Nigerians took to the street last Saturday in peaceful rallies to protest against bad governance and insecurity across the country.
The protest, organised by some Nigerian youth and civil society organisations, was billed to hold simultaneously in various states across the federation.
The protest held in many parts of the country including Abuja, Lagos, Oyo, Ondo Osun and Ogun, to mention but a few. The protest, however, did not hold in most parts of the North.
The June 12 protest, deliberately planned by civic groups and activists to coincide with Nigeria’s Democracy Day, aimed at pressuring the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to address the worsening state of governance and the alarming rate of insecurity in the country.
June 12 is celebrated as Democracy Day in Nigeria in remembrance of the June 12, 1993, presidential election that was presumably won by, Moshood Abiola.
The election, said to be the fairest and freest in Nigeria, was annulled under controversial circumstances by the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida.
Mr Abiola later died under controversial circumstances in detention in 1998 after he was arrested by the military regime for declaring himself president of Nigeria.
The federal government and the authorities in various states had indicated their disapproval of the protest.
However, a counter-protesting group emerged in Abuja, protesting in solidarity with the president.
Civic groups, including the #RevolutionNow movement, led by Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, were prevented from protesting in Abuja and Lagos.
While the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right, the Nigerian government, under Mr Buhari, has the reputation of cracking down on such gatherings deemed confrontational by state officials.
Here are 10 things we learnt from the protest:
Hiring of pro-government protesters
In a desperate move to overshadow the mainstream protests, hundreds of protesters wearing branded T-shirts with pro-Buhari inscriptions also trooped to the streets of Abuja on Saturday.
Most of them were recruited to join a rally aimed at countering the mainstream June 12 protests on Saturday.
Some of them, who randomly spoke to PREMIUM TIMES at Unity Fountain, Abuja, said they were promised to be paid between N1,500 and N2,500 to attend the counter-protest.
Militarisation to prevent protest
There was a heavy police presence in the country’s two major cities, in order to prevent citizens from protesting.
Abuja and Lagos saw police shooting their guns into the air and firing teargas into the crowds to disperse the demonstrators, who held placards and chanted “Buhari must go”.
Police fired teargas and detained several demonstrators in the two major cities. Officers were also seen smashing mobile phones confiscated from protesters.
No protests in the North
The widely publicised protest failed to hold in most of Nigeria’s 19 northern states.
Aside from Plateau State and the FCT in North-central Nigeria, protests did not hold in all the entire 18 other states.
Instead of protests, official ceremonies and political rallies organised by some governors to commemorate the June 12 Democracy Day took the centre stage in most of the states, with citizens in most of the states in the northern region going about their routine business.
Social media mobilisation
One of the core components of the protests has been the seamless transition between online and offline campaigns.
Mainly using the outlawed Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook, young people have rallied and mobilised waves of protests to locations across the country with pretty simple formulas.
For instance, when dozens of people converge on a location to host their own protests, they share their location on social media asking for “reinforcements”, a move that has seen crowds go from a few dozens to hundreds within hours in some places.
Strategic locations were pre-identified online with people encouraged to come out and protest.
Aside from the protests held in Nigeria, different groups held another at the Trafalgar Square in London demanding that ‘Buhari must go’ and calling for Biafra and a Yoruba nation.
Some others staged a peaceful solidarity protest in Washington D.C. to demand an end to insecurity and bad governance in Nigeria. The protests held across many cities in the country.
The protesters who wore branded T-shirts with the inscription “Yoruba Nation Now!” held placards showing pictures of some of the victims of recent killings by armed bandits in the country.
No death recorded
Despite the harassment, shootings and intimidation by the police and DSS, no cases of death were recorded across the country.
According to some of the protesters, the only mission of the security agents was to thwart the protest.
Sources said commissioners of police in various states were warned not to shoot at any protesters to avoid escalating violence.
Arrested protesters released within hours
Due to the militarisation of the protest, many protesters were arrested and detained briefly by the police.
Some of the arrested protesters were manhandled and subjected to inhuman environments.
However, despite all the odds, no protester was detained for up to 24 hours as all the detainees were released within hours.
Well-coordinated pro-government protest
The counter-protest organised by agents of government was well-coordinated, with the organisers operating from the field.
The organisers were seen delegating various protesters to speak to journalists and also telling them what to say.
Most of the organisers who look older physically declined speaking to the media as they claim their delegates were in charge of the protest.
Free use of unity fountain
While the anti-government protesters were denied access to the Abuja unity fountain, pro-government protesters operated freely at the fountain.
They spent several hours while the security agents looked by, forcing the anti-government protesters to find an alternative venue.
While anti-government protesters were bullied and harassed by security agents, pro-government protesters were given police protection.
The police moved along with them to wherever they were going within the unity fountain axis.
Due to harassment and intimidation, anti-government protesters were forced to end their protest abruptly.
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