National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, has described the anti- government protests in many parts of Nigeria and in the United Kingdom last week as an indication of general discontent and outrage over the level of poverty, hunger and poor governance in the country.
Odumakin in particular, said the follow up demonstration by the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and Concerned Lawyers and civil society groups meant “that the floodgate of protest has begun and will continue until rulers of our country will put their acts together and begin to address the problems of the country.”
Though he was uncomfortable with initial police threats and the fact that the protest took place largely in the South with some protesters, especially in Abuja largely from a section of the country, Odumakin said the protesters from all walks of life were united by one purpose- to send a message to the government to change its approach to governance Nigerians under the aegis of Enough is Enough, trooped out in major cities in the country to protest against poor governance and the economic policies of the federal government, which they blamed for the widespread poverty and hunger in the land.
The protest took off at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, at about 9 a.m. with notable faces like the Executive Director of Enough is Enough, Yinka Aadamolekun, Charley Boy; popular comedian, Seyi Law; Sahara Reporters’ publisher, Omoyele Sowore; Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Gbenga Sesan; and the founder, Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, leading the way. In Abuja, former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and others led the way.
The protest was not limited to Nigeria as demonstrators in Britain joined their compatriots back home when they converged on Nigerian House, London, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari appears in person and address them, following reports from the presidency on Sunday that he had extended his stay in the United Kingdom indefinitely for health reasons.
Also last Thursday, members of the Nigerian Labour Congress led by its National President, Ayuba Wabba, TUC leadership and scores of prominent lawyers who were led by former Vice President of West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana, also marched to the Presidency in Abuja and the Lagos State governor’s office in protest over the same issues.
Odumakin said the protest was largely successful because it was a demonstration of “our rights and the rights we fought for. which cannot be taken away at the seams, neither are Nigerians at the whim and caprices of anybody.” He said the participation of Nigerians in London was an indication of the general outrage over what is going on in Nigeria right now.
“The protest showed a country polarized along ethnic lines which has always been the bane of agitations in the country over the years.
You hardly get a consensus on some of these issues. He commended the follow up protest by the NLC and Concerned Lawyers, saying that “it means that the floodgate of protest has begun and it will continue such that the rulers of the country will put their acts together and begin to address the problems of the country.
“I have scary videos of frustrated Nigerians about what is going on in the country and what actions they are going to take.
We risk serious trouble if these issues are not addressed and I have not seen government’s readiness to address the issues,” he said. Recall that Odinkalu and several others lamented poor power supply and massive corruption in the land stating: “We are trying to make sure that Nigeria works for everybody. We came here as poor ordinary Nigerians armed with our national plan.
“They (police) have been sent here to do what they don’t want to do; we know they are part of us. We are giving this government till May 29, 2017 to fulfill the promises they have made. Today, we are here with a yellow card, on the 29th of May, if things are not better, we will come with a red card.
“We don’t know what is happening to our president, we don’t know the whereabouts of Mr. President. We are fed up with these old pictures of our president and those being currently passed up as new ones. We are fed up with the lies and deceit.
“We are here with major demands: we want transparency in governance, we want to know how much the states are getting, we want to know what happened to the bailout funds, how much the federal internal revenue is collecting, how much the Nigeria Customs Service made, how much the Nigeria National Petroleum Company is making, and how our government is spending it.
“We want to know how many children of persons in this administration have been hired by NNPC, CBN, INEC and all the big offices across the country. We want to know how much the grass cutter stole in order to make our internally displaced persons (IDPs) go hungry.
We don’t want the grass cutter to hire the president as his lawyer. The life of all Nigerians must count. We don’t want any Nigerian’s life to be dismissed; every Nigerian must have a name.
“Corruption has not gone away. It has gotten worse. The president told us that he is going to fight corruption and not defend people who are accused of being corrupt. He told us that he is going to protect our interest and not the interest of the grass cutter.
We say enough is enough. “The current energy minister, my good brother, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fashola told us during the 2015 general elections campaign that a serious administration can fix power within six months. “But, today, we are over 20 months into this administration and there is still darkness in the land. “Poverty is getting worse, we cannot buy bread, we cannot buy food and we can’t find jobs.
We are asking government to fix energy, give us transparency and be accountable. And protect every Nigerian irrespective of where they come from and where they live. These are our demands.
“We also want to reiterate that we are gathered here to protest that our political leaders have failed us, the elected leaders have failed us. They are not keeping to their election promises, they are not following their manifesto. We are here to demand for proper leadership,” Odinkalu said at the rally.