This is a QuickPress as the event is ongoing and I’m still gathering data
January is fast becoming a month to reckon with in terms of staging protests and activating revolutions. Based on my observation on online social networks, Nigeria seems to be next in line.
Since new year’s day when the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, implemented the long-controversial Fuel Subsidy plan , thus hiking the price of fuel nationwide, people have aired their displeasure at varying degrees.
The interesting point of note is that the people are not limiting their complaints to just the removal of the fuel subsidy, but using it as an overarching umbrella to vent their displeasure with the incumbent government on diverse fronts. There is for instance, the ongoing and ever-looming threat of the group Boko-Haram, who claimed responsibility for a series of bomb-blast on Christmas day in 2011. Many Nigerians are of the opinion that the Nigerian government is being too passive about the issue while innocent citizens lose their lives.
Here is an recent article by Japheth Omojuwa, a Good Governance Advocate, spurring Nigerians to action in “Go and Fight for Your Dignity“. Yesterday, Aljazeera Stream, the social media arm of the global news network, also gave coverage to the citizens’ reaction to the Fuel Subsidy removal. BBCAfricaHaveYourSay collated opinions and people’s reaction to the development. Tolu Ogunlesi and Japheth Omojuwa mentioned in tweets (yesterday) that they were going to be aired on the network shortly, regarding the Fuel Subsidy removal.
My Blackberry is laden with broadcasts from Nigerians urging me to join the protest marches today – and there are unconfirmed reports that the Federal Government of Nigeria has asked telecommunication providers to cease Blackberry services today in order to curtail the protests. One of the first chats I received this morning reads:
“Good morning: Testing if FG has shut BB Services in Nigeria.”
It is important to draw attention to the fact that these protest marches are being organized nation-wide. I gleaned from Twitter yesterday that in Abuja, the meeting point is the Eagle Square (where people signed a register), Ibadan, a town-hall meeting held at Alexander Brown Hall UCH, The National Stadium is for Lagos residents and youths in Kano are also protesting the fuel subsidy removal.
Some Tweeps (Twitter users) expressed fears at joining the protest, not because they didn’t believe in the cause, but for security purposes. Someone tweeted that, “you could get shot for just sitting there.” There were Twitter-Reports of people getting arrested, or being tear-gassed by the police in their respective protest meeting points.
The issue of identity and citizenship online (part of my research) came up yesterday as I watched the Nigerian President’s Special Adviser on Social Media tweet at a Cameroonian lady, @kathleenndongmo that… (see pic below):
Nigerians online instantly came to her defence and assured @kathleenndongmo that his tweet was not representative of their opinions, that she was welcome to join the protest. Mr. Reno Omokri was labelled a cyber-bully, the mildest amongst other names he was called yesterday for his tweet.
Lastly, before I return to monitoring, I find that in the midst of this whole activity, Nigerians still find the little loop to insert their
sense of humour into the situation. It is no wonder the country topped the index of happiest country.
The event is ongoing as I mentioned earlier – would the outcome transform to a better democracy for Nigeria? I intend to watch closely, critically assess the strengths of (online and offline) protests like this, and also point out the weaknesses. This forms a part of the main focus of my research. If you have any information to share with me, kindly hit the Email button at the end of this webpage.