By Temitope Ajayi
“The atrocious maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor and waving their Nigerian flags while singing the National Anthem can be equated to a ‘massacre’ in context.”
-Lagos Panel of Enquiry on #EndSARS
It is obvious the panel could not convince itself that there was a massacre. The word massacre has a straightforward meaning. It does not need any contextualisation for anyone to understand.
Even for non-language experts who may not understand semiotics or semiology, the word ‘massacre’ will naturally provoke certain imagery. The language of report writing is factual because it about recalling what happened. It should never give room for ambiguities.
By putting the word ‘massacre’ in quote, the panel has given the word an extensional meaning beyond its denotative meaning. The panel’s report is not a piece of literary work that should be suffused in figurative expressions. The panel’s job was intended to help the society know the truth and possibly find closure, not to create doubts and further ill-will.
Now, if many among the ecstatic crowd will be honest to themselves, the issue has never been about death or injuries at Lekki Tollgate; it has always been what qualifies as a massacre.
Did what happened on October 20th, 2020 qualify as a massacre? The panel says, contextually, it can be equated. So, the panel used ‘massacre’, in quote for extrapolation, because the panelists knew there was no massacre in the real sense of it. In this matter, there is no room for extrapolation or equation. It is either the panel says there was a massacre or not. I certainly understand the argument that one death was bad enough, but there is nowhere in the world, even where the facts add up, that 11 people can qualify as a massacre.
If the leaked document in circulation is actually what was submitted to Governor Sanwo-Olu yesterday, the state government should demand for some kind of refund on expended tax payers’ money. I can’t see any reason why it should take one year to put together the report in circulation. It is very shoddy in preparation and untidy in its assumptions and conclusions.
For some strange reasons, the report has no word for the police officers that were killed and many victims of the violent protests, especially those who lost livelihoods. Does it mean the lives of the murdered police officers are not important or they deserved to die in such undignified manner.
It is really befuddling that a panel that sat for a whole year didn’t pay attention to details and facts.
The panel listed Nathaniel Solomon, a man that granted video interview to The Punch as a deceased victimofLekkiTollgate. The video interview was published by Punch Online on September 11, 2021. Kolade Salami that was killed in April 2019 by men of SARS was named as another deceased. I have seen others posts where 3 names among the 11 listed as deceased by the Panel are said to be alive and kicking.
I guess the panel relied more on social media rumours and gist to arrive at some of the conclusions.
I decided to write this because of many who tagged me to posts and comments since yesterday evening. Of course many of the tags were ill-motivated and some others for virtue signaling. I’m unperturbed, to put mildly. Let me make this very clear: I have the courage of my convictions and I am not one that will run away or recant my earlier views on issues I am convinced about. Nobody can railroad me into narratives that cannot stand serious scrutiny. I enjoy debate. I can only be persuaded to change my views on any issue on the basis of force of logic and reason.
• Temitope Ajayi is a journalist and public affairs analyst