There are always two sides to a coin: the good and the bad; the beautiful and the ugly; the positive and the negative; the action and the inaction, et al. There must always be the other side. No exception.
So, when the #OurMumuDonDoMovement took up arms against President Muhammadu Buhari last week Monday, the two sides of the coin played out graphically. It was aptly put to the test.
The protesters had these words for the President: “Resume or resign.” They were “heavily armed” with placards, slogans and songs. And they made maximum use of their various “dangerous” weapons.
They marched on Aso Rock, knowing very well that the President was in faraway London. They were led by the weird but not wild musician, Charles Oputa, a.k.a. Charly Boy.
They were miffed. They described Buhari’s absence for exactly 100 days today, as an anomaly enriching few individuals “who see themselves as a cabal in the Aso Villa.”
Its uncrowned spokesman, Deji Adeyanju, was frank: “The President cannot continue to remain in London infinitum and Osinbajo cannot continue infinitum as Acting President. It is time to invoke Section 144 of the Constitution.”
He strongly believes that “the cabal in Aso Rock, who are bent on holding the country to ransom, by-passed Osinbajo to issue a statement” after the Catholic Church massacre in Anambra State.
Oputa said he joined the mumu movement “because the future of the younger generation was bleak with the way politicians were handling the issue of governance.”
All the same, they were largely ignored. The Presidency reluctantly churned out a mere statement condemning the protest, protesters and their perceived sponsors. Nobody bothered to see or attend to them. They were treated with disdain, like lepers.
The second day, the police lost their thin patience. They could not swallow the insult from the disgruntled elements anymore. They angrily turned the protesters to easy preys and feasted on them ferociously. They stormed the Millennium Park, Abuja, where they were camped.
When the dust settled, Oputa was the worst for it: “They hit me near my eyes with the butt of their gun. They also unleashed security dogs on us, threw canisters on us. It was unbelievable.”
Another victim, Jide Cole: “They released their dogs on us, threw canisters at us and came heavily on us. I don’t know why those in authority would continue to treaty us like animals.”
Initially, there was no official response from the police. An unidentified officer quietly denied: “We only told them to leave the park. We were gentle on them.”
Much later, spokesman, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, Anjuri Manzah, admitted his men actually “used force on the protesters to avert a breakdown of law and order and breach of public peace.”
The picture became clearer on Thursday, August 10, 2017, as the situation began to get messier. The pro-Buhari protesters came face-to-face with the #OurMumuDonDo protesters. While the Oputa group was further battered, the pro-Buhari group was pampered. It was practically given a red-carpet reception.
We saw a completely different police this time around. They were gentle on the pro-Buhari demonstrators. The pro-Buharists were warmly shepherded into Aso Villa while the anti-Buhari protesters were chased away by the same police from Aso Villa.
Again, the Presidency came on board. It vehemently lashed out at the anti-Buhari protesters. To Aso Villa, they are the saboteurs, the reactionaries in our midst, and this was said in clear terms:
“It might be taken for granted that the beneficiaries of the old order are fighting back. They want to distract us. But what the Acting President wants to assure patriotic citizens is that the government will not bend.”
Walahi, this is not saying anything new. It has been the same old, odd, ugly and awkward song. This music has been played several times over. The template has not changed and the rhythm remains substantially the same.
Due to unending playbacks, it has become cracked, blurred and boring. Can’t we have some fresh air? Can’t we move forward? C’mon, sing us a new song!
Even the Senate did not buy into this. The senators are not on the same page with the Presidency: “Since the #OurMumuDonDo protesters did not conduct themselves in such a manner as to disturb public peace, it is not right for the police to brutalise the people as they reportedly did.”
But Femi Falana, SAN, was more expansive and expressive. He bluntly hit the nail on the head: “It is pertinent to remind the Presidency and the Nigeria Police that President Buhari had, in the recent past, taken part in peaceful rallies in Abuja to protest alleged manipulation of election results and perceived injustice in the country.
“It is on record that he exercised his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly with other Nigerians. On such occasions he was never subjected to any form of assault or intimidation by the police.
“By providing ‘adequate security’ for the pro-Buhari demonstrators while harassing the anti-Buhari protesters, the police engaged in the violation of Section 42 of the Constitution, which has prohibited discrimination on grounds of political opinion.
“To that extent, the authorities of the Nigeria Police should apologise to Mr. Charles Oputa and other members of the #OurMumuDonDo.
“No doubt, the violent disruption of the anti-Buhari rally ought to have embarrassed President Buhari who had advised President Yar’Adua, in a similar situation, to step aside as he could no longer discharge the duties and function of his office.”
Falana went down memory lane. He found a report of the September 2003 disrupted protest of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), handy and useful here: “The police authorities justified the disruption by claiming that the organisers of the rally did not obtain a police permit.
“Completely aggrieved by the action of the police, Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the ANPP instructed our law firm to sue the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to justify the legal validity of asking for police permit before protesting against the government.”
Added to this was the calamity that played out again at the Wuse Market, Abuja, on Tuesday.
We had erroneously thought we had moved past double standards. We pretended that the much-touted change mantra would change this for our good.
Let the two sides go on protesting and “de-protesting.” We even need more groups, #tags to swell their ranks. The more the merrier.