A desire to address injustices, especially those perpetrated by the Nigerian government against its citizens, is something Daniel Olatunde has always had, but when the Chibok Girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, he knew that was the last straw.
“The primary responsibility of government is to protect the lives and properties of citizens, but that failure was unpardonable,” Daniel told Peacemaker 360. “I remember in my secondary school days as class prefect, I protected my classmates and sometimes took the lashes for them.” But when the government was unable to protect over 250 students from being kidnapped, he decided to join the BringBackOurGirls campaign. This work led him to found Citizens of Impact Foundation (CIF) in 2016.
CIF works to educate people on their rights and to lead and assist campaigns to end government corruption in Nigeria. This corruption takes many forms, from government officials stealing money outright from educational, health care, and infrastructure budgets, to an “old boy’s network” whereby good jobs are not publicly advertised, but go only to the children of elites.
“The government’s injustice actually cuts across the board. Some of the elite’s children have looted and stolen from our citizens’ patrimony, depriving them of the benefits of being citizens. They get plum jobs through the back door, and vacancies are never advertised, leaving the less privileged citizens to languish in poverty. . . . These citizens have no access to quality health care, as the monies budgeted yearly for infrastructure are carted away by these elites whose sole aim is to satisfy their greed. . . . This is totally unacceptable and it cuts across the length and breadth of the nation.”
On a typical day, Daniel works on social justice cases for citizens who have their rights infringed upon by sending correspondences to authorities and institutions, and following up cases via calls and emails. The important thing, he told us, is, “the need to ensure that fairness and justice is served to citizens not by knowing a top government official, but by having a just and fair system entrenched in our institutions so we don’t have to travel the road of injustice daily.”
In 2016, CIF led a campaign protesting illegal recruitment in government organizations, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, and the Nigerian Prisons Service. First they pushed the campaign on social media for three weeks, then they had a two hour press conference the day before the protest, and finally on 27 July 2016, approximately 20 people joined and carried signs on a route that led past the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation–the office that oversees those institutions.
CIF had expected more people to come out, but Daniel said that many people are timid, laid back, or don’t understand their rights as citizens. In addition, the general level of fear of stepping out of line is high. “We were taught while growing up to always mind our business and also to leave things to God, which has greatly affected citizens’ abilities to confront issues.”
Even though they had gotten a permit for the protest from the police, the Department of States Security met with them a week beforehand and tried to dissuade them from holding the protest. “We were very firm and told them that firstly, we cannot be stopped from holding the protest as it is our constitutional right as citizens to hold peaceful protests. . . . Also, a few days later we got a call from a different [government] organization requesting we don’t hold the protest.”
The risks of holding even a legal, nonviolent protest include being attacked on social media, and even being physically followed and assaulted. People who work in government jobs do all they can to protect their identities, because they risk being victimized in the workplace, and it is possible to be shut out of government jobs entirely.
Still, CIF held the march. And as a result of that and subsequent pressure, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is now publishing vacancies for the first time and giving citizens a chance to apply.
CIF is also working on a campaign against the Nigeria Immigration Service, an organization which trains recruits but then only selects those with elite connections. Currently a lawsuit is being brought against the government, and CIF is supporting the lawsuit by promoting it on social media, and standing with the members against intimidation.
“Seeing injustice drives me on to get justice,” Daniel said. “Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and God Almighty inspires me. My vision to see genuine smiles on the faces of citizens keeps me going.”
Daniel may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, at his blog at activistdanielseun.wordpress.com, via the CIF website at www.citizensofimpactfdn.org, on LinkedIn as Daniel Oluwaseun Olatunde, and on Facebook at facebook.com/danielseunolatunde or on the CIF page at facebook.com/citizensofimpactfoundation.
Peacemaker 360/ Maija Jespersen