Mass protests have rocked the towns and streets of Ondo South over the 10 years of power outage in the senatorial district, at different times, over the years. The fire of protests was re-ignited by the August 1 mass actions on the Lagos-Benin-Ore Expressway which lasted for five hours causing one of the heaviest highway gridlocks in recently times.
The August 1 demonstrations broke the back of many a pseudo-activist grouping that have been feeding fat politically and financially in the struggle. Under the leadership of the United Action for Democracy (UAD), about 26 groups came together to plan and mobilize.
This was pace-setting and renewed the urge to battle against the top-down reactionary strategies of the Pro-PDP Bring Back Our Light (BBOL) group which actually hijacked the struggle from the #LetThereBeLight campaign which left groups like the Ikale Progressive Agenda (TIPA) inspired and helped organize in 2014. The August 1 actions validate the slogan that “freedom cometh by struggle.”
The five hours of struggle provided added momentum to raise and discuss related national political and economic issues. Travellers came down from buses on the inter-state highway to join the barricade and agitate against the heavy presence of policemen and soldiers who were hell bent on halting the struggle.
The soldiers had arrested 18 protesters traveling down from Igbokoda along Irele to Ore by 6 am. Several attempts were made to arrest the leadership after one Juwon Adeweretan, the President of Ondo State Alternative Welfare Association (OSAWA) went on air to “call off the action” without any consultation with his group.
His attempt to derail the action, borne out of a compromise with the state government failed woefully, as rank and file members of OSAWA rebutted his call, and joined the protest in their numbers.
The August 1 actions were followed by a Candlelight Procession at Igbokoda led by the Ilaje Advancement Forum (IAF) on August 6. The Candlelight Procession was attended by hundreds of protesters who sang solidarity songs and re-emphasized the August 1 basic demands which include: immediate restoration of electricity supply; revoking the licenses of the failed private electricity companies; and re-nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic management of workers.
In Okitipupa, one of the two major towns in Ondo South, with sizeable working-class presence, protesters shutdown major public corporations like the local government council secretariat and the INEC office complex, with hundreds on the picket line outside these offices.
The protest was called and led by the combined unions of informal workers, artisans, and traders. The United Action for Democracy (UAD) and the Ikale Advancement Movement (IAM) joined and marched with the working masses.
The UAD is to lead on the struggles as the state is already planning massive repressions of the protests and the electricity company, BEDC is reportedly demanding #350million, before it can the senatorial district could be assured of electricity. This amount is not justifiable, and from experiences across the country, even the payment of this contrived amount will not ensure regular electricity supply. Only the defeat of the exploitative regime guiding power distribution, which we will win with our struggles can ensure this.
There is thus pressing need for our battles to be sustained and coordinated. We must identify the wolves in sheep clothing in our midst, like Juwon Adeweretan, who will try to derail our struggle from within and make sure they fail as he failed.
Meanwhile the power struggles show the general failure of neo-liberalism in Nigeria. The interests of the private profiteers are deeply damaging public interest in a country of about 200million people. There is a need for uniting the struggles against epileptic power supply and crazy bills, nationally. The UAD, as a coalition of civic organisations across the country offers a platform to do this, as it has demonstrated in Ondo South.
by Kunle Wizeman AJAYI