By Charles Adeyemi
Now that the Nigerian government has suddenly enforced the fuel subsidy removal policy, the sleeping giant of Africa is finally waking up from her slumber. The cost of transportation and other services and goods have expectedly risen astronomically. The nation is paralyzed by strike and protesters have taken over the streets. The Nigerian awakening is here and the masses are making a plethora of uncoordinated demands.
Some have asked that the president be impeached, others that he should resign. Majority have insisted on the return of fuel price to 65 naira, some have argued that it should even sell for less than that. Only a few have seen the opportunity that these protests presents us to address some of the even more fundamental and critical challenges that we face as a nation.
The Boko Haram crisis and the senseless killings in the north for instance have claimed scores of lives since January 1st 2012 when the fuel subsidy removal took off. How many lives have been lost so far to the fuel subsidy removal? Yet, there hasn`t been much talk about the former. In fact, there are reports that Christians in the north have been asked to evacuate and the evacuation is going on en-masse.
Many have welcomed the national assembly`s condemnation of the fuel subsidy removal and some legislators participation in the protests but they have not asked themselves, how much does these legislators earn in total salaries and allowances? Why can`t they also give up a reasonable percentage of these ridiculous largesse? And how distant are these legislators from the oil cartel that is benefiting from oil subsidy or are they one and the same?
The reactions of Nigerians of the Igbo ethnic nationality however have been instructive. There has been a relative silence on the issue of fuel subsidy removal among Igbo`s. Instead, the Igbo`s are demanding an end to the killing of Christians in the north (mainly Igbo`s). This however is a demand that cannot be settled at a round table. Neither can protests alone solve that crisis. It is neither a matter of policy reversal nor a question of commodity price control. Much more diplomatic steps will have to be taken.
An emergency meeting of church heads had concluded ‘that the pattern of the killings does suggest a systematic ethnic and religious cleansing and the Christian leadership resolved to work out a means for Christians to defend themselves against the senseless killings’ – This is according to pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
Similarly, there are indications that Southerners may be preparing for counter attacks. Reports are widespread about Hausa`s fleeing the south already. Some ex-militants are also planning to re-group in other to react.
Meanwhile, infrastructures remain dysfunctional, political office holders get the larger part of our budget while an oil cartel claims an even larger amount as non-budgeted subsidy grants. All these have been going on for years without any major reaction from Nigerians who seem to be well suited to the situation.
It has taken the president’s decision to remove oil subsidy to finally bring out the fury in Nigerians. All the same, it is yet to be seen how these protests will evolve.
One can only hope that we somehow find a way to make use of these protests to get this government to :
1. Slash the over subsidized legislative and executive largesse in allowances and basic salary including presidential feeding allowance, bullet proof car vote etc. by up to 75%
2. Reduce the over bloated cabinet of fat cows by 50%
3. Pass the petroleum Industry bill at once
4. Pay the new minimum wage
5. Start the mass transit program and functional rail system
6. Start a well mapped out deregulation process
7, Privatize the refineries I the next few months
8. Privatise PHCN in the next few months.
9. Continue to implement the 2011 budget until march and start implementing the 2012 budget in April as proposed originally, meaning that fuel price would go back to sell at 65 naira until the budget as passed by the House, when it is passed, decide if and how subsidy is to be removed, in which case, protests can be discontinued on the streets but there will be need to “OccupyNASS” and state assemblies until all our conditions are met.
If we are serious, these protests will be sustained at the level of NASS in the next one year or more. We have so much catching up to do, so many changes to make. In other to reduce the ethno-religious friction amongst us while retaining a one Nigeria and avoiding a descent to Naijanistan, we must have a new constitution that allows us to practise a well-adapted kind of federalism that allows for the independent evolution of major ethnic groups, otherwise we will simply need to split.
As for the removal of fuel subsidy in itself, it is doing the right thing under the wrong circumstances and in the wrong way. We should not be satisfied with a mere price reversal to 65 naira. That alone will not help us in the long run. A well-informed, well planned holistic approach is necessary. Fuel price is the least of our problems; we should seize this opportunity to tackle real issues.
Thus, I consider the above as an appropriate course of action as we “OccupyNigeria”
Over and above all these, we should now begin to realise, that mankind today stands in spiritual judgment and purification. All that is wrong and evil will be brought out and swept away; all that is right and good will be uplifted. Let he who has ears, let him hear “Everything must become new”.