By Bisi Lawrence
Don’t give up, Nigeria. The current subsidy crisis, on the face of it, is a two-way tussle between the desire of the Jonathan government to increase the petroleum pump price, and the determination of the people not to allow that to happen.
But it has developed beyond just that. However, when an irresistible force meets an immovable mass, as the saying goes, something is “gotta give”. And we say, don’t give up, Nigeria.
The instruments of power are ranged up on the other side, it is true. The government controls the police, and other elements of the so-called security apparatuses. But to the people belongs the power itself for they are the custodians of the authority from which issues its deployment. Governments come and governments go; they are no more than the agents of the people’s will in a democracy.
But the people remain as the reason for the institution and succession of the administrations which direct governance. Where there are no people, there can be no government.
Where there is no government, there can only be chaos. A government that creates chaos must therefore be watched for suicidal tendencies. It does not love itself, and that is expressed openly by its lack of love for the people, not just as a corporate institution but as human beings made of flesh and blood, and subjected to feelings and emotions.
The announcement of the removal of a petrol subsidy which people even still doubt till today, would have been agonizing enough as an unmerited imposition on the slender resources of the people. But it was turned into an infliction of pain on the sore situation of insecurity which held the country in thrall by the menace of the infamous Boko Haram. And while it was still a matter of discussion and negotiation, it was launched like a bolt from the blue on a populace agog with the expectations of a country-wide festival. We have said it before, but it bears repeating once again: what kind of government commits such a heartless act on its own people?
It could only come from a government to which the people count for little. It could only be foisted on the people by a government which would abandon whips for serpents to afflict its own nation. That government would have reached a point of conceit at which no opinion or perception other than their own has any weight at all. .
Being no stranger to the country, whatever else they may be, they would have surmised that the populace would be thrown into untold agony, if it all came down to an industrial action, the size of which we have witnessed for the past several days.
They could not have expected that the people would simply fall flat on their backs and accept the monstrous proposition of more than a two-and-half time’s hike in the price of a commodity as basic and necessary as fuel. But they had hoped that the bite of the deprivations thus incurred would reduce the people to their knees.
They had been sure that the absence of transportation, of power and water, and other common necessities of life which could consequently become scarce, or disappear completely as they have done in some areas, would be enough to weaken the resolve of the people. But they had forgotten that, thanks to their bad management of resources and negligent style of governance, the people have always done without most of these amenities, anyway. And the people are still standing.
Yes, the people are still striving for their rights even in a place like Enugu, of all places, where officialdom has bared its fangs. We are talking about Enugu which was the heart of Igboland, in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe who “showed the light” which the people are still following today; where Mokwuogu Okoye grew up, and which gave this nation a hero like Osita Agwuna; the birthplace of Nwafor Orizu, the land of Kingsley Mbadiwe who visualized a horizon of a “greater tomorrow”: and Mbonu Ojike, that powerful “Week-end Catechist”.
The people must ask Sullivan Chime what they have done to deserve such blight on their heritage which is historically that of a spirited agitation for their rights. Does he really think he can suppress the nationalistic emotions of the land by arrests and the strenuous exertion of official powers on a people accredited as the hardiest in the nation?
Don’t give up, Nigeria, for you are the injured party. You are the one who is owed a deep and unqualified apology. And, as it is, no one even gets straight answers to the questions that litter the circumstances of this imposition. For instance, ask why the date of the first day of the year was chosen for this infernal measure —it was even a Sunday— and you will be told that the reaction of anger and resentment which greeted it would still be the same.
Or ask why the removal was not done in stages as different from at one fell stroke, and the answer would still be that it would have made little difference to the reaction. Or why were the “blessed” palliatives not provided earlier than the removal, and the response would be that it was all in the offing, and waiting to be delivered. And is true that the country is virtually broke and this was all about preventing an imminent bankruptcy?
The reaction would be one of amazement in a furious denial, almost at the same time contradicted by a slight admission that such a dire circumstance could of course occur in the future if we are not careful, like it happened in Greece! What? Greece? But how much oil does Greece produce?
We are piteously drowned with frightening figures that range between a trillion and a trillion and various fractions, and find it difficult to come up for breath under the weight of promises delivered as though they were happening as they were being made, or had even been already fulfilled.
They tell us that we shall witness the removal of the subsidy and how it is divided between the federal and state governments every month; they already have “monitors” appointed to see that the distributed funds are spent for the purposes designated. But we only have a blurred general vision of the projects under the titles of transportation, education, healthcare, power supply — just as we have always had them.
And then, just to re-assure(?) us that our distrust of government, occasioned by their failure to fulfill such promises in the past, is removed in the new dispensation, “the monitors” appointed to oversee the implementation of the projects are recognizable former “government” types. I do not see Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister and “Coordinator of All”, in any way less credible than any of them, so why bother?
But don’t give up, Nigeria. The impasse may be broken through compromise and we shall probably wind up around 90 or 100 naira for a litre of petrol, for now – if our Labour leaders are unable to stay the course. We had better be prepared then to go through another “big do” on the streets before the end of the year. If the Labour leaders are made to give up this time, they are not likely to succeed any better next time.
That is what the strategists on the other side have as the basis of their master plan. The design is to break the will of the people, bit by bit. Olusegun Obasanjo did it, and got away with it almost every other weekend. We are now on the brink of another round of frustration, if Labour knuckles down.
Hang in there, Nigeria.
You have probably never heard of Professor Jean Herskovits. I only became seriously aware of her existence a few weeks ago. According to reports, she is one of those foreign “experts” whose prolonged connections with Nigeria are accepted as credentials credible enough for her to pontificate at will over Nigerians. So have several other impostors. Some of them have been prophesying that Nigeria cannot stand the test of time as a nation, but would crumble apart to the ground. But we are sill here. And permit me to state that anyone who could say that, “In Nigeria, Boko Haram is not the problem …. there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today”, falls squarely into that class of falsehood peddlers, or academic charlatans.
The Boko Haram terror is one of the most significant threats to our life as a nation today. Christians in the North are the obvious targets, though an incident or two seemed to have been staged to simulate a general attack on the people. If Professor Herskovits wants an evidence of the thoroughness of the organization in control of the group, she only needs to follow the progress of the operations.
The raids are professionally coordinated in a military sense. The objectives are hazy in profile, but the results are real and destructive. The exact truth about the Boko Haram menace may not be widely known, but wet, apologetic propaganda designed to further distort the facts are not so difficult to recognize. Endemic poverty may be a devastating factor to social progress in Nigeria, just as it could become in various parts of Europe and America, but it can have little bearing on attacks launched on a particular section identifiable by their religion, in any community.
Professor Herskovits will be assured by the scores of widows and orphans created by this terrorist group – over forty on Christmas Day alone – that she may be in dire need of “psychiatric intervention” if she truly believes the awful rubbish she has been writing about the cause of the tragedy in their lives.