Subsidy Strike: Entertainers Take Over Mass Protest

Posted on January 10 2012 , at 05:09 pm
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By Lamide Akintobi

Olu Maintain and eLDee at today's protest

‘Let me entertain you’, as the line in the song by British artist Robbie Williams goes, is apt to describe Day 2 of the mass protest that took place in Lagos at the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota today.

Popular Fuji musicians such as Malaika, Salawa Abeni, Pasuma, Tekoma, and Ata Wewe performed, alongside artistes like Olu Maintain, eLDee, Eedris, Zeez, Dudu of Krazy Kulture, Seun Kuti, Femi Kuti, Dede Mabiaku, Djinee, Bez, Sound Sultan and others. Apart from musicians, entertainers Gbenga Adeyinka, Desmond Elliot, Ufoma Ejeanabor, Bimbo Akintola, Wale Adebayo, Kunle Afolayan and Portia Yamahan were spotted in the crowd and on the stage.

With Pastor Tunde Bakare and other activists speaking to a crowd much larger than yesterday’s, today appeared much more organized – A larger stage, sophisticated P.A system, negligible police presence, and a refined message.

Despite staying adamant on the reversal of fuel prices to N65, speaker after speaker also railed against government corruption, excessive spending, the lack of infrastructure and the seeming lack of concern for Nigeria’s poor, who make up over half the country’s 140M people.

The crowd at Ojota, many of them low-income earners, shouted and chanted in agreement with the message, with many smaller groups walking around the park with placards condemning the Federal Government and corruption, with some even asking for the president’s resignation and expressing their unhappiness with sayings such as: ‘Don’t Trust the man who had no shoes’. T-Shirts with slogans such as ‘Kill Corruption, Not Subsidy’ and ‘I Love 9Ja’ were also common.

Musicians who went on stage echoed these messages, adding performances to keep the crowd’s attention. But while they seemed to be enthused, for the most part, there were aspects of the ‘entertainment’ that were questionable.

Sound issues affected most performances, but this wasn’t as important as the selection, and attitude of some of the entertainers present. Many of them came, spoke to the crowd, performed a song, and left shortly after. With the exception of Seun Kuti, Dede Mabiaku, eLDee and Kunle Afolayan, among others, it seemed some were there to make sure they were seen to be part of the struggle, without actually staying to protest with the masses. Perhaps the organizers saw value in attracting celebrities to help work the crowd, but selecting a singer whose hit song is about cyber-crime, material wealth and extravagance was questionable, to say the least. ‘Yahoozee’ singer Olu Maintain also threw his diamond ring and gold watch into the crowd, prompting a mini-frenzy. Eedris, whose song ‘Jaga Jaga’ was a hit a decade ago, also had a lacklustre performance. Overall, the atmosphere was more like that of a free concert, than a gathering of protesters.

For the non-performers, many took time out for photo ops and networking, while unanimously condemning the subsidy removal and corruption.

Unlike Day 1, it was a more commercial setting, with increased buying and selling going on. A big negative was the free flow of marijuana around the park, with people openly wrapping and smoking hemp, which may have contributed to small pockets of disorder around the stage area.

Elsewhere in Lagos, on the island, former presidential candidate Pat Utomi, and rapper-designer Sasha were among other citizens who protested from Victoria Island to Falomo, stopping at the homes of ACN chieftain Bola Tinubu, Zenon Oil boss Femi Otedola, and boardroom veteran Oba Otudeko.

The protest enters day 3 tomorrow.

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