Fred Itua, Abuja, Tony Osauzo, Benin and Seyi Ojo, Ibadan
Members of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), organisers of the RevolutionNow, made good their threat to protest, yesterday, in spite of stern warn and security beef up, across the country including Abuja, Oyo, Lagos, Osun and Edo.
The Coalition for Revolution (CORE), organisers of the #RevolutionNow protest, had vowed to hold mass action against poor governance despite warns by the police.
The protest was first staged in August 5, 2019. Another one was held one year after in 2020. The protest which incurred the wrath of security agencies and the presidency, was held across major cities in Nigeria.
In Lagos yesterday, no fewer than eight persons were arrested when security operatives clampdown on protesters, who stormed Ojota and Maryland, demanding a better society. A photojournalist with The PUNCH, Kayode Jaiyeola, covering the event, was was beaten with a baton which left him bleeding on the head.
Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said the police officer involved in the “irresponsible act” has been arrested and disarmed.
“The man that was doing his lawful duty and the police assaulted him, we will take care of it. Once again, apologies for that. But you know me, I don’t tolerate all these things and will never. There is no reason to justify what the police did. What he did was an assault, brutality and incivility. I won’t cover that.Be rest assured he will face disciplinary action.”
He said the medical bill of the journalist will be borne by the police.
In Osogbo, operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) attacked protesters who converged at the Nelson Mandela Park, Old Garage, Osogbo. They were first dispersed with teargas around 9 a.m. After they regrouped, armed SSS officials again stormed the scene, whisked away no fewer than 11 to the office of the SSS where they were briefly detained for over one hour.
Pedro Omolola, claimed she was repeatedly slapped by security officials while her colleagues were severely injured.
Another protester, Aliu Gbadebo, decried police molestation, saying, “No civil country uses police against its people.”
In Abuja, former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, led protesters who marched through Area 1 roundabout and chanted different songs. They held placards with different inscriptions.
The protest, according to Sowore was to demand reversal of anti-people policies implemented by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
“These harsh policies that have burnt a burdensome hole into the pockets of the Nigerian people are coming at a time when citizens are recovering from the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, a global health crisis that was also mismanaged by the Buhari’s government further plunging already struggling citizens into deeper financial problems.
“It also comes at a time when there is an unprecedented dictatorial-style crackdown on free speech, dissent, activism, journalism and the right to associate and congregate peacefully and protest,” he said.
Among others, CORE demanded the reversal of the hike in the price of petrol from N148 to N151, an end to state-supervised and approved impunity under the watch of President Buhari and the sacking of all service chiefs due to their “proven incompetence in finding a lasting solution to the Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed and is still claiming the life of Nigerians daily.”
Sowore, Aisha Yesufu and Deji Adeyanju later stormed the Embassy of the United States of America to express their displeasure over the state of affairs in the country.
Addressing fellow protesters, Sowore said he was a witness to history and urged the people not to be afraid.
“Right now, as it is usual, we are being surrounded by our brothers, the armed forces. They are acting as if we are here against them, whereas we are fighting for a country that will be better for them and their children.”
Sowore added that the reason the nation ws at its current mess was as a result of the fear harboured by their forefathers when they were afraid of the police.
He recalled that 10 years after independence, there was a civil war in the country because their grandfathers were afraid to take the right steps.
“And it is 2020, they want us to be afraid again. They want us to be afraid to demand for just simple fundamental human rights that all of them and ourselves should enjoy in a country of our own.
“Nigeria is 60 years and we are still afraid to live in our own country. It is 60 years and we haven’t had an opportunity to get employed after we graduated from the university.
“It is 60 years and we are the sixth largest producer of oil in the world. The president this morning was saying he wants to compare the price of oil in Nigeria with that of Saudi Arabia, but he doesn’t want to compare the streets of Saudi Arabia with that of Nigeria. He doesn’t want to compare Saudi Arabia hospitals with that of Nigeria. He is not talking about the minimum wage of Saudi Arabia versus that of Nigeria.
“Nobody will be afraid at this time. And I want to call on the policemen, no matter who is pushing you; I want to call on the DSS, my friends, who detained me here for five months, all of you should understand that these guys here are fighting for your children; they are fighting for your future. They are fighting for you too. They are fighting for a country where your salaries can be that of…”
Sowore also said they were at the Embassy because Nigeria itself was a creation of the colonial masters and were telling them that after 60 years, what they created was also a failure.
Sowore further disclosed that besides Abuja, the #NotYetIndependent protest also took place across the world, particularly in London, Toronto, Washington DC, Denmark, Sweden, even as he said it took place in Osogbo, Lagos, amongst other cities in the country.
In Benin City, protesters called on President Buhari to fix the country or resign.
The protesters, who also called on the president to give Nigerians dividends of democracy, carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Change the system not palliative”, “the poor have rights too”, “Reverse electricity hike now”, “Reverse all privatisation,” “Buhari: Obey Nigerians not IMF”, “End poverty in Nigeria now” among others.
Spokesman of the group, Kola Edokpayi, while addressing newsmen at the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin, said there was nothing to celebrate about Nigeria’s independence, adding that the country was rather an embarrassment before the comity of nations.
He noted that the pitiable state of the nation has led to mass exodus of youths.
“Today, we are no longer proud that we are from Nigeria. There is mass exodus of our youths from Nigeria to Libya enroute Italy. They prefer to live and die in Libya where there is crisis; they prefer to live and die in Afghanistan, Iraq where there is crisis; they prefer to die in Syria, a crisis ravaged country just because leaders have failed us. Our leaders are busy celebrating the failed independence of Nigeria. There is nothing to celebrate about. Independence is meaningless unless it is meant for the total liberation of our people.
“We are using this medium to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to fix Nigeria; to tell President Muhammadu Buhari to give us the dividends of democracy. If President Buhari lacks the intellectual capacity, the mental capacity, the spiritual ability to lead Nigeria to its promise land, he should honourably resign.”
In Ibadan, youths under the aegis of #RevolutionNow and other groups also protested on the grounds that the country was not working.
To abort it, the state Police command had deployed heavy security to areas where such protests could have taken place, including Iwo Road Underbridge, frontage of University of Ibadan, Mokola Roundabout and Agodi in Ibadan. But the protesters changed their routes and peacefully staged the protest.
The protesters changed their meeting point to a fuel station along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and eventually took off from the fuel station.
Chairman of #Revolutionnow in Oyo State, Rotimi Ogunlana, told journalists on the sidelines of the protest: “Nigeria is not working. At 60, we are worse than how we started and the government doesn’t want us to complain. Many Nigerians cannot eat more than once in a day. Things are getting worse and that is why we have to come out and let them know that they can’t stop us. They prioritise their comfort far above the basic needs of the majority, which should be taken for granted.”
Another leader in the coalition, Akin Asifat, said: “October 1 is not a day to be celebrated. There is no food, no electricity supply, there is hike in the price of petrol and the masses are suffering. We need a peaceful revolution because things are not working.”