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Protests, rallies, Buhari and the ‘unbelievers’

Nigerian music superstar, Innocent Ujah Idibia, aka Tuface, last week lost a golden opportunity to take his fame beyond the music world, when he backed out of a highly publicised protest march earlier scheduled to highlight the situation in the country, as it concerns cost of living. The Benue State-born music crooner, whose scheduled protest against the President Muhammadu Buhari government did cause some excitement and ripples, chickened out at the last minute. He thereby lost the chance of etching his name in the hearts of those, who feel strongly that the socio-economic crisis in the country has increased suffering and, therefore, wanted to register their grievances. Tuface’s loss, however, was others’ gain, as other Nigerians, from all walks of life, used his platform to shine. And they did shine.

Yes, such people as top musician, Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy; publisher, Omoyele Sowore and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, among others, did shine, as they defied security/government agents to march with other Nigerians, including officials of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and some Civil Society Organisations in Lagos, to register their frustration about the state of the nation. As the Oputas, Sowores, Falanas and others marched on Lagos, so did other Nigerians protest in Abuja, Port Harcourt and major cities in the country. It was a protest organised to show Nigerians’ disappointment, a protest whose time was ripe.

Interestingly, just like the anti-Buhari protesters marched, so also did those who support the Federal Government. The pro-Buhari groups held solidarity rallies in Abuja, Kano and some other cities.

For me, protests and rallies are a legitimate way through which people express themselves, whether in support or against a cause. When done within the confines of the law, protests are legal and acceptable. This is why the United States security allowed anti-President Donald Trump protests, days before his inauguration, on the day of inauguration and after the inauguration. In protesting against the Trump presidency, the United States’ citizens did have their say, but the constitution, which stipulated that anybody who wins the highest Electoral College votes in the presidential election shall be the president, had its way. Both ways, the two groups won, in their own rights.

It is instructive to note that while the US security agents never made any effort to stop the protests against Trump, their Nigerian counterparts tried to abort the mass action before the scheduled date. And when they discovered it was impossible to stop a “moving train,” they did not give the anti-government protest a breathing space, just as they closely policed the pro-government agitators. However, one thing that is curious is that our dear Garba Shehu, Senoir Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, said the police attempt to stop those who held rallies for President Buhari was a result of “communication gap.” He had declared, while addressing the pro-government supporters in Abuja: “There was a communication gap at the Villa gate because the police there did not know who was coming and I hope we will learn from this.”  This means, directly or indirectly, that were there no “communication gap,” the Presidential Villa security would have allowed the pro-Buhari group access to the seat of government.

Well, my position is this: Let anti-government protests and pro-government rallies hold. As the Igbo say, “let the eagles perch; let the hawk perch. Whichever that says the other should not perch, let its wing break.” The two groups have the right to express themselves. It is left for those in government to understand the essence of the protests and the rallies and decide what to do, whether to keep living in a fool’s paradise, by being carried away by the support of those behind it, whose allegiance no reason can shake, or be gingered into action to change things for the better, as demanded by those perceived to be against government.

Whichever one the Buhari government chooses, one thing that is clear is that most Nigerians are not happy with the government. Nigerians, who had high hopes that the President Buhari “presidentship” would better their lot are now disappointed and full of regrets. They are disappointed that the promised change has not manifested, to impact on their lives, in a positive way. They are frustrated that the cost of living has gone above the roof, beyond the reach of the ordinary people. They are frustrated that inflation rate has risen to 18.72 per cent and that prices of garri, rice, yam, beans, tomatoes and other foodstuffs have more than tripled, while income is either static or diminishing.  Come to think of it, who would blame Nigerians, complaining about the state of the nation? A hungry man is an angry man. Hunger defies reason. Therefore, the protesting Nigerians have cause to let out their feeling of anger. Their protest may not change anything, but they would have been satisfied that they passed their message.

No matter what the Buhari government thinks, it should be worried about the feelings of regrets among most Nigerians. Indeed, the government should be worried that most Nigerians would not believe it. Isn’t it strange that Nigerians would not believe the government, for instance, on President Buhari’s condition in London, where he is under doctors’ observation? As hard as the government has tried to convince Nigerians that the President Buhari has no health issues that should give anybody sleepless nights, only a few buy the claim. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did say he spoke to Buhari and that the President was hale and hearty. Senate President Bukola Saraki said he spoke to the president and he was in his usual cheerful mood. Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said he also spoke to president and  he was fine. The Presidency said US President Trump spoke to Buhari and had a cordial discussion. Former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, and ex-All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman, Bisi Akande, visited Buhari in London. Saraki, Dogara and Ahmed Lawal, Senate Leader, also met with Buhari in London. Is it not surprising that some Nigerians still have doubt, despite these “evidences” and are insisting that President Buhari should address them, via YouTube or step out to physically address Nigerians in London before they believe?

The government may call those in doubt “unbelievers.” The government could also call those who say the current government has not lived up to expectation “unbelievers.” However, the point that must be made is that distrust of government happens when people have lost trust and faith in a government and, therefore, begin to doubt its sincerity. It is a feeling caused by failed promises of a government, which presented itself as the messiah during electioneering, but which has fallen short of glory. I dare say that even if Buhari does a YouTube broadcast, to prove that he could talk, Nigerians will not believe him. And if he comes out in London to address Nigerians in the Diaspora, many would still have doubt and may want to touch him, to believe, just like Thomas in the Bible had to feel the holes in Jesus Christ’s palms and legs before he could believe that the Saviour had resurrected.

The President Buhari government does have a big task before it. Apart from taking measures to address the suffering in the land, it has an onerous task to restore the confidence Nigerians had in it, which has been lost. Methinks that this is where efforts should be concentrated, instead of the Babachir Lawal’s display of arrogance, in declaring that President Buhari will do two terms in office. Such declaration is one of the problems some of us have against the government. Isn’t it amusing that a man who is barely halfway in his tenure and whose performance in office is still a subject of argument is now being touted as a sure bet for second term? This is like playing God, because Lawal paints the picture of the omnipotent, who knows tomorrow and could say for sure what will happen.

One message I have for him is this: Power belongs to God and He gives whoever He deems fit. How many years Buhari will stay in office is not in the hand of Lawal. He could make a wish, but what happens is not under his control. It is only God who knows what will happen. God is the only one who knows how long Buhari will be in office. What should concern us mortals is what Buhari does with the time he has and not how long he stays in office.

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This post was syndicated from The Sun News. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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