Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has added his voice to the global condemnation of the shooting of unarmed protesters in Lekki, Lagos, by Nigerian soldiers on Tuesday evening.
Obasanjo called on President Muhammadu Buhari, who is commander in chief of the Nigerian armed forces, to restrain his soldiers.
Obasanjo’s position is contained in a letter he released to the public a few hours ago.
He 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 Muhammadu 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 dialogues with the protesters before resorting the use of force. It is worse 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.
“We are at a critical moment in this crisis and Mr President must act before it is too late. This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such.
“Most of the demands of the protesting youth, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State swiftly took to the President, are not unreasonable and can be met without anyone’s political interest or ambition being threatened. It is 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. These are the most potent ways of ending this crisis now.
“The youth too must give peace a chance while making their legitimate demands. They must be mindful of miscreants who will infiltrate their ranks and give the protests a bad name only so that trigger-happy forces will kill them. The destruction and looting of public and private properties will only hurt all of us and set us back. The targeting of individuals and groups for attacks and reprisal attacks will only further widen our divisions, escalate the crisis and threaten our fragile unity.
“This is yet another moment when our nation is on the edge of a cliff. 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 concluded.