As anti-fuel subsidy removal protests spread across the country, the Presidency may have given up on the massive crowds that have attended the protest rally in Lagos since Monday. A competent source informed Society Gist that the growing crowd of protesters which daily gather at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Lagos is a major source of concern to the authority in Abuja. Notably, government is said to be worried and remain unsettled, despite assurances from security that the situation in Lagos was under control.
The nationwide protest which entered its fourth day on Thursday again witnessed unprecedented turnout which an analyst fear may grow to the mark of a million people if protest continue till Monday, next week. According to the analyst, “I am beginning to worry that a quarter of the population in Lagos may just head for Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota by Monday if this anger and frustration continue. I won’t be surprised if one million protesters turn up one day”.
Whereas some protests in other parts of the country have turned violent in the course of the week, Abuja is concerned that report of the growing crowd of protesters in Lagos tend to give the impression of the beginning of ‘Nigeria Spring’. To starve us off this impression by demobilizing the crowd through sentiments and blackmail, some aides of the Presidency were said to have perfected the propaganda of accusing leadership of the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) of taking advantage of the protests to hit back at President Jonathan who recently got his mandate affirmed by the Supreme Court which just a few days back dismissed the suit filed by CPC’s presidential candidate, Mohammed Buhari. Already some individuals close to the Presidency have begun media propaganda targetted at Buhari, Bakare and el Rufai. Notably, Tony Uranta, a Niger Delta activist and friend of the Presidency openly accused el Rufai and Bakare of being the masterminds of the anti-fuel subsidy removal protests when he appeared on Channels Daily Sunrise on Wednesday to drum up support for the government on its deregulation policy. Another President’s man Kingsley Kuku who is the Senior Adviser on Amnesty Programme also pointedly accused political opponents of President Jonathan as sponsoring the protests that have practically shut down the country. Although Buhari has not shown up in any of the protests, his running mate in the last presidential election in April, 2011, Pastor Tunde Bakare has been a dominant voice at the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Lagos. Former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam el Rufai; a CPC’s stalwart has also shown tenacity in the protests in Abuja, the federal capital territory.
However, it would appear that the spirit behind the resilience of Nigerians in the ongoing battle is unassailable; given the wide array of stakeholders who have openly identified with the protests. Indeed, despite the unusual crowd in Lagos, the participation of notable stakeholders; particularly in the entertainment industry is said to be a source of major worry. Some aides of the President are irked that Nollywood actors and Musicians have openly identified with protests against the policy of Jonathan administration considering the immense support and solidarity accorded Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidential campaign by the Nollywood family.
Meanwhile, Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State; the home state of President Jonathan has since Tuesday witnessed series of solidarity support and public endorsement of the controversial deregulation policy. Youth groups and traditional rulers as well as women have openly endorsed the decision by the government to remove subsidy which consequently jerked up pump price of 1litre of Premium Motor Spirit; otherwise known as Petrol to N140 from N65. Also demonstrating public support for the President in Bayelsa is the state Branch of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) whose leadership undertook a monitoring of the state capital to ensure that members of the transport union are not forced to embark on strike. The national body of RTEAN had earlier dissociated itself from the nationwide strike ordered by organized labour. However, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is fully in solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress. Despite the demonstration of solidarity for the President in Bayelsa, public offices and commercial activities are crippled by ongoing nationwide strike.