•Protesters fight over largesse
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.