Thursday, October 29, 2020

Protest in Nigeria

PROTEST IN NIGERIA HISTORY AND ITS ORGANIC DIMENSION: ISSUES FOR THROUGH THOUGHT.

Written by: Tahir Aduagba Esq.

Protest has, right from the very beginning of human history, been an instrument for either definite change or sparkling chain of reactions that mar or mend system in its entirety. In the scripture, The devil (Satan) protested against the ordinance/injunction of God and his protest led to chain of negative reaction from God. Thus, he(Satan) became an accursed among his peers. That was the first protest in the anal of human history.

In Nigeria, it is not an exception as the country has either in part or as a whole witnessed series of protest actions that have generated into one form of change or the other.

The pre-colonial regime of the defunct Western region of Nigeria offered a good example of protest action around 1817 when the excess of the then Alafin Aole became unbearable to the people particularly the fearless Ogboni cult headed by Bashorun. The latter cult protested seriously after having explored other internal mechanisms to suppress the excesses of the Alafin Aole. The Alafin's mother was approached to talk to her son(Alafin) who however refused all the entreaties extended to him and remained obstinate in changing his pattern of maladministration. Protest action was initiated by the Ogbonis and the said Alafin was eventually presented with Calabash, a symbol of commit suicide for a recalcitrant oba. He was thereby dethroned.

A new dimension circa was introduced to the topic of protest in Nigeria between 1925-1930 when the colonial administrators embarked on the imposition of intolerable tax on women of the Eastern Region of Nigeria. Prior to that time, protest of this kind was unheard of in Nigeria. The imposition of tax led to serious protest in which scores of women were killed at Opobo River bank- a stone throw from Ikoti Abasi. The news of that protest spread incredibly to Aba on the 6th December, 1929. It was while the action reached Aba that the protest got its name as Aba Woman Riot. It is unfortunate to mention that unlike the fantastic result recorded in the defunct Western region of Nigeria, the Aba riot did not ordinarily achieve the result until much later when it meets the pleasure of the imperial government to address the issue.

In the same vein, in the summer of October 1946, the Abeokuta ladies Club under the leadership of Madame Olufunmilayo Ransomekuti offered a list of demands to the then Alake of Egbaland, Oba Sir Ladapo Ademola II. Prominent among the requests of the Club was the need to abolish tax on Women in Abeokuta among other issues submitted which touched on the welfare of the people. The demands were outrightly ignored which led to agitations by the woman, and ultimately the arrest of Madame Ransomekuti. The latter was fined 3000 pounds or the risk of being imprisoned. In no distant time, the same Madame led a protest of 10,000 women to the palace of Alake of Egbaland in 1947. They decided to camp around the palace for more than 2 days, sleeping, cooking and conducting all their affairs around the palace ground until their requests are yielded. The pressure emanating from the women's protest was so huge on the colonial government that they had to abolish the tax law and the Alake of Egbaland abdicated the throne on the 3rd January, 1949.

The success of the Egba women's revolt was motivated by an external factor such as the brilliant teachings of a Lagos woman called Alimotu Pelewura.

Madame Pelewura had, in Lagos, led over 7000 women in protest. It was a massive protest at the Glover Hall on Broad Street of Lagos. The woman was said to be an ally of the great nationalist, Herbert Macauley who had also positively influenced the protest at the Glover Hall.

Nigeria has equally witnessed some other protest exploits such as the one led by Pa Micheal Imodu who led one of the biggest union strikes in the history of Nigeria. While the protest took its heavy tolls, the country was shut down for over four days. You see the effect on the economy- four days shut down!

There are recently protests that have agitations for improved welfare; against oppressive regimes and basically for fair right to life, right to be heard and right to basic amenities. SAP riot of 1989- the popular "Ali must go" that preoccupied attentions in the country in 1978. The slogan Ali must go was adopted against the then Federal Commissioner of Education, Col. Ahmadu Ali during the defunct military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Scores of Nigerian students lost their lives in the protest that started when the Federal Government increased the meal ticket of students in the Nigerian tertiary institutions from 50k to 1.50k and then to N2:00. For instance, Akintunde Ojo, a student of Architecture at the university of Lagos was killed. Similarly, 8 students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria were also sent to early grave by the army. The protest was led by the late Segun Okeowo, the president of the Nigerian Union of students. Segun Okeowo did not die in the protest as he passed away on January 28th, 2014 at the age of 73 years.

The aftermath of the June 12 protest against the regime of late General Sani Abacha was the death of many Nigerians which include the students who lost their lives in the protest.

Obviously, it could be seen that apart from the pre-colonial era in the defunct Western region where the agitations of the protesters took its success immediately, other protest actions in Nigeria used to achieve successes only after the hues and cries have been suspended. This has been the persistent pattern or dimension of protest actions in Nigeria. The government will in most cases succumb to the request of the people usually after all the relevant issues might have been fully discussed and the likely repercussions on the government have been safeguarded.

It should however be noted that the endsars protest in the country has assumed unprecedented dimension both its form and conclusion. The current administration in Nigeria gave a quick attention to the yearnings of the protesters and as a matter of urgency the unwanted SARS was abolished by the executive declaration. This is indeed a breakthrough to which most of the protesters did not pay attention. It is also to be noted that the protesters, due to their lack of vision, had allowed some disgruntled members of the society to hijack their mission and replaced it with criminality under the guise of protest. That is purely anti-government, and an highest form of anarchy and chaos. It therefore robbed the protest of its sincerity of purpose. It is unfortunate that the recent experience across the country is rather presenting a case to justify the continued existence of the unwanted squad of the Nigeria police.

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