By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
In spite of police crackdown that was witnessed in different parts of the country where June 12 protests took place at the weekend, commercial, social and vehicular activities were paralysed.
In Edo State, the protesters in their numbers who converged at Ovonramwen Square and who were joined by the deputy governor, Phillip Shuaibu, later moved to Government House after crisscrossing many streets. They protested against insecurity and bad governance.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, the protesters engaged in a cloak-and-dagger hide-and-seek game with security operatives.
The protesters had first converged in Gudu, then later at Wuse Zone 4, where protesters carrying various placards with different inscriptions such as, ” Buhari Must Go”, If You Can’t Secure Us Resign “, warts and all were met by fierce-looking Police officers who fired teargas at the protesters, who in turn scampered for safety only to reconverge at different locations with placards condemning the current administration, the insecurity situation and bad governance.
In the Southwest, the protests were a huge success, even as they held simultaneously in the region with the exception of Ekiti State, where the protests did not hold apparently for fears of security agents responding with a degree of high-handedness.
Noyably, the Democracy Day demonstrations were organised by some civil society organisations and activists with no particular central leadership structure just like the #EndSars protests in 2020.
The protesters were bent on expressing their grievances against the poor governance, kidnapping and the state of worsening insecurity in the country under President MuhammaduBuhari’s administration.
In spite of the fact that the federal government and the state governments had shown their disapproval of the protests, the demonstrations recorded massive turnout of citizens, mostly the youth, on Saturday.
Business Hallmark reporters who went round to monitor the situation in different areas showed that no protest was held in Ekiti State due to fear of attack by security operatives.
In spite of the fact that there were no physical protests in the state, business activities were nevertheless, grounded .
In the remaining Southwestern states, protesters, however, defied security forces’ harassment, teargas and gunshots fired to scare them away.
In the morning of Saturday, there was a marked absence of traffic in many parts of Lagos, the streets were heavily deserted, and many highways only witnessed very light traffic. At Oshodi, Ikorodu road, Yaba and Oshodi- Abeokuta highway traffic was light, and only started to pick up when word went round that there was no trouble brewing as a result of the protests.
There was a massive turnout of protesters at the popular GaniFawehinmi Park in Ojota, Lagos on Saturday. They were later dispersed by the police who had preempted the protests and stationed themselves at the park with machine guns and heavy weapons. The protesters were teargassed and they moved to MKO Abiola Gardens.
The protest which drew mostly from the youthful segments of the population was relatively peaceful, although, the police in their usual manner, dispersed the protesters with tear gas.
The police arrested a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), AdeolaOladipupo, who was covering the protest around the Total Filling Station at Ojota, Ikorodu Road, with a handful of protesters but released them later without charge.
Some protesters were also arrested but were later released on the order of the commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosu, who addressed protesters after they had been harassed by police officers.
Some Lagosians who spoke with Business Hallmark at different locations in Lagos metropolis confirmed that business and social activities were grounded in the state on Saturday.
“The problem was that many Lagosians were scared to their bone marrows, especially when they remember what had happened during the #EndSARS protests. Most shops were locked because of the protest. There has been a heavy presence of police and soldiers in the state since yesterday”, YinkaOladele, a trader, resident in Agbado said.
The protests in Ogun State were no different from that of Lagos, as youth in Ogun State gathered at the Lagos Motor Park in Ijebu-Ode as early as 9 a.m.
The protest was peaceful until the police attacked protesters.
The protesters grounded social and business activities in the Ijebu-Ode metropolis as they chanted anti-government songs. They demanded that Buhari find a lasting solution to the incessant farmer-herder violence in Ogun State or resign from office, arguing that the essence of any government is to provide security of lives and property.
The police, apparently flustered by the high turnout of protesters made moves to stop it.
Joined by thugs, the police disrupted the peaceful demonstration.
The police employed a heavy hand to disperse the teeming youth who came out in large numbers.
“The police aimed their guns at us – not even teargas but guns. So, we had to run. One person got injured as the shell of a bullet hit him on his head. But he is safe. Another young person was arrested, but comrades are seeking his release at the moment,” Akin Adeola, one of the leaders of the protest, told news men.
The large turnout of protesters in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State was also impressive.
Residents of the ancient city converged on Mokola Roundabout carrying various placards condemning insecurity and bad governance.
Hundreds of them, mostly the youth, trekked to Sango, Agodi and also grounded activities on the popular Iwo Road.
The protests also disrupted vehicular movement in major parts of Ibadan.
In the early hours of the protest, a BBC reporter, identified as Micheal, was attacked by a police officer.
The reporter, who works with BBC Pidgin, was slapped while trying to record the harassment of protesters by security operatives.
He was attacked by a police officer identified as S. A. Oke. The officer also seized the reporter’s phone.
The police officer also vowed to kill any protester who refused to listen to their orders. Some officers were heard saying protest is “illegal on Democracy Day”.
Meanwhile, Governor SeyiMakinde ran into the protesters in Agodi and briefly addressed them.
A protester who identified herself as Sade Anjorin told Sahara Reporters that she locked her shop because of the protests.
“I am proud of the youth who have taken up the challenge. I locked my shop because of the protest. I feel no regret. I am proud that the current generation of youth is confronting the bad people in power.”
What appeared to be a crack in the fold of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, occurred in Osun State as students in Osun State defied the directive of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) president, Sunday Asefon, not to join the protest.
Recall that Asefon had in a statement on Friday declared his support for Twitter ban and told his colleagues not to stage any protest, saying the students body had nothing personal against the president.
But the branch of the students’ body in Osun State joined the coalition of civil societies in a massive rally against insecurity and unemployment.
The students, alongside other rights activists, protested en masse at Oke-Fia in Osogbo, Osun capital.
They held different placards with both inscriptions such as, ‘Return my Twitter; Nigerian youths are not lazy,’ ‘Buhari must go;’ ‘Resign if you are tired – Buhari,’ Restructure Nigeria Now,’ among others.
There was a heavy presence of security operatives at the venue of the protest.
Some major roads in Osogbo were deserted while businesses and shops were also shut.
Ondo State saw a massive turnout of youths who gathered for the protest in Akure, the state capital.
Streets in the state capital were deserted sequel to the tension that gripped the people over threat of protest.
Sources told Business Hallmark that police and soldiers also harassed some protesters in the state.
“It was a tense protest, but I am glad that the youth did not disappoint. We refused to be cowed and we confronted police officers and soldiers who harassed our comrades,” TunjiAlao, an activist, said.
As of the time of filing this report, markets and shops remained shut while only a few commercial vehicles were operating.
The only fly in the ointment of the protests in Southwest was in Ekiti State, where unlike other states in the region, no protest was held in the state.