WE SAIL, SINK TOGETHER
While driving to work on January 2, 2012, my eyes were fixed on the fuel gauge. As the indicator dropped faintly, my heart fainted within me. Besides, I turned off the air conditioner of the vehicle to conserve fuel because the reminiscence of the N5,000 fuel I bought yesterday still haunted me. My heart was pumping immensely as the fuel diffused through the chambers of my fairly used car. I felt internal heat within me.
What's all this mess that the government has put us into? Why are we going through this economic heat? The prices of goods and services have doubled, yet the government reaffirms its commitment to the policy, even at the risk of civil disobedience. Our hope has vanished into thin air; despair and agony plague the lives of the citizens. Yet, respite came when we confirmed that Nigeria Labour Congress is preparing to mobilize Nigerian masses for a 'showdown' with the government. But, who will be on the side of labour, or more appropriately, on whose side is the labour union? The battleline has been drawn. The Labour Union vs. Goodluck Jonathan administration. The Nigerian masses act as umpire.
Last night, in the news, I saw the great lawyer and human right activist of our time, Barrister Femi Falana, lead a group of protesters displaying placards and chanting songs across major highways in the nation's commercial capital, Lagos, to express their displeasure on the removal of the fuel subsidy. Do I take sides with Falana-led protesters? I also watched the former member of the house of representatives, Dino Melaye and about ten youths being released from custody after leading protests against the removal of fuel subsidy in the nation's capital, Abuja. Should I follow Dino Melaye, who became an activist in a jiffy? What's his motivation? Maybe, he is strategizing to get back to the lower house or the Senate using the path of activism? This is the crossroad that President Jonathan, who, prior to his election saturated the airwaves with his emotional lyrics; 'I have no shoes, I have no enemies to fight…' has put us. I wasn't moved by his rhetoric and political baits, but it's a pity, millions of Nigerians voted for sentiment instead of objectivity.
Goodluck Jonathan's administration had also set up a Subsidy Removal Investment team, headed by Dr. Christopher Kolade. I can attest to Dr. Kolade's reputation, but won't this just be a way of enriching the president's political associates? What has the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) achieved? What will the high profile group set up by Mr. President to mediate with the people for ways of cushioning the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy achieve? I think measures should have been put in place to reduce the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy before the actual removal.
Who is this Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that everybody is raining curses on? I overheard some hurting Nigerians labeling her as the new President of the country. I've also read myriads of posts on Facebook ® that our President has become a puppet in the hands of the IMF and World Bank. I know the enormous challenges before the president, but there is something I want to ask him: Didn't the clergymen that are enlisted on the payroll of Aso Rock tell him about an ancient King of Israel, Solomon, who, on ascending the throne didn't ask for power but for wisdom for good governance? Hasn't Mr. President read about the story of the influence of Mordecai on his cousin, Queen Esther of Ancient Xerxes? Where are Mr. President's kinsmen? Shouldn't they tell him what the Queen's uncle told her: 'You are in the palace for such a time as this'.
What's so complex about the removal of fuel subsidy? If Nigerians agree with the removal of subsidy, then there is something good about the intention of the government, but what's the problem? The answers can only be found when the government listens to the heartbeats of this hurting generation of Nigerians. Both young and old do not know anywhere else apart from this great country.
The first thing that this elitist, yet insensitive government should have done prior to removal of fuel subsidy is to reduce peoples' direct contact with these commodities-PMS and Kerosene. Few weeks ago, a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) made a statement on the TV, that removal of subsidy will favour the poor, because Nigerian masses don't have cars. I'd wish to develop a spiritual hand that will pierce through the TV set and give him a knock on the head. I don't aim to be rude, I just think, he's been bought over.
Has he and other mercenaries of subsidy removal propaganda forgotten than over 80% of the Nigerian masses generate their own power using generators? Has he forgotten that the Nigerian masses that don't have cars who commute on public transportation daily will now pay thrice the original amount? The unfolding event of the last few days reveals one fact, the rich can buy fuel at any cost, but the poor can't buy it at any cost. Why is Jonathan not sensitive to the plight of the masses? I have few guesses; maybe he is not the president of the masses, but of the elite few. Maybe he is the friend of 'the Dangotes', and the enemy of the masses.
The basics on how to remove Nigerians' direct contact with fuel are as simple as A.B. C.
First thing first, ensure that electricity is stable to a degree that we don't need to take turn behind vehicle owners at the fuel stations to buy 5 litres of PMS to generate power at the same rate as people with cars will pay. This means we are paying for the failure and ineffectiveness of the government, and that is tantamount to extortion. Secondly, create alternative transport system like train that will give people a choice of either driving their cars to work or taking the train. At times, I seem to think Nigerian leaders are either evil or wicked.
They travel all over the world and see effective transport system, yet find it difficult to replicate this in Nigeria, and if they will, they do it with a wrong motive- to steal public funds. Isn't there somebody in government that understands this? That's the simplest thing you should have done, before playing the script of IMF and World Bank that is being directed by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. Presently, Nigerians have been dragged into the intricacies of petroleum extraction, production and marketing of commodities that should, in the first place, not be our primary concern. What's our business with all your jargons like 'upstream', 'downstream', 'deregulation', 'benchmark', etc? Knowledge must translate into results, or else it' useless. Our hands are filled with many problems already, and the least thing we expect from our government is to increase our burdens.
There is heat in the country. Nigerians are boiling within. It is better we quench this heat before it results into an inferno. I was born in the mid 70's, but I heard the tale of the civil war of 1967-1970. If we go to war now, which country in Africa can accommodate refugees from Nigeria? None!
Perhaps, our president and his cabinet don't watch local TV, but I am quite sure his special assistant on media, Dr. Reuben Abati does. So, let him assume the role of an emissary to the president through his SA on Media:
'Mr President, there is protest across the country. This is could be a dress rehearsal for a revolution of sorts, perhaps. Nigerians, in their typical adaptive spirits, will conform to the mould of your government? Listen to your heart, Mr. President. A leader listens to advice of people, but follows his own heart. When war strikes many will die. remember people die daily from police bullets, Boko-Haram bombs, accidents caused by bad road, and highway robbery attacks, and you have Nigerians are furious, I am too'.
When a ship is sailing, we all sail, and when a ship sinks, we all sink.