Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In the first day of 2012, Nigerians were still reeling from the unexpected murder of Christians at Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, a market town in Niger State only 30 kilometers from Nigeria's capital city Abuja when President Goodluck Jonathan announced the removal of subsidies on the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol. As expected, the reaction was swift and a people noted for complacency sprang into action. There were calls for Jonathan's head as the reality of the removal of subsidies hit home. In a manner that impressed me, Nigerians closed ranks against the government and asked for an explanation. No wait...., they demanded an immediate reversal of the government's decision to further enslave them with economic policies that favoured only the rich. The atmosphere was tense. Nigerians had had enough and not even Jonathan's gentle mien and the tireless explanations of his henchmen was going to cool tempers. What made it worse was the rumour of foreign economic invasion. Nigerians could not and did not trust IMF and World Bank who they have come to regard as the evil sisters and an extension of neo-colonialism. Christine Lagarde had asked African countries to remove subsidies to stem corruption and allow for economic growth, and Nigeria followed that directive joining countries like Cameroun, Chad, Guinea and Ghana.

The Jonathan led government cited reasons like smuggling, corruption, debt and development of basic infrastructure for removing subsidies, but many Nigerians already living below $2 a day, saw him as a sell out, especially after Lagarde's visit to the country in December 2011. Apparently the government had been paying N79.70 on per litre since the pricing template of the PPPRRA shows that the landing cost of a litre of petrol is N129.21, also showing the margin for transporters and marketers at N115.49, bringing the pump price of petrol to N144.70. Since the people paid N65 per litre for petrol, it meant government took the burden to pay the difference of N79.70. In spite of these calculations, with some claiming that subsidies did not exist in the first place. Nigerians do not believe that the government's decision to remove subsidies are in their interest, and who can blame them? The memory of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), an IMF-World Bank initiative which saw the practical collapse of the Nigerian economy is still fresh in memory. From the Nigerian point of view, nothing good can come from IMF's plans for Africa.

So the Nigerian masses take to the streets in almost every city of the country, demonstrating their unwillingness to let a government whose astronomical spending is oddly out of place with the economic realities on ground, take them for a ride. On a good day, this should excite me. I am tired of ineptitude. I am tired of the vicious circle of poverty that forces the average Nigerian to seek greener pastures in foreign lands that takes issue with their Nigerianness. I am tired of trigger happy cops and a country riddled with ethnic and religious crises. So how come two days into the protests, I have lost faith in the people?

The first day of the protests, cities like Lagos and Kano witnessed a huge turn out of protesters. Lawyers, traders, and students stood shoulder to shoulder and sang anti government slogans. For a moment, it did not matter that your tribal marks or prayer mat in your hand differed from the rosary on my neck, we were united against a common foe. It was a moment to stretch hands across the wide gulf brought by ethno-religious crisis as never before in the history of the country has the dichotomy between the Northern and Southern regions of the country grown so wide. It wasn't long before we were recording casualties as Ademola Aderintobi became our first martyr in the struggle against the government. The death of Ademola added more fuel to the fire and the will of the people to continue the protests was strengthened. However, something strange began to happen. Suddenly, the protests were turning to a carnival of all sorts. In some parts of the country, hoodlums merged with the crowd and caused mayhem. In other parts, musicians entertained the protesters with music and fanfare and failed politicians and former political jobbers took the podium to spew anti-government rhetoric. Boy, did this protest lose focus or what?

Now, I take issues with those Nigerians who are easily impassioned and misled. I found it laughable and even ridiculous as it became clear that the protests had become an avenue to settle cheap political scores that Nigerians were willing to buy into the melodrama. I am not a fan of the present administration and I do not like IMF or the World Bank simply for the fact that their policies have failed Africa BUT having seen how the protests are slowly beginning to derail, I do not care to be part of the jamboree. It is no secret that we are at a point where tempers are running high, rumours have become the order of the day and religious and tribal organizations freely issue ultimatums to citizens of the country.

At this point, I thought that the people would demand an end to the killings that bedevil the country daily. I would have thought that there would have been a clear demand for peace and a Sovereign National Conference to settle the differences of the over 250 nationalities that make up Nigeria. Instead what we have is a cosmetic attempt to cover the deep wound that threatens our corporate existence as a country. An attempt to hijack a genuine fight for freedom by tainted individuals. We have seen how the protest degenerated to the killing of innocent Nigerians in Benin as old wounds are tested. In my humble opinion, Nigerians need to have a clear idea what and who they are fighting for. It is a disgrace that Nigerians allow politicians to use them. I seethe when my television screen is lit with the images of former ministers and members of the cabinets of past governments, who were also guilty of corruption during their stint in public office, offering "brilliant" solutions and proffering ideas on how the president could have managed the subsidy issue. I am like "really? You had a chance before dear ex-minister and you failed, so sit down and shut up."

As the occupy fever sweeps Nigeria and people debate with loud voices, frayed tempers and cryptic facebook messages, my people must remember not to lose focus. I have been disappointed by the majority of intellectuals who have offered feeble excuses for the selective amnesia and cosmetic approach to the lingering crisis that have become an everyday reality for Nigerians. I expect more from people who have been exposed to education and so far, I have been let down. I have never been one to conform and do not see myself as one having a crowd mentality. I have aired my views and do not care whose ox is gored. As we bay for Jonathan's blood and rain curses on him and argue that Nigeria as an oil country has no business comparing oil prices with the USA since other OPEC countries sell cheaper petrol to its citizens, we must not forget what drew us out of our homes in the first place. We must hold ALL leaders, past and present, responsible for our economic woes. We must demand that they tell us why they continue to poke sticks into the wounds of our servitude. We cannot afford to be screwed all over again. We must not allow ourselves to be divided.

Umari Ayim

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...