By: Ise-Oluwa Ige, Henry Umoru, Luka Binniyat, Emma Ovoakporie, Tordue Salem & Chris Ochayi
ABUJA- FOR three hours and three minutes yesterday, thousands of aggrieved Nigerians led by the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, took to the streets in Abuja, the nationâ€™s capital, to protest the French leave embarked upon by the ailing President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua since November 23, last year.
They demanded, in unison, that he must either show up and live up to expectations, if indeed he is still alive and fit to continue in office as he is making Nigerians to believe or transfer powers without further delay to his Vice, Jonathan Goodluck, to avert total collapse of the Nigerian nation.
They also registered their displeasure with members of the National Assembly over their reluctance to act even as they dismissed the cabinet members of President Yarâ€™Adua as a bunch of liars, pseudo-colonialists and terrorists. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, who came out to address the angry protesters, yesterday, was not only booed but also disallowed from making any statement either in support or against the subject-matter of protest.
Unlike what used to be the case during the dark days of the military, there was no single firing of gun or canister to disperse protesting Nigerians. In fact, dozens of mobile policemen carried in their lorries were seen dancing to the popular music of Idris Abdulkarim of â€˜Nigeria jaga jaga, everything scatter scatter,â€™ and hailing the protesters.
All through the period that the protest lasted, a combined team of men of the Nigeria Civil Defence and the Nigeria Mobile Police maintained security without allowing the hoodlums to hijack it. Although a dozen of hired pro-Yarâ€™Adua government protesters carried placards bearing â€œwe support Yarâ€™Adua government,â€ their voices were drowned in the din of the noisy call for the resignation of President Yarâ€™Adua.
The mass rally which kicked off from the Unity Fountain opposite the popular Millenium Park close to Transcorp Hilton Hotels at about 9:45 a.m, had mobile security men taking their positions in and around the National Assembly and the road to NICON as early as 6:00 a.m. But they did not harass anyone.
They seemed confused
At exactly 9:45 am, the protesters had gathered in their thousands at the rendezvous waiting for a marching order from the convener of the rally. They did not move until Prof Wole Soyinka who was conceded to be the most important person addressed the aggrieved Nigerians on why the mass rally was holding.
The septuagenarian, Prof WoleÂ Soyinka, trekked alongside other leaders of the mass rally while radical Lagos lawyerÂ Femi Falana was seen addressing and singing. Although they got to the open ground of the National Assembly where lawmakers and their visitors park cars at exactly 11:53am, the proper address did not start until 12:04pm when they recited the old national anthem. Leaders of the mass rally took turns to address the rally for just 44 minutes during which Speaker Bankole was booed and disallowed from addressing the aggrieved Nigerians.
At 12:16 pm, Soyinka took to the podium. But there was so much noise that he threatened to walk out of the rally ground if they did not behave themselves. He said he expected them to be orderly and organized. The way he spoke angered some of the protesters who asked him to go if he wanted to go. When he eventually picked the microphone and blew air into it, there was a thunderous applause followed by graveyard silence.
He said: â€œIt seems to me that we have finally woken up from our long harmattan sleep and you are now getting into the spring of rebirth. I have a little information I have been asked to pass on to you as one of you. This is what they told me.
I do not guarantee the veracity of it as it is supposed to have come from the Senate. And you all know what Senate is. The information I was given is that the Senate has now taken this matter to court.
The matter of the Presidentâ€™s absence
â€œI am passing that information to you so that we, here, are not accused of holding back information from those following us. That is the only reason why I am passing it on. You can weigh it for what it is worth. But if these people are caught in yet another lie, then the next demonstration will be bigger. The nation has been taken to ransom. The nation has been despised and treated with contempt.
We have been treated as colonials, colonized all over again. This is what we call internal colonialism. We are all dignified beings. We deserve to know the truth, at all times about our method of governance.
â€œWe are also qualified to say when we believe that those â€˜elected leadersâ€™ of this nation are deliberately dragging their feet over critical issues that concern us. Then the people must stop and then take to the street.
This is normal in any democracy. A lot of you have followed some recent lectures of mine: one in Lagos; one in Abeokuta, and the third oneÂ here in Abuja on the occasion of the National Merit Award.
Each time, I have observed the ritual ending. And that ending was enough of talking, let us march. Now today, you have shown me that you have been listening. And your leaders here obviously have been listening and they themselves have been using exactly the same language over a long period. So we are not talking here about certain individual efforts but certain issues must be addressed urgently.
And if by miracle and believe me, I do pray and wish this might happen, if by miracle the missing president were to appear amongst us, hale and hearty, he will be confronted with the same charges that we are leveling against the government.”
Hon Farouk AliyuÂ Adamu
In his contribution, Adamu, said: â€œWe are all Nigerians. Nobody should hoodwink you with where you come from. We are not ruled rightly. We are ruled by liars. We demand leadership that will come out and tell us the truth. In the last 50 days, one minister after the other will come out and lie.
