Police and other law enforcement agents are battling protesters in major Nigerian cities, as the country marks “Democracy Day”. Many placards carried by protesters on this June 12 read “BUHARI MUST GO”, and the protests have been most visible in Lagos, Abuja, Oshogbo and Ibadan.
At this time each year since 1993 when a presidential election was held in the country, there have been protests against the annulment of the poll won by Moshood Abiola of the SDP. In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari was pressured to adopt June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
The protests this year were foretold. Several civil society organisations had mobilized the youth to stage protests nationwide against unprecedented bad governance that has marked the Buhari regime.
What are the proofs of “bad governance”? The CSOs point to ineffectual leadership symbolized by failure of the presidency to address insecurity, hunger and unemployment problems. Forced from his cocoon, a few days ago, Buhari appeared on Arise TV to defend his government’s ban on Twitter and a new proposal to get other social media registered in Nigeria. He also expressed support for open grazing of cattle (by mainly his Fulani tribesmen) and directed his attorney-general to recover the grazing routes allocated to the herders over 60years ago.
The country and its president have received condemnations from far and wide, including foreign nations because Buhari banned Twitter after it removed his post suggesting a threat of genocide against the southeast geopolitical zone. There have been separatist agitations – or demands for self-determination – not only in the southeast and southwest but also northeast and south-south. Southern governors have banned open grazing because they gathered it was a ploy to accommodate foreign Fulani on the Nigerian soil. Earlier requests for RUGA and “visa on arrival” were resisted because of this fear.
In Abuja, the protesters converged on the Unity Fountain, holding placards and chanting “Buhari must go”, “say no to injustice”, etc. At the Gudu area of Abuja, police fired tear gas canisters, causing the protesters to scamper in different directions for safety. Pro-Buhari groups in uniform were also at Unity Fountain, suggesting the likelihood of a clash.
Efforts by security agents to contain the protests have been limited. The protests are likely to spread to other cities in southern Nigeria. By the end of the day, casualties will likely be reported.