Seems like this date, 15th January 2010 will go down in the history of the Nigerians Abroad as a great day. Notably too, it was also the birthday of that great Icon of the Black race, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. although its celebration this year in the United States will be on Monday 18th January.
It was the day Nigerians from throughout the United Kingdom and Europe gathered in an 'Enough is Enough – Save Nigeria” protest rally in London, demanding good governance in Nigeria, protesting the unfortunate inclusion of Nigeria as a terrorist state, and to know the whereabouts of their President, one Umaru Musa Yar Adua, whose health/medical conditions and whereabouts have been concealed from Nigerians and the world for 58 days.
Despite the harsh inclement and freezing weather conditions, the Nigerians, from several organisations marched through Central London in an impressive turnout that began as early as 10.30 am, in front of the Houses of Parliament, in a small park called Parliament Square, with the famous Big Ben in the foreground and the Westminster Abbey in the background. Appropriately again, we were standing around the statue of that great British statesman, Sir Winston Churchill.
We danced, made speeches and proudly waved the Nigerian flags and banners, and enthusiastically distributed leaflets to tell the whole world about the irresponsible, unfocused, unsympathetic and corrupt status of Nigerian leadership which has inevitably led to the suffering and abandonment of the people in the midst of the nation’s abundant resources.
We sang both the old (Nigeria We Hail Thee) and current (Arise O Compatriots) National Anthems of Nigeria and chanted slogans such as:
• President Yar Adua, where are you?
• Nigerians are not terrorists!
• Nigerians For Good Governance!
• Enough is Enough of corrupt leaders!
• Save Nigeria Now!
It was a sight to behold and be proud of. Nigerians (UK population estimated at 1.5 million, according to the UK High Commissioner in Lagos) had taken to the streets of a foreign capital to demand CHANGE from the cabal of evil and corruption that have been holding them hostage, in bondage, in poverty and oppressed for close to fifty years.
Kayode Ogundamisi, Convener of Nigeria Liberty Forum and one of the organisers of the protest, addressed the moderate crowd of over 250, saying history was on the side of the participants. “We are here today for both the present and unborn generations of Nigeria. We are tired of corrupt leaders since independence. We might be living abroad but we must not forget our roots” and that he was using this rally to advise parents to allow their children to know the original history of Africa and Nigeria and to also learn the languages not just speak the English language, because that would amount to mental and psychological slavery.
Mr Ogundamisi also acknowledged and saluted the courage of the two patriotic Nigerians who demonstrated in front of the Nigeria Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine this week, without waiting for a large turnout of fellow Nigerians to join them.
Ms Abby Ojo, Co-ordinator of United and Positive Change in Nigeria (UPCINN), and a major organiser of this event, in her speech stated that to move Nigeria forward now depends on a united front of all Nigerians and the need to tell those in the corridor of power that 'enough is enough' since for too long, Nigerians have been taken for a long rough ride by our unscrupulous and selfish leaders.
Mr Akintokunbo Adejumo, Global Co-ordinator of Champions for Nigeria, in his speech, called for Change, respect and compliance for the Constitution of Nigeria, good governance, and urged Nigerians all over the world to demand change that will make Nigeria relevant in the comity of nations.
Mr Bob Olukoya, a legal practitioner and member of Action Congress UK also canvassed for the passage of electoral reforms which will stop any electoral manipulations come Election 2011 and beyond and the urgent need for all Nigerians to unite against our internal colonialists.
Others speaking at the rally included Hon Wale Oshun, a pro-democracy activist; Dr Ayo Owoade, Chairman of the AC, UK; Chuma Nwokolo, a UK-based Nigerian writer and political activist; Comrade Abdul Mahmud, veteran Student leader and political activist; Comrade Shina Oyedeji, London- based political activist; Zaynab Galadima, Youth activist/blogger; Dayo Israel, a Nigerian youth activist/Preacher; Mr Olukoya,a legal practitioner and member of Action Congress UK; , and Comrade Olamide Ayodeji of Ekiti Patriotic Front; Chinedu Vincent Akuta, activist/blogger and a member of Champions For Nigeria; Amos Akin Adejinmi of the Nigerian British Community Forum, NBCF; Akin Akisanmi of Surprise FM; Emeka Aneke, activist, and the indefatigable Dare Gani Lasisi, journalist and activist.
That indomitable comedian, Obonjo, a talented Nigerian humour merchant also added glamour to the rally with his political satire and rib-cracking jokes and launched his YES WE FIT campaign.
Dayo Israel, a Nigerian youth activist/Preacher also took reference from the Bible where Prophet Moses challenged dictatorial Pharaoh to 'let his people go'.
Other notable faces include the “Champion Mother”, Mrs Juliannah Balogun-Oke, she of the high-achieving quadruplets; Modupe Debbie Ariyo of AFRUCA; Segun Alli, an activist; Comrade Abdul Mahmud, veteran Student leader and political activist; representatives of the Southern Minorities Movement for Advancement; and a friend of late Anthony Fatayi-Williams who was killed in the London bus bombing in July 7, 2005.
The following notable organisations represented were the Nigeria Liberty Forum, Champions For Nigeria, Citizens For Change, Action Congress UK, Ekiti Patriotic Front UK, UPCINN, Arise Nigeria Organisation and Save Nigeria Group UK.
In order to stress that this protest is not about any tribe or race in Nigeria, speeches were given in Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo (the three major languages of Nigeria) and duly interpreted to the enthusiastic crowd with great applause.
The protest moved to the Nigeria High Commission in Northumberland Avenue, going through Whitehall (the stronghold of the UK Civil Service, passing in front of 10 Downing Street and the Horse Guards, and then on to Trafalgar Square to arrive at the Nigerian High Commission, where the protest continued and where representatives of the major organisations submitted protest letters and petitions to our diplomatic representatives for onward transmission to the Federal Government of Nigeria in Abuja.
The well-attended rally only had two uniformed British police officers assigned to the event, a clear indication that the United Kingdom authorities, whose permission to hold the rally had to be sought and given, are very much conscious of the fact that Nigerians living abroad are generally law-abiding. The uniformed police officers even too pictures with the demonstrators and just watched passively and benignly, asking us questions and getting answers about our country.
A majority of the Nigerians had taken the day off work and travelled long distances to be part of history in London. They had come from far places in the Midland England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France to witness the historic event despite the freezing weather.
Comrade Abdul Mahmud gave the vote of thanks at about 530 pm to round up the peaceful demonstration that started at 11.45 am, expressing gratitude to all Nigerians that contributed to the success of the protest and hope to see them again for further protests to demand for credible, democratic and transparent leadership in Nigeria.
It was a historic and poignant day for Nigerians in the UK and indeed, all over the world. There are sure to be more protests in other world capitals. Despite the presence of the opposition political party, Action Congress, UK Chapter, the protest was largely non-partisan and non-political, but mainly humanity oriented. Every Nigerian, irrespective of political affiliation, tribal or religion was welcome.
The recognition and commendation for the success of this protest march, unarguably the first of its kind in the Diaspora, should go to Kayode Ogundamisi of the NLF and Ms Abby Ojo of the UPCINN. And of course, to all Nigerians who braved the weather to make a stand and to make a point or two to our Government in Nigeria.
As a Champion, I was glad and proud to be there.