They said President Yarâ€™Adua spoke on BBC. Do you know why we do not believe them? It is because PDP government said we shall get 6000 megawatts of electricity by December but we didnâ€™t. Now, who will believe them? We will only believe them when we see President Yarâ€™Adua here live. If you do not want Jonathan to lead, do not take the fuel and petroleum from the Ijaw people. If my brothers want to continue using the fuel, the diesel from the South South, then Jonathan should take over governance,â€ to which they shouted another deafening yes.
â€œFew years ago, when Obasanjo tried to impose himself on this country using his third term agenda, we fought him and we won. Today we have a criminal cabal that is holding this country to ransom. I want to remind you that it was the same criminal cabal that supported third term. As we defeated them that time, we will defeat them again. They are saying we are not a terrorist nation and IÂ agreed with them.
They have been holding us to ransom but that must end today and we must take a decision on the issue of a missing president. I thank you very much.â€
â€œToday is christened a new birth for a new nation, that Nigerians of all works of life, that Nigerians of all tribes, that Nigerians of all religions have come together to discuss our country, this is how it should be and when we leave here, no body should wink you on the basis of religion or the basis of where you come from, the minimum we demand of those who said we voted them into power is transparency, constitutionalism, institutionalism and accountability.â€
â€œThe issue at stake is not that Yarâ€™Adua has spoken on the BBC, the issue is that he has abdicated without leave, without permission, so this calls for his impeachment, the people at the National Assembly have no moral justification to be where they are today. Yarâ€™Adua is paid by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is accountable to you and I, so he has no business staying for over fifty days without permission.
Nigerians will also want to get the kind of medical treatment that Yarâ€™Adua is getting, this is their money, so Nigerians, come out and say no to this rubbish enough is enough.â€
Pastor Tunde Bakare
â€œEvery one, east, north and south of our country should take these words home. The Presidency is not a birth right. The presidency is not a hereditary stool. The presidency is a constitutional office. President Yarâ€™Adua is not fit to occupy that office.
Therefore, Umaru Yarâ€™Adua go home. Time has come for you to park your load, leave Nigeria alone and go home. This solemn assembly is not for the sake of Jonathan Goodluck, it is for the sake of good governance. The constitution that is imposed upon you stipulates in section 145 that if any one in the office of the president is leaving even for his leave not for sickness, he must transmit authority of that office to the vice president.
It is that we have come to demand this afternoon, that the imposed constitution must be obeyed. Power vacuum is the latest affliction they have imposed on this nation and the entirety of the rest of us say no to power vacuum. Enough is enough! We would not allow them to handle the affairs of this country in a lopsided manner or as they like. We demand accurate governance, good governance, and what do I mean by that?
â€œThis is the beginning of our struggle. By next week we are going to inform you of the date when we are going to march all over Nigeria. On Friday, Nigerians in America, Nigerians in the United Kingdom are marching. We understand that the Senate met this morning and took a decision; as usual because this is a leadership built on lies.
The Senate claimed that because some of us exercised our fundamental human rights, to go to court, they didnâ€™t go to court, they said because some of us are in court because of their inaction, they are now exploiting our cases in court to abdicate their responsibility.Â Since they claim to be representing us in our different constituencies we must go and begin a process of making them to be accountable, of making them to be responsible, of making them to be responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people.â€
It was at this point that Speaker Bankole came. The Speaker had emerged from an executive session of the Reps around 12:30 pm, made his way to the platform on the porch of the dome of the National Assembly amidst tight security.
But his presence was not acknowledged, as the protesters who arrived the venue at 12.05 kept booing him as soon as they sighted him until Professor Soyinka took the microphone from Mrs. Najaâ€™atu Mohammed – a foremost female activist from Kano State – who was addressing them, and announced that, â€œfellow compatriots, I understand that we have some visitors here among us We want to give him some few minutes to address us, fellow compatriots.â€ But the protesters in one chorus, thundered â€œNooooooo!!!!!!â€
Again Soyinka asked that the Speaker be allowed to speak and he was visited with the same response. He now said, â€œWe are democrats here. I am going to ask for the last time after which I will take a voice countâ€, he said. â€œDo we allow the Speaker to address us?â€ he asked and the answer was reverberating â€œNoooooooo!!!!!â€ â€œThe â€˜Nosâ€™ (nays) have itâ€ he said.
Yarâ€™Adua supporters hold counter-rally in Abuja
Also yesterday, groups comprising mostly youths, converged at the Eagle Square, Abuja, with banners and posters of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, chanting solidarity to his administration despite the mounting agitation from some quarters for his immediate resignation. Besides adorning the major roads along the federal secretariat with posters that read, â€œWe support Yarâ€™Aduaâ€ the group further strapped large banners in various strategic places, denouncing those that are calling for his removal and subsequent replacement as â€œanarchists.â€