Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, says the president’s fatherly calm was a significant factor in preventing bloodshed during nationwide demonstrations last month.
Hundreds of Nigerians had peacefully protested in many states across the country in October to demand an end to years of wanton police brutality.
At least 15 protesters were reported killed by police officers who cracked down violently on the demonstrations in the initial days, despite the government’s attempts to meet the demands of the protesters.
The demonstrations eventually culminated in the deadly attack by soldiers on peaceful protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos on October 20, an attack that led to the death of a yet-to-be-determined number of protesters.
The incident escalated into a breakdown of law and order in Lagos and across the country with many incidents of looting and vandalism recorded
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, reported that 22 police officers were killed during the course of the protests and the violence that followed.
Despite the public record of heavy-handed tactics employed by security operatives, many government officials have blamed the peaceful protesters for the eventual escalation.
In an article published by Adesina late on Thursday, November 12, he described Buhari as a beleaguered father who had to clean up the mess of his ‘rebellious children’.
He said the president maintained that police officers not violently engage with the protesters despite alleged repeated provocation.
The president’s aide said ‘something quite unsavory’ would have happened if the president did not operate with such restraint.
Adesina said, “If President Buhari hadn’t exercised the restraint and tolerance of a father, at a time that even hitherto respected people instigated the protesters to carry on (and they promptly went underground when anarchy ensued), we would have been talking of something else in the country.
“The rivers of Nigeria could have turned crimson, and mourning and lamentations would have suffused the land.
“But we are thankful for the father in President Buhari, patient and enduring, almost to a fault.”
Adesina noted that President Buhari ‘remains the unbending iron’ from his days as a military dictator in the 80s, but that he has been tempered by democracy and time.
“May God continue to give this country good fathers who remain calm in turbulence, who keep their heads when others are losing theirs,” he praised the president.
Buhari’s public handling of the demonstrations was widely-condemned as the president maintained his typical aloof stance while hundreds of Nigerians protested non-stop in multiple states.
The president’s only direct engagement with the subject was one brief mention during an event at the Presidential Villa, and a long overdue national address two days after the Lekki incident.
The national address was panned by the public as the president notably neglected to acknowledge the Lekki shooting where many eyewitnesses accused soldiers of shooting peaceful protesters and killing between seven and 15 people.
A judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State government has not made much progress with investigating the incident which has been plagued by many inconsistent stories from the Army and the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led state government.