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Phony Protests in Nigeria

By bAfolabi Aribigbola

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One of the fallouts of this year general elections in Nigeria, a dangerous one for that matter and one that is repugnant to good conscience, upright and sincere people of the country is the proliferation of phony protests being arranged against the outcomes of the 2023 general elections.

Phony in the sense that several of the protests are based on frivolous and unsubstantiated claims of being winners of elections. We all know that there could only be one winner after elections. Also, many of the hired protesters are unaware of the purpose of the protests and in several cases, they were hired to protest on behalf of the ruling class for a fee. Protest has been defined as a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something unacceptable or not good.

In the context of the present dispensation in Nigeria, who is actually showing disapproval to the conduct of the elections among dominant parties. Is there any of them that can honesty declare that their members were not involved in one form of electoral manipulation or the other? Can they therefore, with all modesty or sense or responsibility qualify to show disapproval to the exercise in which they were culprits and or contributors to the ills of the elections? None of the parties protesting at the moment is qualify to protest elections outcomes in the country. Perhaps, if any individual or group should protest at all, it should be the innocent Nigerians that queued for hours to cast their votes which politicians one way or the order rendered invalid or did not allow to count as anticipated by the people. 

This ugly phenomenon in Nigeria’s political landscape, sponsoring protesters to demonstrate against results declared by INEC is becoming widespread, nauseating and embarrassing to the entire people of Nigeria. Unfortunately, no political party and section of the country seems immune from the escalating malady of renting crowd to demonstrate against election outcomes that are not favourable to them.

This undignified tendency if not check or stop has the potential ability to inflict unimaginable level of crisis, disorder and even anarchy in the country. This has become worrisome because parties and individuals in order to convince the people and international community that they are popular and actually won elections have also joined the obnoxious practice of sponsoring protesters. In the light of this, one wonders where such retrogressive activities will lead the country into the nearest future.

 What was common in the past was for politicians to higher crowd to attend their campaigns so that they could be seen to be popular and enjoy the support of majority of the electorate. Of course, this retrogressive and backward actions of political leaders in the country is becoming a source of concern to many progressive and forthright Nigerians and has made some of us to begin to ask the questions of why the need to hire crowd to protest when elections have been won or lost? what are their intentions? Is it to destroy the country and her people or to make the people of the clime to look at Nigerians as irresponsible and people that cannot conduct credible elections and govern themselves almost 63 years of self-rule?

These are critical questions that require answers in order to find solutions to some of the intractable problems facing the country.  Indeed, it is the inalienable right of people to protest against perceived injustice. However, such should be done according to the laid down procedure, law of the land and cogent verifiable claims and not on frivolous and unsubstantiated claims. Perhaps, the growing lawlessness in the country is a fallout of the refusal of government to obey the courts over the years and as demonstrated with regards to the supreme court ruling on the naira crisis in the country. Or the fears that they may not get justice within the present contrived system.

Whilst some protesters have genuine and sincere reasons to do so, many others have no business going on the street protesting. Often, many were mobilized and induced financially to be on the streets protesting. It is the growing population of paid demonstrators that attracted the interest of this column this week. The escalating protesters that know nothing on the issue at stake is becoming worrisome and it is this ill that must be wiped out of our society. Not for an organization such as EFCC to be chasing innocent PoS operators that are struggling to survive the excruciating effects of the harsh conditions imposed by the government through the CBN and the bankers. Of course, the EFCC knows that these PoS operators bought the naira they are selling, why is it that they did not go after the bankers that are selling it to the PoS operators or the CBN Governor that failed to obey the Supreme Judgement for a long-time until the naira crisis became a national embarrassment.

It should be made clear that one is not against genuine protests to challenge absolutism, injustice and corruption that is fast destroying the superstructure of the country and threatening the otherwise promising future of the country. It is in this context that one abhors  the obnoxious growing culture of sponsoring demonstrations. In any case is there any of the so-called political parties that did not cheat or rig election in their so-called strongholds?. Our contention is that agencies and structure set up to perform distinct essential state functions should be allowed to function without any form of intimidation. The various sponsored protests and demonstrations seem to have the intention to intimidate, harass state’s agencies from performing their constitutional functions and to coarse them to do their bidding. This is at variance with general global practice where people come out to protest when there are injustice and where they want the government to listen to their views or positions on contending issues affecting their societies .

All the candidates claiming to have won elections and are encouraging their supporters to go to the streets are trying to cause crisis in the country. It seems that what they could not achieve through the ballot they are seeking to achieve through the force of intimidation using protests. We are told that some of them have taken the more dangerous route of suggesting the institution of interim government that are clearly unknown to our constitution. The retrogressive tendency that can throw the country into darkness must be discouraged and stop forthwith, otherwise we may no longer have a country. These activities should be investigated and culprits brought to book, otherwise it will become a dangerous practice.

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