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WE MUST PERSEVERE

By NBF News
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It is very clear, as expected,that the government and it's agents have finally run out of arguments to convince anybody that removing subsidy on petroleum is the only way to save the Nigerian economy from total collapse. We are now at a point that in business parlance is described as 'Crunch'; the decisive moment that could mean success or failure in any entreprise. Crunch time is often the graveyard of some of the most brilliant projects in human history. In literature it is often loosely expressed through the poetic verse: 'We have come to the crossroads, you must either leave or come with me'.

As the government runs out of anything sensible to say, it must be admitted also that the weaker ones among the faithful followers of labour, which translates into about 149.9 million people, are running out of the little reserve they had put together in preparation for the strike. Some petty traders are beginning to urge that markets should reopen; artisans and other humble compatriots that live on their daily earnings are beginning to worry about their families not having food to eat. If and when PENGASSAN, already on red alert, eventually joins the strike, there could be general blackout because there will be no gas to power our turbines to provide even the meagre 3500 or so megawatts that the nation is presently served with. If that happens, crunch could come to crash and at that point anything, including anarchy (God forbid) is possible.

So what do we do now? Actually it is more a question of 'What should President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan do now?' The efforts by the two chambers of the National Assembly to persuade the president to reconsider his position by reducing the price of petroleum to, say, N80.00 per litre have failed. For some very vexatious reasons, Mr. Jonathan has chosen the worst time and the worst cause over which to show his strength. A great pity indeed, because the man has lost the moment; meaning that no matter what he does now, he has lost the trust and confidence of those that trusted and had confidence in him.

In contrast, the NLC and the TUC, the prime movers of the current resistance have won a moral victory far in excess of what they expected, or perhaps even deserved, given their previous record. Since last Monday when the strike commenced, some of the most brilliant, respected and admired Nigerians have come out to identify with the position of the NLC/TUC. But the biggest victory for Labour so far is the unqualified endorsement of it's position by Nigerians of every hue and colour. And then, even as some protesters inevitable get martyred  in the struggle, their number continue to swell by the hour; in many states across the county, partial or 24-hour curfew had to be imposed to prevent the complete breakdown of law and order.

None of this is particularly anything to cheer at, although you can not blame those who see it as a cause for celebration. After all when was the last time that Nigerians had reason to put aside their primordial differences and come together for a common, worthy cause? The last time was when Africa's most decorated football player, the lanky, likable Nwako Kanu led the Nigerian football team to win Gold at the 1996 Olympics football. If Nigerians were brought together then by their love of football, this time we are united by a common threat to our survival and to the future of our children. And regardless of who is telling him otherwise, President Jonathan must listen to the demands of the people from whom he derives legitimacy. After seven days of struggle on every front, the whole picture has now become very clear. A very clear battle line has been drawn between the people and the government. The positions of both parties have also become very clear.

On the government side, it is obvious that the huge amount of money that was used to prosecute the last presidential election and the unrestrained corruption in the civil service have combined to bring the government to a state of bankruptcy; so in desperation the government is turning to the helpless citizens for salvation. Removing subsidy from fuel is just the first among the many ways that the government is planning to adopt to make the people pay for it's corruption and recklessness. Other subtler measures that would follow the fuel subsidy removal would be a hike in electricity tariff, new license and plate numbers and God knows what else.

On their part, the people are saying no, enough is enough. The general argument from the ordinary man on the street to the well educated and articulate civil society activist is: we are not against removal of subsidy, but we don't trust government to manage it. To earn our trust, the people are demanding that first, government should embark on a house cleaning exercise, starting with the so called cabal that the government has admitted have been abusing the subsidy regime, prosecuting them and and squeezing out of them the trillions they had fraudulently made by manipulating the oil subsidy and throwing same back into the economy. Thereafter the government should then improve infrastructure, with emphasis on mass transport system, healthcare delivery and youth employment programme. Having done all that, the people argue, the government won't need to remove subsidy, the people themselves would give it up.

This is the bottom-line. And believe me, if we budge below this line, we are sunk. That is why we need to persevere. It's worth it. As prove that the peoples' resistance is working, just listen to the incoherent, disjointed, nauseating argument of the (mis)information minister Labaran Maku, or the pathetic new posture of the CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido as he speaks about 'Compromise', or the personalization of the matter by Mrs. Okonja-Iweala as she unfairly accuses Nigerians of hating her. Hate Ngozi? What on earth for? Has she offended us in any way? Madam, what Nigerians hate is bad governance. If that is your second name, well…

People, you are winning. Let's persevere a little more