By Femi Asu
“If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” – Anonymous
Last week in my piece “A Tale of Two ‘Necessary Evils’”, I concluded by saying Nigerians are yearning for deliverance, not more suffering and pains, and I asked ‘Will President Jonathan hearken to the voice of the people?” I think it was a little naïve of me to have hoped so. He gave us a rude shock on New Year’s Day, dismissing our outcry as the ranting of ants. He gave off the impression that we can always have our say, but can’t have our way on the matter.
At the dawn of the New Year when Nigerians were mustering the courage to shout ‘Happy New Year!’ amidst the unpleasant state the nation was thrown in, they did so with optimism having prayed fervently for the nation. Remember, widespread was the rumoured threat of what was described as ‘the mother of all bombings’ on New Year’s Day. Fear and trepidation suffused the air, even in Lagos . Not a few people were scared of going to places of worship and other public places.
But contrary to the speculation, there was no bomb blast that day, but Nigerians got a bombshell instead, courtesy of the government. The news of the unexpected gift struck Nigerians like the sting of a scorpion. It jolted many Nigerians out of their ‘state of unshockability’, apologies to the late and lamented Dele Giwa. The wave of shock generated by the sudden implementation of the removal of fuel subsidy swept through the nation. The wild winds have been sown and now the whirlwinds are gathering: Outrage. Fury. Uproar…Nigerians, like autumnal leaves, are now showing their true colours.
Nigerians are visibly furious. The fury has gone viral. It is not just the protesters we see in the streets chanting ‘NO!’ to the removal of fuel subsidy, listen to your neighbours, the conversations at your local restaurants and bars and the conversation in the buses, in the offices, even in places of worship – the silent majority’s frustration levels are nearing a breaking point. Everywhere I went since the subsidy was removed, I saw the anger of a people erupting like an active volcano on Mount Vesuvius . The story is the same, offline and online. The name ‘Goodluck Jonathan’, which they say is the villain of the piece, is being crucified by many denizens of this beleaguered entity called Nigeria .
President Goodluck Jonathan may not know the gravity of the situation his government has put Nigerians by concretising his plan to remove fuel subsidy on New Year’s Day. The demons he has let loose on Nigerians are legion; few of them have just started rearing their ugly heads. Since the genie left the bottle on New Year’s Day, the Nigerian milieu has become very harsh. Why did he let the genie out of the bottle at a time like this? You may well ask.
This action by the Jonathan government is a study in deception. I said it last week that we have become mistrustful of government, thanks to successive governments who have made us look like idiots being ruled by fools. “But, we are no idiots! We are intelligent folks lulled into a false sense of ‘e go better’. Now we have wised up and are waking up from our slumber.” Hasn’t President Jonathan fertilised this mistrust by this action. They told us they were yet to fix a date for the removal. We were earlier told that it may take off on April 1. How deceptive and insincere can they be?
Like I said last week, “In the event that President Jonathan or any of the apologists of subsidy removal stumbles on this piece, the question to be asked is: Are Nigerians ready for the transformation they wish to spring on them by removing this subsidy?! Can we afford to live with the burden of bomb blasts and the aftermath of subsidy removal at the same time? If His Excellency asks me, I think he should work towards earning our trust first by curbing this menace of insecurity that is proving to be intractable. That we are resisting the removal of subsidy does not mean we are satisfied with the status quo. We just don’t want to throw caution to the winds this time round. We can’t very well do that.”
I added, saying: “How are we sure that Boko Haram will not frustrate Jonathan’s agenda to transform our nation after the removal of the subsidy, and so prolong our plight? Would it then be possible to undo the deed? So, like many Nigerians, I think the most pressing challenge besetting us is insecurity…” As I write, I hear that Boko Haram has issued an ultimatum to southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away. Is this not double trouble? Already, many Nigerians who traveled to different parts of the country for the holidays are yet to return. Many are stranded now because of the hanging swords of subsidy removal which the Jonathan government dropped on us on New Year’s Day.
The removal of the fuel subsidy has sent the prices of virtually everything into the stratosphere – higher fuel price and its corollary of rising prices of food, services, transportation, medicals, and more. They have put us in a stomach-churning, heart-rending and mind-boggling situation. Life is getting harsher and harsher, and they expect the masses to remain in that siddon-look mode, suffering and smiling? No! This genie must return to the bottle!
‘Femi Asu is a graduate of Accounting, University of Ado-Ekiti. He is a freelance journalist.