Austin Agada, a former student activist and North Central Coordinator of National Frontier, a Civil Society Organisation said that President Goodluck Jonathan is a product of masses who went to the streets to ensure he got into power. He noted with regret that the President had allowed the masses to go to the street once more for a policy that was largely against them. He continued that the President was inflicting the pains of the celebrated ‘cabal’ on the masses which wasn’t meant to be the case and if he wasn’t capable of ruling the country or dealing with such groups, the President should give way for someone else to.
Fabian Atese Gbatoon, a lecturer with the Benue State University, Makurdi said that the fuel subsidy was a conduit pipe for misappropriation of funds. He averred that if the government doesn’t have any vested interests, it should investigate claims by several people including Davidi Silver. He emphasized that if the government was more transparent in its dealings, it would realize that the issue of petroleum subsidy would become a thing of the past and the masses would leave the streets.
Mr. Ternenge Torough, a social commentator and finance expert has also called for proper management of the people’s trust. He however said that the way to solving problems is not by insulting anyone and seriously frowned at the stance of several people in insulting leaders. Torough argues that it is illiteracy and a lack of maturity that would cause people not to attack issues alone but target individuals too and called for more tact when talking about issues.
Mrs. Josephine Habba and Lady Grace Shahu, key members of the Civil Society Organisations in Benue state argued that the main stress of the fuel subsidy policy is on women and children. They called for the government to seriously look into the case and work out a favourable plan.
All through, more youths have kept taking to the streets especially in Makurdi, the state capital. They all emphasise that their protests is not just about fuel subsidy removal but is a call for better governance and transparency in leadership by leaders both at the National and local level. They noted that their future was at stake and they had decided to march in protest since they were the key people affected. They promised to keep to the streets as long as their hopes and requests weren’t answered by the government.
It hasn’t been a street fight alone though. On various media and the social network particularly Facebook and Twitter, Benue citizens like other Nigerians devoid of party affiliation, have called for the needs of the youth as expressed above to be met. From Doowuese Akegh (@dreamygiorgi), @renay_212, @sueddieagema on Twitter to the comedian, Sever Ayede, Tuleh Spanix Terhile, Nathaniel Gesa and Ukan Kurugh and others on the Benue Family Network on Facebook, FEDVOSA everywhere (Kator Adaaku, Mbafan Aondokaa), there has been a continued interest in the happenings of the fuel subsidy saga and a call for better governance all over. There have also been a great number of people gaining interest in governance issues and reading more finance and political documents while watching more News…It’s no dull moment.
There has been disappointment expressed by several people over government’s seeming deafness to the cries of the people. More insulting most of them have said is President Goodluck Jonathan’s failure to address the people.
The Benue people hope things get better and are willing to come out to the streets, talk everywhere, argue and even write everyday till that hope is made concrete.
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Not a few people had to just wonder: ‘Day Five?’ We are out on the streets once more?
Well, yes. Against the hopes of the people of Benue, the protests moved on to Day Five.
On Day Five, Comrade Simon Anchaver assumed the unofficial office ‘Governor for the Day’ and was given the right to pick Commissioners and Special Assistants to help him in executing his office in the protests. Something he did all through. The highlights of the event included a performance by some musicians in front of the Modern Market. They said that the musicians in Benue were against the pains inflicted on the people by the Federal Government and had decided to officially join the protests. Another high point was at Wadata where the protesters were hailed as heroes by the people. A large number of protesters also joined the ranks from Wadata. Of interest was when the protesters wanted to move to the heavily guarded Government House. It was a day when determination, strength and passion were seen in the eyes and movements of the people. Disappointment however also hung in the air at a government that would allow such protests to go on.
The people poured out to the High Level Roundabout by 8am. Like other days, there was the usual morning charges and also, a noticeable increase in number. The protesters occupied the streets moving slowly to David Mark Bye-Pass and unto the Modern Market. There was a pause for comments and addresses at the market. The leaders of various organisations and associations represented addressed. The traders of Modern Market represented expressed their support of the strikes and said they would continue to remain shut until the strike was over. They further said that they would keep coming in their numbers to add to the strength of the protests. At this point, some musicians took the floor and performed exciting the protesters with several gospel songs.
The movement continued to Demekpe where there was a stop at the NKST church. More leaders addressed the people before the movement continued to Wadata where a large number of people were waiting for the protesters. The ward which comprises mainly Hausa people had a number that doubled the number of protesters already represented. Several people also came out from their houses, while some climbed high places to cheer the protesters. The Wadata market had some activity with lots of people present. The Trade Union Congress went to ensure there wasn’t any commercial activity going on and assured that it was thus, they came back to join the protesters.
The protesters moved on to the Federal Medical Centre, passing the Central Mosque in Wadata. There was a stop at the Federal Medical Centre. There was a heavy presence of soldiers at the gates of the Centre. The NLC called on Hausa leaders from the Wadata ward who were co-opted into the leadership as ‘special assistants.’ They spoke to the people in Hausa and got thunderous ovation from the crowd. There were shouts of ‘Main naira sitin da biyar’ (fuel for sixty-five naira) in the air. The Sarkin Wadata called on the Christians to join them in their worship through the day, and promised that the Muslims would reciprocate the gesture by worshiping with the Christians in their churches on Sunday. This was greeted with more ovations. He called for unity of everyone in the hope of moving Nigeria forward.
