By Joshua Onuekwusi Esq*
In light of the brouhaha generated over the planned protest by popular Nigerian musician Innocent Idibia known as “2 face” attributing the reasons for the protest under the following subjects: Education, Health, Transparency, Cost of Governance, Power and Unemployment which are, according to him, fundamental problems plaguing the Nigerian nation and in view of the censure of the planned protest by major government interest and security agencies; I took out time to explore and ponder on what the role of non-violent protest is in a democratic setting and the legality or otherwise of the Public Order Act under Nigeria extant laws.
Permit me to take brief detour of some historical nonviolent protest from the early 1930’s.
When Mohandas Gandhi began his famous Salt March on March 12, 1930, he could not have known the influence it would wield on the history of India and the world. Not only did it play a major role in India’s eventual freedom from British rule, but it also went on to inspire future protestors to incredible acts of nonviolent. Under British rule, Indians were prohibited from collecting or selling salt—Britain had a monopoly on that staple product, and taxed it heavily. Gandhi assembled his supporters in 1930 to march from his ashram to the Arabian Sea to collect salt from the ocean. The crowd snowballed along the way; more than 60,000 Indians were arrested for breaking the salt law. It was an ideal method of protest, because collecting salt was a completely non-violent activity and involved a commodity that was truly important to Indians. The protest continued until Gandhi was granted bargaining rights at a negotiation in London. India didn’t see freedom until 1947, but the salt satyagraha (his brand of civil disobedience) established Gandhi as a force to be reckoned with and set a powerful precedent for future nonviolent protestors, including Martin Luther King Jr.
By 1963, African-Americans had been freed from slavery for a century yet continued to live lives burdened by inequality in every realm of society. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was intended to push lawmakers to pass legislation that would address these inequalities, and its organizers were so successful that more than 200,000 supporters turned out for the action—double their estimate. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered perhaps the most famous speech in American history, his “I Have a Dream” address, at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and the leaders met with President Kennedy afterwards to discuss their goals. The march was credited with helping build support to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Occupy Nigeria was a non-violent sociopolitical protest movement that began in Nigeria on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday, 1 January 2012. Protests took place across the country, including in the cities of Kano, Lagos, Abuja, and at the Nigerian High Commission in London. The protests were characterised by civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike actions, demonstrations and online activism. The use of social media services such as Twitter and Facebook was a prominent feature. Protesters shut petrol stations and formed human barriers along motorways. Nigeria’s main trade unions also announced an indefinite strike and mass demonstrations from Monday, 9 January 2012 unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed which was eventually addressed by the then government. Continue reading “NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND THE LEGALITY OF THE PUBLIC ORDER ACT IN A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT”