(An eye witness account first published on TELL website)
The police and protesters on January 3: Photo by Sunday Adedeji/TELL
I joined the rally as the crowd began to
move from Yaba towards Ojota around 10:18am on January 3, 2012. All the major
civil society leaders were there; Femi Falana [ lawyer], Abiodun Aremu
[activist], Richard Akinola [activist], Ayodele Akele [activist] , Ganiat
Fawehinmi [widow of feary lawyer Gani
Fawehinmi] , Dr Dipo Fasina [former preasident of ASUU] , Dr Demola Aremu and a
host of others. These were mainly the same old battle weary soldiers. The
government knew they would be there; the government was prepared for them. I looked around to see any familiar face from
the Twitter/Facebook warriors, these young men and women who are so vocal and
militant on social media -some of them had vowed to go on hunger strike until
the fuel prices are reverted- but I was really disappointed not to see any of
them. They confirmed my theory that these people giving themselves online
awards are only grandstanding and they are the same people that will be there
at the “Presidential Lunch” with youths.
The other groups were made up of civil
society activists from CDHR and other affiliates, there were some young people-
mainly student union leaders and disciples of the civil society groups-they
were charged and hardened. When we got to Fadeyi, the leaders, Dr. Fasina, and
Comrade Aremu, said we should sit on the street on the right lane of the
expressway. The youths, who had now gone ahead of the leaders, thought taking
over the whole expressway would be better, so they did. They began to chant and
dance. At this stage, the traffic both outgoing and incoming had come to a
But I noticed a certain division between
the leaders of the protest. While Femi Falana and others were granting
interviews to the media, Biodun Aremu and Akele were worried that there seemed
to be a breakdown in the coordination. Aremu seized the megaphone and called
the attention of the media. He expressed worry that the rally was turning to a
personality interview slot and that is not good for the coordination. While the
comrade was struggling with his worries, some youths who had gone ahead began
to make a bonfire using old tyres. As Aremu spoke, the first whiff of dark
smoke from a burning tyre went up into the sky.
I was apprehensive at the turn of events.
My concern was that if the rally should assume a violent direction, then when
the police came, they would have justifiable reason to unleash terror on all of
us and it would badly taint the reputation of the rally coordinators. The
youths, who by now were beyond caring, began to turn back motorists coming
towards Yaba. Commercial vehicles were forced to a stop while private cars made
a U-Turn right in the middle of the expressway facing the oncoming vehicles.
Some articulated vehicles were forced to
block the expressway while residents of the area quickly shut their doors and
windows. I found Comrade Akele and expressed my worry that things were getting
out of hand. The other leaders like Dr. Fashina also expressed the same concern
and told Comrade Aremu to ensure that tyres were not burnt. But Aremu told us
that in Nigeria, burning of tyres is part of the mobilisation and there was
nothing he could do about it. I was alarmed by this frank confession and began
to worry that I was in the wrong crowd. The youth were now joined by some
really frustrated Nigerians who said we should turn the whole rally into a
Afrobeat singer Seun Anikulapo-Kuti arrived
wearing a black T-shirt. He greeted some of the leaders and told Aremu he had
stopped the boys burning tyres up front and that everything was calm. We
proceeded and got to Onipanu. This time communication between the leaders who
by now had been left behind and the rampaging youths had broken down
completely. Cars were forced to park in the BRT lane while the owners were
thoroughly intimidated by the youths. The frightened commuters quickly
concurred with whatever the youths asked of them.
By the time we got to Anthony, things were
out of hand. The youths threw down the police posts, rough handled a traffic
police officer and on the other side, an OP MESA van was accosted by the
youths. The van forced to a stop and the two soldiers inside had to fight their
way out. Anthony was really hot but contrary to some reports that area boys
hijacked the rally, burning cars and shooting in the air, I can confirm that it
never happened. In fact, the area boys seeing the rampaging youths quickly cut
down leaves and began to shout in solidarity, vandalising properties. Banks were closed so were other business
interests while the owners and workers looked at us through the safety of their
windows. I found comrade Akele again and we began to beg the youths to stop.
They turned a deaf ear.
When we moved towards Maryland, the
situation was restored to calm, the leaders wanted the rally to continue
towards Ojota at the Gani Fawehinmi Park. But some sections wanted to occupy
Maryland, so while the main group went under the Independence Tunnel at Maryland,
another group went up to Maryland junction. I was part of that group.
