By George Ugwumba

My name is George Ugwumba, and this is the detailed account of my personal experience at the Lekki Massacre on the night of October 20th 2020.

I have often imagined a Nigerian society with good political institutions, recognizing the rights of it’s citizens and making humanity a priority. When the #EndSars protests was birthed on Twitter, it made it’s way to the sister-platform Facebook with the same hashtag, I said to myself “the time is now”.

Though I had predicted an uprising starting from Twitter in an article titled ‘The Tweet That Scattered Nigeria’ about 36 days before the protest began, I was convinced that my social prophecy was due to manifest itself. The protest organically started with few celebrities taking the bold step; the likes of ‘Falz’ Falana and Small Doctor whom I now refer as Big Doctor because of his role in this protest, there’s nothing small about him. Cities like Lagos and Abuja were the frontiers of this movement and will always be historical to the political and economical emancipation of our motherland Nigeria. The suppressed fury of the oppressed Nigerian found every reason to vent, it was beyond police brutality and extortion, they just wanted to make a change to the status quo.

By the fourth day of the protest in Lagos, Nigerian youths strategically positioned themselves in one of the most lucrative internally generated revenue post in the state, popularly know as Lekki Toll Gate. In large numbers, they answered the clarion call and blocked the Toll Gate. “Let us protest on the venue where it will hurt them most” Hymar Idibia opined. At this moment the protest was gaining waves, strategically it metamorphosised into a movement, obviously becoming a pain in the neck for the government of the day. It’s unfolding events had me spurred positively in spirit, I wanted to be with them, mingling with the protesters, chanting and raising my placards high, but I couldn’t. I had loads of work to do, these works on my hand were time specific and I needed to deliver, the only thing I could do to be part of the struggle was tweet/post on Facebook and Twitter respectively and I didn’t fail in that little task. I saw myself tweet/post averagely 7-8 times each day. It was the only way I could tell my generation I’ve got their back on this.

By October 16th, the urge to physically identify with this movement was high, my works were still staring at me, though I lack the motivation to work because the creativity required wasn’t there either. So I found my way to Lekki Toll Gate. The energy I witnessed was magnetic, one will surely question if these are the same youths on social media fighting over Feminism and Patriarchy, on their placards they wrote their frustrations, in one voice they chanted #EndSars. My spirit was high—the ecstasy made me feel like the American citizens when they say “God bless America”, I know Nigeria was about to experience a seismic shift. I loved it that I was there, that I answered the clarion call with my fellow compatriots. Though I didn’t stay long on the first day, I was so sure that I was coming back again, this time prepared to give my all.

The next day being October 17th, I was at the protest ground early. It was then I saw young Nigerians who voluntarily made it their duty to clean the environs after every protest day, they were already doing their cleaning, while some set up the speakers and other necessary essentials for the protest to kick start. With the corner of the eye I met my faculty mate, we exchanged pleasantries as he introduced his fiancee and told me that they slept here, at the protest venue inside his car. Then it hit me more that people were making a lot of sacrifice for this protest.

Subsequently, I will always find my way to the protest ground. I met beautiful souls and goddesses in human form. Some of them we became friends till this day, I remember vividly two beautiful girls, one caramel skinned with oval face, we became so close that she opted to get a drink for me when the weather got hot. Who rejects drink from a pretty girl? It was on the next day when she would intermittently answer calls, explaining to her caller to meet her at the E Tag section of the Toll Gate that she told me that it was her boss calling, that she asked them not to resume work and go for protest, that she was coming to join them here today. Then later, I met the boss and we all did the #Endsars protest together. A friend had called me earlier on phone telling me that he saw me on Arise TV station, he went ahead to query if I was at the protest ground in Lekki. I was affirmative to answer yes, then he said he was coming too.

On October 18th I had made my two apolitical friends Oviri and Michael to be present on the present ground—grudgingly they came and opted to even come the next day after their experience. A certain young man in his late 40’s whom I suppose lives in the western world because of the way he speaks, approached me asking if his 18 years old son could take a picture with us, that he brought him here so he could also be part of the new course Nigerians youths are making, jokingly he said the Sóró Sòke generation.

Now comes the very day the Nigerian in me died. The day we now refer to as 20:10:20, accompanied with the #WeWillNeverForget hashtag.

It is my usual trademark to stay at the front in whatever event I found myself, little wonder a friend saw me on TV as I was captured while the commentator was running commentaries of the happenstance. I had an ugly experience the night before the massacre. I had told one of my friends earlier to buy some snacks for me at the eatery in Chisco Bus stop while coming, apparently he forgot and this made me to eat very late and not to my satisfaction. By the time we got to Chicken Republic near Lekki Peninsula gate, it was just 3 portions of food remaining with some protein (2 portions of rice and 1 portion of spaghetti) me and my friends bought the last food in the restaurant that very night. So I wouldn’t want that to repeat again, I decided to go eat early. I left the protest ground, barely 5 minutes walk to Lekki peninsula gate, to go get food early this time.

It was then I heard gunshots. I try to figure where the gunshots were coming from, then I heard echoes of the Nigerian national anthem in the air. We had earlier been instructed to sing the national anthem and wave the Nigerian flag if the military make their advances towards us. It had been rumoured that the military will come. I thought the anthem was going to help, then another round of gunshots, this time on rapid fire. It was then it dawned on me that the merchants of death in uniform, state sponsored men of the underworld had militarily invaded peaceful protesters exercising their fundamental right.

Somehow my Chi (an Igbo cosmology that believes that every human has a personal god attached to him/ her) whisked me away from the scene of massacre by asking me to go and eat. To think most people affected by the shooting are the ones at the front row leaves me wondering what could have been my fate. Even though I was some distance away from the scene. I felt the ugly effect, the terror of gunshots on rapid fire increased my adrenaline. Some people sustained injury while running.

The military literally turned our protest ground to a war zone. Even though I found myself pretty much distanced away from the ‘Ground Zero’, the experience was terrifying and yet people had more terrifying experiences than me, in the hands of these criminals in uniform. Minutes later, I started receiving calls from people who knew I was at the venue, they tried finding out if I was safe. It was then I made a post about the massacre in Lekki.

It took me time to consciously find my way home, as cars blocked each other, I would wait for the car blocking me to move before I could move. It was then I saw people with Injury, crying and some raining curses on the Nigeria Army. I couldn’t wrap my head around the shooting, I couldn’t question why. I couldn’t figure the moral justification behind it. I mean, was the protest a national threat? different thoughts going through my head while I wait for whoever blocked my car to move.

In that intense moment of ponder, during Lekki Toll Gate shooting, the Nigerian in me died.

(c) George Ugwumba 2020