The tale by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at the Senate chambers in 2019 on his encounter with his seven-year-old grandson over his being referred to as ‘Liar Mohammed’ on social media, may not be as simple as it seemed. It speaks much about his person.
Mohammed had appeared before the Senate for his screening following his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari. Rather than face the business of the day on his strategies at projecting the policies of the government, Uncle Lai, chose to trivialize the issues.
He took the Senate on a comic ride, saying; “Please don’t believe what they say on social media. They call me all sorts of names there. I used to ignore it until one day when my 7-year old grandson called me and said grandpa, tell me the truth, why do they call you Liar Mohammed?”
His response to the question, according to him, was that those behind the name are ‘bad guys’.
“I looked at him. What do you say to a 7-year-old son? How do you explain politics to him? So, I said no, don’t mind them, they are the bad guys”, the Minister said.
With this theatre performance, he was asked to take a bow and go. Lai Mohammed may have considered himself a sharp guy in confusing his grandson and the senators. But Nigerians know better. Reggae crooner, Bob Marley, was right that “you can cheat some people some time but you can’t cheat all the people all the time”.
The Minister has really been having his way all the while, humouring himself that he has been playing it fast on the people with half-truths and outright falsehood. But his off-the-cuff dismissal of the Lagos #EndSARS panel report, is one that shows that he is on a dangerous course that may have more than a telling effect on Nigeria and the Buhari administration.
The Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, was inaugurated by Lagos state governor. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on October 19, 2020, to investigate complaints against human rights abuses by the police.
It was a follow-up to the #EndSARS protests that rocked many parts of the country, with Lagos as the epicenter. When protesters at Lekki were killed the next day, he expanded the terms of reference to cover the incident.
The panel in its report which it turned in penultimate Monday, indicated, among others, that 11 protesters were shot dead, four presumed dead, and another 96 corpses on a list supplied by a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Professor John Obafunwa, adding, “some of (whom) could have come from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020.”
The governor in response, set up a committee to study the report and come up with a White Paper to guide the government on the next line of action.
But hardly had the committee taken off before Lai dismissed the panel report, as a collection of fake news, riddled with errors, inconsistencies and discrepancies.
“Without mincing words, let me say that never in the history of any judicial panel in this country has its report been riddled with so many errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions and conclusions that are not supported by evidence.
“What is circulating in public space is simply a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of October 20th 2020.
“That report is nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob”, he fumed at a press conference, barely few days after the committee on the White Paper was inaugurated.
For effect, he added; “There is absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki on Oct. 20th 2020. For us to change our stand, a well-investigated report of the incident that meets all required standards and will withstand every scrutiny must be produced and presented to the public”.
This is taking rascality beyond limits. Protection of life and property is the primary function of the government. For any government that is worth its name, the loss of a citizen in any manner, especially as in the case of the #EndSARS protests by the youths, is usually a low moment in its existence.
In the media, the maxim is, ‘when it bleeds, it leads’. That underscores the premium on human life. What Lai has manifested is that the life of the ordinary Nigerian does not matter to him and the government he serves as the spokesman. Nothing can be more devaluing for a people.
There could have been some errors in the report by the Lagos panel, no doubts. They were after all, compiled by human beings. But to wave off the entire exercise as a rehash of prevail social media fake news, is clearly out of it.
Lai’s casual dismissal of the report and the issues involved, has made little of the ignoble outing by the Minister for transport in the Second Republic, late Umaru Dikko, who, in laughing off the economic difficulties the citizens were going through at the time, mocked that no Nigerian was yet eating from the waste bins. Dikko did not recover from the backlash from that the callous remarks till he died.
By writing off the Lagos Panel report, Lai Mohammed has simply danced on the graves of those innocent youths that were wasted by the cowardly security agents on October 20, 2020. He has merely advertised to the world that he is an agent of a government that does not care about the well-being of its people.
But there is limit to the extent he can lie. The footages of the Lekki massacre are already in the public domain. Experiences of lucky survivors are out there on what happened. It is too late for cover up or mindless propaganda to hide the truth. The danger with the poor script by the Information Minister, is that it gives the country negative portrayal abroad.
President Buhari must be his own man at this moment by rising beyond the sycophantic maneuvers of Lai Mohammed. As he had remarked, there is need for reports from other states on the #EndSARS protests for the government to take a comprehensive action on the issue. Nigerians are holding him on this.
As for the Minister, he has succeeded in reinforcing the impression by his grandson that he is a Liar.