By Muhammed Abdullahi
The driving force and motivation behind every protest is grievances and injustice. Usually, for protest to happen, individual pains and deprivation had to be transformed into group grievances. It is the amalgamation of collective anger that often leads to protest and mass action.
People who partake in protests are usually conscientious people who ordinarily want more benefits for the generality rather than individuals. The risk endured by protesters is usually aimed at delivering benefits even for those who do not participate in such protests. Protest actions are never for personal gains.
In Nigeria, we have witnessed genuine protests that are aimed at protecting general, or more specifically, country interest. We have also witnessed, and still witnessing, an avalanche of hired protesters. Starting from both the pro-Abacha rally (1 million man march for Abacha) and the anti-Abacha protest (Abacha Must Go), I have seen many other genuine and nebulous protests aimed at driving several demands and attaining multifarious objectives.
Recently when the pro and anti Buhari protests started in Abuja, a friend sent me a message that I should explore my contacts to get a piece of the action. When I asked him what he meant, he said there is now a ‘protest contract’ worth millions and that people are making it big. I was surprised. Is protest not supposed to be driven by belief and conscience and conviction?
My friend might not be absolutely wrong. I have previously been told of big time protest sponsors. I heard names of people who sponsored the Occupy NASS protest, and not too long ago, there were rumors of people given out large sums of money to mobilize protesters against Senate President Bukola Saraki. Of course there are always counter protests in which the person being protested against also gives out money for other groups to protest in his favour. In this same country, we have witnessed protesters asking ‘protest coordinators’ for their payments openly.
I was told that with some few millions, one can hire protesters for a day job in Abuja, mostly from areas like Nyanya and Mararaba. Jobless youths and middle-age women are mostly the favorites of the protest merchants. As hopeless as the world think our situation is, we in Nigeria always find use for every being, and that is one of our peculiarity. Hence, the now booming protest industry is serving a good purpose of engaging the jobless and the vulnerable.
However, there is also a negative to everything. As we gleefully engage our youths and women in protest marches, there is no likelihood that we would make arrangements to make their lives more worthwhile and dignifying. Like the story of a tortoise who will never be given another job because he tells beautiful stories, we would never find another use for our protest warriors. And it is unfortunate that while protesters in other countries are taking seriously whenever they appear on the streets, the monetization of protests in Nigeria has made every protest a joke. As protesters now, you first must convince the public of your genuineness before you are accorded any attention.
Charly Boy is probably hoping that his Abuja protest would deliver results. But what he possibly doesn’t know is that in Abuja, protest is a business, a daily job actually. That explains while he is busy shouting #resignorresume, another set of protesters are asking Mr. President to stay away for as long as he needed to. While the latter group were reportedly being sponsored by the Presidency cabals, Charly Boy himself was reportedly being funded by the immediate past Ondo Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. The Nigerian Protest business is again becoming lucrative.
Muhammed Abdullahi is the mid-week “The Advocate” columnist of The Discourse. He can be reached on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter:@mfabdullahi