Letters to the editor
When, Where, How and Why #OccupyNigeria?
When, Where, How and Why #OccupyNigeria?
By Azeenarh Mohammed (@xeenarh) (Closeted optimist, provocative writer)
The people are restless and the demands for a demonstration are loud. I am very happy to hear those calls, but once again I must call for caution. The events that took place at #EagleSquare in Abuja and other parts of the country Monday the 2nd January 2012 only serves to buttress my point: we simply aren’t ready…YET.
What started out as a call by Dino Meleye to take down the names and details of volunteers eventually ended badly. Citizens were tear-gassed, bullied, chased, beaten and some where arrested. As I write this, some of them are still in custody. Although I am unhappy with these events, Japheth Omojuwa has pointed the glass as half full for me because the turn out was massive despite just having only 1 or 2 hours to mobilise.
But as much as we want to rush out and demonstrate, we have to do it with reason. Why not use the few days we have left to organize and prepare ourselves? Let me tell you why.
THE REASONS WHY WE WILL PROTEST
Many of you are asking yourselves why you need to get out of your comfort zone and into the streets to protest about the withdrawal of fuel subsidy. The government’s argument is that if we do not stop funding fuel subsidy, the economy will crash and we all will go down with it. But are there no other places to reduce spending to save money?
Let us take a few moments and consider these points:
• David Mark earns N600 million annually, enough money to set up at least, 100 schools in his Benue State
• President Jonathan and his friends will eat N1 billion worth of food in 2012, while fuelling their cars for N1.7 billion. This amount will build at least, 50 good health care centres in the South-South
• N200 million was budgeted to water the gardens of the President in 2011. This is enough to educate 200 Nigerians through university education
• This is more than a quest for economic rights, it a quest for justice.
This is not about fuel subsidy, it is about the ruling class’ war on the Nigerian masses. They cannot claim our country is broke when President Goodluck Jonathan continues to feed fat on N3 million worth of food everyday. They cannot claim to be broke when they increased the recurrent expenditure of the 2012 budget by another N92 billion. They cannot claim to be broke when the First Lady just spent N5billion furnishing an office. They cannot claim to be broke when in the whole budget is about their salaries and allowances.
Government seeks to impoverish us the more by removing fuel subsidy while they continue to waste money on their friends and families!
We will have PEACEFUL PROTESTS in all the 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from Friday 6th of January 2012 at 10am local time. We do not condone violence so why not Join US and also spread the message to everyone around you. WE shall prevent people from going to work and helping the government imprison us in poverty while the ‘leaders’ buy mansions and travel all over the world.
This is a fight for all of us: students and workers, unemployed and self-employed, bike men, taxi men, traders, teachers, mai-ruwa, barbers, mechanics, househelps, newspapermen, tomato sellers, civil servants, students, business men…in fact, EVERY NIGERIAN! We all have a duty to make the government change its mind and we will not
stop protesting everyday until petroleum subsidy is returned!
“This is your fight. There are no activists anywhere to save you. This is the time for you to become your own messiah. Now take your place on the arc of history, call out to your neighbors and friends, the Nigerian morning of Justice has come!!!”
RULES GUIDING THESE PROTESTS:
A written notice shall be delivered to the police, SSS, road safety and other relevant agencies stating the intention for a peaceful protest in accordance to Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with particular reference to Sections 33, 34, 35, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the CFRN which will contain the date, time, where the protest will take place (from which streets it starts and to which it will convene) and the estimated number of people expected.
We shall not stoop to the level of fighting the security forces physically, with arms, or engage them in verbal arguments. They are first of all Nigerians and we have to remember that.
Protesters will not obstruct traffic, or antagonise people going about their normal business. With crowds, absolute control cannot be achieved but we must try our best. Violence is NOT an option. I repeat, violence is not an option. Let’s not give this people a reason to turn on us. A single life is too costly-and we’ve lost too many already. We can do it peacefully and we will. We are going to rely on the educated ones among us to broker and maintain peace in case a disagreement ensures.
We will ensure that every excuse used in the past to intimidate and harass citizens are minimised and if possible, completely extinguished. Hopefully, the police, army, civil defence and co will join us shortly.
