Chris Steven, Abuja
Despite the withdrawal of the popular musician, Innocent Idibia known by his stage name as Tuface, from the planned rally against rising prices of commodities in the country and bad policies of the present government, the rally however took place on Monday in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The rally which took off from the Unity Fountain, Maitama was led by the former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, (NHRC) Chidi Odinkalu, and had popular comedians and other prominent Nigerians in attendance.
It was organised by the civil society group, Enough is Enough (EiE) with the slogan ‘I Stand With Nigeria’.
But another pro-government group known as the Buhari Volunteer Network also took to the same venue to drum their support for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The pro-government group said it was holding a march on the same day as the anti-Buhari group to let the people know the achievements of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)
However, addressing the protesters, Odinkalu said that the protest was to register the frustration of the ordinary Nigerian with the government of the day, and also to demand good governance.
“We thumbed Buhari into office in 2015 because he promised to do a lot,then he got into power and he has never addressed us.
When he wants to talk to us he gets into a plane, travels abroad and starts gossiping about us.“Are we so useless that our president cannot address us? Are we so idiotic that our president cannot tell us that things are hard?
We don’t get answers, we don’t get empathy and we are told we cannot protest too? What kind of country is that? What kind of citizens are we?”he queried.” He said
It would be recalled that the original initiator of a nationwide protest, Musician Innocent Idibia, popularly known as Tuface, withdrew from the campaign on Saturday, citing intelligence reports that the planned exercise was going to be hijacked by hoodlums.
The police had stated that it could not guarantee the safety of lives and property if indeed miscreants took advantage of the protest to cause disorder.
But Odinkalu wondered who made the law that people could only protest if they were licensed by the Police.
He also said that it was regrettable that President Muhammadu Buhari who sold himself to Nigerians on the promise of fighting corruption, has now surrounded himself with corrupt individuals as inner cabinet members.
“This administration came into power to fight corruption and now, next to the president is the man now known as the grass cutter general of the federation.”
Odinkalu was apparently referring to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who was indicted by the Senate for allegedly awarding contracts worth millions of Naira to a company where he had vested interest, for the removal of “invasive weed specie” in Yobe State.
“Fire the SGF, fire the grass cutter!” he chanted as the crowd chorused in response.
Also commenting on the state of health of the President, Odinkalu said:“On this Monday morning we don’t know where our president is. We want to know because we care.
“On 18 January we were told that our president was going for a 10-day vacation. Yesterday we were told he is waiting for his medical test before he will return. Last week, fake pictures of the president meeting people in London emerged.
Last night, Femi Adesina said people can get sick; people can even die and Shehu Garba said he spoke with the president’s doctor and was told he is well.
Now think about it, if the president is well, who is Shehu to speak to his doctor.“If the president is not ill, why should people be circulating fake pictures.” He said
But as the protesters headed towards the Presidential Villa in the upscale Asokoro District, they were met by a team of heavily armed anti-riot Police personnel, who denied them entry into the Aso Rock villa.
The stranded protesters began to chant “I stand with Nigeria”.
“Are we so useless that our president cannot address us? Are we so idiotic that our president cannot tell us that things are hard? We don’t get answers, we don’t get empathy and we are told we cannot protest too? What kind of country is that? What kind of citizens are we?, ” asked a livid Odinkalu.