The nationwide #June12Protest, organised as part of the #RevolutionNow campaign swept across the country. Activists defied the massive deployment of police and other security personnel in several cities and towns to protest.
There were demonstrations in no less than two thirds of the states of the federation, cutting across the six geo-political zones. Some of these were held under the rain, and in many more, poor working-class people in the communities supported the protesters, providing cover for them as police rained bullets and tear gas.
Lagos was once again an epicentre of the struggle. Protesters moved in two formations on the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ọjọ́ta were the #June12Protest rally was billed to take place. A contingent of protesters moved in from the Ketu end of town, whilst another moved from Ikeja on to Maryland where they honoured over 100 persons slain by the regime during the October #EndSARS protests.
Senior police officers did all they could to dissuade the protesters from getting to Ọjọ́ta. They cajoled and threatened to no avail. They then barred the state’s rotten teeth of coercion. They fired volleys of bullets and teargas cannisters to disperse the protesters.
Residents and informal economy workers in the community who suffered as the teargas choked them as well, rose up to support the activists. They opened the doors to their homes and their hearts to the protesters who sought cover.
Bunmi Fakolade, a resident in the community stressed that the young protesters whom they protected were unarmed but shot at by the police. In an online interview circulated by Vanguard circulated, she expressed the masses’ anger at worsening living conditions and repression.
The Coalition for Revolution (CORE) Lagos Chapter had organised a mass conscientisation campaign in the days leading to the protest, during which they had engaged in discussions with Bunmi and many other residents in Ọjọ́ta and other parts of Lagos. This is how to build our collective power, rooted in the reawakening of mass consciousness and independent organisation from below.
The protesters did not rest on their oars because of the solidarity and support they recieved from residents. They moved back to the barricades, joined now by some of the residents. Thrice they were dispersed by the police and thrice again they regrouped to make their revolutionary voices heard.
State sponsored thugs joined the police to attack protesters. They were led by one Mr Anthony Adeyinka Adeboye (aka Zulu Triple Authority), senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on sports.
Thugs in and out of uniform alike violently descended on protesters. They beat up and robbed many activists and even passers-by. There were also several arrests. Not less than twenty persons were taken away in handcuffs for daring to speak the truth to power and fight for a betters society. These included Gbenga Komolafe, Co-convener of CORE and Comrade Goldie, a member of the SWL.
They were released shortly after, due to mass uproar by residents. While these battles raged at Ọjọ́ta, CORE activists organised mini rallies in communities across several other Local Government Areas in the state, furthering political education and mobilisation of the working masses and youth for the struggles ahead.
The Federal Capital Territory was equally a major theatre of the day’s struggle. Sponsored pro-Buhari supporters had taken over the Unity Fountain venue of the #June12Protest before the CORE activists, led by Take It Backers arrived there.
The government’s rent-a-crowd tactic was revealed by both Roots TV and Premium Times online. These “protesters” confessed that they had been hired and for meagre amounts ranging from N1,000 to N2,500. And even these pittances had not been paid to them!
With the police and other security forces guarding these hired hands, the #RevolutionNow campaigners could foresee contrived clashes emerging. They thus moved to the streets, where they were joined by persecuted Shia Muslims who have been demanding the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been held in contempt of court orders for more than five years.
The protesters were unequivocal in their demand: #BuhariMustGo!
Other parts of the country
Demonstrations took place in at least 25 states of the federation as well as in several cities across all the continents except Antarctica. These included the following sites of protests in Nigeria which SWLers followed.
In Ogun state, there were demonstrations in Abẹ́òkúta the state capital and state’s Ìjẹ̀bú Òde, the state’s second city.
Market women joined the protesters in Abẹ́òkúta, chanting “we are hungry, this is not the democracy that people people died for during June 12!” They also decried the state of insecurity, saying “there can be no democracy, with insecurity” and joined the protesters in calling for the release of all political detainees.
The demonstration in Ìjẹ̀bú Òde nearly became bloody. As Premium Times online equally reported, police dispersed protesters by firing live rounds of ammunition at them. Shell casings of the spent bullets were retrieved and displayed by protesters.
Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Osogbo, the Osun state capital. And in Àkúré, the Ondo state capital, thousands of protesters took over Ọjà Ọba (the King’s market) at the city centre. The police who had been deployed to stop them could do nothing as the mass equally took over the main streets leading to the market, singing “the people are hungry, is this the democracy we fought for?!” They also chanted: “the people united, cannot be defeated and demanded #BuhariMustGo!”
Ìbàdàn, the Ọ̀yọ́ state capital was also agog with the rebellious mood of a festival of the oppressed. The protesters sang that we all have a hand in pushing the country to the edge of catastrophe, by commission (as is the case with the ruling class) or omission (for those who choose to snipe from the side lines, instead of joining the mass struggle). And they boldly called for the fall of the regime, chanting “Buhari Must Go!”
Several protesters were beaten up by the security forces. These included “a BBC reporter identified as Michal who was attacked by a police officer at Mokola in Ibadan”. His phone was also seized by one Mr S.A. Oke, the police officer who attacked him.
