The mass protests which have greeted fuel subsidy removal by the Nigerian government, in several Nigerian cities in the last few days caught up with the city of London. Several Nigerian student and youth groups decided to express solidarity with fellow Nigerians back home by coordinating a peaceful protest at the Nigerian High Commission known as “Nigeria House” in London, at the request of many UK based Nigerians. After obtaining a permit from the London Metropolitan police for the protest and using the hashtag #OccupyNigeriaLondon, the event was publicised on social media platforms. The permit issued by the Metropolitan police approved only a static protest, meaning that protesters could not march on the streets or to and fro, but could only stand outside the Nigeria House — actually directly opposite, across the street. Thus the Nigerian High Commission was not technically “occupied”.
Whether it was a consequence of social media use and publicity or just general disenchantment with the state of affairs in Nigeria, the turn out for at the event was incredibly impressive, for a protest abroad. From the records of a protest register/petition signed by most people present, there were well over 400 people there. Nigerians from all walks of life, across different ethnic and religious groups were present there. It was an exhilarating and empowering moment, and at once I forgot the myriad of problems facing my country and felt proud to be a Nigerian. Many passersby, drivers and London tourists on tour buses stared at us (I’d like to think in awe) as we discussed, sang the national anthem, chanted solidarity songs and as people expressed their feelings to private camcorders and to the media. Some of us finally met in person many of our “Facebook friends”, twitter “followers” and “followees” and other people we had only ever heard about, read their articles, blogs or tweets.
Signing the Petition
SCATHING CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT
Many protesters did not hesitate in expressing how frustrated they felt about fuel subsidy removal and their general disenchantment with the dearth of good governance, dearth of infrastructure, insecurity, high unemployment, government waste and profligacy and the endemic corruption in Nigeria. Here are a few of such:
Powerful Speech by Mr. Dele Momodu, media mogul and publisher of high-society magazine Ovation and also former presidential candidate:
What’s a gathering of passionate Nigerians without some drama? First of all, on sighting the Nigerian High Commissioner Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida who apparently had just returned from the mosque, getting out of the car, the crowd went wild! People started booing, yelling and heckling him from across the road. He stared briefly and waved at us but the heckling simply got louder as some really passionate people yelled some pretty unprintable stuff. He finally left shortly after.
Mr. High Commissioner Driving Away
Dele Momodu, who made a “guest appearance” of sorts at the event gave a powerful speech – actually make that several powerful speeches – and then granted several interviews to the media. This drew the ire of some people who felt he was not only “hugging the spotlight” and “stealing the show” but that this would probably give an erroneous impression that the whole event was politically motivated and sponsored. Thus some coordinators and members of the crowd were very vocal about their disapproval for his many speeches and interviews and requested that he leave. Since the event is a gathering of Nigerians, who could blame the former presidential candidate for “speaking” his mind… to several media persons?
…and then, lo and behold, the state-owned NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) makes a grand appearance. NTA, NTA, NTA!! Where do I even begin!? The complete media blackout it has given to the current mass protests in the country? Or the general blackout towards all relevant national issues that will genuinely inform Nigerians, such as the recent spate of bomb attacks? Or is it the censure of anything that does not put the government in favourable light? Well for these and many other reasons, NTA’s bold entrance was greeted with far louder boos, jeers and heckles.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words:
I am not really sure what this one means:
MORE #OCCUPYNIGERIA PROTESTS AROUND THE WORLD?
With the resounding success of the #OccupyNigeria London protest and the fact that the Nigerian government has obstinately refused to reverse its decision on fuel subsidy or even budge, labour Unions NLC and TUC, professional organizations like the NBA, NMA, NANS and other members of the civil society in Nigeria are set to embark on nation-wide strikes next week. Nigerians in other parts of the world are equally mobilizing for their own #OccupyNigeria Wherever protests. An #OccupyNigeria NYC has already been slated for 13th January at Nigeria House in the city of New York, United States. On the same day in Pretoria South Africa, the Nigerian community there also plans to “occupy” the Nigeria House, there. Others are being planned in several cities across the world.
The next few days promise to be incredibly interesting as the tug-o-war seems set to continue between the government and the good people of Nigeria. As both sides firmly hang on to their positions, it remains to be seen who blinks first.