Pro-ASUU Protest Songs Of Disappointment Against PMB By Oludayo Tade
Public protests have become a common feature of contemporary societies where citizens communicate their dissatisfaction with government policies, actions and inactions. Public protest is a democratic platform for the government to understand the feelings of its people and to responsibly assuage their pains and discontents. Through public protest, public space is contested and appropriated between the state and citizens. Since protest can expose flaws in governance and the void of those in power, it is also functional in driving social change and another form of political participation. It is this contestation of public spaces between the state and the civic public that evokes memories that are communicated by protesters with their placards and chants. This piece attempts an interpretative understanding of how protest songs allow us to dissect the relationship between government and people, as well as appreciate how bad governance evokes memories of broken promises. It elevates the agency of the people to challenge bad governance, deride exploitative leadership, and call for positive change in the affairs of state. It gives participants the opportunity to catalog the existential challenges facing Nigerians and the difficulties they face in coping with them. I have used some of the songs composed by union activists and other Nigerians who took to the streets on July 26-27, 2022 to express their displeasure against the more than five month long strike launched by the Universities Academic Staff Union (ASUU) and the nonchalant attitudes of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and his ministers in resolving the issue. Although the Nigeria Labor Congress dragged its feet as the protest was long overdue, protesters lined the country’s roads carrying placards reading such as ‘end ASUU strike permanently and get our kids back to school,” “stop doing college riding projects,” among other things.
“Everything we say…. end the ASUU strike,” kicked off the protest in Ibadan. Strong and frail old men and women, young adults and teenagers who felt the need to express their feelings about Nigeria joined the protest. As we walked through the NLC secretariat to the Agodi-gate junction, they sang “e ma ba ilu je mowa loori, e balu je mowa lori, kosomo yin Kankan ni naijiria, e ma balu je mow a loori”. This is a pointed attack on the destructive act of the parasitic ruling class whom the protesters have asked not to destroy the common heritage because their children are studying abroad and profiting from Nigeria’s money. This is a clear warning to Nigerians not to invest their votes on those who do not consume what they serve Nigerians. As the strike continues, some governors have gone abroad to attend their children’s graduations, but they have failed to provide similar world-class institutions for the children of the masses back home. This, for the protesters, is a strategic way to destroy Nigeria for the masses since they have a clearly laid out plan B for their families. How could Nigerians be tricked into voting for someone whose children studied abroad but were said to be poor? Will someone who seeks treatment abroad and not at home commit to providing quality health facilities to Nigerians? The rest is history and hopefully the Nigerians have suffered enough to make the right choices in 2023.
The demonstration also allowed demonstrators to ask questions about broken promises made by members of the government. To demand accountability, they sang “O ti yara gbagbe gbogbo re ileri ri re igba ipolongo, ase binti logbon ori e, iwo ti a ro poo gbon”. This song recalls the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari regarding fixing the economy, fighting corruption and fighting terrorism and his promise to lead from the front. The song shows how office perks make office holders forgetful. It shows a transition from someone who promised to have a positive impact but triggered misery. It explains how unreal and deceptive political parties and their candidates have deceived Nigerians who are currently experiencing plummeting fortunes in all areas of their lives since the birth of this government over seven years ago.
Through song, ‘gbogbo yin le lowo nbe, gbogbo yin le lowo nbe, bi Education se dayi, gbogbo yin le lowo nbe. Buhari naa lowo nbe, Osinbajo Lowo nbe, Ngige na lowo nbe, Tinubu naa lowo nbe, Atiku naa lowo nbe, Atiku naa lowo, bi Nigeria se dayi, gbogbo yin le lowo nbe’ (you are all guilty, you are all guilty, the way education and Nigeria is today, you are all guilty Buhari is guilty, Osinbajo is guilty, Ngige is guilty, Tinubu is guilty, Obasanjo is guilty The way Nigeria is today, you are all guilty), protesters historicize the cumulative contribution of bad leadership to the current state of affairs. The mentioned Nigerian leaders also raise a fundamental question about the quality of leadership that Nigeria has had, its level of degeneration and the diminished attention given to critical social institutions such as education by the successive administration. Protesters lamented the rising prices of food and related services in the country. As they paraded peacefully through the streets of Ibadan, I heard behind them “Ta lo mu gaari won? Buhari lo mu gaari won. O le Iyan wo le, o le eba wole, o wa joba lori owo wa Buhari lo mu gaari won” (Who is responsible for the rising price of gaari? Buhari is responsible. beyond the reach of the common man and yet he uses our money as he sees fit). Inflation is creating unaffordable food, which rightly angers protesters, as the prices of gaari and rice have risen leading to hunger and malnutrition (O ye ka binu, o ye ka binu, gaari won , rice won, petrol won, gas won, ebi n pa mekunnu oo ye ka binu). This is attributed to the poor economic management of the presidential team and the lack of political will to tame the insecurity. The inability to get food is seen as a major challenge and that is why protesters chanted ‘when my daddy born me I have no oppression sabi, when my mommy born me , i don’t have oppression sabi, i don’t have impunity sabi, i don’t have impunity sabi, i don’t do corruption sabi, i don’t do terrorism sabi, i don’t do sabi terrorism, another challenge oooo another challenge ooo, another challenge ooo double double challenge ooo.” As entertaining as it is, it tells us about the endemic impunity in government circles, the apparent inability of the government led by Buhari to deliver a decisive blow to the terrorists and bandits who have started putting their sinister hands in the eyes of the PMB safe areas.Would it be the corruption that would explain such shortcomings or the incompetence of the department heads or the deviousness contractors of war? Either way, the protest points to these failures with an urgent demand. people of positive change.
Although the protest ended with an ultimatum given to the government to end the strike, public protests are essential for the social change the public should engage in to demand accountability. The questioned words have utility value for re-examining and renegotiating the social contract between rulers and ruled. From the songs, the Buhari administration is able to appreciate how successful it has been and how Nigeria is now more secure than what it inherited from former President Goodluck Jonathan and how under their watch, Nigeria was promoted to the exalted position of poverty capital of the world with $1 exchanged for N710 naira! The deception of 2014 and its failure to correct it in 2019 have plunged Nigeria into this dire situation. Will voters make the same mistake again in 2023?
Dr Tade, a sociologist writes via [email protected]