In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Nigerian filmmaker, Ideh Chukwuma, popularly known as Onesoul, who was among those at the forefront of the Lekki toll gate protests in Lagos, narrated how he dared the consequences to rescue injured protesters when the shootings occurred on Tuesday evening.
PREMIUM TIMES: Can you confirm that you were involved in helping injured protesters at the Lekki Toll grounds on Tuesday night?
Onesoul: Yes the wounded persons I took to the hospital were from the Lekki shootings. I was part of the protest from day one. It was a peaceful protest and everyone was in line and we were busy singing, praising God, mourning the dead by holding candlelight services. We had a couple of speakers among us who came on the stage to speak
After that, at 9 p.m. we had candle night services for victims of police brutality especially the dead.
PT: Please narrate what you witnessed happen on Tuesday night when the shootings occurred.
Onesoul: On that particular day, I was the one who actually sang the National Anthem for that day. Around 4 p.m., we noticed someone came to take out the cameras and all of that at the toll gate but we did not care. [LCC says transaction monitoring devices and not CCTV cameras were removed] Before 4 p.m., we heard there a curfew had been announced in Lagos and that everyone should be away by 4 p.m. We were already at the toll gate and there was nowhere to leave and we had a memorial service to give at 4 p.m. but right around that time, we heard the curfew had been moved to 9 p.m. so we felt that was good. So, we could stay and do our 4 pm memorial and do our thing at 7 p.m. then we can see how we can start heading home.
Around 4 p.m., I was the one that sang the National Anthem and we were all sitting on the floor while reciting the national anthem. I had been in the sun all day, I was so thirsty so I gave the microphone to one of the guys beside me because I wanted to go take water from backstage. After getting the water, I was feeling nauseous so I went to check my BP. We had doctors around to check us and then he asked me to take a break. After checking my BP, I went to sit in the car based on the doctor’s advice and it was far from the protest ground. I was drinking water so I could recuperate and regain strength. By this time, comedian AY had arrived and was addressing the protesters.
So, I thought of going to get food at Lekki Phase 1, so I decided to move. While I was driving towards Lekki Phase 1 roundabout, my friend, Lara, called. She said “ Quickly leave the place I can hear a gunshot’’. then I shouted “ What?” and I hung up the phone and tried to turn but I couldn’t and it was like the crowd were running and everybody was running helter-skelter so I was just driving back towards the protest grounds. Everyone was running towards my car, so I opened the roof of my car and I sighted the military.
PT: Just so we are clear. You weren’t at the protest grounds when the shootings began, right?
Onesoul: For the record, I was not at the protest ground with the crowd protesting when the military came around so I cannot tell you what guns they were shooting. But I knew I heard gunshots and people were running. So, what could have happened when I was not there, while I was in my car, I don’t know. It was when I came back I realised everyone was running helter-skelter and I saw people falling down. I saw blood, people being shot and it was all looking bad so I decided to keep going (driving) and I could see clearly this time that the army had surrounded the protesters. They were gathered together into a circle and the army surrounded them with their guns and they were still singing the national pledge while they were surrounded. They saw my car coming and I was waving the flag and one of the military guys was shouting “ Go back, go back” and I wouldn’t go back and I was like I want to check up on my friends and they shouted that I should “ Go back now!” and then I saw a lady that was shot on the leg and another guy who was shot in the hand.
PT: The shootings had occurred before you arrived at the protest grounds?
Onesoul: Yes, and they saw me carry wounded people in my car. I saw another guy who was shot in the hand but the bullet did not go into his arm but bruised him so I carried the three of them and drove to Ajah. They rejected them. I got to the government hospital and they said it was only for mother and child. Then Doren Hospital, Ajah, accepted them and I was happy. I told the Director that I was coming back and I then I drove back to tollgate and they were still shooting and I came down from the car raising my hand up and the guy kept shooting and I told them I wanted to help people that were wounded and he said No I should go back and I said, ‘‘Sir, I cannot go back I have to check the wounded people, and he refused then I took off my clothes and I said “ Sir, you have to shoot me” then he cocked a gun and aimed it at me and I was like I will not leave if you don’t allow me to rescue these people. While he aimed his gun at me, his colleague brushed me and hissed then I walked in there and rescued four other people and rushed them to the hospital.
When I was coming back the third time, I came with an ambulance to rescue more people. While I was there, one of the guys told me that the military was keeping the wounded or dead people in their trucks. So what I was told was that the military took some people and that they thought they were taking them to the military hospital. I don’t know if it is possible that it is true or I don’t know. When I came back again, I told the man (soldier) that I wanted to carry more people in the ambulance and I helped more people in the ambulance and they were taken to the hospital.
PT: To the same hospital or a different one?
Onesoul: I took more people to GrandVille Hospital near VGC, and that was all I did that night. All the people I took to the hospital had gunshot wounds. There is a girl who was shot in the arm, another shot on the leg, and another shot in the neck and shoulder. It was all gunshot wounds, In short, they were shot and nobody can say the military did not shoot. But one of the people I took from Lekki tollgate died, that is the truth, and now the people that have died or that are dying or that did die was the next day.
So there was a major unrest and fight at Ajegunle in Ajah between the police and thugs, so I was saving thugs and I was saving policemen. So the people that can testify that died, the guys I picked up from Victoria said they had a fight with the police but the people I took at the toll gate were shot by the police and that is the truth from my own perspective. If anybody has a dead body from the toll gate, such a person should provide, I do not have any dead body but I know people who were assaulted by the military.
PT: So, what is the situation now? Are they discharged and who is footing the bills?
