…’People engaged in panic buying’; Reason markets were shut — Leaders
By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Shina Abubakar & James Ogunnaike
AS Nigeria observed Democracy Day last Saturday, there were protests in some states despite suppression by security agents.
Nigerians trooped out in their numbers to protest against bad governance and other issues plaguing the country.
Before this, a coalition of Civil Society groups had since June rallied Nigerians across social media platforms for street protests in major cities and towns in the country.
As the day drew closer, there were fears of a possible confrontation between security forces and protesters, necessitating warning that people should rather sit at home.
However, the sit-at-home order took a dramatic turn in the South-West as residents, artisans, market women and men, stayed indoors.
June 12 was set aside by the Federal Government to celebrate the restoration of democracy in the country.
It was a day in honour of Chief Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, who later died in military detention.
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari moved Democracy Day from its earlier May 29 date to June 12.
Meanwhile, the June 12 celebration ended up becoming a public holiday as most residents observed the sit-at-home order.
In Oyo State, Vanguard observed that popular markets in the state were paralysed.
On the eve of June 12, most markets were filled as people engaged in panic buying.
Markets like the Bodija International Market, Dugbe, Sango, Agbowo, Labaowo, Eleyele and Molete were deserted as traders too stayed at home.
Some traders who spoke with Vanguard said there was an air of uncertainty and fear.
Why we stayed at home — Market leaders
The Babaloja of Oyo State, Alhaji Sumaila Jimoh said: “No one would hear such warnings and risk his life. We didn’t shut the market. Those who didn’t come to the market had their reasons and those who came didn’t see anything wrong. We cannot blame any of them.”
Also speaking, a trader at Dugbe Market, Mrs. Sade Ayegbajeje, who spoke in Yoruba, said: “We stayed at home because the whole atmosphere was full of uncertainty. We heard so much warning that there would be protests and since we didn’t know the form it would take, it would be safer to stay indoors.
“Apart from that, there were no vehicles to board. Few people who moved out were delayed for several hours at bus stops. It was in the evening when people saw there was peace, that they went out.”
A community leader in Ogun State, Chief Philip Kujore said: “With series of warnings that preceded the day from Yoruba Nation agitators and other groups, one needed to be careful and watchful.
The memory of what followed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections was still fresh in the minds of those who witnessed it.”
Kujore noted that: “The #EndSARS saga was also still fresh. So, I and my family decided to stay at home to avoid any unforeseen situation. What we are unable to achieve on Saturday, June 12, we will still achieve them by God’s grace.”
Commercial activities paralysed in Lagos
In Lagos, commercial activities were paralysed as markets, street shops and shopping malls along the highways were closed for fear of hoodlums attacking and looting their items.
Besides, the protest commenced as scheduled at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, GFP, Ojota, despite the presence of security agents. Though the police denied them entrance into the venue, the protesters moved around with their placards, chanting solidarity songs.
The demonstrators had different placards with inscriptions including: Buhari Must Go, Revert Electricity Tariff Now and End Bad Government.
Some people believed to be members of a transport union came to the scene and ordered the demonstrators to vacate the area.
“Go home. Everybody should go home. No protest here. Anyone that creates unnecessary havoc here will die. What are these hoodlums doing here?” one of the union workers said.
At Lekki Toll Plaza, one of the areas touted as a likely protest site, the place was calm.
However, there were pockets of disturbances in some parts of the state as armed policemen and other security agents had to disperse some protesters who were gathering to hold a protest at M.K.O Abiola Gardens.
Skirmishes were recorded in the Mile-12 and Ikorodu axis of the state. But the prompt intervention of anti-riot policemen, who fired several teargas canisters to disperse protesters, restored sanity.
Lagos State Police Command arrested five persons suspected to have participated in protests that rocked some parts of the state, Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, said.
Men of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, led by their Commander, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP, Olayinka Egbeyemi, were seen on major roads patrolling and appealing to residents to shun any form of disturbances.
It was a necessary sacrifice to stay alive — Osun business owners, residents
In Osun State, shop owners and residents described the day as a necessary sacrifice to stay alive.
While some business owners said their losses for what seems like a sit at home order runs to several millions of naira, others opined that losing money is better than losing their businesses or even losing their lives. A rice distributor in Osogbo, Mrs. Ajeigbe Lawal said she decided to steer clear of her business area because of the experience of the #EndSARS protest.
