There are indications of an imminent clash between civil society organisations and the police as a mass protest is set to be held in various states across the country and in the diaspora on Saturday (today), in commemoration of Democracy Day. The police are determined not to allow any demonstration anywhere in the country and have advised people to be law abiding.
Several digital flyers, widely circulated on social media on Friday, publicised meeting points in Lagos, Gombe, Calabar (Cross River), Yola (Adamawa), Bauchi, Abeokuta (Ogun), Yenagoa (Bayelsa), Port Harcourt (Rivers), Ibadan (Oyo), Ilorin (Kwara), Enugu, Akure (Ondo), Yobe, and Zaria (Kaduna).
One poster by #RevolutionNow read, “Join the June 12 protest. No more poverty, hunger and insecurity in Nigeria… Enough Is Enough! Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.”
Another poster for a protest in Kaiserslautern, Germany read, “Buhari must go! Let’s come together to say no to government funding terrorism: Boko Haram terrorism and banditry, one litre of petrol equals N165, bad roads, poor hospitals, kidnapping, economic recession, police brutality, disregard for the rule of law, poor health sector, poor education.”
Similar flyers targeted at protesters in New York (US), Kaduna State and the Federal Capital Territory listed the same points but added, “N30,000 minimum wage, N13.5m senators’ salary, Nigeria is over N30tn in debt.”
One poster for a protest tagged ‘Buhari Must Go Party’ was aimed at supporters in London, United Kingdom. Similar ‘Buhari must go’ posters also targeted protesters in Toronto (Canada), Austin (Texas, USA), Calabar, Kebbi, and Lagos.
However, police commands in several states across the country, including Lagos, Bayelsa, Kogi, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Akwa Ibom, argued that they were unaware of any planned protest in their respective states. Some states, including Oyo and Kwara, embarked on a show of force on Friday.
They also promised to uphold law and order in the state amid plans of demonstrations circulating on social media.
But the Convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore, told Saturday PUNCH in a series of text messages that there was no legal backing for the security forces to deter protesters.
He said, “The Nigeria Police has no right to tell Nigerians not to participate in protests. It is an inalienable right. Our group will go ahead regardless of the obstacles. If the police decide to use unreasonable force, let it be known that the officers involved will be held responsible even after they retire.
“June 12 is about real democracy and free and fair elections; the Buhari regime reminds us all of the criminal annulment of democratic rule in 1993.”
Asked why demonstrations were being organised simultaneously in foreign locations, he said, “It is a global protest to restore genuine democracy.”
Sowore criticised the police statement warning groups who did not obtain permits ahead of the protests, saying, “No, we do not need a police permit to protest. Even under military rule, we did not need police permits to engage in protests; it is settled in law.”
Similarly, the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, condemned the threats by the police, saying there was no basis to deny people their right to protest
tomorrow that this is still a democracy.”
Asked if his group was prepared for the possibility of the police responding to the protests with the use of force, he said, “Absolutely! It is a normal strategy by the police, Department of State Services and Army. They have been using this since the ‘90s to demoralise people and ensure that they don’t turn up.
“We are all witnesses to this. But it is within the right of every Nigerian to protest and people should be defiant and summon courage. If Kudirat Abiola, MKO Abiola, Afred Rewane, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Prof Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehunmi, Femi Falana and others that sacrificed for democracy did not defy the military to lead protests, we would not have this democracy.
“So, it behoves us to do the same or even do more. If not for the sacrifices of the June 12 heroes, would President Muhammadu Buhari even be able to sit in the Villa to be using new decrees and displaying tyranny? Would there be an IG threatening protesters if they could not go and threaten kidnappers?”
Adeyanju noted that one of the reasons for the protest was the recent abductions of Nigerians, decrying that the Federal Government, which he said stood by as Sheik Ahmad Gumi negotiated with bandits, was “issuing threats and directives” to protesters.
We must do our part. It’s two-way traffic. Leaders have a responsibility to do the right thing, but citizens have a greater responsibility to make sure they do their part so that leaders do not get away with impunity and tyranny,” the activist added.
In the same vein, Apapo Egbe Omo Yoruba announced that it would join the protest in the South-West.
The group, in a statement on Friday, listed its convergence points to include Itele Junction, Benin-Ore Expressway (Ogun); Tollgate, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (Lagos); Iwo Road (Oyo); Okefia, Oshogbo (Osun); Akure, Ado-Expressway (Ekiti); and Roadblock Oloko (Ondo).
“Please, note that what we are having tomorrow is a protest not a rally, and the event will not take place in Kwara and Kogi states for now, due to some strategic reasons. Please, we implore all our Yoruba brothers and sisters to participate fully in tomorrow’s protest because our huge turnout is very important for our total liberation from the Fulani Republic of Nigeria.
“Please, those of us that do not have the Yoruba Nation uniform are also expected to join the protest, so nobody should use the issue of (not having) uniforms or caps as an excuse for his or her non-participation.
“We also implore our people not to go to anywhere tomorrow except the rally venues. Failure to follow this instruction may lead to serious consequences by the Yoruba Nation warriors, who will be available everywhere to enforce this simple instruction. God bless Yoruba Nation.”