Senator representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Babafemi Ojudu yesterday defied the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu’s ban on the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ protests in Abuja.
The senator showed his defiance for the ban by leading protesters to the Unity Fountain – meeting place of protesters for ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ to demand the release of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram on April 14.
Ojudu, who held a placard with the inscription: #Bringbackourgirls”, said it was dictatorial and illegal for anybody to ban protests in a democracy.
He was joined in the protest by some of his legislative aides, who also held placards with similar inscriptions, while one read: “#BringBackOurGirls… The right to dissent is inalienable”.
The senator said he was out to protest Mbu’s illegal order banning the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaigners, insisting that even President Goodluck Jonathan does not have the power to violate the inalienable rights of Nigerians to stage peaceful protests.
We had earlier reported that Mbu placed a ban on further protests by ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ group in the nation’s capital, saying their presence around the Unity Fountain and some other areas were posing a security threat.
That ban was later over turned by the Inspector General of Police, M.D Abubakar, who said the Nigeria Police under his watch, had not banned any peaceful assemblies anywhere in the country.
Speaking at the protest ground on Tuesday, Ojudu said it was erroneous to insinuate that the protests to bring back the abducted girls was being sponsored by the opposition; in apparent reference to a statement credited by the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who claimed the protests have been hijacked by the All Progressives Congress.
Jonathan, he added, would not have become Acting President without protests by Nigerians in 2010.
He said: “I am here this morning to solidarise with the women of Nigeria who are protesting the abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok.
“Yesterday, I picked up the story that the Police Commissioner in Abuja has banned the protest and I said to myself, this must not be allowed to stand.
“I was originally scheduled to be in Sokoto this morning to address a conference of top civil servants, I had to call it off to engage in this symbolic action this morning to solidarise with the women.
“It is our right to protest. Our right to protest is guaranteed by the Constitution of this country and it is also affirmed by several rulings of the highest court in the land.
“Nobody, nobody, either a policeman or the President has the right to abridge the inalienable rights of Nigerians to protest.
“I want to say boldly that Jonathan today is a product of protest. I was here in 2010 three times with Prof. Soyinka, Pastor Tunde Bakare and several other patriotic Nigerians to protest so that the right of Jonathan as Vice President to assume the position of Acting President could be affirmed.
“We protested. We ensured that the Constitution of the country was enforced at that time. Why should he then, just because he is President decide to abridge our rights to protest?
“Protest is a legitimate action all over the world. Anywhere in the world where there is democracy, protest is a legitimate action and that is exactly why I am here”.
Asked whether his action was to dare the police, Ojudu responded in the affirmative, adding: “I am daring the police. I am saying that I am a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I know the Law and I know the implications of my actions.
“I am saying that the Constitution of Nigeria which is the ultimate law of Nigeria, affirms the right to protest. So what the man has done is illegal. He has committed an illegality and his illegality must not be allowed to stand.
“We are not in a dictatorial regime. We are in a democratic regime and we must all behave as democrats.
“If we do allow this to stand we are walking into a dictatorship. But it must not be allowed to stand. Nigerians have the right to protest. They have the right to protest things they did not agree with.
“Why should anybody in his right senses say that people should not complain that more than 200 girls have been taken away since all these weeks and somebody would say don’t go and protest?
“If it had been their own daughters or children would they have said nobody should protest? Why did Jonathan as Vice President in 2010 ask us not to come and protest in Abuja here?
“They actively encouraged people to come to Abuja here to protest and we protested. It is now the turn of somebody else, you are now saying they cannot protest. I am saying that I have the right under the law like every other Nigerian apart from my being a Senator.
“Every single Nigerian has the right to protest whatever action that has been carried out by the government that they did not agree with”.
On Maku’s allegation that the protests were sponsored by the opposition, Ojudu, who is a senator on the platform of APC, said: “Does anybody need to sponsor this protest? Anybody who is a human being, any decent person would be outraged by the abduction of more than 200 girls.
“Is the All Progressives Congress (APC) sponsoring Obama’s wife or all the groups across the world that are protesting today? Are they all members of APC?
“Any right-thinking human being must be outraged and do something about this situation. We must not allow ourselves to be cowed.
“We must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed. Whether I am APC or no APC. There was no APC between 1992 and 1998 for God’s sake when constantly I was writing and protesting against military regime in Nigeria”.
He urged the women to return to the park and continue their protests because nobody can gain victory without struggle.
Ojudu described the protest ban as illegal, unjust and immoral, adding: “For anybody to say they should not protest is very wrong under the law, it is wrong in morality and it is unjust”.