The unrealistic expectations from protests in Nigeria

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Crying is a way by which people, especially babies, express pain, discomfort, sorrow or need. Seeing someone cry draws our human emotions, empathy and urge to help the person. However, some children abuse crying to extort people to get or do everything they desire. When adults start crying like babies, instead of studying to understand and tackle issues, they appear weak and noisy. Likewise, without understanding or creating systems for organic growth in the society, constant protests are seen as extortionist noise and empty threats.

Many Nigerians quickly resort to protests, insults, blames and ultimatums to demand different social services or actions from government. Like helpless babies or toothless bulldogs, they file out to protest after massacres, crises, blackouts, official looting or restrictive policies. Since they lack sustainability for these protests, they quickly disperse after some time or after government settles few of the conveners. These protests often use fire brigade approach for beginning with loud threats and agitations, which they cannot sustain. So, government officials learn to ignore or violently disperse the protesters without expecting economic repercussions.


Having a true right to protest

Consistent progress in a society grows on the principle of freedom to produce and exchange goods and services. What gives an individual the power to demand other people’s products is what they produce and can hold back when their demand is not met. So, if a person produces or invests in producing rubber for tyres, tools and other gadgets, the person gets a right to demand something from them. For his rubber contributes to agriculture from tractors, transportation from tyres and other industries and products that use rubber.


Like other users, governments require some portion of people’s products as tax to regulate the society or provide intercommunal and interstate infrastructure and support in electricity, roads, schools and other products. Hence, people must give something to get something, not just get something by crying, cursing and protesting. If a person is not intellectually, materially or socially relevant in the social and industrial network for, he can be easily ignored. So, apart from the inalienable gifts of nature like life and freedom, people must pay to get other people’s products.

Losing the moral right to protest in Nigeria

“You cannot eat your cake and still have it.”


British colonialists created Nigeria by violently imposing land-expropriation law to merge various unconsented kingdoms and communities[1] for exploiting human and natural resources.[2] So, the primary function of Nigerian government is not to supply the people’s needs, but to hold them down for former colonialists to exploit resources. The amount of resources the former colonialists exploit determines how much products they supply to Nigerian government. Since the crude oil era, colonialists mainly exploit crude oil from Niger-Delta communities, and pay Nigerian government as gatekeepers.[3] Then, the government creates states and ministries to share few foreign products to distract the Niger-Delta communities, and to gain other people’s support in the exploitation.

By sharing in the free foreign exchange from exploiting Niger-Delta communities, other people abandon the effort to own and develop their own lands and resources. These are the resources they could have used for industry in order to earn their living and right to protest or pay for amenities. Now, they lack both courage and knowledge to use their lands and resources for advanced industry. Also, they lose the moral rights to protest by supporting and depending on other people’s exploitation, while neglecting their own productivity. Thus, their protests and demands for more roads, electricity, jobs, schools, amenities and even security can be ignored.


A government that robs Peter to pay Paul always count on Paul’s support to rob Peter. Once a person is stained by sharing from other communities’ exploitation, he loses the moral authority to protest. He will remain pliant to humiliation and manipulations.” And your cries of marginalization or not getting ‘enough’ shares from exploiting others will remain as hypocritical as asking for more share from a robbery.

How effective are protests in Nigeria?

Protests are aimed to get the government to act in a certain way, or refrain from some actions. When productive people collectively and sincerely reject something or demand something from a tax-receiving government, government yields. This is because their protests can extend to refusal to work and crumbling of the economy.


But, due to lack of a consented and productive network in Nigeria’s formation and rule, Nigerian protests lack a united front. So, when a section protests, other rival tribes or groups counter, mock or frustrate them in retaliation. And by sharing consumption, government exploits the differences in tribe, religion or party to keep people distracted from having a productive common purpose.


So far, Nigerian governments view and treat protests in Nigeria as negligible and temporary noise. Some others enact laws to ban protests as “distractions to their functions.” While Nigerians who either benefit or are untouched by immediate tragedies regard them as foolish disturbances.

What are the better alternatives to protest?

“He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.”[4]


To demand anything, one must have something to trade for them. But neglecting one’s ancestral lands and industrial possibilities, in pursuit of other people’s resources, robs one of trading power and potentials, and renders one’s protest insincere.


A true alternative to protests in Nigeria will be to educate people to discover, own and utilise their lands and resources for sustenance, trade and tax. [5] Having the right to their lands and resources requires allowing others to retrieve and use their own resources for productivity, trade and tax. Thus, Confucius states that “he who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.”


But, as long as people expect benefits from Nigerian system, they will not have the courage for true protests. And Nigerian government will not take them more seriously than some cups of rice and coins to be tossed around.


[1] S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” in Issues contemporary political economy of Nigeria (edited) Hassan A. Saliu, op.cit, p.57

[2] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf publishing Inc. 2009), p.273

[3] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “African politicians as moral scapegoats for postcolonial exploitation” in Restartnaija.

[4] Maxim, in The free dictionary,

[5] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “The social research for a new Nigeria” in Restartnaija June 5, 2018. retrieved 22nd December, 2019