By Eromo Egbejule
SUNDAY – JANUARY 1, 2012
Previously unknown to many Nigerians, Reginald Stanley becomes popular when as Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), he announces by means of a press statement, the removal of the existing fuel subsidy. Also, he announces that fuel, mainstay of the Nigerian economy, would henceforth begin to sell at N141 per litre, a far cry from the lowly N65 it was selling for.
#Fuelsubsidy jokes flood Twitter as a result. Popstar, W4’s song, Kontrol is the major victim as a line in the song’s hook, “Omoge wa gba kontrol” is re-written and publicized everywhere as “Omoge wa gba petrol”. Rib-cracking messages travel around the country’s cyberspace and social media, taking different dimensions. One reads: “Even Devil don off hell fire…No Fuel…#FuelSubsidy”. Another: “NowOnMyPlaylist: Fill My Tank, Lord”.
MONDAY – JANUARY 2, 2012
Controversial Twitter activist and executive of the African Liberty organization, Japheth Omojuwa mobilizes residents of Abuja to protest at Eagles Square. Ex-lawmaker, Dino Melaye is arrested by the State Security Service (SSS), along with two youth leaders. They are later bailed after talks led by former FCT Minister, Nasir El-Rufai.
Conscious rapper and singer, Sound Sultan releases a song, Temporary Don Turn Permanent, featuring his elder brother, Baba Dee. Unfortunately, public outcry against the new policy overshadows the song.
Former Minister of Petroleum, Tam-David West drops a bombshell, arguing that there never was a fuel subsidy.
Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiENigeria), advocacy platform and coalition of socio-political organizations, calls an emergency meeting to decide on its course of action.
Special Adviser to the President on New Media, Reno Omokri warns social commentator and entrepreneur, Kathleen Ndongmo –a Cameroonian by birth but whose mother is Nigerian- to stop commenting on the policy and its consequences on the Nigerian people. The shocked lady replies that she pays taxes to the Nigerian government and is affected by its policies, so she is qualified to comment. Writer and photographer, Teju Cole offers a public apology to Kathleen and together with journalists, Tolu Ogunlesi and Funmi Iyanda, lambast Omokri.
Committees are set up by GEJ to meet with organized labour and help implement the Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment (SURE) programme. The first is chaired by the respected Justice Alfa Belgore and the latter by the equally respected Dr. Christopher Kolade, diplomat and elder statesman.
TUESDAY – JANUARY 3, 2012
EME superstar, Banky W tags along with son of the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti, Seun Kuti, Dede Mabiaku, respected journalist, Funmi Iyanda and Kathleen Ndongmo at the fore-front of the protests in Lagos. The multitude behind them walks from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) office at Yaba to the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, tracing the long Ikorodu road. The protest, organized by Dr. Dipo Fashina’s Joint Action Front (JAF), was also attended by Gani’s widow, Ganiyat.
Tyres were burnt and buses were stopped, dancers dance and singers sing, all against the presidency. The placards and slogans are hilarious and scary in the same breadth. Anti-riot policemen stood watching quietly, some joining in the march eventually, following in the footsteps (literally and metaphorically) of their colleagues in Abuja, the previous day.
G.O.O.D Music producer and MoHits CEO, Mchael Collins aka Don Jazzy, apologizes publicly on Twitter, claiming “I hardly regret decisions i make. That my 1 vote added to put the current Govt in power is one decision i regret with all my heart.” Meanwhile, his right-hand man, D’banj who interviewed the President before his election and who is purported to have received a large sum of money for that, remains silent on the issue.
In Ibadan, some of the protesters almost kill a security detail attached to the army but are prevailed upon by others and so ends the lynching.
The foreign press, especially Al-Jazeera and CNN, cover the #OccupyLagos march, with the former passionately updating its content intermittently. BBC Africa and others follow suit later. On the homefront, Channels TV, Galaxy TV and Daily Times cover the protest.
WEDNESDAY – JANUARY 4, 2012
The main news of the day is at the Kano protests holding at the Silver Jubilee Square where the residents of the city decide to stay up all-night a la the Tahrir Square style occupation by Egyptians during the Arab Spring last year. In a show of solidarity and never-before-seen religious tolerance, Christians stand and keep guard, encircling the praying Muslims. Policemen invade the venue at midnight and shoot live bullets, teargassing the people as they drive vans right through the centre of the crowd.Many are wounded and one Muyideen Mustapha, 23, dies.
Earlier in the day, R&B sensation, Christine Ben-Ameh interviews Kathleen in Lagos for Zoodrums internet radio. This is one in a line of press interviews for the lady who is proclaimed a “borderless African” by a section of Nigerians.
Highlife artiste, Falvour N’abania releases Ebezina, “a battlecry”, in support of the citizenry’s fight against the government policy. The conscious effort, like that of his equally gifted contemporary, Sound Sultan, almost goes unnoticed. The public, too occupied with abusing and resisting GEJ and his policy respectively, are hardly concerned.
On this day, the Federal Government announces the importation of 1600 disel-powered buses to supposedly solve the problem of transportation. The NLC counters that the buses are part of a loan scheme brokered by its sister union, the TUC, three years ago. It declares the president, Goodluck Ebele Azikwe Jonathan -born in Otueke, shoeless as a young child and now Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria- in trying to claim the glory, in not-so-dissimilar words, as a pathetic liar.
THURSDAY – JANUARY 5, 2012
Protesters in Benin carry a coffin and burn an effigy of the President. Other small marches go on in Owerri and Ibadan again.