Comrade Aremu made a speech to the rally at
the Independence Tunnel while we watched from the top of the bridge. He spoke
about the wickedness of the regime and how the subsidy removal would further
impoverish the poor. While he was speaking, a contingent of mobile policemen
came. Activist Gbenga Sonoiki and I were the first to meet them. The leader
told us they were there to keep the peace and ensure no law is broken. We assured
him nothing of such will happen and that we will release the traffic as soon as
we are done with the speech. Later, I spoke to the officer in charge of the
unit and he told me that he is fully in support of the rally. He lamented the
hardship brought about by the fuel hike and said majority of the officers would
support the rally. This same feeling was expressed by three other policemen I
By this time, the rally had moved on to
Ojota, but we still kept watch over the Maryland bonfires and occupation. Ten
minutes later, we released the traffic and began to put out the bonfire. But
that was when chaos began too as a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Tunde Sobulo,
reputed as a fearless crime fighter and also a wicked officer led some mobile
policemen to Maryland. Sobulo and his men jumped on both passersby and
protesters. I had interviewed the man in 1999 when he was the RRS coordinator
and as I stood rooted there trying to remember where we had met, I heard his
sneering voice ordering his men to arrest me.
I was dazed and stood rooted there. Was it
me this man had just ordered arrested or someone else? By the time I came to
realisation, three mobile policemen were close on me and like in a trance, I
dialogued with my legs jumping bonfires and running over cars. There was chaos.
Sobulo began to shout that the policemen were there and did not shoot and
disperse us, he was angry that they even gave us protection. In an
uncontrollable rage, he lashed out with the butt of his gun at an Inspector of
police, and chased him all the way down towards Mende. The scene was a sorry
sight. I saw the two coming towards me and ran again to the other side towards
Bank Anthony way, and then I heard a shot ring out and then teargas. I looked
back to see a youth wearing a green shirt being arrested and beaten up by the
Police. The boy stood his ground and refused to beg as he was being dragged
behind Sobulo towards the police van.
Then the unthinkable happened, the boy in a
smart move freed himself from the grip of the police and ran across the road
back to Mende side. I looked in front and was accosted by two Policemen.
Raising my hands in surrender, I screamed “press, press” and that was when they
allowed me to go. Along with the TVC crew, I ran towards Mr. Biggs at the
Mobile filling station. We continued to run towards Protea Hotel in a panic, it
was a sorry sight. After some calm we came back to the street and saw Sobulo in
a mad fit, swinging his gun round and round. I saw one of the policemen I spoke
to earlier and asked him whether Sobulo was alright. “He is a madman he said
people should not protest when we too as policemen are suffering. He has
millions in his account, but I suffer to pay my children’s school fees. He is a
mad man, if you have a way to report him please do.”
I laughed to hear this astonishing
revelation, but then Sobulo had started running wildly towards Anthony, holding
his gun by one hand in the air. His officers stood around in amazement as he
ran screaming, puffing and heaving. I tried to find out what he was chasing
after and saw two elderly women.
-Akioye, is a tobacco activist and
freelance journalist. He can be found on Twitter @seunakioye
For too long, Nigeria and Nigerians have been readily associated with the online scams, financial crime and impersonation - termed ‘419’. However, beyond the unfortunate stereotyping, there are several positive characteristics and cogent intriguing traits of the country, Nigeria and its people, some of which are highlighted below as part of the ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ campaign which enlisted 100 volunteers and bloggers to share reasons why they like Nigeria. These reasons echo the voices of Nigerians, with resonating similar themes. The campaign is being facilitated in partnership with ‘The 419Positive Project’.
The full list of ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here(www.419Positive.org)
The list of contributors to ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here
If you would like to say something positive about Nigerians and Nigeria, please do so here.
NIGERIA - THE LAND OF POTENTIAL AND OPPORTUNITY
vI like Nigeria because it is a land of endless opportunities and possibilities. Nigeria is one country I believe the world is yet to experience it true potentials. I believe Nigerians are sharp, brilliant and accommodating people. Giving the right enabling environment the world will marvel at what Nigeria will become.
vNigeria is the most populous black nation - and a buying one at that. From a capitalist point of view, this makes for a great investment opportunities.
vThe fact that Nigeria currently lags behind so much - in infrastructure and developmental terms - hints at the size of the potential for innovation and transformation, and at the huge number of vacancies that exist for 'transformers'. What I think this means is that the world will be hearing a lot about Nigeria and high-achieving Nigerians (in the public and private sectors) in the near future.
