Nigeria’s #Lekki atrocity and the African Greek tragedy of sorts

The tragic atrocity at #Lekki epitomises the post colonial failure of some African Leaders.

Sally Peters
5 min readOct 24, 2020



Around 8pm, on tuesday this week, as we finished a zoom session about racism in academia, a message flashed on my phone. It was the unfolding shooting of unarmed peaceful Nigerians, seeking to live a dignified and better life than many of their parents did.

They had squared up to the injustice, corruption, murders and chronic poverty that has characterised their lives and had become normalised. Prior to that one of our colleagues apologetically brought up the subject of Nigeria and how angry she was but did not think it was the right forum, to raise it.

She was swiftly re assured that not only are we all livid about the situation but we are doing our bit to bring awareness irrespective of our backgrounds. When the news of the shooting was brought to her attention, she asked if that was at the toll gate. At #Lekki. Sadly it was. She quickly googled it and mentioned that she had a friend there.

As we were closing the meeting, the trauma was visible on her face. Asked if she was okay, she said that her friend was fine but she wants to get on the plane and fly out to Nigeria. We cautioned her that she can do much more where she was and appealed to her to stay put for now.

After the meeting, that exchange had just made what was happening on another continent more closer and personal because of such interpersonal connections we have with folks from all backgrounds. But more so the pain, trauma, anger and helplessness on our colleagues face was haunting. Anyone in that position would not be expected to remain a neutral bystander.

Our friends, our spouses, our co-workers, our teachers, classmates, neighbours and house mates, all create relationships that shred national borders, racial background and weave them into personal relationships.

So we react and respond at a personal and human level.

Whether it is George Floyd in Minneapolis, Norway mass shootings, New Zealand, Lagos, Khartoum, Nairobi or Kampala, we all know someone who is personally affected by such inhumanity and savagery. And so began a sequence of events that quickly went viral globally. For that night and the next few days, the world was calling out the butchery, savagery and inhumanity of those shooting unarmed young people and those that gave the orders.

Scenes of the Nigerian security services, some of whom were dressed in military fatigue were acutely disturbing. Condemnation swiftly came from the UN Sec General, Hilary Clinton, Sec of state Pompeo, EU, UK foreign office, former presidents Obasanjo, celebrities and yes, for once, the African Union spoke up in appropriate terms. More importantly all the inference was to directly hold Buhari personally accountable.

But it was the ordinary men and women, on twitter, Instagram and other social media forums that created a wave of momentum that moved governments to act and speak up. We came to know a young lady known as @DJswitch_ who risked her life to live-stream the atrocities. As well as the folks on the ground who filmed the brave and fearless protestors, singing the national anthem while being showered with live bullets at close range, in some video footages.

As the days went by, international and local pressure appeared to bring the protagonists to their heels, at least for now. One of the most poignant moments, is seeing the Ghanaian President almost lecture the visibly drained Nigerian President.Saying the things Nigerians and the world wanted to hear. Words that they felt should have come much earlier from Buhari.

In a statement the Ghanian president said, ‘I join all well-meaning persons in calling for calm, and the use of dialogue in resolving the #EndSARSimpasse in Nigeria. I have spoken with President Buhari, who is committed to this end, and has begun the processes that will lead to reform. Violence, be it on the part of the Police or protesters, cannot be the solution. To the families who have lost their loved ones, I express my sincere condolences, and I wish the injured a speedy recovery. #EndSARS

As the situation remains tense and unpredictable, it behoves us to cast the net wider introspectively. And question when is it that African leaders will ever learn, that violence is not only criminal, does not serve their interests, will only hasten their departure from power and make the situation worse for them very quickly. The case studies for Nigeria are not far from her borders. Cue Liberia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ivory coast, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia and so it goes on.

The answer could be the juxtposition with Greek Tragedies.

The end in Greek tragedies, is predictable and you guessed it, tragic. But despite that, the main protagonists persons with powerful as they are, fall due to a combination of personal hubris and circumstances which they cannot control. Almost fatalistically drawn to the lure of self implosion. And that really sums up the current leadership in Nigeria and some of the other African countries.

The play, the plot, the diction, the thoughts, characters , spectacle and tragic end is always the same.

But somehow, bar a few African Presidents like Mwalimu Julius Nyeere-TZ(RIP), Arap Moi-Kenya(RIP), Kenneth Kaunda-Zambia, many still seem to be willing and unteachable characters, in the African leadership Greek tragedy.

Most recently, Robert Mugabe(RIP), at 95 years old and around 38 years in power could not be persuaded to leave peacefully. Ditto Sudanese Bashir, Muamar Gadhafi(RIP), Abdelaziz Bouteflika who was forced out after weeks of demonstrations and Angolan President Do Santos whose family faces investigation by his successor. Eritrea, Uganda and Cameroon are some of the countries whose leaders are still some of the longest serving on the African continent.

The question that has been on many social media platforms is whether the Lekki atrocity or the global furore that engulfed Buhari and the local governors, will be a lesson to others on the continent with the same modus operandi and be as predictable as the plots and protagonists in Greek tragedies.

The answer may be in how the world reacts to the #lekki massacre.