Nigerian freelance journalist in the United Kingdom, Mrs. Rose Graham, whose footage of anti-Muhammadu Buhari protesters at Chatham House two weeks ago has now gone viral, tells TOBI AWORINDE that she was not paid by the All Progressives Congress for her support
What happened at Chatham House on March 26, the day of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s talk?
I had never been to Chatham House; that was my first time there. I was given a description and saw a young, dark-skinned man. I just knew he was going there, so I followed him. When I got to Chatham House, right in front of the building, I saw the demonstrators getting ready. I felt General Buhari was not in yet and that it would be embarrassing for him because these people would put their placards in his face. I then told myself that before his arrival, I would quickly find out from the people why they were there and allow them to vent their anger about the military rule in the 1980s.
I wanted to find out if that was the reason why they were doing what they were doing. There is something I have come to notice: A lot of Nigerian youths do not understand and they are not concerned or do not want to know anything about those who rule them. Sadly, most of us are more interested in the latest fashion, cars, hairstyles, music, movies. We often complain: ‘We don’t want this old man. Obama was 22 years old when this guy was president; why does he want to be there again?’ But are we doing what we’re meant to be doing? That was why I walked up to them.
I first chatted with them and made myself familiar, before I went back to speak to them with my phone so I could get their responses on tape.
How many of them did you find protesting?
I am sure they must have been up to 25. After a while, the crowd grew larger. Later, APC supporters, made up of some activists that I know personally—family men and women—also gathered. The APC supporters were quite older than the youngsters who were protesting against the General. The youngsters came with music and they were beating drums.
At a point, they were making a lot more noise than the APC supporters. It was around then that I walked up to them to tell me why they were protesting, if they knew the person they were protesting against, and why they were taking a stand.
What led you to believe it was a rented crowd?
There was a lady there that I interviewed who I had met before. I had been introduced to her sometime in the past by my husband and we hit it off and promised we were going to meet again. But, as it turned out, there hadn’t been time for us to meet because of my baby. That was why I had not had time to see the lady. I know what she does; she is someone who usually organises people.
Based on an interview I had with her and another lady in a separate video from the one that went viral, it was clear that there was a collaboration. When I inquired from the other lady, she confirmed that she provides such services for people who require them and she seemed to be doing very well. I don’t know if the protesters were paid for that particular rally, but that is what I and a number of others have been able to piece together.
I walked up to them expecting them to say ‘No, we were not paid to stand here. We are just doing it out of our love for our country.’ But they did not even know who they were protesting against. As a result, APC supporters came together because they did not want the General to be embarrassed. They got there very early as well, came together, got their placards and they were also singing and chanting solidarity songs.
Social media is awash with allegations that you were paid by the APC to make the now-viral video of anti-Buhari demonstrators who could not defend their acts of protest. Has any party approached you either for support or to threaten you?
Yes, and I will refer you to what I have already made available for public consumption. I have been pushed and asked to work for President Goodluck Jonathan and that I should bring a budget. They said I should not worry; if I wanted to come to Nigeria, they would bring me. They told me that I would stay at so-and-so hotel and do this and that in exchange for compensation. But those were conservations on the phone. The ones that I put out there were sent to my inbox.
When I showed them to my husband and told him I didn’t want to be party to any of this, he told me what to tell them. So, I wrote a reply telling them that this was not what I was cut out for. I engage people; let us talk about how we can turn Nigeria around, because eventually the old politicians will step aside and we must rise to the occasion. Or are we going to let their children take over from where they left off? Are we going to let them claim Nigeria like it is their birth right to rule over us? No. If we are talking about 170 million people and we have well over 60 million youths, what are we doing? Or do we want the intelligent ones among us to be carrying bags for the old politicians and smiling to the bank? No. Instead, we should also step in to see the kinds of contributions we can make.