By Alex Enemanna
These are no times for orgiastic giddiness and opulent celebrations among many Nigerians, neither is it times to say that joy like a river flows in their hearts and their lips filled with words of praises. No, it is not. In however keeping with the biblical injunction that we should be thankful to God in whatever situation we find ourselves, our people have as usual tabled their frustrations before God, the Creator from whom cometh their help.
Their hearts are beclouded in multi-layered despondency, anger and disappointment. They are beginning to question their very essence of Nigerianness. The question on their lips is “Is my nationality an albatross”? The feeling is the same across the country. From Kaura Namoda to Aba, Asaba, Kwara, Vandekiya, Kabba, Ebeyi Nvosi and indeed anywhere and everywhere you can think of across the length and breadth of this geographical expression called Nigeria.
We have been cajoled to accept and believe the cliché that the worst form of democratic governance is better than the best of military dictatorship and I ask what is it that the men in khaki do that men in agbada have not done? Is it the flagrant rape on the Rule of Law and relegation to abyss the court processes? Is it the Machiavellian abuse of human rights and rulership by whims and caprices? Is it the hypocritical reminder that citizens should be thankful to God that once merchants of jackboot, horsewhip and barrel of gun are now apostles of democracy and converts of the ‘new order’? Is it the mindless looting of our common patrimony and stashing of the nation’s treasury in the white man’s land?
One would have sufficiently assumed that 21 years after the return of democracy, we should be having a healthy collection of blessings in our basket. Alas, that is not totally the case. We are still mired in luxurious backwardness. The economy shaky. Infrastructure rapidly depleting. Industries closing down. Education nosediving. Democratic ethos grasping for breath under the suffocation of tyranny. Unemployment hitting the rooftop. Naira value on a free fall. There are a thousand and one reasons to believe that all is not well with our dear nation and her people.
Tired and fed up with 16 years of PDP’s unproductivity and obscene mismanagement of resources, majority of Nigerians thought it was time to look elsewhere. Alas, a history was made when an incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid in 2015, ushering in a fierce opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari to power amidst high hopes. Like the proverbial spectator in a football game who gloats in his imaginary ability to release the floodgate of goals when given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari took over the saddle of authority in May 29, 2015, gazing at the problems he had pontificated of having the magic wand to solve. Five years down the line, are our people really happier than they were in the era predating President Buhari’s regime?
While this intervention is not targeted at chronicling the myriads of fiasco and routine failure this administration has distinguished itself for since it came on board, suffice to say that the recent petroleum pump price increase to N62/litre is another low in its mission of misery against our dear patriots whose only sin is their nationality.
The announcement coated under the veneer of subsidy removal couldn’t have come at a wrong time than this. Our people were left in shock, if not total confusion. Hardly could they believe their ear. Like the Trade Union Congress (TUC) noted in its reaction, the government’s action amounts to killing the dead. At a period when the fatally depraved Nigerians are reeling under the devastating effects of COVID-19 outbreak, when their means of livelihood are struggling to regain its stamina, when massive layoff and disengagement of workers is the order of the day, when those who are lucky to receive salaries are paid in fractions, when the already saturated labour market has reached its crescendo, when citizens have taken up arms against fellow citizens in desperate effort to eke a living.
Interestingly, while ours is on a hot pursuit for policies that will further inflict pain on the already frustrated citizens and drive them inner on the edge of life, elsewhere the government is putting in place mechanisms to help individuals and livelihoods return to normalcy. That in reality is the very essence of government. In US for instance, $310bn funds was voted to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses so they can keep employees on the payroll. Aside this, poor families are placed on what we have dubbed conditional cash transfer for one year as an immediate relief to the COVID-19 economic crunch. Among other things, a pause in mortgage payments was introduced to support homeowners pending when the economy stabilises.
Here, the government struggles to explain how the so called removal of fuel subsidy (it never admitted exists) will be the one-stop solution the country needs to take her out of the current variegated odysseys. Sadly, the burden of our country’s lean pocket is usually passed on the doorstep of the common man but when there is so much to fritter, they are shoved aside while the big men enjoy their fleece. This is a government that pumps billions of Naira in turnaround maintenance on moribund, dead refineries that refine nothing but total waste. This is a government whose anti corruption profile has become a subterfuge of ruse.
Irrespective of how well-intentioned the deregulation of petroleum industry to allow for private sector participation may appear, the burden of trust in the implementation process will continue to rattle the people’s minds. The government has deeply entrenched a perennial sense of distrust and suspicion in the people’s psyche. Many a similar projects in the past decorated to have an outlook of face of the masses ended up as a drain pipe to benefit those already guzzling the nation’s wealth with utmost impunity.
To further compound our melancholy, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on the first day of September surprisingly announced an astronomical increase in electricity tariff earlier put on hold till the first quarter of next year. Again, the government goes about telling those interested in listening that it is committed to tackling hunger and rising food cost when virtually all we do revolves around the availability of petroleum and electricity. Will the farmer who spent his life saving buying petrol and paying for electricity roll out a food bonanza because the government wants prices of food items reduced? What incentives has the farmer received to aid food production?
This government must begin to demonstrate that it is in business to alleviate the people’s sufferings and not to compound it the more. The mood of the nation at this time does not require policies that will portray the leadership as not really in touch with the people. Instead of these increment galore, action plans that will help families and businesses have a breath of fresh air is needed now than ever. These include but not limited to injection of funds and tax reliefs.