OKECHUKWU JOMBO writes that the act of protesting in Nigeria is gradually becoming a business and politicians are taking advantage of it to press home their hiding agenda.
The National Assembly complex in Abuja was besieged by protesters divided along those in support of and those against Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s continued stay in office.
Those in support of him carried banners screaming Saraki should be allowed to do his work, while those in opposition called for his resignation and that of senators, who they believed are not in office to serve the will of the people.
The latter group who came with other banners initially wanted to enter the National Assembly but were stopped in there hundreds by security men and women who locked the main gate of the complex and formed a human barricade.
The group sat on the floor of the road and sang the National Anthem repeatedly. The protesters who had marched from the Unity Fountain near Transcorp Hilton to the National Assembly were drawn from Members of Citizen United for Peace and Stability.
The civil society organisation in one voice, called for the immediate resignation of the Sen. Saraki, over the myriad of corruption cases preferred against him, the purchase of SUVs for senators at exorbitant price, as well as an alleged attempt to frustrate the 2016 budget.
According to the protesters, they will not stop until Saraki tenders his resignation letter. Nigerian pilot gathered that the protesters marched from the Unity Fountain near Transcorp Hilton to the National Assembly.
The spokesman of the anti anti-Saraki group Akpomejevwe Onyemachi Tedheke said while Nigerians were suffering the lawmakers were on a jamboree.
The members of the group bore various placards, including, “Saraki must go”, “Enough is Enough” and “Legislooting” among others. The group vowed to continue with the protest for the next four days.
Their action elicited the pro-Saraki group to challenge them, but for the police’s intervention, both groups were poised to resort to violence. As if this was not enough, those in support of Saraki threatened to occupy the Presidential Villa next week.
The pro-Saraki group issued the treat in response to the field days enjoyed by anti-Saraki protesters in occupying the National Assembly while they seem to enjoy cover from security operatives. The Saraki supporters who almost clashed with their opponents at the main entrance of the National Assembly, issued out the threat after they were prevented from staging their protest side by side with the anti-Saraki protesters, by policemen.
The protesters carried different banners with inscriptions like, “Saraki will not resign”, “Saraki will remain Senate President”, “Leave Saraki alone”, “APC save our party”, “save National Assembly” and “Stop witch hunting Saraki”, among others.
They said that what the occupyNASS protesters had done within the last four days would be replicated at the gate to the Presidential Villa next week if President Buhari and leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, did not take certain actions.
Their leader, Mr. Ohazuruike Tochukwu, a legal practitioner said they were in the National Assembly to draw the attention of Nigerians to the alleged injustice being perpetrated against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, through the judiciary.
Tochukwu also said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration should within the next seven days, address the biting economic hardship across the country, the fuel scarcity, and the unemployment crisis within seven days otherwise they will move to the Presidential Villa and occupy the place.
He said, “We want to let you know that Nigerians demand execution of campaign promises and not persecution of perceived enemies. We want to let you know that we stand for fairness and justice, autonomy to all arms of government.
“We stand for accountability, and transparency by all public officeholders. We stand with Saraki and the National Assembly and demand that the executive should desist from impunity that led to the unpopularity of the last government.
“If our demands are not met by next week Wednesday, we shall commence a massive unprecedented move to occupy Aso Rock.”
Tochukwu, who claimed that he singlehandedly sponsored the protest, asked Saraki to remain in office and that no amount of harassment should intimidate him out office until 2019.
Meanwhile, the Citizens United for Peace and Stability, which had laid siege on the federal parliament since Tuesday had a rough time with security operatives who were mobilised to their stand around 8:00am to chase them away from the National Assembly.
The policemen led by some unidentified senior police officers, claimed that they acted based on orders from above, a move which the protesters resisted for about one hour forcing the security operatives to leave them without achieving their aim.
However, the Commissioner of Police in charge of the FCT, Mr. Wilson Inalegwu arrived the scene about two hours later and appealed to the protester to allow the main gate to be opened because the development was causing untold hardship on the people.
Inalegwu noted that it was not only the lawmakers that are making use of the National Assembly, as there were business owners and their workers, aides of the legislators, staff members and others who have one business or the other to transact in the sprawling complex.
But speaking on behalf of their colleagues, one of their coordinators, Mr. Retson Tedheke, politely turned down the appeal of the CP and said that the gate would not be opened until the senators come out to address them or if they were allowed to relocate to the front of the NASS building.
Tedheke also caused a stir when he accused a federal lawmaker who had the contact of one of his members of calling to find out if any of the female protesters could be available for him to sleep with overnight.
He said, “This is the type of the situation that we are facing here. How on earth do you want us to abandon this struggle for such a lawmaker? Asking us to allow the reopening of the main gate is like asking us to go back home and we will not leave till they have achieved their agenda which is occupying there for four days.
There is no gainsaying that protests have been used to spark revolutions around the world, but one is left to wonder about the authenticity of the protests for and against the continued stay in office of the embattled senate president.