Metro

February 24, 2024

Hunger protests: Yoruba rulers, elders rally round Tinubu; Oluwo of Iwo replies northern leaders

I’ll justify the trust Nigerians place on me – Tinubu

File: President Bola Tinubu

•Govt must subsidize consumable goods ——Olugbon of Orileigbon,
•State govts should mobilise people to produce food crops —Yemi Farounbi
•Palliative can not solve the economic hardship —— Oba Suleiman Olaleye
•We’ll continue to pacify our people, fish out saboteurs —Deji of Akureland

By Dayo Johnson; Shina Abubakar; Rotimi Ojomoyela; James Ogunnaike & Laolu Elijah

Residents’ discontent with the devastating effect of the government’s economic policies was first expressed in Lagos last month when Lagos traders screamed at the convoy of President Bola Tinubu, saying, “Ebi n pa wa o” (we are hungry), which went viral on social media. Other cities across the country have since joined the hunger protests. On Monday, some residents of Ibadan, Oyo state, protested the economic hardship.

Residents of Kano, Ogun, Niger and Sokoto states had earlier staged protests while organised labour has announced a nationwide protest for February 27 and 28 over the rising cost of living. Northern traditional rulers and leaders have also been reacting to the present harsh economic realities with veiled threat on the Federal Government which is being resisted by other geo-political zones.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar, while speaking at the 6th executive committee meeting of the northern traditional rulers council (NTRC) which held in Kaduna state last week , lamented the economic hardship in the country, saying Nigerians were angry and hungry and the country was sitting on a keg of gunpowder. “We have reached that level, people are very agitated, people are hungry, they are angry. Let’s not take it for granted that people are quiet, they are quiet for a reason because we have been talking to them, we have been trying to tell them things will be okay and they keep on believing.

“I pray to Almighty Allah that they will not one day wake up and say we no longer believe in you and that would be the biggest problem because we can’t quieten these people as traditional, spiritual leaders and diplomats forever”, the Sultan said.

On his part, the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, who hosted the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, in his palace sent her to the president, saying, “tell your husband that Nigerians are suffering. Although, we have several means of communicating to the government on our needs and requests, you are the surest way to tell the President the happenings in the country. We get information daily that essential commodities and cost of living are high and people are suffering, although it didn’t start with this government. We know the government is making efforts but it should redouble efforts to ease the suffering faced by the people”.

Another northern elder, Professor Usman Yusuf, former Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, while featuring in Arise television programme, The Morning Show, said, “all the traditional rulers in the north have run out of excuses and there was nothing more they could do to stop the anger of their people. The silence of the people in the north in spite of all the suffering they are going through is more lethal than the noise anywhere in the country”. He then wondered why the people of the south east were quiet and did not join the nationwide protests.

An Igbo man responding to Professor Yusuf in a viral video saying, “what has Tinubu done in his seven months in office that Buhari did not do more than three times? You in the north should stop threatening people when things don’t favour you. Nigeria is above all these rhetoric from the north. Anything that wants to happen now should happen, Tinubu is the president and he will be there for eight years and everybody should learn to adjust. If the hunger becomes too much, we should all go back to farming but the threat from the north is unacceptable because you guys were there for eight years and you did nothing to change the Nigerian system, you did nothing to restructure the nation, you did nothing to improve the well-being of the people”.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Igbo socio-cultural organisation, meantime, directed groups in the south east region not to join the protests against the administration of President Bola Tinubu. President-General of the organisation, Chief Emmanuel Inwuanyanwu, while describing the current economic crisis in Nigeria as unfortunate, challenged those who were asking the people of the south east to join the hunger protests to say what they did when Igbo land was disenfranchised in the past. “I am directing that no Igbo group or community in Nigeria or in the diaspora should join any protest against this government,” Iwuanyanwu said.

