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Occupy Nigeria!

Thursday February 02 2012    |     Views: 2940    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

NLC Protests
NLC Protests

Dear Diary,

2012 must be a very crazy year indeed! First, a policeman tried to shoot me on New Year’s Day. When he didn’t succeed, the President tried to kill me himself.

New Year’s eve was great. We ushered in the New Year with a family fellowship as we do every year. Church service also went well, even though it was quite boring. Anglican churches and their boringly long services! It was so boring that my siblings were pinging in church! When we couldn’t take it anymore, we decided to leave before the service ended.

We were almost home when we heard the blast of sirens behind us. This was Abeokuta, not Lagos. The streets were narrow, since traffic isn’t usually much. So, who was the fool sounding sirens behind us? Where did they expect us to go? Climb over the median? I looked into my rear-view mirror. It was a police truck, with a BMW behind it. I kept driving. They started horning and flashing their headlights. I refused to move to the side of the road. If they wanted to get in front of me, then they’d have to overtake me.

We kept at it for some time: I, refusing to budge, and they horning and flashing. Suddenly, the truck saw an opening by the side and sped past me. The driver blocked me off and two armed policemen jumped down, cocking their guns!

‘Get down, everybody!’

They pointed their guns at us. I had forgotten to lock the doors, and one of the policemen jacked it open and shoved me out. He changed the cartridge in the gun and pointed it at me, demanding to know why I hadn’t left the road for them. I feigned ignorance. My younger sister had started panicking; she quickly dialed dad’s number. He didn’t pick up. All the while, the policeman was demanding for my vehicle papers, my ID, and everything he could think of. He ordered me to open my boot. There was a bag containing magazines in the boot. He told me to put in the middle of the road and open it, almost as if he was expecting to see a bomb in it. Drivers had parked their cars and were watching from a safe distance. The whole of Abeokuta stood still while the policemen harassed us like mere terrorists. Finally, my brother told them we were coming from church. Seemingly, they had more urgent business to do. With a fierce warning and another pointing of the gun in my face, they called me a stubborn man and left.

As if the near-death experience (policemen have been known to shoot and ask questions later) was not enough, we got home to the news that the President had announced the removal of fuel subsidy and we had to buy petrol at over 200% increase! I got depressed instantly! I barely had fuel in my car and I was meant to come to Lagos the next day. I didn’t even have enough money, having spent so much during the holidays. So my predicament wasn’t just about the immediate need of getting back to Lagos, but also about survival. Prices were going to shoot up. In fact, marriage would have to be postponed!

So, when the NLC announced an indefinite strike to protest against the subsidy removal, I was more than glad to participate. So on January 9th, I marched with Edet, Lekan and Lanre and other concerned Nigerians as we protested against the cruel decision of the government.

Walking with a crowd chanting songs of rebellion is an opium. It infuses you with strength you never thought you had. All the way from Yaba, we walked to Ojota, an endeavour we would never have undertaken. All long the journey, residents had come out to watch and lend solidarity. Burning tyres were placed in the middle of the road, passing cars were turned back, as we marched to Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota for what was to become the largest protest in the history of Nigeria.

Nigeria stood still for ten days. All over the country, protests were held in different states. People lost their lives to mindless police officers. In the end, the Occupy Nigeria protest yielded dividends, even if the dividends weren’t as much as we expected. The government reduced the pump price and we learnt valuable lessons.

We used to be subjects; now, we are citizens. We own this country, not them. We can fight for our rights. We can raise our voices and even God will pay attention.

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