Date Published: 10/14/09
The Nigeria, Enough Is Enough! Protest in New York By Bukola Oreofe
About few days to the Nigeria, Enough Is Enough! protest march in New York, two officials of a coalition of Nigerian organizations which organize the yearly Nigerian Independence day parade had written to the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF) canvassing albeit indirectly that we call off the protest march. In their emails they had invited us to come and join in the celebration of Nigeria's independence! They argued that they share in the disenchantment of Nigerians which the protest was going to express but that the celebration was nonetheless necessary and that they consider the attendance of Nigerian political leaders at such an event an opportunity to engage them on the state of Nigeria. The NDLF however posited that there was the need to stop providing a safe haven for discredited and corrupt Nigerian public officials by inviting them to social functions abroad; wine and dine with them and expect to be able to hold them accountable if like in most cases they finance such functions. It is clear that Nigerians abroad cannot continue to lament the dysfunctional society in Nigeria and also roll the red carpets to those who perpetrate the destruction of the country. Until we can declare corrupt Nigerian governors and public officials persona non grata at our functions our lamentations would be hypocritical.
On the day of the protest, Sat. Oct. 3rd 2009, we gathered at the 2nd Avenue, 54th street end of Manhattan, as early as 9 am while the parade did not start until 1pm. As we were getting ready with our banners and distributing leaflets stating the Enough Is Enough (EIE) to Corruption, EIE to closed Universities while the President was in Saudi Arabia opening a University in that country, EIE to lack of Power, EIE to lack of hospitals, EIE to spending #796B on Capital projects and #794B on importation of fuel & diesel, EIE to lack of employment, EIE to NO functional refinery, EIE to lack of good roads and infrastructure, EIE to Nigerian lawmakers who have abdicated their constitutional duties to join in the looting of Nigeria, EIE to Aondoakkaa and Ibori running and ruining the country, EIE to the clueless Yar' Adua administration, EIE to the massacre and the continuous neglect of the Niger Delta, EIE to a dysfunctional Nigerian society etc., we noticed that an official of the parade had gone to consult with the Police officer who led a significant number of members of the New York Police Dept (NYPD) to the parade.
In a jiffy, a reinforcement of members of the NYPD arrived in anticipation of a possible break down of law and order since at this point an argument had ensued between us and the organizers on whether our protest would be allowed to take place. Regrettably, a shouting march took place between us and some of the organizers! It was sad that anyone would attempt to prevent those who are appalled by the state of events in Nigeria and are calling for a stop to the madness in the name of governance through a protest would attempt to prevent such expression of their rights in the United States. How could anyone in good conscience live in Freedom, Comfort and Hope in another country and decide to ignore the millions of Nigerians who have gone to bed tonight with an empty stomach or who would be waking up without a knowledge of where and if any meal would be available. How can anyone believe it is appropriate to celebrate a country that has failed to provide or guarantee a good life for the citizenry while other nations are emerging in a new world order of economic growth. The Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Asian Tigers etc are offering to the rest of the world Nations of pride and renewed promises for the future of their citizens, we offer a Nation of shame. Rather than Nigeria being a partner with the rest of the world to solve the problems of poverty, climate change, famine, HIV & AIDS, meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), trade etc we have presented a country to the rest world as a problem to be solved.
As the reinforcement arrived, despite our glaring peaceful disposition, I could only ask myself, if the Nigeria police could respond to a distress call by a citizen in a timely manner as such without being told that there is no fuel for the police trucks. And here we are "celebrating 49 years of independence". The reinforcement certainly did not deter us nor affect our resolve to demand for an end to the wide spread misery in Nigeria.
As the leafleting was on going, an official of the parade organizer came to us with one of the police officers to inform us that since we did not seek and obtain a permit for the parade, the compromise would be for us to go to the back of the parade convoy! What a compromise indeed. The police officer apparently thinking he was speaking to a group of people that could be bamboozled, we responded that it was under our constitutional right to freely express ourselves and we could not be prevented from expressing our protest. Addressing the Nigerian official that brought the police officer to us, I told him "you intend to use the police to harass us like you guys would easily do in Nigeria with MOPOL, we would not succumb to any form of harassment whether you bring in the police or the marines". The police officer sensing the import of this statement pulled the official aside to have a discussion. The Nigerian official later came back and stated that the reason they do not want us to have the protest is that it would confuse the young Nigerians born here who they were trying to ensure they love their country. That protesting at the Nigerian Independence would be confusing to the Nigerian children who they intend to showcase the country to.
Our answer to that was quick and succinct. The children are confused when they go to Nigeria on holidays and find out right from the Murtala Mohammed Airport and through out their stay that there is perpetual darkness. The generators in almost every house hold, the noise and pollution they emit would confuse them. The sight of the roads and the hospitals when they fall sick is confusing and when they go to their cousins schools in Iperu, Oyingbo, Sabon garri, Ogoni, Maiduguri, Ogutta etc they are placed in a shocking state of confusion. The state of Nigeria which we are protesting is indeed the puzzle for the children.
Finally at about 1.05pm, the parade started and we took our position and protested the destruction of a country we all love so much but which is being destroyed unconscionably by those who would surely know NO peace and whose grave we shall besiege that they rot in hell. Despite the almost 2-3hrs of rain, protesting Nigerians were unperturbed, defiant and demanded that Nigeria, Enough Is Enough! Let the Suffering Stop!