Saturday, 14 January 2012

#OccupyNigeria: Between 'Strike' & 'Protest'

As 2011 rounded up with the fall of the 40-year-plus totalitarian Libyan regime, many observers reached the conclusion that such a revolution would wreck the fragile social fabric of sub-Saharan Africa if it ever happened to occur in the 'frontier' region. That scenario is currently being tested as Africa's biggest oil exporter - Nigeria - is currently under 'occupation', ironically, by her own citizens.

However, there are clear divergences between the triggers that sparked the Arabian Spring and the Nigerian case. In north Africa, these massive uprisings were mostly initiated by the citizens with decades of suppression and sinister containment of the citizenry by government serving as the main catalysts. In Nigeria, on the other hand, the protests - actually a strike action by the labour unions - can be safely approximated to knee-jerk reactions to the removal of subsidies on Petrol Motor Spirit by an 8-month old government, even though it may have served as an opportunity to protest against the wider corruption, excesses and inefficiencies of government. This divergence is particularly noteworthy because it is inconceivable that Nigerians may be asking for the resignation of President Jonathan - a duly elected leader - under a year into his administration. The #OccupyNigeria movement is increasingly becoming laced with an unfortunate lack of focus and concentration on the issues at hand. As is obvious from various sections of the nationwide protests, political opponents of the Jonathan administration have seized the opportunity to appeal to the fancies of the protesters. A growing challenge has become the dynamics of managing the protesters by the leaders of the labour unions. It is also remarkable that the more common word on the streets is now PROTEST, not STRIKE, even though it was initiated under the legal framework of the latter. The strike action initiated by the national labour unions is slowly slipping out of the control of the union leaders. I perceive that a call to end the strike by the union leaders may not necessarily end it since a critical reference point has been developed in the mind of the common protester - the Arab Spring mentality - which essentially usurps the initial motivation for the mass action. The situation is becoming more fluid and getting potentially difficult to place a timeline on when and at what point the protest will really end. 

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