The first protest I can remember witnessing was the “Ali Must Go” protests. I was in primary school and after school , we were dropped off at a family friend’s house at Ilasamaja where my mother picked us up after closing from work. One evening , we were in the car going home and I remember that my mom had just commented that the streets were rather quiet, turning a corner we heard a loud noise and saw a mob coming towards us. They surrounded the car, a red Datsun and tried to overturn it but my mum got us all chanting “Ali must go, Obasanjo must die ” and when they saw children in the car they let us go.
The second protest was when I was in university, I had left school, gone to see my friend in Unilag and walked into a protest. Being a non-local I didn’t know where to go to and when accosted by security guards I couldn’t produce an ID card to show I was a student so I was detained at one of the administrative buildings for an hour or two before my friend found me and bailed me using her ID card.
The third was at my university LASU and it was against the hike in petroleum prices, I participated in it but the participation was short lived as Gen. Babaginda the then Head of State closed all universities for 6 months thereby dispersing all students. I was in the north during the June 12 riots and so had no experience about those protests.
The fourth and fifth were the Buni Yadi boys and the Chibok girls. I marched for those children mainly as a concerned citizen and mother but also because I schooled in Federal Government Girls College Bida Niger state and I was very much aware that had the security situation in the country been as bad as it is now, I could have been the one burnt in my bed in the hostel or kidnapped like those girls.
The fifth was Occupy Nigeria. I had joined Twitter early in 2012 and was mobilized from there. That protest was an eye opener to what could be achieved if we were united. I met people from all walks of life who were tired about the state of the country and of being taken for a ride by our leaders.
Today, we are witnessing yet another protest and it’s a big irony that we are still talking about the same issues that we walked the streets for 8 years ago Nay, the same issues since the protests in the 70s.
I must say though, that these protests are much different from the protests we’ve had in the past. Our youth have transcended and broken the barriers of religion, tribe and politics that have hitherto divided us; they have skirted around the snares of compromise the previous protesters have fallen into are able to see through the lies, manipulations and false promises of the government and they are resolute and determined in their quest for a new Nigeria. We should be proud of our children and support them. These young men and ladies have stood up to be counted when it mattered , they have used their education, skills, talents and business to create a movement that has never before been seen in our land. They are bold, courageous, playful, determined and outspoken. Although, they have no selected leaders( yet ), they listen to themselves, call themselves out when they need to, apologize and self correct where they are wrong and their mantra remains all for all.
They have contributed generously from their purses and give daily accounts of how the monies have been expended. They have provided ambulances and medical personnel on standby to treat the injured and paid fully for those who have needed hospital treatment. In the face of physical attacks rather than respond they have turned over those they’ve caught and secured the services of private security firms to protect themselves since the government wouldn’t, they are using the internet to direct the spotlight of the international community to their cause and have received endorsement from several international figures, organizations and governments.
It is important to note also that there has been no incident of looting, violence (except state sponsored), pandemonium trailing the protests and they have resisted all attempts to be distracted or hijacked to serve the selfish interests of politicians and parties. The above shows that these youths are not interested in hijacking the government (whatever that means) they, like every citizen of this country are demanding what we all want – good governance, a better Nigeria , a country that works.
What is so wrong about that?
We all know what is wrong with our country, we see the injustice perpetuated by our leaders and politicians, we bemoan the state of our economy and compare ourselves to other countries where everything works. A lot of us have children abroad who have vowed not to come back home mainly because there really is nothing worth coming back home to.
We deride our children saying they are lazy, disrespectful, strong willed, non conformist and a phone pressing generation but they are doing what we have lacked the moral right and courage to do and for that they deserve our respect for their courage, their resilience, their determination , their oneness but they cannot do it alone. We need to support them, lend our voices to their cause, advice, donate monies, walk the streets if we can, retweet their messages on social media but we cannot leave them alone. It is my belief that the present protest is our country’s tipping point. We have been afforded an opportunity to start the process of change in our country and all hands must be on deck for the change to start and take root. Our ills are deep rooted and endemic and they will take the active participation of each one of us to wrought the change we desire.
It is their stage, our job is to shine the lights on them knowing that at the end of it all , the credits will be given to us all.