Lagos protesters display creativity

The pro-subsidy rally in Lagos, which entered its fourth day on Thursday, seemed not to be abating as protesters, who formed themselves into smaller groups, attempted to outdo one another in creativity at the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota.

While the performances of singers and speeches went on at the main podium, many of these groups provided side attractions at the rally and gave those who could not hear the goings-on at the main podium a feel of the protest.

Metro learnt that the creativity of the groups was part of the plans to attract more protesters to the venue.

Many said the protest had taken on the look of a carnival because of the artistic performances, which protesters had introduced.

A group of protesters were seen garbed in the attire of traditional priests with the high priest at the front of the group holding fetish substances while raining curses on corrupt leaders.

Another group was seen with a goat, which had a placard with the inscription ‘President Goodluck Jonathan’ hung around his neck. The goat was ridiculed and curses were rained on it by members of the group.

Another group acted out a scene, where it was prophesied that the Nigerian masses would be “liberated” through the “fall” of corrupt leaders.

A member of a group of protesters, told one of our correspondents that, “this is fun but we are not just here to have fun. We are making a statement by all these activities.

“This is what it means to ‘occupy.’ Government will be making a mistake if it thinks we are going to stop coming here. As you can see, people keep coming here because they are having fun.”

Seun Kuti, son of the late Afro Beat legend, Fela, justified the carnival nature of the protest.

He said, “There is nothing wrong with this becoming a carnival. But this is first a protest and carnival joined in later.

‘‘Contrary to what the people in government have been saying, that we were paid to come here, we are here because we are all tired of the situation in our country.”

A protester, Kunle Ajibade, who made a statement with the N65 written boldly on his forehead, said he would not relent until government reverts to the old price of N65 per litre.

“My friend who has a basic knowledge of fine arts made the design on my forehead. I woke up as early as 6am today (Thursday) to have this done. I will go any length to make my grievance known to government about this repressive policy,” he said.

Arinze Mbalusi, a Christian, said he dressed in Muslim attire in order to show to the whole world that all Nigerians regardless of religion are against the removal of fuel subsidy.

“The removal of fuel subsidy affects everybody. It is anti-people and its far-reaching effect does not discriminate on grounds of religion. The attire I’m wearing is a little way of championing the cause for the reversal to the old price regime,” Mbalusi said.

Meanwhile, first-timers at the protest ground on Thursday explained why they decided to come.

Atanda Oladeji, a first-timer, said he attended the rally on Thursday in order to witness history in the making.

‘’I could no longer be at the mercy of the television screen to catch a glimpse of activities here. Though my parents did not initially buy the idea that I attend this event, they decided to let me go because the protest has been largely peaceful,” Oladeji said.

 More mothers troop to rally

Thursday witnessed an appreciable increase in the number of mothers attending the protest.

Some of the mothers said they had to trek long distances to be part of the rally. Some of them came with their children and were seen sitting on mats within the park.

A particular group of women occupied a stretch of the walk-way along one of the adjoining roads of the park.

Some of the women, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said they trekked to the park from Orile area of Lagos.

One of them, Mrs. Iyabo Wabi, said, “We came here to tell Jonathan that his government does not favour us. You, journalists, should help us to tell him that we are suffering. No food, no money. We trekked to this place from Orile because there are no vehicles to convey us to this place.”

Another one among them was seen lamenting to her colleagues, saying, “After what we went through to vote (for Jonathan), so this is how he wants to pay us back. I can remember that we had to queue under the sun for long hours when we were voting for him. After we voted him, he is now turning against us.”

Mrs. Ariketu Ajayi, on her part said, she would always attend the protest as long as it lasted.

She said, “We, mothers, are really angry. We came in groups from Orile this morning. We left as early as 6 am. We will not mind the long distance; we are prepared to come here everyday as long as the government refuses to listen to us.”

Some of the women brought garri (cassava flakes) to the park in case they become hungry. A few of them, who appeared angry, rained curses on government officials, who they claimed were responsible for their suffering.

Social networking among youths

Another prominent trend that could be readily noticed at the rally ground was the networking opportunities, among the youth.

As many of them ran into their long lost friends, schoolmates and colleagues. There were exchanges of phone numbers, complimentary cards and BlackBerry pins.

The celebrities present were also not left out, as the rally afforded them an opportunity to hobnob with fans and also canvass for twitter followers.

Some others persons were busy taking pictures on the grass at the park.

A team of power bike riders also provided fun for the protesters as they rode in and out of the venue.
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