After some more addresses, the protesters moved down passing the Holy Ghost Parish, Haf Heaven and Jackies Hotels. The next junction was to be at Tito eatery. Directly in sight was the road to the Government House; most of the protesters moved in its direction. By this time, there was heavy police and civil defence presence ahead with security vehicles barring the way. The police served as human barricade to the protesters. The Labour leaders called on the people to move right towards Royal Choice Inn. This met with some grudges and words of anger. A number of the protesters said they wanted to go to the Government House by all means. After some more persuasion, they listened to the reasoning of the Labour leadership.
There was a pause in front of Royal Choice Inn where there were some more addresses. The leaders apologised for the misunderstanding that had just occurred and said that the Government House route had not been marked for ‘occupation’ and as such, there was a need to stick to the original plan. They however assured the people that it would definitely be put into further plans on other days. The explanation did not sit well with the protesters but they let it pass. Some of them whispered that the NLC were simply afraid while others argued that the Chairman, Simon Anchaver was in the pay of the state government and therefore was looking out for the interest of his principals. Some others yet again argued that it was a good thing as a visit to the Government House might have sparked violence since the Governor was not exactly the people’s man. Others cited the case of Niger state and said it had been wise not to go to the Government House.
The movement continued passing the banks on Ogiri Oko road, the Mobile Police Headquarters and Police Headquarters. Choruses of ‘Or seer fuel ya naan dzua a i ve’ (Tiv for ‘The person who has increased fuel has gotten into trouble’ filled the air with a solo shouting ‘Kunya kwa’ (TIv for ‘A shameful thing’). The protesters eventually stopped at Tito eatery.
Mrs. Josephine Habba, a Childs’ Right Coordinator organised children who had been in the march to come together. She asked them if they could recite the National Pledge. ‘Yes!!’ they shouted and went ahead to sing the National Anthem to the humour and laughter of the protesters who joined in the rendition. Mrs. Habba asked them if they wanted to go back to school and they shouted ‘Yes!!’ She asked them why they were in the march. To the surprise of several people, most shouted ‘N65 per litre!!’ Other children shouted ‘To go to school!!’ The media captured the message well. Mrs. Habba said she hoped that the message would be carried by Simon Anchaver to Abuja. A Barrister, Justin Gbakighir took over and spoke to the people, calling on them to be courageous.
Simon Anchaver, the NLC Chairman in Benue and self declared Governor for the day, praised the people for their courage and asked them not to relent in their efforts. He said that he was on his way to Abuja for a meeting with the National leadership of the NLC. He said that Plan A of the protests had been exhausted and that if things didn’t change, by Monday, the people would come out half dressed with most of the men coming out in briefs or boxers to show the shame the government was putting the Nigerian citizenry in. Convergence time was to be 7am at the High Level roundabout. In the interim, the people were free to go and recharge through the weekend for a proper plan B.
Generally, the protest rally on Day Four was not dissimilar from those of the previous days. The major difference was that the people converged at High Level Roundabout (the convergence points for the rally have been shifting from day to day). The numbers kept increasing as the movements continued. True vehicles and bikes kept moving and some other people were seen on the roads. However, it was evident that the number of people moving about town had reduced greatly. Also noticeable in the protests on Day Four was the presence of far more youths and women. It seemed they had thought everything was child’s play but noting the seriousness had come out to join. Several other people who had relied on News Channels (but were disappointed) and the social media (especially Facebook) got tired of the reportage which they eagerly looked to. They decided come out to the march instead of post comments of encouragement. Several Federal Government staff absent from the previous days were seen. Some confessed that they had thought the rallies would be over in a few days. Noting that it might not if the numbers were few, they had decided to come join the march.
It turned out to be a day of publicity for the state as for the first time, the rallies were seen on AIT. Also, selected people stayed at home to post feeds to various media outlets. The presence of more youth also meant more live feeds to Facebook. It wasn’t long before the full impact of the rallies was seen. Noting the seriousness, a lot of people came out from their houses to join the protests. Those who couldn’t for one reason or the other promised to join. Day Four turned to be a turning point for Benue as it seemed most people came to notice the importance of the march for the first time.
The convergence was by 7am at the High Level roundabout, Makurdi. The people came in their numbers. The number though as much as on previous days was looked at as not being impressive enough. The NLC leaders gave their charge and told the protesters the course that the day’s events would take. As usual, the movement was of the police taking the lead, the NLC vehicles with music, accompanied by okada (commercial motorcycle) riders, then the banners and the main protesters. The march started in earnest with lots of excitement shining in the faces of the people and songs on their lips.
The march moved along the Old Oturkpo road all the way to Aliade Road and unto Kanshio. They seemed determined to reach a new side of town and make their impact felt. There was a stop and some addresses made. The addresses largely centred on the need for good governance, better leadership, and a call for the reversal of pump prices of PMS to their original price.
Next, a u-turn was made and the protesters soon found their way to Abu King Shuluwa road. They marched on through different routes notably Akpehe, till they arrived Wurukum passing the market side before terminating at the Wurukum roundabout where there were many more charges.
It was announced that the rally would start by 7am with the convergence point being the High Level roundabout.
While there was every spark of determination in the eyes and personage of the people, it was several of the protesters expressed sadness and disappointment that the government had allowed the protests to stay this long.
Most of the young people who joined the protests for the first time expressed their joy at joining the protests and promised to bring far more people the next day. Meanwhile, most of the protesters from the previous days said they prayed that the government would heed the Nigerian call and answer the demands of Nigerians. They said they hoped that the protests would be the last one. They however swore that if the Federal Government didn’t reduce the price of Petrol or answer to their demands for better governance, they would keep coming out to the streets. Hopefully, there would be no need for that.