•Protesters fight over largesse
From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
There was mild drama in Abuja, yesterday, when hundreds of supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari clashed with protesters who had taken to the streets, to register their anger over the unbearable hardship inflicted on Nigerians arising from government’s economic policies.
Protester from both camps, with distinct identity, armed themselves with placards with different instructional inscriptions, open truck with loud music, adopted several means of communication, including social and traditional media, to outshine each other.
As early as 7: 30am, yesterday, protesters from both camps, began to assemble at the Unity Fountain, to strategise on how to pass their messages to government.
Hundreds of policemen, Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps officials were strategically positioned along the route from the Unity Fountain, which was the starting point to the Three Arms Zone. Presence of security agencies were also felt at entire Federal Secretariat Complex. They were positioned to provide security and ensure that the protest was peaceful and not hijacked by hoodlums.
Musician turned activist, Charly boy, former chairman, National Human Right Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwa Nwangwu, Co-convener, #BringBackOurGirls group, Aisha Yesufu, among several other human activists were some notable names who led the anti-government protest.
In unison, they insisted Nigerians can no longer keep quiet while things become worse even as they insisted the “Federal Government has lost bearing and solutions to the economic, security, social and political problems bedeviling Nigeria.
“We cannot afford to continue to die in silence while government continues to impoverish our people, through its unrealistic policies. Time has come for Nigerians to rise and collectively reject it,” they echoed. We thumbed Buhari into office in 2015 because he promised to do a lot, then, he got into power and he has never addressed us. When he wants to talk to us, he gets into a plane, travels abroad and starts gossiping about us. Are we so useless that our president cannot address us? Are we so idiotic that our president cannot tell us that things are hard? We don’t get answers, we don’t get empathy and we are told we cannot protest too? What kind of country is that? What kind of citizens are we?
“Who are we to be told we can only protest if police licensed us. We have the right to protest. We don’t know where our president is. We want to know because we care. On 18 January we were told that our president was going for a 10-day vacation. Yesterday we were told he is waiting for his medical test before he will return. Last week, fake pictures of the president meeting people in London emerged.
“Our leaders have failed us. They are not keeping their promises. We elected Buhari to bring about change. To fight corruption, but under him, corruption has gone from bad to worse,” he said.
“Enough is enough! We are asking the government to fix energy, and the economy. Those are our demands.”
“This administration came into power to fight corruption and now, next to the president is the man now known as the grass cutter general of the federation.”
Musician, Innocent Idibia, popularly called Tuface, was supposed to lead the nationwide protest but backed out on Sunday, February 5, citing security reasons,
Regardless, the pro-Buhari group, in a determined effort to register their presence and pass their message across to Nigerians, as well, defended government’s several policies. They admitted that things have gone from bad to worst but appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the government even as it strives to restore the dignity of Nigeria, and offer better life to Nigerians. The protesters, mostly women and men in their late 40’s and few younger ones, were clothed in red and white fez cap with a bold inscription, “We believe in you, sir”.
Meanwhile, exchange of words and fight erupted at the camp of the pro-government protesters shortly the exercise terminated at the Vice President’s entrance of the Presidential Villa. At that point, a team of mobile and conventional policemen, with the help of Civil Defence Corps officials barricaded the entrance and denied them access to villa.
After several efforts proved unsuccessful, the pro-government protesters assembled at the car park of the Eagle Square, opposite the National Assembly entrance, to share money. Daily Sun learnt that women were paid between N500 and N1000 while some got N1,500.
But, some, who were either not satisfied with the amount doled out money or who were not captured, revolted and made to attack their leaders. It took the intervention of passersby to quell tension and restore peace among the women.
A similar development was recorded at the sharing table at the men’s section of the pro-government men protesters. Some young people in the group told Daily Sun that their names were totally omitted from the largesse.
…Civil society lists 10 demands from FG
From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Conveners of a national protest against the economy and rise in food prices in the country, tagged #IStandWithNigeria, Enough is Enough Nigeria have written an open letter to the Federal Government.
The letter addressed to acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, identified 10 challenges facing the country.
“Our call for this protest had 10 key areas of concern – security, education, health, power, unemployment, the high cost of living, social justice, transparency, the cost of government and patriotism ranging from insecurity, high cost of governance, to poor power supply and more.