Demonstrations took place in three cities across Kaduna state, despite efforts of the state governor “Hell-Rufai” who fully supported the security personnel’s clampdown on activists, many of whose homes were “visited” by the secret police even before the protests began. Protesters marched in Zaria where activists stated that they were fighting against injustice in Kaduna state under “Hell Rufai” as well as across Nigeria as a whole. They mentioned how unsafe people felt, because of the heightened levels of insecurity, pointing out how bandits invaded the city just yesterday. They also served notice that they would join the resistance against any hike in fuel pump price.
Demonstrations were also organised in Kafanchan and Kaduna city, the state’s capital, where 7 activists were arrested. They were released only late in the evening after intervention by the Take It Back legal team.
Comrades also moved in Kano despite massive presence of police across the state. Protesters were dispersed several times as they tried to gather. But despite declining numbers of those who stayed the course, the activists demonstrated.
Reflecting the mood of the #June12Protest, Usman Zush, the AAC State Chapter Chair stressed that the struggle at hand is for the total liberation of Nigeria. He also spoke to the police rank-and-file used by the bosses to repress the masses that this fight is as much one for them as they are exploited and oppressed people, despite being instruments of the state.
Comrades in Jos, the capital of Plateau state dared the rain as much as the police, to demonstrate. These were activists who were earlier at the heart of the massive wave of protests in the city during the EndSARS revolt. And they had organised a series of mass conscientisation online and physically, in the days leading to the protest.
The scheduled venue for the #June12Protest in Makurdi, the Benue state capital was taken over by the police. But the protesters were undeterred and organised a demonstration nearby. They condemned the rising state of insecurity in Benue and nationally, pointing out that government’s actions and inactions contribute to stoking up insecurity and separatist politics, instead of addressing these.
Rex Elanu, a leading member of the African Action Congress nationally, addressed the protesters saying “it is better we speak out and die” than to keep quiet in the face of oppression. He further pointed out that, this was not just a struggle of the party but for the masses as a whole. Noting that the president has no clue on how to solve the problems in the land, he equally led a chant of “Buhari Must Go”.
The state clamped down on demonstration in Damaturu with the argument of possible infiltration by Boko Haram elements, as Yobe state is one of the north-eastern states most affected by the insurgency. To stop the protest, Comrade Dan Maliki, the TiB coordinator in the state was arrested at dawn and only released much later in the evening.
But members of TiB and other radical groups in the state registered their voice of resistance with a sit-in programme at a venue close to the Federal Polytechnic in the town. Similar actions were taken in other north-eastern states such as Gombe and Bauchi.
The state wanted to behead the protest a day earlier in the south-southern city of Calabar, capital of Cross River state. Comrade Agba Jalingo, editor of the Cross River Watch, and a leading Take It Backer who has suffered severe persecution, including unjust incarceration was “invited” for a chat at the police state command on Friday.
Realising the state’s gambit, and to show them that this would not stop the planned action, there was massive outcry from activists immediately. The police then said the invitation was not with an intent of arrest. Jalingo was released and a demonstration organised in Calabar as part of the #June12Protest. Comrades also took action in the garden city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
This is not a moment – It is the building of a Movement!
The aptest caption for the events of today was probably captured by comrades in Owerri, capital of the south-eastern heartland Imo state. As the words in a banner lifted by Comrade Nkechi Ugochukwu reads: “This is not a moment! This is a Movement!!”
Much more was at stake than merely commemorating the 28th anniversary of the June 12 presidential election, the annulment of which resulted in a 6-year revolutionary struggle for democracy.
Addressing reporters in Lagos, Gbenga Komolafe, a CORE Co-convener noted that the ruling class hijacked the democratic essence of the mass struggle that started in earnest against military dictatorship in 1993. Today’s action reinforces the struggle for #RevolutionNow which was flagged off on 5th August 2019.
It is not enough to have a programme for system change. We need to build a mass movement, to genuinely wage revolutionary politics. As we pointed out sometime back, drawing from Lenin’s words: “politics begin where millions of men and women are; where there are not thousands, but millions, that is where serious politics begin.”
We must build, and we are building a mass movement for revolution, through each moment in that struggle. And we stand on our demands, as stated in the CORE leaflet for the #June12Protest:
- All political prisoners and citizens being held on spurious grounds by the Gen. Buhari government be released unconditionally.
- All stolen government properties, lands and spaces be reclaimed for public use.
- Overhaul of our refineries to make them supply affordable energy to boost production and employment while those making them unworkable should be prosecuted.
- Increased funding of basic public goods especially education, healthcare, potable water supply etc
- Renationalization of the power sector as the private operators that stole them from the public with the promise of more efficient services, more employment and reduced energy cost have demonstrated that they are only interested in fleecing Nigerians with over 500% increase in tariffs, bogus estimated billings while they give Nigerians only darkness.
- A more concerted war on the bandits armed by politicians causing mayhem all over the country. Communities should be encouraged to arm and protect themselves rather than relying on overfed Generals who have turned the war on terror to an opportunity to become billionaires.
- We call on all Nigerians to also learn from our history and resist moneybag politicians. They serve themselves and not the 99% of the masses. We must kick them out and throw off the burden of their exploitative system that threatens to destroy the poor working people!
- We call on all Nigerians to resist the Buhari government descent to totalitarianism marked by the vicious mass killing of peaceful protesters during the Endsars Protests and the recent ban on Twitters and the regime’s quest to restrict free speech.
by Baba AYE