As we reported earlier in the month, Nigeria was practically brought to a standstill for six working days as economic and other commercial activities were paralysed by national outrage against the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy, which Nigerians had enjoyed for years.
The removal of the subsidy had seen the price of petrol jump from Naira 65 (€1 = N207) to Naira 141 per litre. The federal government, however, was forced to back down mid-January and fixed the price instead at N97, a decision that brought some relief and started a gradual return of peace to the country.
This Day told the tale of the “comical and thrilling moments that sustained the momentum” of the protests and of how, from Abuja to Lagos and from Kano to Ilorin, protesters were united as they brought forth the creativity in them for a common cause.
Although the protests had their downside – with “hoodlums” and “area boys’ hijacking peaceful demonstrations, people being assaulted, armed robbery and shops looted, it was overall a positive experience. Artists and musicians joined in and there was an air of carnival on the streets and in the parks. Religious barriers were put aside with Chrisians and Muslims acting together and protecting each other. In Kano, commercial sex workers, also known as “run girls”, took part and withdrew their labour, saying the subsidy removal would affect their business too.
Many Nigerians believe that the most important lesson learnt from the strike is than Nigerians despite their differences can be united for common purposes, a phenomenon that can be used to forge unity in the country. The protests also provided an opportunity for young Nigerians, many with mobile telephones with web access and active on social media, to assert themselves. Like their North African counterparts last year, they organised protests through Facebook and Twitter and have now established the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ movement.