Monday, 16 January 2012

It's not over

Today the government unilaterally announced a partial revocation of its previous fuel subsidy removal, as well as a few nominal concessions to tidying up government. It then put soldiers on the street to make sure nobody protested, shot in the air and fired teargas at protesters to keep them quiet, and temporarily closed down the CNN and BBC offices in Lagos. It had already paid off PENGASSAN, the oil union, not to go on strike as it had previously announced. The general labour unions first suspended street protests and then the strike in a climb down that did not represent the protesters feelings.

Though the totalitarian methods used surprised many, including governors, an ending with unfinished business was to be expected. The protests were of a scale never previously seen under a non-military government, and the awakening of a new, active, young, technologically savvy, middle class protesting group is likely the most important outcome. Discussions were ongoing about how this momentum could be preserved and used in the days ahead, right up to the next general election. There is certainly a lot for this group and others to work towards: Less corruption, better distribution of oil wealth, infrastructure investments, reduced government costs, better representation and reduced costs of living to name but a few. Groups like EIE and Save Nigeria are already uniquely positioned to carry on the protest movement, but others will have to be born to channel the energy.

Importantly the protest needs success: None of the demands expressed in the video below have been achieved. Citizens will now be watching with new found confidence whether the promises governments makes are implemented and sufficient. If our reforming instincts are met with even some success, then the protesters of today will be uniquely positioned to lead change through the 2015 elections.

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