Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, has strongly criticised the federal government following the cancellation of a proposed anti-government protest being organized by popular Nigerian singer, Innocent Idibia, commonly known by his stage name, Tuface.
The protest was initially scheduled to hold on Sunday, but the organisers later moved it to Monday, February 6, the day President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to return to the country from his 10-day vacation.
But the Nigerian Police Force warned Tuface to cancel the proposed protest as it had intelligence that some hoodlums were planning to hijack the exercise and create disorder in the society.
The police also said that it could not guarantee the safety of anyone who participates in the protest and would use any means to ensure that law and order was maintained.
This prompted the musician to release a statement late Saturday, announcing the cancellation of the scheduled protest.
“Dear Nigerians, after due consultations, it has become clear that the ‘One Nigeria’ protest scheduled to hold in Lagos and Abuja on Monday the 6th of February is under serious threat of hijack by interests not aligned with our ideals,” Tuface said.
“The point I am intent on making is not worth the life of any Nigerian. It is, in fact, motivated by the need to demand a better deal for the ordinary Nigerian.
“I therefore announce the cancellation of the planned protest. We’ll share further information in due course,” he added.
However, in a series of posts on her social media handle on Sunday, Ezekwesili maintained that Nigerians have the right to cry out their pains when they feel that things are not going well in the country, and it is the responsibility of government to provide them with a platform to so do.
She called on “President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (to) allow the people of your Land CRY OUT their pain on Monday,” urging them to “listen, empathize & rethink policies.”
The former minister, who is also the co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, campaign group, blasted the Nigerian Police for saying that it could not provide security for the people taking part in the protest.
“Mr. President, Mr. VP, your govt cannot secure your citizens that want to gather and speak their pain to you? haba. haba,” She tweeted.
“Mr. President, Mr. VP, the people of your land are crying out in pain. Ask God for wisdom to give them a good answer,” she added.
Ezekwesili noted that the government should listen to the plight of the masses and not force them to keep quiet.
“Mr. President, Mr. VP, When the people of your Land CRY OUT in PAIN saying, “Lighten our yoke”, you listen NOT REPRESS,” she wrote.
The planned protest gained traction with several public figures and civil society groups pledging to be part of it on Monday.
Meanwhile, a Civil Society Group, called “Enough is Enough Nigeria”, EiE, has said that despite Tuface’s cancellation of the proposed protest, it would carry on with the plan without him.
The group said it understood Tuface’s concerns but said the matches in Lagos and Abuja would go on.
“We respect Tuface’s security concerns but the marches in Lagos and Abuja will go ahead. #IStandWithNigeria #OneVoiceNigeria.”
Tuface had said that what informed the idea of a nationwide protest was the worsening economic situation in the country, which has led to tremendous increase in the costs of goods and services skyrocket, with many families struggling to survive.