by Oluwatomilola Boyinde
On Monday, September 5, 2016, after a one-man press conference organized by my humble self and held on my bed, I called off the “photo-shooting strike” I embarked on on Thursday September 1, 2016.
The strike was embarked on as a protest against President Buhari’s visit to my street, State of Osun, to commission a project without him waiting to make his gap-tooth and ‘fine-boy’ face have a feel of my Black and White photography.
I was away from the State for weeks. While I was away I missed some of the ‘to-do’ on my list for this year – documenting Osun Osogbo festival and Osun at 25 ceremony. I returned to the State in the early hour of Thursday, headed for another assignment as early as 9am. I got back home around 12pm. I was fatigued; had nothing to do than to jump on bed to have a straight 5-hour sleep.
One spirit! That unknown spirit! Disturbed my sleep, pushed me off bed and led me as I walked aimlessly towards the devil’s box. I put it on, only to see a young man dressed in soft and appealing blue suit, with cameras jealously hung around his neck, making his way through the crowd.
This is Bayo; don’t tell me the old general is in town. That sleep cleared off! I was almost dressed to go cover the after event when that same spirit gave me million reasons I shouldn’t bother step out. Why the president should inform me before his arrival and departure. Hence, the strike started with immediate effect.
It dawned on me on Monday that the strike was necessary but illogically channeled like the 11/11/11 Hunger Strike – a protest against the proposed removal of oil subsidy by Goodluck Jonathan’s administration; organized by the leadership of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) led by Olawale Ajani.
While Ajani and his co-travelers were beaten with assorted ‘koboko’ of master hunger, arrested and detained for going hungry in a Nation flowing with milk and honey- a treasonable felony; the president himself, adorned in his celebrated attire, sat on the glorious rock inside the almighty Nigerian cave, devoured his widely publicized cassava bread, with a peppery luis vutton meat, and patched his oliver twist throat with Bayelsa kain-kain.
Such strike action might work in some saner climes, where ‘citizens care for citizens’. Where Dr. John care about what Mrs. Sarah the office cleaner ate before coming to work. Where Mr. Rice, with no string attached, buys his neighbour Mrs. Beans pizza as a ‘Good Morning Saturday‘ gift for wetting his flowers whenever he’s away during the week.
Where brother Elijah will leave sister Widow and her child to eat the unbaked flower in her Can; get them chilled bottles of ragolis water and orijin zero to step it down while they look over to God for miraculous provision afterward.
It will not work in this part of the world where no one cares about what you eat, not to talk of enquiring to know if you’ve eaten or not. You on Hunger Strike, definitely it is part of the ‘to-do’ as instructed by your ‘Baba Ori-oke’ if you must have a breakthrough from the shackles of your village witches that have been sipping your glory with refined straws of different sizes of the rings inside Fashola’s drilled.
Here in Nigeria, if you want to stage a protest that will make the government stand at attention, then you need to prove ‘King Kong’. You’ll have to do stunts that will make Sam Omatseye write editorial for weeks, drive Pa Ikhide and Rudolf Okonkwo more sarcastic, inspire more of Pius Adesanmi’s satires, and make Femi Fani-Kayode, and other gullible Nigerians bury your wretched soul with nonsensical chants of the bastardized “Hero”.
You have to be creative in your approach. If you decide to be adorned in ‘Sango’ attire and move from streets to streets of the federal capital like the #BringBackOurGirls group, heaven will not fall. If you go that boxer’s way by sitting at the ‘front door’ of Aso Rock, just like how no Kobo dropped in his pocket, Buhari himself will pass you by, and his spin doctors will tell us he’s technically blind. He doesn’t see human beings, he sees only skeletons.
If you hang yourself, forget it, there will be no public outcry. In present Nigeria, with hunger and extreme poverty, it’s a norm for frustrated citizens. Many have travelled down grave through that path and many will still do. Few months ago, Femi, a 40-year-old man who had initially attempted to kill himself twice due to his financial situation which made it impossible to find a wife, succeeded in sending himself to early grave barely two months after he was evicted from his one-room apartment in Lagos. Just few days ago, also in Lagos, a young was reported to have committed suicide because he was incapacitated to pay house rent and cater for his family. Thus, that option also is too pedestrian to be considered.
If you’re to try the unusual, and be creative enough, with wailing wailers on the prowl and some hailing hailers falling in line, your cause stands a better chance to be aired, debated for weeks on social media or ‘maybe’ taken beyond that before dirt is thrown into the dustbin to awake we flies resting from our daily online buzz.
Your best bet is self-immolation. Yes! Self-immolation! Maybe you’ll inspire a Nigerian revolution we all direly crave for. It will be a sort of an historic event. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Quảng Đức did it in 1963, in protest to the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Đình Diệm. The action triggered public anger and inspired violent protests which eventually led to an Army coup that toppled Diệm who was assassinated later that year.
The poor Tunisian street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, in 2010 did it, in response to the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation he said was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. That act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution. The protests made the then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down after 23 years in power.
