By Isaac Asabor
It is not an exaggeration to say that governments do lie sometimes to their citizens, and for government officials who are afraid of losing their official positions for not kowtowing, lies are necessary: even if the lies are mischievously fabricated to cover up the death of their fellow citizens.
The world will not forget so soon the lies that were fabricated to cover up the death of Jamal Khashoggi who was reportedly killed on 2nd October 2018 by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was a Saudi dissident, journalist, and columnist for The Washington Post, former editor of Al-Watan and former general manager and editor-in-chief of the Al-Arab News Channel. Despite the web of lies that were fabricated, the truth triumphed. After all, Joseph Goebbels says, “There will come a day when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, and the truth will triumph again.”
In a similar vein, during the Second World War, in an attempt to cover up the existence of radar technology from the enemy, the British government told newspapers that British fighter pilots had excellent night vision because they ate so many carrots. Propaganda posters encouraged the public to do the same.
Another lie, far grimmer this time, was the attempt to cover up the Bethnal Green Tube disaster, which is thought to be the UK’s largest single loss of civilian life during the Second World War. More than 170 people fleeing an air raid were crushed to death when the dimly lit entrance to the station became blocked. Joan Martin, who as a young doctor received the dead and wounded as they arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in east London, spoke many years later about the attempts to silence those who had witnessed the tragedy: “I suppose the government didn’t want to look as if things were out of hand. The newspapers said nothing.”
Contextualizing the denials and refutations that trailed the infamous killings at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20, 2021, it suffices to recall that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has vehemently denied that there was no killings at the Lekki Tollgate. He has for the umpteenth times challenged Nigerians to show him the relatives of any of the victims’ to convince him that people were truly killed. Mohammed, in a series of press conferences denied the massacre and even made the CNN to retract its report.
In fact, as the nation marks one year of EndSARS few weeks ago, the minister insisted that the claimed massacre of Nigerians during the nationwide mass protests against police brutality, was phantom.
Mohammed while reiterating his position in Abuja at a media briefing on the first anniversary of the “phantom massacre” stressed that the only ‘massacre’ recorded was on social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.
He said, “Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums.
“At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none.
“No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?
“The champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand, he said.
The minister said, till date, Amnesty International, CNN have not been able to prove the allegation of a massacre at the toll gate during the protest.
He said the testimony of ballistic experts before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos contradicted the “tales by the moonlight” by Amnesty International, CNN and DJ Switch and their ilk.
Ostensibly finding it difficult to turn his lies to truth, he said, “In carrying out its duties, the ballistic team examined medical data, the timeline of arrival at the medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the five medical facilities”.
He explained that the ballistic experts found out that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters at the toll gate within the timeframe of 6.30 p.m. and 8.31 p.m. the incidence allegedly took place.
But alas! Against the backdrop of the news that the Lagos EndSARS Panel has submitted its Report, one year after Inauguration to the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, there is no denying the fact that the minister has all the while been hiding facts that surrounds the killings at Lekki Tollgate.
As gathered, the governor received the report from the head of the Lagos panel on police brutality from Justice Doris Okuwobi, who led the judicial panel in Lagos State.
The panel submitted its findings to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. One of the reports was on claims of police brutality while the other was on the shooting in the Lekki area of Lagos State during last year’s EndSARS protests.
Besides the minister denying that no soul was exterminated at the Lekki Tollgate, the Nigerian army, in the same vein, denied shooting live bullets at protesters, telling the judicial panel that only blank bullets were fired.
It would be recalled that the protest movement which started as a campaign to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit accused of extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings, escalated to a bigger contestation against bad governance.
As gathered, the 309-page report threw insight to how the Army and police ignored their rules of engagement during the protest.
The report in its executive summary, said: “The panel in its report found that on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed, helpless and defenseless protesters without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the National Anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre.
However, as every Nigerian continue to ponder over Lai Mohammed’s lies and the Report made public by the Panel, it is expedient to recall the words of wisdom and admonition of Wellins Calcott which says, “All men must acknowledge Lying to be one of the most scandalous sins, that can be committed between man and man; a crime of a deep dye, and of an extensive nature, leading into innumerable sins; for Lying is practiced to deceive, to injure, betray, rob, destroy, and the like; Lying in this sense is the concealing of all other crimes, the sheep’s clothing upon the wolf’s back, the Pharisee’s prayer, the harlot’s blush, the hypocrite’s paint, and Judas’s kiss; in a word, it is mankind’s darling sin, and the Devil’s distinguished characteristic”.