‘If we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless’ – Mahatma Ghandi
Nigerians are still trying to unravel why heartless souls will fire live ammunition’s on harmless young people merely protesting police brutality and poor governance in their nation. For years many young people have been shot, maimed and murdered in cold blood unjustly. The absurdity of it is incomprehensible for the people in civilized nations because it will be hard for them to believe the offenses for which young people are brutalized might be nothing but mere taking an evening walk, carrying their laptops without receipts, driving leisurely or simply making a peaceful protest. Several lives have been lost, but everything came to a head when on Tuesday October 20 2020, armed military men invaded a dark Lekki Toll Gate area (after removal of power supply and CCTV cameras) and unleashed bullet shots on unarmed #Endsars protesters.
According to Amnesty International, 12 people were killed apart from dozens wounded. As expected, this has angered young people who went ahead to burn down a Television station perceived to belong to Bola Tinubu, the National leader of the ruling party and razed down a house belonging to the mother of the Lagos state governor. My intervention today is based on my conviction that bitterness and vengeance which are natural and human reactions to the actions of government rather than help to achieve the strategic goals of the movement will likely lead to failure rather than success. Great revolutionaries like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela learnt long ago and in recent history respectively that it takes forgiveness to defeat oppressors and negative people.
For 27 years, Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in South African prisons at the expense of his youth, marriage, family life and personal liberty. Thousands of his country men were jailed, maimed and killed, and yet he came out preaching peace and reconciliation. He learned in incarceration that those who refuse to forgive hold on to dangerous emotions like anger, bitterness, resentment and hatred. These emotions have been confirmed for ages to be at the root of many crimes and misdemeanors. They are known to defile character, weaken value systems and corrupt personal judgements.
The other side of these deadly emotions is that they cause a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. Marriane Williamson said ‘Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die. Forgiving is more about your wellbeing than the other person. I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Martin Luther King, Jr. Taking the path of bitterness, vengeance and violence will cause the #Endsars movement to lose credibility and be seen as one with the hoodlums destroying public and private properties around the city. Ethnic agitators are also trying to hijack the protest and provoking violence. All they want to see is the disintegration of the country and it’s all based on nothing but ethnic and tribal prejudices. Let all people of good conscience remain motivated by the love of their families and their fellow men. Let them be driven by patriotism and selfless service. They should not cower nor backdown but continue to pressurize government online and by physical demonstrations when the atmosphere is right. However, let them resolve never to resort to violence.
I felt a great deal for Babajide Sanwoolu, the Lagos state governor who I saw engaging the #Endsars movement and doing all he could in his power to respond to their agitations. He knows well as a good politician not to lose the goodwill of the young population who are now in the majority in the state. Unfortunately the young people do not understand Nigeria does not have a proper federation of independent states. The governor lacks control over the military and only has influence with the police. It has sounded absurd and unbelievable to the young people that he was unaware of the Lekki massacre .
In the spirit of forgiveness, I will appeal to the leaders of the #Endsars movement to work with him and constructively engage his government and other progressive state governments to achieve the modest gains possible at his level. Focus must remain on the end goals. Strategies have to be reviewed and the movement given a semblance of structure for a long lasting impact on the Nigerian nation. To achieve that, we must avoid the distractions of bitterness and vengeance. Peace, love and good courage can go hand in hand to deliver the rebirth of a new nation.
I round up with the ancient famous prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.