Now remember, Mr President has said he is willing to risk civil disobedience by removing subsidy. This tells us that they are ready for us. We not only have to match their resolve, we have to beat them at it.
WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACHIEVE?
The demand is short and simple: Return fuel subsidy until our refineries are either fixed or new ones built! My mentor Salim Malami asked me to google ‘How To Build A Refinery?’ Apparently, a refinery takes between 24-36 months to build from concept to completion. This is a fact. Jamnagar Refinery located in India is the biggest refinery in the world and it took 36 months to build. The question we should be asking is why isn’t our government trying to refine its crude oil? We also want the cabal found and prosecuted, the billions retrieved, and we demand transparency instead of secrecy in the oil industry.
HOW DO WE INTEND TO RETURN SUBSIDY?
The ONLY logical way for us to achieve our aim of returning subsidy (apart from certain war) is IF and WHEN the entire government is ground down to a halt. Anything short of this will get us nowhere.
Realistically, this can only be done with the help of organized labor. No one will be allowed to go to work: and when everyone from janitors, secretaries, accountants, human resources, gatemen, personnel, to support staff, all continue to shun work at ministries, parastatals, airports etc, the government will have no option but to dialogue with us and our demand WILL remain simple from the beginning to the end: return subsidy and we return to work. I know the cynicism people feel towards organized labor and their tendency to sell out. Believe me, I feel it to. My singular consolation is that WE make labor so we will have to sit up and NOT sell out.
Now is the time when we need everyone to be on board; from organized labor, religious groups, professional institutions, unions NUJ, NURTW, ASUU, SUG, NBA, Civil societies, clubs, NGO’s, self employed individuals, to your gateman, your househelp, the owner of the store at the corner of your house, the mai-ruwa, the mai-shayi, the brick layer, the saloon owner, the groundnut hawker, the teachers, the nurses, the cab drivers and okada riders to ALL come together and stand as ONE. We must have EVERYONE involved.
WHEN WILL WE START PROTESTING?
From the looks of it, FRIDAY 6th JANUARY 2012 will be the date. When it starts, no one expects government to cower immediately. Citizens are expected to use Wednesday & Thursday (4th & 5th January 2012) to make long term plans that will ensure their comfort and that of their families for about 2 weeks to a month.
I expect everyone to share this message via email, print, BBM, Twitter, Facebook and beyond. We need you all to recruit and engage one another. This protests can not be isolated. We will shock government with our coordination.
WHAT MESSAGE ARE WE PASSING ALONG:
We are ONE, we are organized, we do NOT believe in violence, and we will persevere until fuel subsidy is returned.
WHY ARE WE DOING IT THIS WAY?
Because having little 150-200 disorganized rallies will not help anyone. If every group organized their rallies & demonstrations, they would be ineffective, uncoordinated, and the security operatives will end up bullying, intimidating & arresting protesters. The rest will be lucky to flee for their safety, returning home dejected & discouraged having lost energy, time and effort.
Labor is ready, willing and able to shut down the entire country. We will join them to ensure that they not only do it, but they do it right. Once again, I need to remind us all: this is not the time for ego’s, popularity, fame or fortune. Our strength lies in our unity and our planning. There will be no winners if we refuse to work together. This is not the time to be alone, or prove that you can do it on your own. ONLY IF WE ARE TOGETHER ARE WE UNBREAKABLE!
WHERE WILL WE DEMONSTRATE & PROTEST?
In all 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The most delicate ones are the four with state of emergencies (Plateau, Yobe, Niger & Borno) but we are doing our best to keep them involved.
(Tentatively) Protests are expected to kick off simultaneously at 10am in all states (most venue’s are yet to be finalized) and we will continue our peaceful demonstrations all over the country until the subsidy is removed.
You all asked for a chance to prove your worth, a chance to contribute your quota to your Nigeria. Well this is it…so please don’t blow it. Read, share, retweet, email, print/circulate, and orally recruit more people. If each of us recruited 10 neighbors and family members, and each of those 10 people recruited 10 more persons, we will well be on our way to taking back this country from our oppressors. No number is too much and none is too little.
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