The Nigerian government forces on Monday subdued a revolution march intended to be held across the country simultaneously, allegedly in protest against bad governance.
Heavily armed security operatives were seen in parts of the country, beefing up security and taking control of areas where the “revolution” protests, spearheaded by a former Nigerian presidential candidate, were to start.
In Nigeria’s economic hub, Lagos, the protest failed as police patrol vehicles and those of the military were stationed at the two main entrances of the Teslim Balogun Stadium where the protesters had converged.
As early as 7 a.m. local time, protesters wearing orange color caps had started to team up in that location. No placard or banner was displayed by the protesters who only chanted revolution songs and rained abuses on the government.
They also called for the immediate release of the mastermind of the protest, Omoyele Sowore, a former opposition presidential candidate who contested and lost the presidential election earlier this year on the platform of African Action Congress (AAC) party.
The national secret police on Sunday confirmed the arrest of Sowore, who was taken into custody on Saturday because “he called for a revolution in Nigeria”.
The secret police accused the detainee of being in touch with foreign actors to destabilize Nigeria, saying the call for revolution poses as a national security threat.
“There won’t be any revolution, the government that has been elected democratically will be in place, there will not be any forceful takeover of government and the DSS (the secret police) will not stand idly by and watch self-serving people take laws into their hands,” said a statement sent to Xinhua by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The police had earlier described the planned protests as an act of terrorism and treason while calling for caution. However, protesters defied that order and insisted on taking to the streets.
Tijani Fatai, a police commander in Surulere area of Lagos, where the protest was to begin on Monday, said they dispersed protesters at the Teslim Balogun Stadium because their assembly was “unlawful”.
Mohammed Ali, the head of operations at the Lagos police command, also told reporters that the protesters failed to obtain the necessary permit to carry out the planned protest.
“Their planned protest is unlawful. They did not obtain permission for the protest,” Ali said. “Anyone caught fomenting trouble and disrupting public peace will be dealt with according to law.”
In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the heavy presence of police at the Unity Fountain in Maitama area of the city, the rallying point here, prevented the revolution protesters from teaming up.
Nyesom Wike, governor of the oil-rich state of Rivers, gave a directive to security agencies in the state on Sunday to take all necessary steps in prosecuting those who stage the protest in the state, especially in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
In Osun, a state in Nigeria’s southwest region, the protest was also quashed as protesters turned back after seeing a heavy presence of security in the city of Osogbo, the state capital.
In the city of Benin, capital of the southern state of Edo, protesters who had earlier gathered at the Oba Ovoranmen Square turned back in droves after sighting the strong presence of security operatives.
Residents in the state went about with their daily activities thereafter.
In response to plans for a nationwide protest, the Nigerian government has said that the only way to change the government in a democracy was through the electoral process.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said the government would always welcome peaceful protest by the citizenry to express their grievances, but noted that peaceful protest was different from incitement for revolution.