The success of the Tunisian protests inspired protests in several other Arab countries, plus several non-Arab countries in an attempt to bring an end to their own autocratic governments. Bouazizi was posthumously awarded several Prizes for his contribution to “historic changes in the Arab world”. The Tunisian government honored him with a postage stamp.
You want to try such? Hey! Bro, ko le ‘werk’. Be informed, this is Nigeria. I’ll advice you not to try it. Don’t please! It’s a futile endeavor from the get go. The photographs of your self-immolation will generate no emotion that could trigger protests that might ultimately lead to the Nigerian revolution.
No Nigerian will emulate such act, as done by several Vietnamese Buddhists, Tunisians and men in other Arab countries. Your self-immolation will bring down no government. You’ll win no posthumous award. Your face will be used on no matchboxes. You’ll be called no heroic martyr of no revolution. Bro, this is Nigeria.
Only that the Emmanuel Osodis, Sodiq Adelakuns, Sanni Maikatangas and other photojournalists would make the Adagogo Greens, Okhia Ojeikeres, Peter Obes, jealous in their graves at reporting and documenting such an historic event. The wannabe and self-acclaimed (phone) photographers would take selfies with your burnt body and insult our sensibilities with gory pictures on social media.
Photography competitions would be flooded by entries from Nigeria. If Malcolm Browne could win a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of Quảng Đức’s death, then it’s a sure bet that a Nigerian photographer would go home with a Pulitzer Prize too this year.
The long and short of the story is: I Protested! I Protested against Buhari; not only because he visited my Street and failed to wait for his face to grace my lens. I protested because he has denied me my gears. The gears I needed to get. I remember I once could afford to buy a Canon 650D and a fairly badt zoom Lens but behold, the Naira tumbled, tumbled and tumbled again, and fell flat.
I should’ve bought lesser price gears, but I’m not the “buy what you WANT” guy, I buy what I NEED. I’m left to work with one borrowed aged Nikon 3000 that has finished its shutter count in 450 B.C. with a dirty/salty lens and deceptive screen. I protested because I need gears to do crazily creative stuffs. This economy halts many of my projects and that of those in the creative industry. It suffocates the creative industry from thriving.
I protested because Lagos landlords no longer feel like kings in the house they built with pension plus bank loans, else, awaits them the fate of Martins Kenneth’s landlord who was beaten and stabbed with broken bottle for his audacity to increase house rent in this critical period of harsh economic conditions. ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbour’ generator usage is being restricted to specific hours; prompting discovery the gas it emits now affects climate change, which affected the scarcity of tomatoes.
I protested because the Chibok girls are yet to be brought back home to eat the newly endorsed Naija Jollof. Our prospective wives are being kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram; our brothers, innocent citizens being slaughtered by indoctrinated religious bigots in the north and the monstrous nomadic Fulani herdsmen.
Iya Basira and her colleagues at cholera junctions complain bitterly daily about poor sales. Saint Bottles’ cathedrals across the nation have lost committed members; and the bishops are left at the mercy of manna of hope. Westco Lotto has lost its best strikers. Juliet the sex worker is daily being priced at a ridiculous amount. Twerking o jawo mo ni bar. Igbo joints have become sahara. Foundations, eyelashes, eye shadows don’t look beautiful anymore on ladies due to their hungry faces. Keke Marwa Sodiq ti g’ori odo – no money to fix.
Obinachukwu’s once well-stocked electronics shop now host rats record breaking track races. Aunty Shadez Pepenato now goes to market; no food cooked outside her home is safe any longer. Ponmo, panla and tinko have suddenly become more proteinous than chicken. Modesty in dressing is the best life to live; the only ticket now to make heaven. The ‘panda’ Baba Irinbiyi the iron bender makes for village streets trotters at his ‘agbede’ factory are far more durable than the fake bling-blings ‘oyinbos’ sells to us. New turns and discoveries in town too numerous to mention.
To make ends meet has become another world war. The economic hardship has made many people take all kind of drastic decisions. Some have resulted into robbery, kidnapping, rituals and so many other illegal and inhuman means of making money, just to survive. Many have taken a far worst decision of taking their own lives. I protested because the names of those who looted our nation dry have not been published as promised. This promised “Change” is swiftly becoming “Chain”. Help!!!
Now that I said I protested, how does the president get to know it was him I protested against? Who will help inform Baba my grievances? If you wish to tell him, as reported, his ears are badly affected with the ‘Sai Buhari’, ‘#iStandWithBuhari’ sycophantic noise. If you write it on papers, LAI has lied to us he doesn’t read.
He only reads cartoons. I don’t have the bill of Asukwo E.B for him to sketch me cartoons to illustrate the taste and state of my protest. He’s a big man; he now sketches cartoons for retired generals whose eyes have been badly affected by bullets and blood they saw during fought wars. Thus, how do I get him informed about my protest? Which way to go?
Let is sha be known to all and sundry that I protested. Let it be told to the generations to come. Let it be sung from streets to streets. Let it be told! Let it be sung! That I protested! Yes! I protested!
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Oluwatomilola Boyinde is a Social Documentary Photographer, Photojournalist and Columnist. He has an interesting gallery on Instagram, follow @boyindeoluwatomilola.