There should be no preferential treatments. All parties must be given a fair hearing, and the conclusions arrived at, a true reflection of what truly transpired.
In my considered opinion, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry remains a Kangaroo contraption in the light of the way and manner it has carried on with its activities. I pray that there is deep retrospection so, at the end of the day, those that are guilty are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others in the future, and the victims adequately compensated in the spirit of fairness.
Uzah PhD is head of mass communication department, Kwararafa University Wukari.