All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has reiterated he was not party to the deployment of soldiers against peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos State.
He said although he had been a victim of wrong attribution in the past as a public figure, the allegation that he called on soldiers to kill Lagosians was a “complete,” “terrible” and “foulest of lies.”
The eminent politician said those telling lies against him tried to manipulate people’s anger to advance political objectives that had nothing to do with the subject matter of the protests.
He said there was no way he could have opposed the legitimate protests against police brutality, having participated himself in the historic June 12 protests, which laid the foundation for the restoration of democracy.
Tinubu, who sympathised with those who may have lost their lives injured during the protests, urged Nigerians to develop a collective wisdom and compassion to learn proper lessons from the events.
In a statement titled: “The #EndSARS protests: a fundamental lesson in democratic governance,” the former Lagos Governor cleared the air on the malicious and unfounded allegations against him by some elements before, during and after the protests.
Tinubu emphasised the use of strong force against peaceful protesters is indefensible, adding it is completely outside the norms of a democratic society and progressive political culture.
But, rejecting the accusation of deployment of soldiers, he said:”I have been falsely accused of ordering the reported deployment of soldiers against peaceful protesters that took place at Lekki on October 20, 2020.
“This allegation is a complete and terrible lie. I did not order this or any assault against anybody.
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“I would never want such a vile thing to happen nor did I have any prior knowledge about this sad event.
“It is my firm belief that no one should be harassed, injured or possibly killed for doing what they have the constitutional right to do in making their contribution to a better, more equitable society.
“As a political figure, I am accustomed to people attributing to me all manner of indiscretions of which I have no knowledge and in which I played no role. I have usually ignored such falsities as the cost of being in the public eye.
“This time, it is different. The allegation now levied against me is that I called on soldiers to kill my own people. This allegation is the foulest of lies.”
Tinubu lamented that he became a scapegoat as many people believed the rumours peddled against him by those who chose to malign him as they harboured ulterior motives and political scores to settle.
He pointed out why the plot to bring enmity between him and the Federal Government failed, these foes sought to sow enmity between him and Lagosians by lying he ordered soldiers to quash the same protests they had earlier accused him of organising.
Tinubu said while opponents were at liberty to oppose him politically in the open by employing facts and not friction, they have no right to slander or defame him with their fabrications.
The former governor maintained that he was not the owner of the Lekki toll gate, urging critics to investigate by seeking facts, instead of being swayed by gossip.
Noting that the toll gate is a public asset, he suggested that government should close it for an indefinite period and later donate the revenue derived from it when it is reopened to the “confirmed victims of the Lekki attacks” and “other identified victims of police brutality in Lagos.”
Tinubu, who said he had financial investment in the TVC and The Nation, which were significantly damaged, pointed out that he never sought for the Army or the police to attack, kill or injure those who razed the two properties, despite prior notice of the imminent trespass.
He stressed: “I did not want any bloodshed. These elements, mostly hirelings of my political opponents, wreaked their havoc and destroyed those buildings and facilities and I thank God that the employees of these two media institutions managed to escape largely unharmed.
“There is a deeper truth involved here. Burned buildings and damaged equipment can be rebuilt or replaced.
“There is no adequate substitute for the loss of even a single human life. I am not one to encourage violence. I abhor it. Thus, I did nothing that might endanger lives, even the lives of those who destroyed my properties.
“Now, those who claim I ordered violence in Lekki must face the sheer illogic of their assertions. There is no rationale that can adequately explain why I would order soldiers to repel peaceful protesters from the toll gate where I have no financial interest, yet, choose to do nothing to protect my investments in The Nation and TVC.
“Why would I be so moved as to instigate the army to attack peaceful, law-abiding people at the toll gate where I have no pecuniary stake, yet lift not a single finger to stop hired miscreants bent on setting fire to these important media investments?”
Tinubu, who lamented the loss of lives and destruction of businesses and livelihood across the country cautioned against a rush of emotion and hasty conclusion over unsubstantiated fatalities.
He said: “This is particularly true regarding the Lekki incident. Various players will promulgate different casualty numbers. At this moment, no conclusive figure has been ascertained.
“Although an investigation has been launched by the governor, a totally accurate picture of the events may never be known. I for one refuse to engage in futile speculation regarding the possible number of casualties for such talk misses the vital point that we all must recognize.”
Tinubu reiterated his commitment to reform, saying that the state police, and not the Army, is the solution to curtailment of civil disobedience.
He also suggested that the recruitment and training of more police officers, when state police is created, should be based on the modern tenets of community policing.
He added: “Measures such as these are needed to cure present gaps in how military and law enforcement treat the general public.
“These proposals are important and they do not hamstring proper law enforcement and security operations. We know there are criminal elements in society primed to harm people and seize property. We expect this of criminals. “What is not expected is that people will be brutalized and scarred by those commissioned to protect and serve them. This anomaly must end.”