In what looked like a new wave of responsiveness from the seat of government, acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday responded to the anti-government protests which sprang up spontaneously across the country with a voice of empathy and tolerance.
In a statement he personally signed, Prof. Osinbajo said “we hear you loud and clear, those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation and even those who are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship. We hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier “.
He added “the journey out of the damage caused by years of neglect and corruption is bound to be difficult but there is a glorious light at the end of the tunnel. Let us work together, steadfastly and patiently for the economic change that will come very soon”.
Recalling the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, a few months ago when the acting president said “I know that uppermost in your minds today is the economic crisis, the recession for many individuals and families is real. For some it means not being able to pay school fees, for others it is not being able to afford the high cost of rice, millet, or of local or international travel. And for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or polytechnic.
“I know how difficult things are and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices.”
Buhari supporters dwarfed in Abuja: Meanwhile in Abuja, the nation’s seat of government, angry Nigerians who are against the economic policies of the administration, who took to the streets in the Federal Capital Territory to protest against President Buhari’s bad governance, with the hashtag #IStandWithNigeria, had a successful outing.
In the Central Business District areas, protesters, as promised, trooped out en masse, with placards with various inscriptions on their hands to express their grievances over economic hardships in the country.
There were some other groups who equally staged protest in favour of the Federal Government but were overwhelmed by the large number of youths who protested against the government.
The anti-government protesters said that Buhari had failed in fulfilling his campaign promises, stressing that there was acute hunger in the land.
Some of the placards of the pro-government group read, ‘#IstandwithBuhari’ , “Nigerians are fully with you” and “We believe in President Muhammadu Buhari making Nigeria great again” among others.
One of the leaders of the group, Comrade Olayemi Success of Buhari Volunteers Network noted that the group is rallying support for the government under the leadership of president Buhari.
He said his group was aware of the economic hardship in the country but the situation of Nigeria could be likened to a virus-infested system that needed shutting down and formatting.
The #IstandwithNigeria group, which marched from the Unity Fountain to Aso Villa gate before it was stopped by security operatives, made five demands which was read by the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Professor Chidi Odinkalu. The group demanded transparency in governance, called for improved security and reduction in the cost of governance. The group also argued that the fight against corruption was losing credibility as a result of selective prosecution. It called for the sack and prosecution of the ‘grass cutter’ in apparent reference to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer David Babachir Lawal.
Another leader of the group, Aisha Yesufu noted that the office of the citizen is the highest office in the land and should not be intimidated by security operatives. She argued that public office holders should be servants to the people.
Successful protest in Lagos with Charly Boy, others: Members of civil society groups and celebrities Monday protested in Lagos against the current economic hardship in the country.
In Lagos the protest was led by a former president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Charles Oputa popularly known as Charly Boy alongside the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and popular Comedian, Seyi Law.
The motivator of the protest, Innocent Idibia (2Baba) had pulled out on Saturday citing security concerns.
The protest was put together by civil rights organisations: OneVoiceNigeria and United Action for Democracy (UAD).
Early arrival of police officers who blocked all access to the venues with Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) thwarted the protesters’ efforts to gather at Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park Ojota and the National Stadium, Surulere.
But in a counter-arrangement, organisers mobilised protesters to converge on Ojuelegba under bridge and the entrance of the National Stadium in Surulere, from where they marched through Ikorodu road before rounding up at National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos.
Traffic along the axis was grounded for several hours during the protest. The protesters sang, jeered and carried placards with various inscriptions denouncing the policies of Federal Government while calling for better deals for Nigerians.
Some placards read: “Buhari: Is this the change you promised us?”, “Nigeria change has become chain”, “We are graduates, we have no job, no accommodation and no livelihood”, “Bag of Rice now N17,000, A litre of Kerosene now N350, smallest bread in the market now N100, where is the hope of common man?”
The Executive Director OneVoiceNigeria, Yemi Adamolekun told journalists that the turnout was impressive and that Nigerians had actually defied all attempts by the Federal Government to muscle their voices.