Onesoul: Some of them have been discharged, I gave some people money and they went home. But we still have some people in the hospital, maybe by tomorrow or next tomorrow, I am sure they will start getting better. Some of them have been transported to other hospitals.
PT: Describe what you saw on Tuesday night?
Onesoul: What I will say is, I have been hearing people say “Lekki massacre, Lekki massacre.” I have to be honest with you if you Google the term “massacre,” massacre is a situation where a group of people were being killed by rebels or the military and going by that particular point, I would have been able to tell you that I saw a lot of dead bodies, this is how they killed them, there were a lot of dead bodies and so it was a massacre. But from the time I came, I didn’t see any dead bodies but I can certainly tell you that there was a shooting, an unauthorised shooting. I will call it a raid, I will call it assault. I am going to term it assault and raid. That is what I would use. It was an assault and I and I may be wrong but because I didn’t see those bodies, and I have not seen a family member that has come to cry and say one two or three persons have died.
If DJ Switch had seen that, she’s in the best position to say that because she was there. I cannot say she’s wrong. I was out of that circle. I was a few meters away. They were at the toll gate and I was a few meters away from them. I wasn’t there, I was at Lekki Phase 1. I can’t tell you what the military’s approach on their arrival was. So, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that they shot one, two, three, four, or five people. But I can certainly tell you that I took a lot of gunshot victims to the hospital.
If I took about 13 people to the hospital myself, minus the ones that the governor confirmed that were injured, he said about thirty, that is forty-something, DJ Switch might not be wrong. I took 13 to the hospital. So, if DJ Switch said she saw 15 dead people, by her own records, because she was there so she can speak on that part. I can’t speak on that and none of the thirteen people that I took to the hospital has died. They are still alive and some of them have been discharged.
PT: Will you still go back to protest after all this is over?
Onesoul: This is what I will advise, first of all, I love my country beyond what anybody can say, my country comes first. The lives and property of the people of my country matter to me a lot. There was a peaceful protest that brought the country into this situation and I will not advise anybody to go into any protest for now, whether you want to call it peaceful, whether you want to call it “unpeaceful”. I will only advise that the authority come into dialogue with us and let’s dialogue and have conversations. It could be done in an open manner, where we sit in a hall and have a press conference that will be transmitted live and will have conversations with the IG, the governor, and the president or whoever. And we tell them what we want and we negotiate. I will buy into that but, for now, I do not think I will buy into or encourage or support any protests because of the lives and properties of the people that have been lost and because of the situation in the country. We need to calm the situation down, we need to restrategize, we need to talk, we need to have conversations. I am sure the government has gotten our message and they cannot take us for granted anymore. I need answers. I need them to give me answers for whatever had happened at that toll gate. Why did the army shoot? Whether we say it is a massacre or not, why did they shoot? They didn’t need to shoot. They could have used rubber bullets, they could have shot tear gas and with a lot of tear gas, people will run. Nobody will die. They didn’t do that. Now you say you didn’t want to kill anybody but there was live ammunition.
PT: You also shared a video of you pacifying the thugs to stop looting in Ajah. Tell us more about that.
Onesoul: After the whole fight between the police and the thugs around the Ajah axis, some of them got injured and were taken to the hospital. I guess after that, the thugs took over the community in an anarchy system where they were now wearing police uniforms and calling the shots, robbing and breaking banks, and all of that. I was struggling to get them to the hospitals while some of them were breaking into the banks and causing problems in the community. I had to do something and I started appealing to them one by one, telling them I needed them to give me back all the guns they have taken from the police station and I collected about two or three that I handed over to the army. I took back all the uniforms that they took from the police stations and the berets and the caps and the belts, I gave them to the army.
PT: From your interaction with these thugs and hoodlums, what do you think are their grievances and the issues on ground?
Onesoul: This is what it is, when the government doesn’t take care of the people, the people will rise against the government. It has been like that from the beginning and there are just a few people like myself who don’t believe in fighting against our land. I don’t believe in destruction, I don’t believe in creating problems but you can’t say that for these people. They are hungry, they are tired, and they are hopeless. And you are looking and all you do is use them for your dirty jobs. One day they will rise against you and that is why they are going to police stations, breaking banks, and looting. Because you refuse to create a system for them to live on. Now they have risen against you. But what I have done is to make them understand that you can’t fight against your land, you can’t destroy your land. You only fight the system and you fight the system by asking for your rights and making sure you do free and fair what you need to do, and not collecting money from politicians to vote or collecting money from politicians to steal ballot boxes.
I believe they have learnt and they are ready to work on the next election by getting their PVC and voting right by picking their own candidate and picking up a young guy or guy as councillor, local government chairman, and start thinking of having their own political party now. We say we don’t trust all these political parties anymore but we trust ourselves the youths so let’s take the future into our own hands. I hope they’ve learnt and I hope they are ready to put in the work now. I have advised everyone to put down their guns, put down their machetes, and their arrows and their weapons and let’s rebuild, let’s fight the system, let’s take these old guys who have made our lives miserable back to their houses.
PT: Do you see yourself making a film that will be inspired by the Lekki shootings?
Onesoul: I will write a story about Nigerian youths and this whole process no matter how it ends. I want to see how it ends. I definitely will make a film about this whole situation in the near future from my own perspective because my perspective is the truth to me. If DJ Switch said there were 15 bodies, I want to know how, do you know where they are now? Can we have pictures? Can we see videos? They said the military carried some bodies into their truck, wow. Does anybody have a link to that? We are in a stage where one has to be careful about what they say. I am definitely going to make a film but the film will be from my own truth and that will happen soon.
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