Occupy Nigeria activists did not take to the streets today. However, pro-Jonathan demonstrators reacted to pro-subsidy marches by staging their own movement, arriving to Port Harcourt on minibuses in order to show their support for the Federal Government’s decision. Gathering at 9 am, they marched north up Aba road, down to Diobu road, and then to Rivers State Government House (the site of Occupy Nigeria’s protest on Tuesday).
Most of the anti-Occupy Nigeria demonstrators were Ijaws from oil-rich Bayelsa, the ethnic group and home state of the President. They came out with two aims in mind. First, they announced their allegiance to the current administration. They cautioned that if anyone attempts to assassinate Jonathan then northerners will emerge to testify as to how he died. Their remarks allude to the fear that the protests, in conjunction with the discontent caused by Boko Haram violence, are enough to bring about an attempt on the President’s life. The second purpose of the protest was to criticize the National Labour Congress’ unnecessary national workers’ strike. Pro-Jonathan speakers stated that Nigerians should both go back to work and support the President’s decision to lift the subsidy. They further accused the NLC of complacency in the period after the extrajudicial killing of Niger Delta human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995, arguing that the NLC had a duty to speak out against the injustice of his execution.
Today’s march was led by the former leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Asari Dokubo. Dokubo is a militant-turned-politician who ran for Rivers State office twice in the 190s. He has lived in Abuja since being granted amnesty two years ago. It was the perception of some of the Occupy Nigeria mobilizers that Oronto Douglas, Jonathan’s strategic advisor on the Niger Delta, helped to fund the minibuses that delivered the demonstrators from Bayelsa State, but this is not at all confirmed.
The demonstration was peaceful overall, except for a scuffle over the distribution of free t-shirts. The shirts depicted the images of Asari and Saro-Wiwa along with the message, “Sovereign National Conference Now!” The purposed pan-Nigerian conference would bring together representatives from all ethnic groups to chart a path forward for the country. Such a conference feels far removed from the current crisis here.