ON Wednesday morning, Cable News Network (CNN), the globally respected American TV channel, screened a bombshell report, based on a meticulous investigation conducted by its journalists.
CNN’s account of what really happened on that fateful night matches the harrowing tale that has been told, both locally and internationally, by Switch, a young DJ who was at the scene of the crime and has been demonized as a dangerous liar by the authorities.
The horrifying mini-documentary, which has gone viral online, credibly contradicted the Federal Government of Nigeria’s (FGN) insistence that no #ENDSARS protester was murdered by trigger-happy soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on October 20.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has expressed the views
a) that CNN should be sanctioned for peddling highly irresponsible “fake news” …and
b) that DJ Switch would, if sincere, appear before Lagos State’s Judicial Panel of Enquiry (which is allegedly trying its best to get to unravel truth from fiction) … …instead of “spreading falsehoods” in foreign and domestic for that aren’t recognised by the Federal Government.
Lai Mohammed says that there was no massacre at Lekki and that he is satisfied by the roles played by army and police officers.
I really wish I could avoid commenting on this sad situation because I am very fond of Lai Mohammed and regard him as a senior friend.
I was kidnapped in Port Harcourt in 2015 and fled to Abuja to lick my wounds, shortly after my family paid a ransom that liberated me from 2 utterly traumatic weeks of captivity in a mangrove swamp.
Lai Mohammed was the first person to visit me when I limped into Abuja, trembling, barely able to focus mentally and bearing scars from beatings inflicted by my captors; and he was so very kind.
But a point comes at which friendship should not be allowed to interfere with conscience; and I feel morally obliged to criticise Lai’s recent utterances and his government’s handling of the Lekki debacle in particular and the #ENDSARS drama in general.
A Minister of Information has a professional and political duty to defend the administration he was appointed to serve.
But if I were in Lai’s shoes, I would rather resign than defend the indefensible.
I used to have a handful of pals who worked for CNN. But my pals have all retired or moved on to other TV stations. And I don’t know a single individual who is on CNN’s payroll at the moment. But I am an ex-BBC journalist myself, which means that I am very familiar with the values that underpin the operations of the main European and American multinational media outlets.
And I think that I can confidently declare that CNN is serious about integrity, that CNN has no personal axe to grind against President Buhari or his subordinates, that CNN is only interested in providing its viewers with accurate information and that the CNN film footage depicting blood-soaked bodies and live bullets was NOT doctored.
While FGN spokesmen swear that CNN is mendacious, I and many, many other onlookers watch with mounting sorrow and anger as the Naija authorities carry on like dictators rather than democrats.
#ENDSARS activists are being treated like terrorists. Their bank accounts have been frozen. They fear for their lives.
The status quo is an absolute disgrace and the FGN has two options: It can continue to carry on like a vicious bull in a China shop and possibly wind up injuring itself beyond repair…OR stop, take a deep breath, admit to having made some terrible mistakes, apologise and build a healthy relationship with a populace that is largely hostile.
Most Nigerians are not seeking regime change per se.
Most Nigerians do not expect total sainthood from those who rule them. Most Nigerians just want leaders who believe in justice, who genuinely care about their welfare, who aren’t suffocatingly greedy, who aren’t sadistic and who possess the competence to enable this country to fulfil its potential and provide them with bright futures.