One of the hallmarks and pillars; nay, benefits of a virile democracy is the leverage given to the citizenry to express their dissatisfaction and disapproval of government’s action and policies either through the Ballot or Protest. And the latter is most cherished as it is a branch of Free Expression – a right protected in every democracy. All’s lost in a supposed democracy when a people’s mouths in that entity are muffled in apartheid-styled manner by security agents from expressing dissent. Sadly, such a situation comes with a price – alternative expression of dissent through the bullet! Consequently, this piece of protest writing is done in solidarity with Ilaje students who had their legitimate peaceful protest against a 6-year ‘blackout’ in Igbokoda, the headquarter of Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo State, Nigeria; broken up with unlawful and brutal force by policemen stationed in Igbokoda; resulting in bodily injury and arrest of some of the students. Here are the facts.
Reports have it that on Wednesday, 10th of December, 2014 a company of students under the umbrella of National Association of Ilaje Students (NAIS) embarked on a peaceful protest and marched on Igbokoda in Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo state; to decry and declaim the lack of power-supply in Igbokoda, an oil-producing community in Ondo for over 6-years. The band of protesters marched on OSOPADEC and NDDC office where they were attacked by policemen attached to the Igbokoda Police Station. They were shot at and Ibukun Obayelu, a student of University of Benin was hit on the thigh by a bullet. He collapsed and was ferried to the general hospital, fatally injured. And the police further arrested Victor Adeya (President of the Association), a 300-level Quantity surveying undergraduate of University of Lagos; Busayo Ebiniyi of Kwara Polytechnic, and Olanrewaju Oretan, a Biochemistry student of University of Port-Harcourt. [See: the Nation, Thursday, December 11, 2014)
Now, what is important to note is that the student association obtained police permit before it carried out the protest.
Ilaje community is the resource jewel of Ondo state, Nigeria for it is the oil-spitting goose that lays the golden egg which enables Ondo state to be part of the Niger-Delta; thereby qualifying her to earn the additional 13% Derivation Fund from the Federal Government of Nigeria, in addition to her monthly allocation. It smacks of unconscionable socio-economic injustice and robbery to leave Igbokoda in ‘darkness’; without the light on for over 6-years. And to add salt to injury, when the enlightened fragment demand explanation form the authorities that manage the oil-wealth – they are pounced upon, harassed, shot at and dehumanized like mere outcast and criminal. When peaceful protest is made impossible by the high handedness of government agencies, it certainly makes violent protest and militancy attractive and inevitable. What is the essence of having the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Ondo when it cannot provide at least an hour of electricity for the Ilajes? Is the Amnesty Program just to enrich and empower some few warlords while the communities that bear the real brunt of oil exploration are left to wallow in abject poverty and underdevelopment?
The Ilaje students protest is just an inkling and expression of the general disaffection of the people with the untoward direction of development programs in oil-rich communities in the Niger-Delta. If our resources cannot make life better for us all, then it is in the process of becoming a curse and burden to us all! Let there be light in Ilaje! Let the dignity and rights of the students breached be redressed! #BringBackOurLight in Igbokoda, Ilaje!