The northern traditional rulers were on point about the current terrible situation in the country. The President Tinubu reforms have created unbearable conditions for millions of Nigerians. The hardship is nationwide and not only in the North where some of the youth that the Sultan talked about have been in the vanguard of kidnappings and terror activities that have chased farmers out of the farm lands, adding to the economic woes. Perhaps, if the northern leaders had also alluded to the mess Tinubu inherited from the Buhari administration, which is messier now, many would not have been reading meanings to their seemingly genuine position

Following serious concerns that have been expressed by the northern traditional rulers and elders over over the high cost of living in the country, their counterparts in the south west have however made suggestions to President Tinubu on some measures that can be adopted to save the situation even as they assured him of their full support.

Tinubu should open borders for food importation, northern leaders should encourage their youths to double interest in agriculture ——Oba Abdulrosheed Adewale Akanbi

The Oluwo of Iwo, in Osun state, Oba Abdur-rosheed Akanbi urged the northern elders to encourage their youth to go into agriculture to boost food production even as he blamed saboteurs whose plan was to incite Nigerians against the government. He insisted that President Bola Tinubu should open friendly borders for food importation to allow competition with local manufacturers sabotaging the economy.

“I think it is high time Nigerians stopped unnecessary protests but cooperate with the President in a bid to place Nigeria on the path of progress and development. For me, I insist that the President has to open borders to create competition for local manufacturers whose intent is to sabotage the economy. The President is taking unprecedented steps in the direction that would place Nigeria on the path of development, some people would be offended and fight back, which is now causing hardship for the people but I believe the president should see it through in the interest of the Nigerians generally. Those venting anger in the north are not facing the reality of this time, the economy is going through patches as a result of mismanagement of the previous administration, hence, the need for everyone to support the present administration. The Saboteurs are hoarding foods to create shortage unavoidably leading to astronomical inflation. Their plan is to incite Nigerians against the government.

They should allow President Bola Tinubu to lift Nigeria and Nigerians. The purpose of allowing local productions to flourish has been abused. Competition should be allowed on certain goods. When there is commercial rivalry and no monopolistic tendency, producers will forcefully be checkmated.

The government of Tinubu should take the same brave decision on local producers being used by the saboteurs to discredit his administration. I have read the reactions of many Nigerians including northern leaders. Every patriotic Nigerian will not forget in a hast the liabilities left by the immediate past administration. Imputing the blame of economic woe of previous administration on the new government is uncharitable. Northern elders should instead encourage their youth to double their interest in agriculture.

We’ll continue to pacify our people, fish out saboteurs —Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, said, “there is no gainsaying that the skyrocketing cost of living in Nigeria has placed an unbearable burden on the suffering citizens of Nigeria. Basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare are becoming increasingly unaffordable, pushing many households to extreme poverty. I have a personal experience of a huge number of people who frequently visit my palace to seek help for food and many other commodities. I wish to call on the government at all levels to kindly rise to the challenges before it escalates into a serious crisis.

It is an understatement to say that the people are hungry and angry at the moment with the current situation. I am aware of some measures being put in place including the suspension of the exportation of cooking gas, distribution of food items seized by the Nigerian Customs, the opening of the grain reserves among many other things. The most critical thing is that all government agencies must ensure that all these policies are well coordinated to produce the desired results because it may be difficult for Nigeria to face the dire consequence of any continued protests occasioned by the current hardship. On our part as traditional rulers, we will continue to pacify our subjects and discourage them from engaging in anything that would further plunge the country into crisis. We will equally ensure that we fish out some saboteurs within the market systems who are deliberately engaging in needless hike of price of commodities”.

Eselu of Iselu Kingdom, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, in his own reaction, said, “The immediate measure to the high cost of living in the country is what President Bola Tinubu has told all the state governors to do, which is giving out palliative to people in their respective states, especially the less privileged ones. On the other hand, the President must open the nation’s borders for some food items to come in. This will crash the current food prices. In every developed country of the world, there is quality control as well as price control which is lacking in Nigeria’s economy. The federal government should as a matter of urgency, establish quality control as well as price control. About 99% of raw materials used in cement production are sourced in Nigeria, so the price of cement should not have gone up like that. Instead of threatening to open borders for cement importation the federal government should have just opened the borders for the product to come into the country without informing cement manufacturers. This would have crashed the price of cement.

