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Here's why protest is a 'lucrative business' in FCT

Like the makers of coffins 'pray for people to die,' Bashir and his friends pray for protests so they can get extra cash.

500 Protesters declare for Buhari, Emefiele, others [PHOTOS]

The world over, protests signify public outcry or disapproval to a particular situation, policy or action.

In Nigeria's capital city, Abuja, protests serve two basic purposes - outcry and moneymaking.

To most people, protest is synonymous to moneymaking in the FCT.

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Apart from the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), most groups hire protesters who they pay after the 'job' is done.

As a journalist, one of the things I love to report on is protests - for the regular stories and other interesting things that happen behind the scene.

Mostly uneducated young men mostly from the northern part of the country form a larger part of these protesters.

About 90 percent are oblivious to the reason for the protest - they came for something else, the money.

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Sometimes, solidarity songs are 'remixed' as the words are interchanged by these protesters.

A striking feature of these Abuja protesters is the fact that same group of people protest for different groups - they protest for 'Group A' today, and against the same 'Group A' tomorrow if 'Group B' offers a better pay.

Interesting, isn't it?

Bashir (not real name) is regular face during protests in Abuja.

My first encounter with Bashir was during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership tussle in June 2016. Mobs loyal to Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff had taken over the national secretariat of the PDP.

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Both groups held vigil at the secretariat for a week before the building was finally shut down by the Police.

On the first day, Bashir was at the Makari's group, it was alleged that the 'organiser' paid them N2,000 per day - the organiser also got alcohol and cigarette 'to keep them at alert.'

I was shocked to find him in Sheriff's camp the next day.

Asked why he changed 'camp' he said: "The man that brought us is paying us N2,000 and these people are getting N3,000. That's why I joined them today."

Bashir, 23, is an indigene of Madagali, Adamawa state. He fled his village in 2011 to Kaduna due to Boko Haram attacks in the state. He came to Abuja with a friend in 2015.

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Aside from his job as a cobbler, Bashir joins others in protests for a fee.

The more the protests, the more money for Bashir and others. Like the makers of coffins pray for people to die, Bashir and his friends pray for protests so they can get extra cash - profits they can't make from their businesses a day.

"When we hear that there is a protest, we are very happy," Bashir said during the recent pro-Buhari protest.

Asked how they get information about these protests, Bashir said: "You know with phones, it is very easy. I hear from my friends. Also, the organisers can also call us directly because we write our names, phone numbers and sign before we get paid."

He gives a detailed account of how they are mobilised.

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"If we hear of any protest, we will either come to the Unity Fountain by ourselves or sometimes, they will bring a bus to carry us.

"Then they will give us shirt and cap and all these papers (placards) to hold. The person will also teach us the song to sing and tell us not to tell anybody that they will pay us. "He said we should not talk to people like you (journalists), but since I like you, I will tell you, but don't write my name or use my picture.

"After the job, then they will wait for people like you to go then the man will pay us our money  - sometimes, N2,000, N3,000 or N5,000. He will take the remaining. Then we will go home," he said.

Recently, a woman who reportedly marched for Buhari was seen begging for N100, from some I Stand With Nigeria group at the Unity Fountain, Abuja.

The word 'protest' is gradually losing its meaning in our society. What this means is that anybody can 'organise' a protest provided he/she can pay people to march across the streets.

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With the biting effects of recession in Nigeria, this trend may not end anytime soon. That's if it ever will.

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