By Leke BaiyewuSome of the leaders of the January anti-subsidy removal rally in Lagos have described President Goodluck Jonathan as insincere over his claim that the mass protest against the removal fuel subsidy was sponsored by a political class in the state.
The leaders, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH, include the Convener, Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare; political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi and the first son of the late human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Mohammed.
Jonathan had last Tuesday exhumed the controversy, when he alleged that the mass action, tagged; Occupy Nigeria, and organised by civil society groups, was manipulated by an unnamed class of people.
He had said, “Look at the demonstrations back home; look at the areas these demonstrations are coming from, you begin to ask, are these the ordinary citizens that are demonstrating? Or are people pushing them to demonstrate?
“(During) The demonstration in Lagos, people were given bottled water that people in my village don’t have access to. People were given expensive food that the ordinary people in Lagos cannot eat. So even going to eat free alone attracts people.
“They go and hire the best musicians to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain. Is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government?
“I believe that that protest in Lagos was manipulated by a class in Lagos and was not from the ordinary people.”
In his reaction through a text message to our correspondent, Bakare alleged that the President back-stabbed the masses, that had influenced his emergence as late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s successor.
He said, “One word is sufficient to define the president’s thoughtless comment – bunkum. I hope he and his handlers understand the full meaning of the word. In case they don’t, he should supply the names of the imaginary sponsors.
“It is indeed true that the people that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. Human memory can be so fickle. Otherwise, how can the same President Jonathan, who benefited from the civil protests that birthed the “doctrine of necessity” which cleared the way for him to become the acting president, now turns around to blaspheme the same process that once benefited him.”
Also reacting, Utomi, in an interview argued that there was nothing wrong with a protest against an anti-people policy of a government, even if it was sponsored.
He said, “I don’t know if anything is wrong, where the protest was sponsored. If the president understands politics and democracy, then he will know that political parties can organise and mobilise the masses for protests or public awareness campaigns. These are tools and vehicles of politics.
“I can equally be referred to as a sponsor of the protest because I led the professional bodies, which held a rally in Ikoyi, Lagos. The President should know that the political parties can organise public or mass action against a government that is not doing the right thing.”
Similarly, Mohammed said civil society groups were ready to take to the streets again, if government failed to fulfil its promises to the people.
He said, “The President does not understand governance or care about the feeling of the people. How can any government increase the pump price when it is obvious that the economy of the common man depends on petrol?
“Nigeria has what it takes to be one of the greatest countries of the world but for lazy and incompetent leadership. The government should think of the masses.”