NIGERIA - THE COUNTRY
vThe Nigerian Green and White flag is a notable national symbol. The green color symbolises agriculture, seeing that the country is endowed with masses of arable land, while the white colour signifies unity and peace. Other national symbols include the Nigerian Coat of Arms, which depicts an eagle on a black shield, tri-sected by two wavy silver bands, and supported on either side by two chargers. The national motto underlies the coat-of -arms: "Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress." Her national symbols convey great meaning to its people.
vThe Nigerian accent is currently ranked by CNN Global Experiences as the 5th sexiest accent in the world.
vNigeria is home to Nollywood, one of the world's biggest film industries.
NIGERIA - THE CULTURE, THE FOOD, THE WAY OF LIFE
vSomething great to like about Nigeria is our cultural diversity. A strong affinity exists, despite our differences. Learning about other ethnic cultures in my country really helped me personally relate to other cultures when abroad.
vI think the food is tastier in Nigeria than that I have found in other countries.
vNigerians live a communal life style. The extended family is part of the immediate family in a Nigerian home.
NIGERIA - THE MUSIC, THE MOVIES, THE DANCE, THE ART
vNigeria has produced many world class musicians. A notable mention in this regard is Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A Broadway show titled ‘FELA!’ was produced in 2009 depicting the life and times of the Afrobeat musician.
vNigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, is reputedly the 3rd largest film industry after Hollywood and Bollywood, and has grown gradually into a $250 million industry in more than 10 years.
vNigerian indigenous musical instruments are unique, soulful and rhythmic. They comprise the popular Talking Drum, producing proverbial and storytelling sounds, the Shaker (shekere), the Udu drum, the Lute, the leg and arm Rattle, the Omele, the Ogene (Gong originating in Eastern Nigeria), the Ekwe drum and the Kakaki (A 4m metal trumpet popular in Northern Nigeria). Many of these instruments have been incorporated in South American music over the years
NIGERIA - GEOGRAPHY and NATURAL RESOURCES
vNigeria is a nation blessed with rich human and natural resources. As the 8th largest exporter of Oil in the world, with the 10th largest proven reserves, our blessings cannot be overemphasised. No earthquakes, no tsunamis, no droughts, an evergreen land. The rest of the world should live here.
vThe beauty of the Nigerian state cannot but leave one in awe. Blessed with captivating physical features and abundant wild life. From the rolling hills to the vast plains in the North Central Nigeria and the forests in the South, the beautiful scenery of the country is more than breathtaking and with the wildlife spread all over the country; Nigeria is surely a beauty to behold and a tourist's delight all year round.
vNigeria is blessed with tremendous agricultural resources. Cotton in the North, Cocoa & Oil palm in the south amongst many others. The flag is green for a reason
NIGERIA - WEST AFRICA, AFRICA and THE WORLD
vNigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa. Approximately 1 out of every 2 West Africans, 1 out of every 4 Africans, and 1 out of every 5 persons of African origin is a Nigerian.
vNigeria is the largest contributor of troops to the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and by extension, is the largest force for peace and stability in West Africa.
vA Nigerian will stand out anywhere you find him/her, from Libya to London, Tokyo to Timbuktu. Well known examples include Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, USA), Olumide Oyedeji (Seattle Sonics), Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Sunday Adelaja (Ukraine), Chris Aire (US), etc.
NIGERIA - INDUSTRIOUS, INNOVATIVE and ENTERPRISING, with ACHIEVEMENTS
vNigerians are intelligent, brilliant minds who have proven their mettle in various fields - Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the much coveted Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Chinua Achebe’s classic novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ was ranked as number 14 in a list of top 100 books in the world by Newsdesk in 2009. Others include Cyprian Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, Chimamanda Adichie and Helon Habila whose literary works have won both international and local awards at various times.
vWe have budding fashion designers. Yes! It's a line every Bunmi, Amaka and Amina has decided to tow but to disregard the effort and originality of our Fashion Designers would be disrespectful. Tiffany Amber, Lanre Da Silva and Deola Sagoe are building world renowned brands, not to mention the legacy developed by the likes of Abba Folawiyo, Maureen Onigbanjo, Remi Lagos and Zizzi Cardow.
vNigerians have excelled in the fields of economics and finance, managing well established global bodies. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the current Minister of Finance, was until recently a Managing Director at The World Bank. Obiageli Ezekwisili is currently the Vice President for Africa at The World Bank. Mr Adebayo Ogunlesi is a first class graduate of Oxford, and Managing Partner of Global infrastructure Partner (GIP), a concessionaire of London’s Gatwick International Airport.
vWe take technology and expand it in ways those who created it could not have imagined. For instance, take the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) which allows you to send broadcast messages to all addresses on your contacts list; Nigerians recently found a unique way of advertising the different businesses they do. Someone started a message highlighting the fact that many people in Nigeria are entrepreneurs or provide a service and included his BB PIN in the message and sent to all his contacts with the charge that they state the service they provide, include their PIN and send on to all their contacts too. This seemingly small campaign has gone “viral” with whole lists of entrepreneurs and their BB PINs being passed from phone to phone. This is a clear sign of the ingenuity of Nigerians!
