On the first day of 2012, the Federal Government removed the "subsidy" on PMS, a decision we at Sleeves Up felt was ill timed.
This action made the lives of common Nigerians who had to survive on less than one dollar a day even more difficult. For us, it was only natural that we stood against such decision. We felt that due diligence needed to be done and that our government owed it to the Nigerian people to operate a transparent policy.
We organised and implemented a section of the Occupy Nigeria protest, tagged Occupy Island, at Falomo in Ikoyi, Lagos. This protest ran concurrently with the Occupy Nigeria protests at Ojota. For five days, and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the middle and upper class of Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki came out in thousands to make their voices heard. We made it clear that our protest was not against the government; but a system that protects the exploiter and punishes the exploited. A system that allows Government expenses to balloon at the expense of citizens' comfort. A system that constantly requires the 99% of the populace to adjust, when the 1% don't know what the word sacrifice means.
The Occupy Nigeria, Island chapter kicked off on Monday, 9th January, with the aim of making the government revert the price of PMS to N65 per litre. The first day of the strike only ten people turned up for the protest and the decision was made that the protest would be held at Falomo.
Occupy Nigeria - Day 2
Day 2 of the strike, the turnout of Nigerians for the protest march was overwhelming as Nigerians were in thousands at the falomo roundabout. We marched to Tinubu's house on Bourdillon and then from there down Awolowo road and all the way to race course where the area boys joined us for a peaceful protest. While at race course, we sang the National Anthem before proceeding to the State House.
At the State House, Pat Utomi and Fola Adeola addressed the crowd in English and Yoruba language as the crowd insisted on being addressed in Yoruba language. Fashola came out to address us as well, and thanked the crowd for the peaceful protest. He also assured Nigerians that he would deliver our message to the president. From there, we marched back to Falomo roundabout singing solidarity songs. At the end of the day's demonstration, we all realised that the protest was not only about removal of PMS subsidy, but good governance and accountability.
Occupy Nigeria - Day 3
We gathered again in thousands at Falomo roundabout. We continued our march singing solidarity songs from Falomo to the beginning of Bourdillon and back to Falomo and were addressed by Sleeves Up Convener, Kola Oyeneyin, Pat Utomi, Fola Adeola and Fela Durotoye.
Occupy Nigeria - Day 4
The government had still not given in to our demands. We decided to march from Falomo to NTA Media House at Ahmadu Bello way to hold our demonstration right at the gate of the media house because they had reported the day before that there was no protest in Lagos and businesses were operating normally on the island. The media is meant to stand for justice, fairness and unbiased news. The demonstration had to be brought to their doorsteps, to help them report properly.
Sleeves Up Convener, Kola Oyeneyin, and Prof Pat Utomi addressed the crowd on the fuel subsidy removal and also government waste.
We returned to Falomo, Femi Falana addressed the crowd about good governance and having a government that is accountable to its people. He referred to the 2012 budget which was presented to the House of Assembly, and also the wastefulness of Government; while the populace were living in abject poverty. He used the N3billion food allocation in the 2012 budget as an example.
He also said that Nigeria produces 2.4 million barrels of crude daily, at an international price of $113 per barrel; therefore, Nigeria earns $271.2 million multiplied by N160. This is what is gotten from the sale of crude oil on a daily basis, not to mention income from taxes and other sources. He concluded that Nigeria is not broke; but that mismanagement is our problem.
Occupy Nigeria - Day 5
Friday, we resumed at Falomo again as the meeting between NLC and the Government was deadlocked and reconvened for 10.00am on Saturday 14th January.
We had planned to return to the State House for a response from the Governor, but he was in Abuja, so we decided to march to the deputy Governor's residence for our response. She said the Governor wasn't back, as such, she didn't have any response for us; but we were reassured that a speedy resolution was being sought. We marched back to Falomo, another round of speeches were made by Sleeves Up team, Fela Durotoye; whose speech was on ''A wasteful Government cannot make prudent investment''. We all concurred. Mrs Adetula spoke on behalf of pensioners and explained how many pensioners are suffering without a voice. Kate Henshaw spoke about how the government makes provision every year for the rehabilitation of Sagamu-Benin expressway but nothing has ever been done to the road. Dr Koyinsola Ajayi (SAN) applauded Sanusi Lamido, CBN Governor, for the reform done in the banking sector and also asked the President to do same to his Cabinet.
The speeches were halted to give the Muslims amongst us the opportunity to observe their jumat prayer at Zenon filling station. We also observed one minute silence for the two people who lost their lives in the struggle. May their souls Rest in Peace. At the end of the prayer, we all sang the National Anthem with so much faith and hope.
Week 2-Monday 17th January
We woke up to President Goodluck Jonathan's speech, which was a complete disappointment as the price of PMS was reduced to N97.00 and the Petroleum Industry Bill would be signed.
In the President's speech, there was no reference to the budget, corruption, or the cost of governance. Meanwhile we couldn't continue our peaceful protest at Falomo as it had been overtaken by soldiers on the order of the President. This made Nigerians wonder, if this is truly a democracy.
We decided to convene at Glover roundabout to continue our protest.
While there, Gov Raji Fashola had made a speech on NTA condemning the deployment of soldiers to demonstration venues.
In all, we achieved a lot, though the price wasn't reverted to N65, Nigerians spoke in one voice, putting aside religion and tribe to pursue a course for the progress of this generation and the ones to come. We showed the government that Nigerians will no longer be passive and disinterested in the affairs of the nation, and that we have a voice that we are not afraid to use.