State govts should mobilise people to produce food crops —Yemi Farounbi

Former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippines, Yemi Farounbi, said, ”When you go into any market, you’ll find out that food is available but the price is so high because of the inflationary tendency in the economy. Food is not scarce as we are made to believe, but it is beyond the earning capacity of most Nigerians. It is the same inflationary tendency that drove the price of cement to N10,000 per bag, it is not that cement is not available, it’s the inflation in the system that has affected the cost of things in many ways. For the producers, you have to use either diesel or petrol and all of that had gone up, we have to import few things and our foreign exchange is changing per day, so that make it difficult for an industrialist to plan. And that is why what you buy today at a price, the next day the price is going to increase because of the inflationary tendency. So, the government has to look at its own economic policies whether it’s the merger of black market and the official market or the fiscal policies they have to look at and then find a solution for it. But for a long term solution to food scarcity, every state has to look at the crop that they can produce best.

In the south they eat largely yams from Benue and Plateau states when they themselves can produce yams but they stopped producing yams because they thought that the comparative advantage favors Benue and Plateau. They get tomatoes, pepper and onion from Sokoto axis, but they themselves have tomatoes, onion and pepper that are peculiar to the south. So, something ought to be done by those southern states through their local government to mobilize the people so they can produce food crops that they can eat and we are not talking of cash crops that they could sell, and they must be encouraged to do that. When they are encouraged to do that, we are going to have an abundant food supply. When every community can produce enough to feed itself there won’t be need for people to go to Maiduguri to buy beans or to go to Jos/Abuja for yam. This is a long time solution to the problem.

According to Oba Sunday Amuseghan, Kalasuwe of Apoi land, Ese Odo council area, ”the expectations of Nigerians have been dashed by the performance of President Bola Tinubu. Nigerians had high hope after the turbulent era of President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigerians believed that Tinubu has the magic wand to turn things around when he promised to open the floodgates of joy in all sectors. But instead, people’s expectations were dashed and hunger and starvation have become the order of the day. Everyone is crying, both the low and the high, things are getting worse than during the period of Buhari. In short Nigerians have been shortchanged. Food has become unaffordable, everyone is crying including the traditional rulers, transporters, businessmen. There’s insecurity everywhere, Nigeria is on edge, President Bola Tinubu should act now, Nigerians are facing excruciating hardship. The palliatives should henceforth be monitored to get to the grassroots as previous palliatives were cornered by politicians and those in charge. Traditional rulers and their chiefs should be involved now. Any traditional ruler who divert palliatives should be deposed. The N200m of rice palliatives given to the national assembly members didn’t get to those they were meant for. President Tinubu should introduce price control to halt the soaring prices of food items in the country. The economy should be rejigged, entrepreneurs should be empowered and more small scale industries should be established in council areas.

The Alawo of Awo-Ekiti, Oba Suleiman Olaleye, said, “I will advise the president to look inward and assist the real farmers, not the paper farmers. The issue of palliative can not solve the economic hardship in Nigeria. During Buhari’s regime, they were giving 5,000 and 10,000 naira palliatives to millions of Nigerians but it has not been effective. I can’t identify anyone whom they gave 25 thousand naira in my community, I don’t know them. If they can take all the money they claim to be giving people and empower farmers in three months, there will be availability of food”.

Govt must subsidize consumable goods ——Olugbon of Orileigbon, Oba Francis Alao, Deputy Chairman, Oyo State Council of Obas
“In order to quell the rising tension in the country, the government should subsidize consumable goods in the country. The government must also subsidize the farmers and convince them to go back to farms because some of them have been displaced because of insecurity. For the long term solution, the government must engage in mechanized farming, they should practice irrigation system so that we can have food in abundance.

The Secretary Ekiti State Council of Elders Mr Sunday Ajibulu, on his part, urged President Bola Tinubu to approve and implement an increase in workers’ salaries by 60%. He noted that it will be practically impossible for the citizens to survive and live by their present salary.

Also, a member of a Yoruba Socio-cultural Group, Afenifere, Chief Akin Fasae argued that some unscrupulous individuals were taking advantage of the present hardship to enrich themselves and urged President Tinubu to track them and bring them to justice.