Nigerians Denied Freedom on Democracy Day

Saturday, June 12, 2021, appeared to have been a national referendum on President Muhammadu Buhari’s six years rule as Nigerians protested bad governance, attempt to regulate the social media, intimidating the electronic media through the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC and spiraling insecurity across the country.

Nigerians gathered in their numbers in Abuja, Lagos, and other state capitals across the country to express their feelings about Buhari’s government. In the United Kingdom and United States of America, USA Nigerians also protested perceived bad governance and insecurity in Africa’s embattled largest economy.

Their placards mostly read: “Buhari Must Go” with additional riders. In Washington D.C, protesters demanded an end to Nigeria as presently constituted. Some placards demanded: “Yoruba Nation Now!” An unnamed protester said in a circulating video: “We are exercising our fundamental human rights as Yoruba. We want to be self-determining,”

At Trafalgar Square in London, protesters also demanded that “Buhari must go.” They called for Biafra and Oduduwa nations out of Nigeria. “Oduduwa is our nation, Nigeria is an imposition,” screamed some posters.

While the Police in Washington and London did not interfere with the protests, it was a different ball game in Nigeria as the Nigeria Police unleased tear gas, whips, and other abusive weapons on protesters.

In Abuja, the Federal Capital City was locked down to make it difficult for protesters to gain access to the Unity Fountain, resulting in traffic snarls. Those who outsmarted the Police by arriving the venue ahead of the lockdown were tear-gassed by the police who had warned that no protest would be tolerated on Democracy Day.

The Twitter ban may end up Buhari’s Waterloo. If not immediately lifted, it may end up a bigger trigger for a revolution than #EndSARS because things are worse off in the country now than then.

Despite the ban, Nigerians are using the VPN mode to access their Twitter accounts. They used the medium to rally Nigerians to protest against the infringement of their fundamental rights by the Buhari government.

Dr. Rita Onyejesi @agbomma71 tweeted: “Enough is Enough, woke up today & noticed that my Twitter can’t load without a VPN. We have no good Road, no job, no light; everything is ‘No’ &they want to take our freedom of expression and interaction too. They have bitten more than they can chew #June12Protest.”

Deji Adeyanju @adeyanjudeji, a human rights activist, supported the protest: “To the youths planning nationwide protests tagged #June12 protest over insecurity, nepotism, bigotry, unemployment, banditry, economic woes, human rights violations, incompetence and corruption! How can we all join?”

Towolawi Jamiu Endsarsnow @jharmo said the twitter ban was symbolic of worse policies ahead. “When a regime has failed totally, it will result to the use of excessive force. The @MBuhari regime is testing the ground with the #TwitterBan and if not resisted, it will move to suspend the Nigeria constitution and introduce a martial law. #June12Protest is a date with history.”

Omoyele Sowore, activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, tweeted: “Join the Mother of All Protests June 12 2021! Don’t miss the greatest opportunity to change the course of history in Nigeria! #June12protest #Buharimustgo #Twitterban #Revolutionnow,” he concurred.

Similarly, Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister, reasoned, “Connecting-the-dots after I read something. It does indeed sound plausible that the #TwitterBanNigeria was meant to be an early preemptive strike against the #June12Protest. Ok then. Good reason now for more citizens to join that protest. A strong answer to ‘What’s Next.”

Ironically, President Buhari, in his Democracy Day speech, celebrated the ‘freedom’ being enjoyed under his regime by Nigerians.

“I join you all today to commemorate and celebrate our Democracy Day. It is a celebration of freedom and a victory for one people, one country and one Nigeria.”

This claim was being made as the Police and other security agencies were beating and tear-gassing Nigerians protesting bad governance and infringement of their fundamental rights across the country. Nigeria has never been more divided than under Buhari since the amalgamation of 1914.

Protesters Carry placard and banners during a June 12 democracy day rally in Abuja. Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuter.
Protesters Carry placard and banners during a June 12 democracy day rally in Abuja. Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuter.

He felt it was a learning curve. “As with all democracies, we will always be going through improvement processes in our desire to reach the goal of a mature democracy, a strong, evolved and integrated nation state to be reckoned with globally.” He acknowledged ‘senseless arsons, kidnappings and murders,’ across the country.

“Let me assure my fellow citizens that every incident, however minor, gives me great worry and concern and I immediately order security agencies to, swiftly, but safely rescue victims and bring perpetrators to justice,” he said.

He attributed the simultaneous violence across the country to Boko Haram. “When you elected me as your President in 2015, you did so knowing that I will put an end to the growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North East, but the unintended consequences of our scattering them in the North East pushed them further in-country which is what we are now facing and dealing with. We will, by the Grace of God, put an end to these challenges too.”

He painted a glowing score on paper the realities of which Nigerians are contesting. “My commitment to bequeathing a sustainable democratic culture remains resolute; my pursuit of a fair society remains unshaken, and my desire to see that Nigeria remains a country for each and every one of us has never been stronger.”

For once, he acknowledged, “In responding to the challenges that this period imposes on us, government also recognizes the need to acknowledge notions of marginalization and agitations for constitutional amendments among various segments of our population. While this government is not averse to constitutional reform as part of our nation-building process, everyone must understand that the primary responsibility for constitutional amendments lies with the National Assembly.”
He assured “Government is, however, willing to play a critical role in the constitutional amendment process without usurping the powers of the National Assembly in this regard.”

Be that as it may, he did not say anything about the infringements of the fundamental rights of Nigerians by his government.

The remaining two years of his final term will be a turbulent run-in as Buhari tries to force unpopular policies down the throats of Nigerians.

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