Occupy Nigeria: Year 2012 something snapped!

by Esther Eshiet. By the time you read this the 52nd Independence Anniversary of my country, Nigeria, must have passed but this year’s Independence Day for me is different from the rest that I have witnessed in my 25 years of being a Nigerian.

As a child, May 27th being Children’s Day and October 1st our  Independence Day were two special dates; most especially the later. I would mark down the dates in my calendar and look forward to because it was a holiday and on that day we would head to the stadium as patriotic citizens to show the love we have for our country with clean white socks and well –ironed uniforms with hands swinged in unison and eyes straight looking into the skies.

As I grew older, I began to think more of our independence and the 'concept of freedom'. What does this really mean to me, to the average Nigerian and how it translates to our aspirations as a Nation?

I have long read several historic books on the brevity of the founding leaders of our nation who stood to fight the colonialists to win our independence; however this sounded like a bed side story, a fairy tale, a novel because I couldn’t connect what transpired back then, but the year 2012 was different as something snapped in my country! It was the national protests against the removal of fuel subsidy!

Nigerians from all works of life, trooped to the streets from Abuja to Lagos, Kano to Benue in reacting against the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government. It wasn’t one of those rented crowds or incentive- enticed protests but real Nigerians hitting the streets to reject the nature at which the subsidy removal was orchestrated by government.

For one week, the #OccupyNigeria protests spread from city to city and through citizen's power, the pump price of fuel was reduced to N97 (60 cents)  from N140 (86 cents).  Though the movement didn’t achieve all its demands, for the first time in a long while Nigerians really stood up from their rights!

So as marked our 52nd Independence Anniversary on October 1st 2012, I celebrated a people that have risen to reclaim their place, a people that have decided to speak even when it seems like they are not being listened to, a people that have decided to almost quit complaining, a people that even when not enough has changed in the past one year, they have decided to work extra hard to make ends meet.

Though a lot might not have change in the country since our last independence celebration, certainly Nigerians have proved that though they may be silent, that silence does not and should not be misconstrued and an inability to speak. 

In my opinion, through the #OccupyNigeria movement, we have once again earned our right of independence and freedom! Happy 52nd Independence Nigeria!

* This is a follow up article of SID journal Development Vol. 55.4 'African Strategies for Transformation'.