Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.
On Tuesday the 13th of October, 2020, the youths of Asaba held an #EndSARS protest at the Government House, in Asaba, Delta state, in line with the series of ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country.
During the protest, something new happened. While protesters gathered in front of the government house and protested in the rain, the governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, offered the protesters the sum of two million naira for “refreshments,” a gift that was vehemently rejected by the protesters.
In an article written and published on Daily Post by Michael Omonigho, a false account of events was reported. The post alleges that “protesters in Asaba have engaged in fisticuffs over Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa’s largesse,” and that “the physical combats [led] to the point of hurting themselves over the money that was allegedly given to them.”
Here’s an interview with Ifeoma Ojeifo, one of the protesters, on what happened at the protest.
So, give us a rundown of events.
On October the 13th, the youths in Asaba set out to protest years of unchecked police brutality for the second time in the last week. They turned out en masse. The crowd was energetic, loud music blasted from speakers perched on pick-up vans, gyrations, and chants of ‘ENDSARS.’ They didn’t even mind the hot sun.
Yes. I was in the office, so I saw them march past my office building at about 11 a.m. and proceed towards the State House of Assembly. I later joined the crowd at Ekwumekwu roundabout, and I was happy we were doing this again, this time surer than we were the last time. After protesting at the House of Assembly, we headed straight for the government house.
On the last protest, we could not meet with the governor, so this time, I think we were more determined to see the governor. The moment we converged at the government house, we began chanting his name: ‘Okowa’. We didn’t pay heed to other people who wanted to speak to us. We wanted the governor and no one else.
Did he show up?
He did, and everyone gathered closer to hear him. Our spokesperson was Mr Emmanuel Udenzua. He was the one who brilliantly presented our grievances to the governor. Cynthia Onoriode Alu and a third person spoke as well.
How did the governor react?
He was receptive. He listened to us and took note of our demands. He even agreed that a reform was long overdue in the Nigerian Police Force. It all went well until the governor finished his address.
Oh wow. What happened after he finished his address?
After he addressed us, those who spoke on our behalf (Emmanuel Udenzua, Cynthia Onoriode Alu and the third person) were asked into the government house. I don’t know what transpired, but the three spokesperson came out with money speculated to be two million naira.
Two million naira?
That’s what they said.
Money for what?
They said it was ‘refreshment money.’
Interesting. How did the protesters react?
The crowd immediately rejected the money, chased them back and told them to return the money. A seemingly peaceful event almost became chaotic and confrontational in that moment. While one of them returned the money, the other two stayed outside with the crowd, pleading and explaining that their intention was to come ask the crowd if we would accept the ‘refreshment’ given to us by the governor. Apparently, our rejection of the money was both a unified and non-negotiable decision. The rain began then, yet the crowd waited for the money to be returned.
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So you can imagine my shock — in fact, our collective shock as protesters — when we found out on the 16th of October that one Mathew Omonigho had written an article in The Daily Post alleging that “engaged in fisticuffs over Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa’s largesse.”
Why? What for?
Who knows? At first, I found it funny to think that he assumed the cash gift was such a generous act, and imagined us, leaving our jobs and joblessness, fuelling our cars, risking our lives to come share a two million naira “largesse.” But when I read the article again, I was more enraged at the boldness of his allegations than how insulting the whole thing was. It would have been easy to overlook, but this is a crucial moment and allegations like this cannot and must not be overlooked.
At a time like this where traditional media has weaponised silence and shunned all calls to lend their voice in calling out the blatant impunity of the Nigeria Police Force, we cannot afford to let this lie go unchecked. We also cannot afford any kind of journalism that wilfully ignores the truth for personal gains. What Mr Omonigho has done is everything professional journalism stands against. It is both shameful and disgraceful. By publishing his untruth, The Daily Post brings their credibility under scrutiny.
We have seen traditional media underreport and misreport the #ENDSARS protests since they began. While this continues, those of us who observe the truth will continue to document it. For the information of the Nigerian people and for posterity. We will not allow untruths to flourish. #ENDSARS
We have seen traditional media underreport and misreport the #ENDSARS protests since they began.While this continues, those of us who observe the truth will continue to document it. For the information of the Nigerian people and for posterity, we will not allow untruths to flourish. #EndSARS.
We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how to unfuck yourself when the Nigerian government moves mad. Check back every weekday for more Zikoko Citizen explainers.