Recently, the country tottered, literally, on a precipice. At least that was what the police made us believe when singer Tuface wanted to lead an anti-government mass protest.
Acting President Yemi Osinbanjo let his aides tell Nigerians they have the right to demonstrate against perceived bad policies of government. And when the protesters did march in select cities of the country, Osinbajo replied; “we heard you loud and clear”.
The hoodlums the police feared would hijack the protests were nowhere to be found on that day. Even the Police, the DSS and NCDS stood by as the protesters marched and had their fill.
This is a big lesson for the security agencies that always panic and threaten brimstone and fire on the slightest indication of anti-government protest by the people.
We hope this one instance of Osinbajo-let-them-alone- protest has educated them to a basic fact in policing.
That fact is that the end of intelligence gathering is for the maintenance of public order and not an abuse of a human right; this is the right to dissent in a democracy. Despite Tufae volte face, a day to the planned protest, Nigerians marched out.
Dissent is a democratic asset without which the elected cannot feel the pulse of the electorate at certain juncture in the interface between official policies and public interest.
When the people know they have a stake in governance, they are inclined to participate from any corner they occupy in the social strata.
For that reason, a democracy needs regular doses of dissent to keep it in healthy service for the people.
If the police officials were true to themselves they would have by now realized that their fears that hoodlums would hijack the protest was a ruse.
Indeed, that fear was the first thing to fall down as the protesters marched in a number of places- Abuja, Benin city, Ibadan, Ijebu-Ode and Lagos. No hooligans, but hundreds of Nigerians who marched to express their genuine feelings about the unexpected rash of government policies or inaction driving them into grinding poverty.
Ironically, that same week in the US, the country that gave birth to todays democracy and claims to promote it globally, was been stressed by anti-Trump protests. Same week, Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, was occupied by 500,000 of its 1.9m citizens protesting against corruption in government.
Are our police abreast of global events at all? Do they know the world has become a telecommunication village and people are shopping in one events stop shop called the Internet?. Are they an active part of the Interpol?
Doubtless, the police suffer many indignities, if not injustices, which range from poor pay, inadequate and insanitary accommodation, lack of proper kits and nepotism.
But these handicaps, endemic and systemic, cannot be used as excuses to seek to abridge the rights of Nigerians to self –expression in a democracy.
We hope that the peaceful conduct of the protest has allayed their fears and has become a lesson for another day.
We commend Acting President; Yemi Osinbajo for rising to the occasion and saving Nigeria from a huge embarrassment the police action would have put the country at a time of synchronous global events.
With a masterly stroke of diplomacy at a critical point in this administration, Osinbajo displayed inspirational leadership so uncanny in our country.