“Nigerians are facing difficult economic challenges and do not see any end in sight. Our standards of living have worsened and we are also disappointed in the lack of transparency and an ineffective fight against corruption in a government that made a fight against corruption a key pillar of its campaign. In summary, the change that Nigerians were promised has not been delivered and a road map to the desired destination is yet to be communicated.
Meanwhile, youths took to the streets of Ibadan, Oyo State, yesterday, and converged at the main entrance to the University of Ibadan, to register displeasure about the state of the nation. They staged the protest under the aegis of Oyo Voice. Students, who refused to join the protest, staff and visitors to the institution were seen going about their normal business activities. Tight security was, however, mounted by the police around protesters in order to prevent breakdown of law and order. The protest was led by a human rights lawyer, Femi Aborisade; a social commentator, Abiodun Bamgbose; two ex-presidents of UI, Tokunbo Salako and Babatunde Badmus.
The convener, Oyo Voice, Tokunbo Salako said: “Nigerians are suffering. The national protest is long overdue. This present government was voted in because Nigerians were tired of the wastefulness of the last administration. If they cannot change the course of the country, they should vacate the office and let people who are innovative manage this country…”
to take over. Nigerians are tired and would not take this anymore.”
“This is not about ad-hoc programmes or sound-bites, but, a sincerity in governance, from the Presidency, to its various ministries and agencies; that, this government means what it says and says what it means. The various spokespersons for the administration are dismissive of Nigerians’ concerns, repeating that Nigeria is working when it is clear, even to the blind, that it is not!
“For example, a lot of work has gone into attempts to scuttle the peaceful gatherings in Lagos and Abuja, when the citizens right to free speech is inalienable. Furthermore, the implied attempt by some elements in security agencies to stifle the inalienable rights of Nigerians to freedom of speech and assembly cannot be allowed. We are in a democracy and citizens must be able to express their displeasure with their elected representatives in a lawful manner. If as much attention was paid to good governance, our circumstances would be much better.
“We all suffer from the country’s dysfunction and we are saying – Enough is Enough! Nigeria must come first! Not personal interests, not sectional interests; not business interests. From the impact of perennial power shortage to the lack of decent health care facilities and a good education for our children, we all pay the price, one way or another, for bad governance.
“The police who are here with us today,(yesterday), the teachers, hawkers in the street, traders in the market, labourers, all of us suffer when Nigeria doesn’t work. The hardship we are going through, is why we are gathered here today. Thousands of jobs have been lost over the last one year, factories have closed, people are struggling not just to keep their kids in school but provide the most basic of things – food.
“We have watched the price of some of our staple foods double, even triple, in some cases.
“Yet, the response to our decision to protest, a freedom and a right guaranteed by our constitution, was multiple attempts to intimidate us and discredit us. May we remind you that repressing angry and frustrated citizenry never bodes well for those in power?
“Perhaps, it isn’t surprising that political office holders have no idea how bad things have become, after all, their office, the political power they wield, their jumbo pay and allowance, means that their reality is very much removed from that of regular Nigerians, the people they promised, nay, swore to serve.
“We are also speaking to the National Assembly whose job it is to represent Nigerians at the Federal level and their responsibilities include law-making; appropriating monies and ensuring they are spent judiciously. However, they have so far spent the last two years in office fighting for spoils, buying expensive cars, spending time on corruption allegations against several members and unanswered questions around the budgeting process and allegations of budget manipulation.
“At the State level, several states owe salaries and have refused to be accountable and transparent in the spending of resources, including the bailout funds they received from the Federal Government. This is simply unacceptable.
Meanwhile, award-winning musician, Innocent Idibia, popularly known as Tuface, has denied being arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS), over his earlier planned anti-government’s protests in Lagos and Abuja.
In his tweet, yesterday, Tuface expressed gratitude to those who have shown concern over the purported arrest.
“Thanks for the concern, guys. I am fine and free. Reports about DSS arrest are not true. We are still compiling responses for the leadership. State your opinion on the social media with the #IStandWithNigeria. Peace! One luv always!!!”
Tuface backed out of the Monday rally on Sunday.
He cited “security concerns and public safety consideration.”
His cancellation did not, however, stop other groups from carrying on with the protest, which took place at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.