OF SUBSIDIES, STRIKES AND THE LESSON NOT LEARNED
This writer has followed events in the last couple of weeks and have come to a conclusion that for all the salt we are worth as a nation and people, we have learned nothing other than the mindless continuation of the status quo that continues to renegade us to the background and make us a laughing stock among comity of nations. One finds it very hard to understand how we came to be regarded as the giant of Africa when we cannot even solve inherent problems inimical to the growth and development of the common man and the nation as a whole. We have refused to see that the next man is the single most important thing that should shape our existence in order for a viable environment and society, devoid of hate and repression.
It is only in Nigeria that the powers that be, against the wishes of its people, with total and flagrant disregard for their voices, stick to policies that either profits political cliques or Western institutions or how else can one explain the unfortunate event that led to a five day strike and unnecessary protests, causing the death of youths who would have contributed immensely to the future viability of the country. It seems we have not learned anything from past mistakes or actions that continues to bedevil us as a creeping nation. We forget all the time a saying that a people who forget their history are condemned by it.
This writer dares to tell policy makers in Aso-Rock to look around and ask themselves how we as a nation have fared in the last fifty years and how we intend moving fifty steps forward in another, so as not to repeat old age crisis and feuds. It is quite sad that we all the time have no final solutions to critical and even simple problems in this country, which unfortunately has become a vicious cycle that cannott be treated, except by making ourselves suffer in vain and willfully drawing back the hands of time of the country.
Since the 80s, every Nigerian government had argued that fuel prices were too small and needed to be increased to bring a much needed soothing relief for the vast majority of the people, which was always rapped in the name of development, yet the development we see had been built around massive corruption, kleptomania, sabotage and unprecedented growth of a secret and protected oil cabal who openly runs the country aground, by benefitting from government subsidy.
If the government, which emerged as a result of the goodwill of the people, believed they were doing the right thing, arguing they wished to stop an oil cabal from swindling Nigerians and in the process, the same Nigerians became victims of government insensitivity, why then have the cabal free without being prosecuted for cheating both government and the vast majority of the people? It's an irony that we live in a nation where people who are supposed to have gone the way of Charles I are given immunity and protection, despite committing crimes worse than those of the German Furher. If the Furher was claimed to have directly or indirectly committed crimes against humanity, causing the death of just a mere 6 million people, he would have been better of in the alter of conscience and natural justice than the actions of the so called Nigerian oil cabal. In sanner climes, prosecutors would have been stunned by the thievery of these few oil monsters, who for decades had cheated and inflicted poverty against we the 99% and as such commit them into the gulag.
If the zeal the government had used to promote and fight the people to accept subsidy removal is the same zeal used to fight massive looting of our treasury and commonwealth, the incessant ASUU strike, massive unemployment, insecurity and bad governance, nobody would have raised an eyelid. We forget so suddenly that we cannnot eat our cake and yet have it at the same time. A government which is serious about fighting the senselessness and madness in the oil sector ought to do have done the necessities first by putting in place the workability of our refineries and then the total annihiliation of those problematics inherent in the oil sector.
If President Jonathan had said his government was ready to get our refineries working and committed to ensure its refining in Nigeria and then sending the EFCC to do its job by catching the cabal, this writer is sure nobody would have raised the roof. If Labour and other stake holders had been made to see a blueprint where sanity would finally be brought back to the oil industry, labour would have refused to go on strike.
We have caused ourselves so much hardship, pain and unnecessary death all in name of subsidy removal. Government policies truely are meant to further the viable course of the peoples' existence, but when such policies are frowned at by this same people they are meant for, common sense ought to prevail. A government who cannot pay it's workers the minimum wage she promised for months is one government people cannot be made to trust. A government who see corruption thrive despite mechanisms in place to stamp it out cannot be trusted. A government who has continously refused to agree terms with university teachers and allowed the education sector to further rot cannot be trusted. A government who promised to remove subsidy by April, yet surprised it's people with an increase on New Year day cannot be trusted. A government who do not even have a template to repair and build new state of the art roads after hundred days in office cannot be trusted. A government who began it's tenure with a controversial single tenure policy without committing it into the hands of the people cannot be trusted. A government who cannot look elsewhere to fund its project means it's sense of economic projection is shortsided and for that reason cannot be trusted. A government who cannot stem the tide of insecurity, despite billions allocated to the sector yearly cannot be trusted and a government whose youths are made to walk stark naked daily as a result of unemployment cannot be trusted with funds gotten from subsidy removal.
It is quite unfortunate that at the end of it all, the strike and government's arrogance has led to more animosity between the people and the government who claim to pursue the interests of the citizen. The strike has brought to glare the massive corruption and bogus allowances even the office of the wife of the President earmarkes yearly for itself. The death of those youth killed by the bullets of the police will never be forgotten by their parents and loved ones, while for years to come, the names of four government officials will remain in the history books of the country for being so insensitive to the plight of the people, despite growing discontent and indifference by the citizenry.
Many have been made to understand that the NLC had compromised it's stand and cannot be trusted by the people anymore. Aside this, the people now see their governors and their bogus allowance collecting legislatures as back stabbers for either playing second fiddle, playing to the gallery, keeping mute or giving their staggering support to the subsidy removal. Since the President believed for subsidies to be totally removed, the price of fuel should be within the range of #141. Now that it is #97, it means we are in for yet another impending strike soonest. Aside this, a country like ours whose citizens despise the coins would be able to pay for fuel, yet cannot fathom how their change would be collected if they wish to buy a litre for #97 or even three litres for #291.
This writer is of the opinion that the subsidy imbroglio and its attendant strike had been a total failure because the government did not achieve total removal of subsidy, which means the cabal still stays with future repercursions, while the NLC who had clamoured for a total reversal of pump price from the very start is being seen by many as part of government's anti-people policy. This means we have been left miserable and unwilligly have to accept a half baked oil policy and pump price which in turn will further leave us in wanton poverty, abject deprivation and helplessness in the hands of an insensitive government.
A nation whose people remain gullible even in the sight of policies that promote the pockets of only thos in power, is a nation that will remain stagnant and never move away from pain, anguish and deprivation. As the strike ends, it should become imperative as part of our social contract to begin to question those in power, fight more our cause like we did half heartedly during the strike cum protest and eventually run the government aground, even as they refuse to listen to our voices. Tunisians learned to fight that way and are better for it today. Nigerians should be able to follow suit.
*** Raheem Oluwafunmiyiniyi is a social commentator and political analyst who wrote from Ibadan and can be reached via [email protected]