A pro-subsidy mail, with evidence that newscasters and staff of Cool and Wazobia FMs had been instructed on what to say on-air about the policy, declaring that they’d given “the marching order to all OAPs to concentrate on topics that are different”, leaks. This follows on the heels of a tweet at Reno Omokri a couple of days earlier by popular OAP, Matse who moved to sister station, NigerianInfo, that she admired his “courage and composure in the face of unrest.” In reply, he tweets two words, “thank you.”
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku does a tweet-meet at noon with the Nigerian Twitter community and interested observers, discussing the new policy. He fails to satisfy most of them as some describe his answers as “lies and propaganda”.
FRIDAY – JANUARY 6, 2012
The fight goes cybernetic as a group, calling itself Naija Cyber Hacktivists, attacks the official website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and proceeds to drape the homepage in black and green, with pro-#OccupyNigeria slogans and logos. In the same ghen-ghen fashion, it hacks into the National Assembly database, sends a million SMSes to each Senator and then proceeds to tweet each number using its Twitter account. Some ministers like Diezani Allison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources get similar treatment, along with Governors Godswill Akpabio and Rotimi Amaechi of Akwa-Ibom and Rivers states. Even pop superstar, D’banj wasn’t spared by the cyber group.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos branch, marches from the Ikeja High Court to Government House, Alausa and proclaims free legal services for any one arrested or wounded or killed during the protests.
The Emir of Bauchi, according to unconfirmed reports, joins protesters in his home state to show solidarity with his subjects on the subject.
Londoners take their own protests to the Nigerian High Commission in London after the Metropolitan Police granted a permit. Ex-presidential aspirant, Dele Momodu joins in the protest.
Rumours, like very energetic birds do, fly around speedily that Okonjo-Iweala and presidential mouthpiece, Reuben Abati have resigned in Abuja and that GEJ, fearing for his life and regime, has reversed the policy change. All three stories are found out to be false and the status quo remains.
In Minna, young writer, Gimba Kakanda and others lead the protests. He discusses with the security operatives, affirming that the march will be peaceful. The law enforcement agents agree and okay the action, revealing that they are acting on “orders from above.” The protests record no casualty and proceed despite warnings from the state government through the National Television Authority (NTA) in Minna for everyone to stay clear of the agreed venue.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), announces an indefinite strike and confirms late in the day that until the price of fuel is reversed, the body will not call off the action even if redirected by the parent body, NLC. NLC and its twin, the TUC are sometime around noon, slammed with an injuction by the National Industrial Court (NIC), effectively posing a stumblingblock to any strike action slated for Monday, 9th. The NLC claims it has not been served any order and so will continue with its slated strike action.
Pro-subsidy removal protesters storm Labour House, Abuja, demanding that the trade union not go ahead with its proposed strike.
Leading online youth magazine, YNaija co-ordinated by Dami Oyedele call for donations for the scheduled march beginning at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Lagos; they are bombarded. Youth advocacy coalition, EnoughisEnough Nigeria, do the same.
Pastors Smart Adeyemi and Tunde Bakare of the Daystar Christian Centre and the Latter-Day Saints Assembly, both in Lagos, lend support and criticize the government’s move.
Jeffrey Sachs, aide to United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, endorses the Nigerian government and its fuel subsidy removal policy. National daily, Vanguard interprets it as a UN endorsement.
At the Eagles Square, Abuja, some individuals pass the night there, replicating the Kano protests.
SATURDAY – JANUARY 7, 2012
The hacktivists strike again, with a promise to bring down a government website every twenty-four hours till a favourable response. This time, the low-quality National Insurance Commission website is taken over by the group, along with that of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). An anonymous MTN staff contacts the group and gives GEJ’s private number which is in turn tweeted for the public community to “bombard NOWWW!” Elder statesman, Olusegun Obasanjo’s digits are also put up on Twitter.
Pictures emerge from Abuja, showing that a group of women were mobilized for pro-subsidy removal protests. In the images, the women queue up after parading at the NLC Headquarters, some hands outsretched, waiting for the agreed sum, supposedly N1000 each.
Babatunde Adejumo, the judge who gave the controversial court ruling, referred to in legal circles as “black market ruling” in favour of the government, escapes to Germany, fearing jungle justice.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), threatens to go on an indefinite strike too…
In Kano, the protesters via their lawyer, Barrister Jibrin Suleiman Garrin Ali, sue the government (it is still unclear whether it’s the State or Federal government) for 200 billion dollars as damages for violation of their fundamental human rights and freedom of speech. Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso accuses members of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) among others, of instigating the uprising, in a quick retort.
In Kaduna, the government deploys troops to counter the throngs of people converging at Unity and Freedom Square.
Sahara TV, a video streaming channel owned by news agency, Sahara Reporters, interviews musician-activist, Seun Kuti and legal luminary, Femi Falana, later in the day. The scion of the late musician declares he wants “to be shot. I don’t want to be arrested or locked up. They should just shoot me.”
Kakanda circulates around noon, details of a protest at Subang Avenue, Subang Jaya, Kuala Lampur as Nigerians in Malaysia also decide to #OccupyNigeria in Diaspora.
Popular Ghanaian entertainment journalist, Ameyaw Debrah posts on his blog that Nigerian celebrities 2face, Sasha, Banky W, Seun Kuti, eLDee, Omoni Oboli, Sound Sultan, Timi Dakolo and others will appear on a 90-minute special edition of “Rubbin’ Minds, the social platform on TV to discuss the fuel subsidy removal.
SEVEN DAYS AND SEVEN NIGHTS, a diary on the #OccupyNigeria series of protests, continues next week.
Eromo Egbejule, 21, is a freelance journalist. When he is not blogging or tweeting as @Helvetika_EE, he is trying to justify his engineering degree. Contact: [email protected]