NIGERIA – GREAT PEOPLE
vNigeria is the 7th most populous nation in the world (over 160 million) and most populous in Africa - a gold mine of energetic, determined and talented people in each and every field. From Lagos to Aba to Kano, the Nigerian business spirit and desire to succeed is visible. It requires just proper harnessing of these human resources before Nigeria becomes the super power she was meant to be.
vNigerians are passionate, friendly, welcoming, hospitable, and well cultured people. The average Nigerian reflects a combination of vivacity, intelligence, energy, talent, and resolution.
vWe are a nation of people that can hardly hide their excitement at seeing family and friends. Some misconstrue this thinking we are loud but let's just say we are EXPRESSIVE! If you see us on the streets of New York making a big ruckus and hugging? No sweat. We are just happy to see each other.
NIGERIA – THE RESILIENT SPIRIT
vThe Giant of Africa: Not ignoring the current challenges, eventually, when we get our acts right, we will reign supreme on the global scene. We have the potential and as is much touted by the Warri people - "Naija no dey carry last"
vThe 'survivor-mentality' hard-wired into the DNA of Nigeria's people. The fact that against all the odds (and there are many of them), Nigerians continue to live, hustle and seek to triumph. It is not by mistake that Nigeria is regarded as one of the "happiest" countries in the world, despite its challenging economic and social conditions.
vWe are hardy. The average Nigerian does business under circumstances that are unimaginable to people from other parts. In a place where there is no power, no credit, and scant regulation, people do business and do very well for themselves too. If you can make it in Nigeria, you can make it anywhere in the world.
NIGERIA – TOURISM and SPORTS
vNigeria is an amazing tourist haven and is home to the Obudu Cattle Ranch, located in Calabar. It is only 45 miles from the Cameroon border. The Obudu Plateau is spread over 40 sq. miles and is 5,200 feet above sea level. The Obudu resort features a Gorilla Camp where tourists may observe gorillas in their natural habitat.
vNigeria has two UNESCO world heritage sites, the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa. UNESCO world heritage sites are places designated as being of cultural significance.
vNigeria has produced great footballers like Teslim “Thunder” Balogun (the first Nigerian to play for an English Club – QPR), Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Stephen Keshi, Rashidi Yekini (who scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup), Nwankwo Kanu, Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, to mention but a few.
vNigeria has excelled in athletics over the years, still holding continental records in the 100m men and women, 4x100m men and women, 400m men and women, among others. Over 100 skilled Nigerian professional footballers played in First Division leagues in different countries all over Europe in the 2010/2011 season, 9 in England; 8 each in Finland, Norway; 10 in Ukraine and 7 in Sweden.
NIGERIA – UNITY in DIVERSITY
vNigerians, despite our diversity are a united people who always strive to help one another. With 774 local government areas, multi religious and ethnic affiliations, 36 States, and population of over 160 million, we still stand undeterred to move forward together.
vEven outside the country, Nigerians remain united. This gives a quiet assurance somewhat that you can get on a plane and go to any country of the world and find a Nigerian there who will not only make you feel welcome but will go out of their way to be of really good help. I have experienced this several times on my travels and each time it amazes me how all I need to be is a Nigerian, not Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa and once I run into another Nigerian, I will immediately feel at home.
vOur greatest strength lies in our diversity.
The ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ Campaign is in partnership with ‘The419Positive Project’.
Nigerian photographer Andrew Esiebo will
exhibit his work body of work Alter Gogo, a diptych portrait series featuring
grandmothers who play football with the Gogo Getters Football Club in Orange
Farm, a large township in South Africa at PHOTOQUAI 2011, in Paris, France. The
exhibition starts on September 13 and will end on November 11. Esiebo’s Alter
Gogo also offers an alternative image of African women. Quite often in the
mainstream imagination, African women are located in the sphere of
"tradition". For them, playing the football has become a passport to
a better life, giving the women social relevance in their community, as well as
better health. Playing football is their solution to many social and physiological
problems like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and alcohol addiction.
