Here's an eyewitness account of the Police and Shiite protesters clash at the National Assembly.
Reaching for my National Assembly gate pass in a shuttle that conveys people into the complex, the sound of protesters chanting solidarity songs soon got the attention of everybody in the bus.
"Who be these ones again. Every day, one protest or another at this National Assembly main gate," one of the passengers said.
From that minute, I knew my day would not go as planned. I alighted and went closer to the scene to get relevant details for my story.
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) were protesting the alleged neglect of research institutions by the federal government.
While Dr Theophilus Ndubuakwu, ASURI's secretary general was addressing journalists, a large number of people began advancing towards the area. Immediately, ASURI protesters disappeared, giving way to the new group who came matching like military men preparing for battle.
"GOVERMENT, FREE ZAKZAKY, FREE OUR LEADER," the Shitte protesters chanted in a loud tone, declining Police instructions to stop.
"Stop there! I say, Stop Moving,” police officers commanded. These words felt like pouring water on a rock as the protesters (young men and women) numbering over a hundred moved closer to the gate of the National Assembly.
Senior Police officers were seen making calls to alert the Force Headquarters as more officers arrived the scene.
“My head o,” an onlooker shouted after the first gun shot by the Police, “Free our leader, Free Zazkaky,” the protester screamed even more. A situation which angered the Police.
Soon, teargas was thrown at the protesters. Immediately, these protesters picked them up and threw back at the heavily armed police officers. Such guts!
Despite the teargas, the protesters refused to go while the smoke soon disappeared.
Little did the Police know that some Shiite members were armed with gallons of kerosene to stop the smoke. The protesters came fully prepared after being disgraced by the Police on several occasions.
Observing the situation, the Senior Police officer asked that another smoke be dropped while he watched. Immediately that was done, a Shiite member rushed to where the device was dropped and poured kerosene on it. A police officer then reached for the young man’s cheek with a slap.
This irked the protesters who gathered the police man and others at the scene. A clash resulted between the Police and the protesters.
More teargas was fired and at that point, tears began to drop down my eyes as the air around totally polluted with the substance.
At this point, only two things were on my mind - good air to breath and water to drink.
Some women who joined in the protest began to seek a more suitable place to stay while others stayed back. Some men challenged the police officers to shoot them saying “your [police] gun have no bullets.”
As soon as I got a place to stay and water to drink, I sent a quick draft to my colleague, who broke the news.
The more bad air the protesters inhaled, the more they reduced in number. Other protesters who refused to leave were chased away by the Police.
But a man who defiled orders to leave, and tried to fight with the Police was chased, beaten with his trouser torn. He was left partly naked at the fence of the Federal Secretariat. How sad!
As I watch how things played out, a few questions quickly came to mind.
1. Why the force and attack on the Police in such manner?
2. How were the Shiite members expecting to win the battle?
3. It’s understandable that they want their leader released. But, how do you convince the government and other Nigerians that you’re a peaceful sect with such behavior? Is this ‘show’ not sending a wrong signal to the Nigerian government who has your leader in detention?
Nigerians laugh when it is said that "the Police is your friend." A few instances abound where the Police did not really shown that they are "our friends." The question is, will you act friendly to someone who acts differently?
The ASURI protesters were there before the Shiites, no teargas.
On several occasions, the police have prevented members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group from gaining access to the Presidential Villa. They have never been teargassed. And the list goes on.
With this, one can only imagine the next move of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) members in the quest to have their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky released.
Whew! What a day!