The Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby, has described the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at Lekki toll gate as an outrage.
The shooting and another in Alausa, Lagos, led at least 13 people to their graves while many sustained varying degrees of injuries, according to Amnesty International, a global rights organisation.
Although the rain of live ammunition has been condemned by all and sundry, including prominent figures and organisations at the international level, both the Lagos state and federal governments have refused to take responsibility for the shooting.
Meanwhile, in an article published in ThisDay newspaper on Monday, the religious leader condemned the violent reaction of the soldiers to the protesters.
“The deliberate shooting of unarmed protestors in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria last week was an outrage. I say this as a human being, as a Christian, and as the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion – which counts some 18 million Nigerians as part of our global family.”
Mr Welby said while he could not absolve his place of origin, Britain, of acts of violence, Nigeria should learn from the mistakes of his home country.
“But I also say this as a British citizen, knowing that in our recent colonial past the UK has committed appalling acts of violence. Just over a year ago, I visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, India, where a great number of Sikhs – as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians – were shot dead by British troops in 1919.
“I had no status to apologise on behalf of the British government for that atrocity. But I could speak of my shame, sorrow and horror that it happened. And while I absolutely have no place to lecture or rebuke Nigeria, a country that is very dear to my heart, I can say this: learn from our mistakes. Do not go further down the path of violence and injustice. Turn around and find the path of peace, justice and reconciliation.
“This is a time for heroes. No nation can be built without heroism, the religious leader pointed out on the need to pursue common good.
“This is a time for all those who play a role in the political and civil leadership of Nigeria to be heroes for the common good. This is a time to sacrifice ambition, to set aside party, to unite to serve in order that Nigerians from richest to poorest may flourish.
“I am not speaking of a national government, a single non-party approach but of a national determination, agreement and declaration that there will be a common effort for the common good of the nation. I am talking of a willingness to give everything and sacrifice everything, position, place, ideas, wealth, from the highest to the lowest: I appeal for a sacrifice that will raise the nation, bring hope and set a course for prosperity and a glowing future.”
Mr Welby called on Nigerian leaders to set aside differences and steer the ship of state away from the rocks of conflict and set a course that is for the good of all.
“Democratic politics must continue, the abandonment of democracy would worsen the crisis, but let all involved agree to meet the basic needs of Nigeria.”
He also spoke on the need to provide security, food and shelter for the people.
“They are not privileges of the rich or middle class – although in so many countries that is the tragic reality. They are the entitlement of every human being. Nigeria has the courage to be better than the others.”
“Throughout the Bible, work is not seen as an evil necessity but as part of human dignity. Underemployment and unemployment deny human dignity. Corruption, violence, banditry all pervert the proper purpose of work. In Genesis 1 we are told that God worked and rested. You cannot work without rest but you cannot rest without work,” Mr Welby cited.
He, however, advised youth to seek the path of peace and eschew violence through dialogues
“Enter into dialogue, find your heroes who seek the good of every Nigerian. Let freedom and peace flourish. Then your acts will be remembered for the heroism they have shown. In violence there is no future for violence feeds on itself. No person should “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”, as Shakespeare wrote in Anthony and Cleopatra.
“Seize the moment, Nigeria, that those who love you may boast of you. The prize of a greater nation is there, almost within your grasp, greater no longer just in the future, but today.”