Scores of Lagosians ignored a heavily armed police presence at the National Stadium in Surulere to embark on a rally demanding government’s accountability, transparency, and a reduction in the cost of governance.
The protesters, escorted by the police, marched from the stadium, through Ojuelegba, to the National Theatre where the organisers addressed the crowd.
Yemi Adamolekun, one of the organisers, said the online messages received by her group before the march painted a picture of hardship across the country.
“Nigerians are facing difficult economic challenges and do not see any end in sight,” she said.
“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.”
Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters, said a revolution is the only way out of the country’s predicament.
“I did not come here for a rally, I came for a protest,” said Mr. Sowore, who had led a different crowd of protesters into the stadium before the march began.
“I came here today to fight for my own right, not your right, you fight for your own right.
“Nothing can give us total liberation except a revolution. If you are thinking that a peaceful protest can do it for you, I wish you luck.”
Several protesters interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES voiced their frustrations at hardship across the country and an increasingly opaque government.
Benjamin Bako said he was concerned about the “silent war” going on in his region, the Middle Belt.
“The Christian minorities are being killed and farmers are scared of going to the farm because of the killings,” said Mr. Bako.
“I am using this opportunity to air my voice so that my voice will be heard and something should be done.”
Another protester, Richard Brochus, said many things have gone wrong in the country.
“They say they have recovered billions of naira, name one sector of the economy that the recovered loots have been used in.
“We are only asking for a transparent government, we say we are the giant of Africa but we can’t provide electricity for even a year.
“Dasuki has been in custody since 2015 and how is that transparent? Nnamdi Kanu has also been in custody and how is that transparent?
“What will the president say about health system in Nigeria when he is abroad receiving treatment? This government has totally failed us.”
Basil Akande, another protester, described the march as a “huge success.”
“Yes, the police did a wonderful job by protecting the people and making sure that that the march did not turn violent,” he said.
“I hope this protest can continue on a daily basis as this will serve as a warning to the leaders of this country so that they will sit up and act responsibly and those found wanting should do the honourable thing by resigning.”
“The president is nowhere to be found as we speak, where is he, if he is sick they should tell us, or is that there are no hospitals in the country that he can visit for his medical checkups and treatment?”
According to Oloyede Adewunmi, “enough is enough for this administration.”
“They have failed in all their promises to us,” he said.
“They said they will make one naira to be one dollar, but we are still waiting, they said we will have steady power supply, we are still waiting for that, they said they will fight corruption, but what we see is a selective approach to the fight against corruption, for how long are we going to continue this way?”
INITIAL POLICE HARASSMENT
Despite an earlier announcement by superstar musician, Tuface Idibia, that the rally had been cancelled, protesters began arriving at the take-off point of the march as early as 7 a.m.
But armed police officers barricaded the gate into the stadium, denying entry to everyone including those using the facilities for their daily sporting activities.
A verbal confrontation ensued between the users of the stadium’s facilities and the police officers and it took the intervention of the stadium’s management who insisted the gates be opened to enable sports people access it.
When Fatai Owoseni, the Lagos State Commissioner for Police, arrived, he denied authorising his men to seal the stadium’s gates.
“If you look towards the gate, you will see that the gates have been opened and our men are just controlling the flow of traffic and people, and my men are all stationed to douse any kind of fear from the minds of the protesters.”
When the march began, Mr. Owoseni was on hand to lead his men as the crowd headed towards the National Theatre. After marching for about half an hour, he re-entered his vehicle and continued to the destination.
Although they were a few dozens in the beginning, it was a large number that trooped into the National Theatre complex at about 11.30 a.m. to waiting police officers and patrol vans. Chanting ‘Our mumu don do,’ APC ole,’ ‘PDP ole,’ the protesters were not prevented from gaining entrance into the premises.
Olu Martins, an activist, said Tuface’s absence had not discouraged them, adding that there were “more than two faces at the protest.”
“The spirit of aluta is very strong of which the government of Babangida fell to, the government of Abacha fell to it, and definitely the current administration will fall to it.”
Tuface Idibia had opted out of the march at the eleventh hour, much to the disappointment of the organisers and protesters, but when it was time to begin the procession, one of his hit songs, ‘For Instance,’ belched out from the loudspeakers and the crowd cheered and danced.
“We commend Tuface for, first of all, striking out at the appropriate time, at the appropriate mood, for realising the level of deprivation and anger,” said Dagga Tolar, an activist.
“That he has had to back out from this protest, Nigerians have not backed out.”
Veteran musician, Charles Oputa (popularly known as Charly Boy), said despite Tuface’s absence, people turned out in good numbers for the protest.
“I been think say as Tuface say him no wan come, if I come here, I no go see anybody,” said Charly Boy, who arrived in the middle of the march riding on a motorcycle.
“Next month, they’ll see the biggest of all the rallies, because we want to shut down Abuja, shut down any arm of government that is not working. Our mumu don do.”
Another entertainer, Seyi Law, said the government needs to reshuffle its cabinet.
“Dem tell us say the reason we no get light na because na amateur dey rule us, now wey dem don enter nko?
“Na only in Nigeria dem dey get backup generator for generator.”
At the end of the march, Mr. Owoseni commended the protesters for their peaceful conduct.
“The police have provided security and protection and the police have ensured there was no breakdown of law and order.
“Our officers and men and the supporting society here said they (protesters) have behaved well, it’s commendable.”