The man behind the Onitsha #EndSARS protest speaks.

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ONITSHA HEAD BRIDGE #ENDSARS PROTEST

The man behind the protest that happened at the Onitsha head bridge that kept the bridge locked for about 8hours speaks, as he let world know what he thinks about protest in general and also how we could achieve the New Nigeria.

Tobe Osigwe, made this known on his Facebook page.

Tobe Osigwe on the move to Onitsha Head Bridge Protest

Full details below.

On Tuesday 20th of October 2020, Ugochukwu Onyekaba, Ebuka Okafor, Nonso Okafor, Elochukwu Maduekwe, Onyedika Atoke, Kenechukwu Nwa Obiofia and myself alongside two mask heads; Etuetu Eme-eme and Eze Umu Okolobia left Nnewi on foot. We marched through Ichi, Ojoto and Oba communities. Our destination was Onitsha headbridge, our mission was to shutdown the headbridge for 24 hours and thereafter address the nation with our demands.

Now let me quickly state this, am not a fan of protest. I believe it should be the last resort of the common man in expressing his grievances.

Many at times there is little or no difference between the crowd seen in a protest and an angry mob. No matter how peaceful a protest is, managing the crowd and their shenanigans at times may turn a peaceful protest into a display of hooliganism.

Due to my inherent dislike for protest because of how easily it can degenerate into something else, I ensured our number will be extremely limited. This way we can control our actions and keep the protest sane as we join our fellow youths all over the nation in expressing our discontent towards the activities of the Nigerian Police. Now, knowing that our number is so small and may likely make our movement look like a joke I added the two masks to create spectacle.

Onitsha head bridge protesters.

Did we get to Onitsha headbridge? Oh yes we did. Did we capture the mind and attention of the nation? Oh yes we did. In fact, the bridge was blocked by passionate Nigerians immediately we hoisted our banner and they remained in their best behavior till the end.

Did we address the nation? No we did not. Why were we not able to make our address? It is simply because the political class as usual stepped in and paid few Okpoko boys to disrupt a very peaceful and organised protest. Immediately, the boys desecrated the protest by destroying our banner and clearing the roadblock on the bridge I instructed my colleagues that it is time up.

Despite several pleading from the myriad youths begging that we should not go and most importantly that I should give them the go ahead to counter the Okpoko boys, I refused. I told them that once they try to repel the advances of the Okpoko boys, fracas will start. This was how we ended our 8 hours shutdown of Onitsha headbridge.

Now, here is my takeaway. First, it is important that a protest should have a clear cut leadership. The job of the leader is to ensure the protest is not hijacked by malevolent and extraneous forces. For example, members of the separatist group, IPOB, tried to hijack the protest at the headbridge but we resisted them. Some tried to burn the Nigerian flag but they dare not touch were it was put. Also, the leadership should ensure that one single pin is not lost or people’s commodity commandeered in the name of protest. In addition, the leadership should be sensitive enough to know when to give signal for all to fall back. All these can be achieved by the leadership constantly reminding the people why they are protesting and what protest means.

This brings me to my second takeaway- a protest must have an intellectual arm. The intellectual arm must be ready to dialogue with the crowd. Nigerians are extremely angry but they are not stupid. For example, when Umu Iyo wanted to destroy the Army post at the headbridge we confronted them and gave them unassailable reasons why they shouldn’t. We proved to them that the property in question belongs to them and it was built with their money. Immediately, they ceased their destructive mission. Also, many onlookers questioned the logic one United Nigeria, we were able to counter all their arguments.

Read also: Details of protests that broke out around the nation on Ebonyi News Network

Finally, my last takeaway from the protest is this, the present carnage that followed after the peaceful protest all over the country should be squarely put on the footstep of the government. It is clear, that we have a government that does not know how to negotiate with protesters. Rather, they always try to use force and this tend to escalate the situation rather than douse frayed nerves.

For example, when Ohaneze Youth group came to beg us to reopen the bridge and we told them that the bridge will not be opened till we address the nation the next day. Within, the 5 minutes they left with their tails behind their back the Okpoko boys struck. The intel we got was that they paid the boys to scatter the peaceful protest. Assuming, we were not on top of the situation the story of the Onitsha headbridge protest would have been different.

Now, let let me sound this note of warning, violent protest will never lead or birth progressive change. Rather it will turn our nation into another Somalia or Southern Cameroon. We do not want this no matter how much our political class have raped us and cornered our commonwealth. The true essence of the protest i believe is to register our voices and perhaps bring the government to the negotiation table.

The two mask head at the Onitsha Head protest Bridge

The NEW NIGERIA we want will come through spiritual fiat not through protest or violent exhibitionism. This does not mean we should fold our hands and wait hopelessly. No, it means, we should know the limit to our physical involvement as we demand for a better Nigeria. No single Nigerian is supposed to die in our quest for a better Nigeria. Neither is any private business or public property worth destroying in our quest for a NEW NIGERIA.

To this end, I want to thank Ogbuefi Ezenwata of Eziowelle who carved the two masks employed on the mystical March to Onitsha headbridge. I also want to thank my best friend, Oluchi Tobe-Osigwe, for her support and faith in me on this journey. I also want to say thank you to my sister, Chisom Pearl Osigwe, for her dedication to this course.

A New Nigeria has come.

Ikolo Muo!

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