Esiebo explores life on and off-field for grannies
Created in 2007 by the Musée du quai Branly
and dedicated to non-Western photography, the 3rd edition of the PHOTOQUAI
biennial exhibition of world images takes place on the quays of the Seine
alongside the Musée du quai Branly, extending for the first time into the
museum garden. This third edition of PHOTOQUAI presents nearly 400 works by 46
contemporary photographers from 29 countries: South Africa, Congo, Ethiopia,
Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iraq, Belarus, Russia,
China, South Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan, Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia,
Saturday July 9, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young students at the Obafemi Awolowo University who are members of the Young and Emerging Leaders Initiative (YELI) on the need to use social media to positively engage their communities and spheres of influence. In my talk I made reference to the impact of social networks in the events of the Arab Spring and how it helped in the monitoring of Nigeria’s elections in 2011.
I thereafter challenged the group of eager young people to create blogs, Twitter handles and Facebook pages in order to bring attention to social ills in their community and environment. I told them how messages on social media platforms can be used to galvanize public opinion among young people and what they can do to begin making use of the mobile internet platforms that they have, to engage their circle of friends positively.
I’m glad to write that the message was received enthusiastically and with time I hope that these young Nigerians will see themselves as change makers and begin to ask tough questions. I asked them to ask, why? Why do things have to be the way they are, why can’t things be better? I believe the best way to begin change is to ask, why? It is the questioning mind that gets answers.
I concluded by saying this: “One thing that has to be understood is that social media in itself does not make change. It is the person behind the computer, the lady holding the Blackberry, the young man hooking up to YouTube that makes change happen. It is from your mind that change happens from where it is transferred to your network. It is in your mind first where the yearning for change begins. It is what you feed your mind with that will feed your social network. Let change begin from your mind and let us transform our community and our nation with it. It is the only way we can hold everyone to account for the enormous trust we put in them.”
So TELL did an article painting the real picture of the problem with Nigeria's best loved bank the Guaranty Trust Bank, GTBank. And it touched nerves. Why not? It's the truth. The customers of the bank, I am one, are suffering.
There are increasingly long queues at their banking halls and branches all over Lagos. Even their ATMs are always crowded.
When I opened an account with them in 2008, it was like heaven. You entered into the smiling cosy space of any branch and you were properly served with utmost courtesy. Today, all that is no more.
Longer queues make smaller number of staff members weary with work. The smiles have disappeared. The magic is gone. It has become like in the old days when going to the bank was like a deadly chore.
I remember at Ile Ife in 2000 when my friend Akinyele would receive money from home in minutes at the Chartered Bank branch only to go and queue for 30minutes to deposit it in his First Bank account. It was his way of saving for rainy days as the thought of even going to withdraw from the bank was enough to drive one crazy. That was then.
Today's GTBank is now competing with the murderous services we had back in the day. A bank that was synonymous with excellence is now teetering on the brink of incapability.
Many have said it is a result of management problems. Apparently, their hands-on boss Tayo Aderinokun is said to have slumped recently and is in bad health in a hospital outside the country. Aderinokun it was who built the reputation that the bank has today.
But must the corporate image of the company suffer annihilation because of his ill health?
Recently the bank has been trying to reach out to customers through Twitter. Several apologies have been sent through their social network handle in order to assure customers that they're feeling our pains. GTBank needs to make things better otherwise they'll begin to lose customers like refugees fleeing Misurata.
I have stopped using their ATM in Ojodu. These days I prefer to slot in my GTBank card at the old First Bank branch that has no hassles. The customer is king, you say? There are many fishes in the ocean o.
So I've been reading Bill Cosby's Fatherhood and I feel like I want kids.
Cosby writes: "Poets have said the reason to have children is to give yourself immortality; and I must admit I did ask God to give me a son because I wanted someone to carry on the family name. Well, God did just that and I now confess that there have been times when I've told my son not to reveal who he is. 'You make up a name, just don't tell anybody who you are.'
Yes, having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act two people in love can commit".
Graduate of University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. Chief Editor, Goal.com Nigeria edition. Former Online Editor and West African Correspondent based in Ghana for TELL Magazine, Lagos. Alumnus International Institute of Journalism (INWENT), Berlin; Reuters Foundation and Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation. Photographs published in USAToday, BBC Focus on Africa magazine, AllAfrica.com, The Guardian, ThisDay, The Punch, Showbiz and Daily Graphic (Ghana). Photos exhibited in Krakow, Poland. Nominee Journalist of the year at The Future Awards, Nigeria 2010.