By Pini Jason
THE recent national strike has brought to the fore two striking issues, our hypocrisy as a people and the need to re-examine the way we live.
At the Ojota, Lagos, rally, the politician, Tunde Bakare, a born Muslim who found a lucrative business marketing Jesus, said “this revolution has started and will continue…”, and Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana echoed same. Indeed, virtually everybody at the Ojota free concert believed they were re-enacting the Arab spring.
Only on 20 December 2011, while dismissing the relish of Nigerians for Xeroxed revolution, I wrote: “There will continue to be pockets of revolts here and there by angry, oppressed people. But such localised insurrections will never link up to make a pan-Nigerian revolution that can change the entire country. Any such attempt will be vitiated by religion, ethnicity and class”.
Five days later, on Christmas day, 25 December 2011, a Catholic Church was bombed in Niger State and 45 worshippers were dispatched to their untimely death. Since then, other Christians have been shot dead by Islamic terrorists in other churches in Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and Plateau states. This escalating audacity was followed by an ultimatum to Christians living in the North to leave the region. Majority of those killed in these senseless orgies are Igbo, bringing back the ugly memory of “araba” killings of 1966. These killings in the churches were obviously targeted at truncating the Nigerian union under President Jonathan’s watch!
against Boko Haram
The progressive escalation of terror by Islamic extremists in the North should worry any lover of Nigeria. But again, it was not enough to get us out to “occupy” Nigeria until the killing of innocent fellow Nigerians stopped! I did not see NLC march. I did not see TUC rally. Some of those killed were workers too! I did not see Tunde Bakare, a Christian Pentecostal televangelist “occupy” even his own church for a minute for the sake of fellow Christians killed in the North. I did not see fire-spitting Femi Falana stomp for fellow Nigerians.
I did not see Joe Okei Odumakin mount a revolution for fellow women massacred on Christmas day. I did not see Nollywood act on behalf of some of their fans killed in the North. I did not see comedians stand up for those killed in the North! But it was just as if the killing did not happen! If it happened, it must have happed in far away Vietnam!
Can you imagine the impact if the same number of Nigerians “occupied” the entire North against Boko Haram? Why was the killing in churches in the North not serious enough to get Nigerians out to “occupy” Adamawa, Yobe, Niger, Borno and Plateau states until the mindless massacres stopped? Why did an event capable of disintegrating Nigeria not provoke Nigerians to Save Nigeria? After all, if we win the fuel subsidy war, we are supposed to enjoy it in a secure country called Nigeria, abi? Why are we selective in seeing evil in our country?
Hypocrites in Ghana
The most pathetic hypocrites are those Nigerian “Andrews” who demonstrated at Nigerian embassy in Ghana. Ghana is a country that swore, when it found oil in commercial quantity, that it will not make the same mistake Nigeria made with its oil. Ghana did not want its citizens to get too cozy in the comfort zone of petrol subsidy and therefore removed it a few days before Nigeria did it. Ghanaians are paying above N170 per litre. Yet they did not “occupy” or shut down Ghana. It was therefore pathetic watching utterly shameless Nigerians disturbing the peace in Ghana for the removal of subsidy. Perhaps, Ghanaians are dummies while Nigerians are God’s gift to Africa and smarter!
Why, in the first place, is Ghana a haven for Nigerians now? A few years ago Ghana’s economy went burst. Ghanaians poured into Nigeria doing whatever menial jobs they could lay their hands on. Today, there are millions of Ghanaians in Germany, Holland, UK, United States and Denmark. In fact, the part of Denmark called Arhus, has a heavy concentration of Ghanaians. But do you know what? Every Ghanaian who lives abroad worked to send money home. That was the major fillip to the recovery of the economy of Ghana. Ghanaians are very disciplined and orderly people who let things work as they should.
But in Nigeria what do we do? It is fashionable to steal in order to own property and fat accounts abroad. How many Ghanaians, no matter how rich, own a hut in Nigeria? We enjoy running to countries that have sacrificed and paid the price for the good of their country, but will never make similar sacrifice for our own country. It is a shameful irony that any Nigerian would stand on the soil of Ghana, for which the ordinary Ghanaian is paying above N170 per litre to vent his anger over the removal of subsidy!
The prevailing national hypocrisy is that if it does not concern us, it is not important. If this fuel subsidy removal did not hit our individual pockets, it would not have mattered to us, no matter who else was feeling the pains. We would not have revolted. People may mistake the reason why the strike received rather tentative support in the South East and South-South.
They may think it was due to mercantile predilection of people of these regions. Here are regions that produce the oil and gas that are at the centre of the current agitation. Ordinarily, one would expect that the product would be readily available in the regions nearest to the oil wells.
The hypocrisy goes on
How many “occupiers” at Ojota know that petrol has been selling for between N80 and N120 per litre, when it is available? In Enugu and Benue, petrol has been selling above N120 for years. There is a depot in Enugu that should serve these states, but for years never had petrol. So dealers go to Aba and Port Harcourt to get petrol. So if you are fighting for N65 per litre, what does that mean to the man in Enugu? Moreover, the money derived from the wealth of these regions is used to develop other parts of the country! Those “occupying” Ojota should tour the South East and South-South and see the condition of infrastructure in these regions.
Yet, some people are not happy that other states benefit from the VAT collected from their states! Even the three refineries to be built under the so-called SURE are to be cited in Bayelsa (For President Jonathan and Deziani) Kogi (for NNPC Group Managing Director, Oniwon) and Lagos (for Obasanjo). None in the South East! Where is the justice? Yet, you want the people of the South East to occupy where? How hypocritical can we get!
Do not get me wrong. I am not going to buy petrol from a different pump. I have also in two different recent articles stated my position on how the deregulation ought to have been approached. I have also stated why the way the removal of the subsidy was handled was wrong. So my position here is not whether I support removal of subsidy or not.
I think I am very clear of that. What I am saying here is that Nigerians must learn to empathise with the plight of other Nigerians, and not raise hell only when they are directly affected. Injustice in Nigeria is not perpetrated by governments alone. Nigerians visit fellow Nigerians with injustice when they remain silent in the face of the oppression of fellow Nigerians. We must “occupy” whenever and wherever we see evil in our land!
I am happy that this subsidy issue has built a groundswell of protesting Nigerians. I like the fact that many questions hitherto ignored are being asked now. One of the issues that have dominated discussion during this protest is corruption. It will be wonderful if we stay the course and continue to press the question and throw the searchlight in every corner of our national life.
Finally, we must put our comparism with Niger, Ghana and Togo in perspective. If, for example, Niger Republic generates 30 KW of power (which is less than the demands of Niger state) and consumes 20 and sells 10 to Nigeria, it must not be seen as a “shame”!