Lawal said: “During the #EndSARS protest, I remember it was a Saturday too, hoodlums invaded my shop and took away everything. I am still in debt now. So, I could not take a risk when the rumour of the so-called Mother of all protests filtered into the town.”
Also, Mr. Adewale Hammed, whose child was killed during the #EndSARS protest, disclosed that he ordered his children to remain indoors and even stocked the house with foodstuffs that could last a week.
He said: “I cannot take another risk of what has happened to me before. I lost a child during the #EndSARS protest, so I had to be very cautious during June 12. Even after they cleared the town, I insisted that no one should go out for the day, because once beaten, twice shy. So I could not afford the risk.”
People are frustrated, hungry and angry — Ex-YCE leader
Speaking on the sit-at-home that residents in the South-West zone observed, the Senior Elders Forum of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, said it was borne out of frustration and anger against the current system.
In his remarks, the former National Chairman of YCE, Dansaaki Samuel Agbede, said: “The sit-at-home is nothing but a clear expression of frustration. It is not whether they regard June 12 or not. People are frustrated with the happenings in the country, particularly in Lagos. Things are down generally. People don’t know what is happening to them right now.”
It was a vote of no confidence on FG —Afenifere
Also, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, described the sit-at-home order as a vote of no confidence on the Federal Government.
Afenifere’s Secretary-General, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, said: “The immediate cause appears to be the recent experience, during the #ENDSARS protests, where the reactions of the Police and other security agencies turned the initial peaceful rallies to violence, with the people caught in-between.
“Secondly, and most importantly, the stay-at-home phenomenon, as earlier demonstrated by the people of the South-East, in commemoration of Biafra on the 30th and 31st May, is an eloquent vote of no confidence in the capability of the Federal Government to guarantee the security of the people.
“A very dangerous dimension now is the campaign of calumny against the security architecture in the country which is being, without concrete evidence, seen as an army of occupation comprising of officers and men from a particular ethnic group posted to suppress voices of dissent in several places, particularly in southern Nigeria. You may compare the day Sunday Igboho came to town or the acceptance of the Amotekun among the people with the Police and draw your conclusions on the popularity of the Buhari administration.
“The Buhari administration has lost legitimacy which ordinarily should command willing obedience and loyalty from the people; its authority is only sustained by the use of brute force with only momentary efficacy and effect. The people may have resorted to treating the government like a bull in a China shop. The fact speaks for itself.”
It was a protest of misgovernance Convener of YesWeFit Revolutionary Movement, Mr. Thomas-Wilson Ikubese said people embarked on the movement to avoid being caught in the web of civil unrest.
He said: “People refused to go out on June 12 for two reasons: In protest of the misgovernance of our polity by the political class. They feel there’s nothing to celebrate after all, since the system is not working and for fear of the unknown. June 12 is supposed to be about celebrating our democracy, unfortunately, it was chosen by a cross-section of Nigerians to register their anger with the polity. In the South-West, for instance, it was the date the agitators for Oduduwa nation decided to embark on a solidarity rally, while others embarked on the Buhari-Must-Go protest.”
In addition, Ikubese, a former Presidential aspirant said: “So many Nigerians were thus apprehensive of the possible backslash from these civil actions, given the characteristic hostile attitude of our law enforcement agencies. So, many chose to stay back at home rather than being caught in the web of the civil unrest.”
I was afraid of being molested by protesters —Dentist
In his remarks, a dentist, Dr. Omolade Adekolurejo, who explained why he remained indoors, said he was afraid of being molested by protesters.
Adekolurejo said: “I stayed at home because of the fear of molestation from the protesters and possibly gunmen. Staying away is the beginning of wisdom at least bullets would find it almost impossible to fly and meet you at home. The experience of the #EndSARS protest has taught us many lessons about the protest in Nigeria. It is better to stay off the street during a protest in Nigeria now.”
We counted their losses —Businesswoman
A businesswoman, Mrs. Florence Ojogo said: “As a businesswoman, people in the South-West refused to go out for their normal activities on June 12 because there was a particular message that was flying on the social media that there was going to be a protest against the government by the youths over insecurity, unemployment, bad governance and they planned to carry out a purported protest against not the state government alone but also the Federal Government.
“To me, June 12 which is known as our democracy day ought to be a day to mark how we were able to move out of military rule to civilian rule and how we have sustained democracy for over two decades. This is worth celebrating and not protest.
“To business owners staying at home for one whole day means a lot of losses. I concluded that this year’s democracy day was abused because democracy day is not meant for protest but for dialogue on how our democracy should be strengthened.”