Nigerians old and young will always remember January 1st 2012 as the day the sky fell on their heads or how else would one describe the government’s removal of fuel subsidy? The decision shot up the price of petrol from N65 per litre to N141 per litre, a 116.9 percent increase, the highest single jump in the history of fuel price hikes in the country. Government said the decision was taken to free up cash and better our economy, creating more jobs and wealth but Nigerians saw the decision as a cruel and thoughtless gesture which would only worsen the current situation and aggravate the suffering in the land.
It was reported that the United Nations (UN) commended President Jonathan for withdrawing the subsidy on petroleum products, and described the move as “a bold and correct policy”. While this policy might in other circumstances and in a nation other than Nigeria have been a good one geared towards a better future, one must realize that because of the level of corruption in the nation, the freed cash would not alleviate the people’s suffering but would make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
While the cost and standard of living in Nigeria have depreciated over the years and the majority of Nigerians live from hand to mouth, the cost of maintaining those in government has been on the increase, at the expense of national development. In countries like Singapore, leaders have taken serious pay cuts so that more funds can be devoted to developmental issues but in Nigeria, the reverse is the case and the president’s shameful attempt at cutting down on his cabinet’s expenditures when translated to naira barely scratches the surface of their undeserved income.
The billions lavished on the lifestyle of government officials could have been used to get our refineries functioning one hundred percent but heaven forbid this as many of these corrupt officials are rumoured to own refineries outside the country and charge the government to have our crude oil refined and would rather take the last naira from the poor than part with their kitchen allowance! Nigerians were not ready to allow this! Majority of Nigerians were already living on less than one dollar a day. The outcry was nationwide.
A people who had mourned in silence, seemingly powerless when Boko Haram struck, rose up with a vengeance refusing to have the last morsel of their bread taken away from them.
Nigerians had taken a stand and rejected the burden put upon them for it was too heavy to bear. Subsidies had been removed in the past, many Nigerians remembered bitterly how things turned for the worse with the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and the International Monetary Funds (IMF) reforms. The government used these in the past as an opportunity to rob its people of subsidised healthcare, education and a life they could afford and yet all they got in exchange was biting poverty and a bunch of empty promises and now history threatened to repeat itself.
The cost of goods and services following the removal of subsidy has increased by more than a hundred percent. How are we to survive when our incomes have not moved an inch and what’s to happen to those who were already on strike because they had been given a pay cut? How will the common man survive it when in 2011 he could hardly feed his family? The only people not affected were those who don’t know what it is like to work hard for a living and yet be unable to pay bills. These people were mostly in the upper class and were those supposedly entrusted with governance of the country. How does the security guard at my office who earns thirty thousand naira monthly and has two children in school pay his bills when he now spends about ten thousand naira a month on transportation alone to and from his office? How do Nigerians survive with the eighteen thousand naira minimum wage? A removal of subsidy from government’s expenditure on its cabinet would generate the funds needed and not that of the masses.
After failed dialogue with the Federal Government the Labour and civil society groups called a strike which commenced today and Nigerians were encouraged to come out on the streets and protest. The turnout was impressive all over Nigeria. The protests in Abuja were led by the workers Union President Abduwaheed Omar and in Lagos, his deputy Joe Ajaero led the protesters who took off from the Labour union secretariat at Yaba at 8.00am.
Nationwide citizens had staged “Occupy Nigeria” mass demonstrations since the removal of the subsidy, with police responding forcefully in some cases and three confirmed dead and many injured. Only in Nigeria do policemen hold guns and tear gas to fight off peaceful protesters rather than shields and batons with orders from the government. A government whose constitution allows freedom of speech and expression and who swore to protect and serve. After what happened at Tahrir square in Egypt, Nigerians are confident that the power is with the people and the nation can be brought to a halt. The government has remained passive about the goings on in the nation and have decided the siddon look approach is best till Nigerians come to terms with the change but they underestimate the people who voted them into power and the strength of a united nation. Even the Muslims and Christians in the North were admirably prepared to lay aside their differences for a common cause.
Many voted Jonathan into power hoping he would be a breath of fresh air but for some reason his every move has let them down and left us in the arms of despair. When I look at him, I do not see a wicked man, I see a weak man whose lack of character has prevented him from doing the good which he knows he is to do. Maybe the lure of a good life allows him the luxury of casting a blind eye to the sufferings of his people after all as far as he is concerned, he had no shoes as a kid and levels don change now. Maybe he has a grand master plan that will in years from now give the handful of survivors left in Nigeria a chance at a better life but would he kill millions now so that one day the remnants can praise him? Or could it be that his good intentions are thwarted each time by the political godfathers he answers to?
Nigerians do not need a figure head president. We do not need a president who will run off to his little corner of heaven while his people face hell. He has incited his people and he will be made to answer for his negligence and insensitivity. Nigerians will not stop till they have a chance at a life not worse than yesterday’s. May God help our president because it is better to fall into the hand of God than the hands of men for God is merciful. If he knew anything about history and repercussions he would have damned his advisers and done that which is in his heart for I truly believe that deep down he feels for his people but his hands have been tied and allowed to waste away by the powers that be. There are other ways to better the economic situation of Nigeria and 1600 buses is laughable. The ceremony for the buses probably cost more than the buses. Will more buses bring down the cost of food or other living expenses? Nigerians say No!!!
The strike continues…
Nigerians please let it remain a peaceful protest. Please occupy with one voice and without violence so that the government’s folly can be apparent to all.
May the souls of Mustafa Muyideen and Ademola Aderinto rest in perfect peace and may their killers know no peace.