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WHY NIGERIANS ARE PROTESTING


By: Chigbu Tobechi  
 Published January 15th, 2012

In this day of sophisticated communication, the world is our neighborhood, and its peoples, regardless of status, are our friends and neighbors. Whatever concerns us interests them, and the advices they give us at times of our challenges whether solicited or not are deeply considered. This is the case also on the flipside in literally all aspects of our daily lives. We tend to compare extant observed conditions outside our shores, with whatever prevails within our own immediate surroundings and seek solutions from among others, asking our friends and fellow citizens of the world community offshore for counsel.

Conditions in our country compared to those outside are grossly absurd. The most remarkable difference perhaps is in the lack of respect for the individual and his most fundamental needs by government and those who populate it. The culture of impunity is enthroned by the ruling class in all their dealings with the underclass in a manner that the only contending interests are those of these two classes in a primitive style conflict.

Identifying the primary causes of Nigeria’s problems in the past decade is not mind-boggling task. For the nation, it has been a decade of woes within which period we have retrogressed when our contemporaries have leaped into unbounded prosperity in literally all fronts of human and material advance. Every conscientious Nigerian knows that our nation is rich in potentials and that the only element required to actuate its rich promises is prudent management. Many have argued that the PDP which has been the managers of corporate Nigeria during the last decade and half has failed in the task of providing requisite leadership to improve the conditions of the men and materials locally. Some of us argue that since one is adjudged as having failed following a conscious attempt to succeed which falls short of a cut off mark, the PDP does not qualify to receive such a grade, but rather its grade is “unclassified”. It is unclassified in the sense that its methodology is alien to all known civilized approaches of governance and that is why the people are in perpetual revolt against established principles of civility. These revolts find expression in crime, social unrest, religious and ethnic intolerance, as well as in youth restiveness, in women and child abuse, and so forth.

Against the popular will, this party has repeatedly forced its way into power, and repeatedly battered the collective sensibilities of Nigerian citizens in the crudest and most brazen manner. The average citizen logs these abuses of public power and continually seeks avenues to express his indignation. These collective logs form the critical mass upon which the remote causes of every act of social unrest is built. This is the reason why the nation embarks in series of wasteful strikes such as the one we presently have.

The Jonathan administration had no manifesto or roadmap from the outset except to perpetuate misrule and in so doing hope to bring about a ‘breathe of fresh air’ to a suffocating citizenry. Its emergence from within the PDP had been occasioned by the unsound logic that turned its avowed zoning formula on its head. The bickering and struggle for who will be awarded the presidential ticket had made any meaningful construction of a manifesto impossible for all the warring parties seeking it. When eventually it was settled (settled?) that the Jonathan/Sambo flag flies, all serving PDP governors entered into a pact of ‘return us and we shall return you’. The charade of election for President that occurred in the South East and South South which deserve especial mention played out.

Now in office, the reality of governing a nation at crossroads dawned on President Goodluck Jonathan different than the structure and composition of the feeble ones he had inherited from his deceased predecessor. In his estimation, the way to go was to bring on board his government individuals who possess enviable pedigree and expertise in their fields of endeavor in the hope that they will coalesce their collective geniuses and miraculously turn things around. In his estimation, Jonathan felt that since economics as some say in Political Science constitutes the substructure upon which a solid political and other superstructures are built, all that was required was to call an ace Economic Minister and a cerebral CBN Governor and subordinate the other ministers to the whims and caprices of the former; so that the suggestions of the coordinating minister become the basic advice of cabinet to the Mr. President. In the estimation of Jonathan, that removes the burden of leadership from him and frees up much time for him to look into Bayelsa politics and embark on more irrelevant foreign travels.

Whereas the President of the nation ought to be the coordinating minister – he being the number politician and philosopher-king – should select like he did, some of the smartest brains the nation has produced and at various meetings especially cabinet level ones, receive guidance from each minister on critical issues as well as bouncing such recommendation off other Ministers whose fields would be directly or indirectly impacted in the event that policies are made based on any piece of advice. The input made by colleagues of an expert in a council can be of great insight to the presiding authority because experts like Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala give wonderful world best practice advice which can work so beautifully with ‘all things being equal’ or under controlled environments. Most things are so skewed in this nation such that all things should be taken in context, and this first principle ought to remain constant constantly in the mind of our Head of State/Head of Government. Perhaps Mr. President is overawed by the intimidating resume of Sister Ngozi and Uncle Lamido, but these worthy children of this great nation alone, even with the best of intentions, cannot know everything about the nuts-and-bolts of how this country can be piloted to utopian heights. At best they will only come across as proposers of utopian political and social reforms.

It is the belief of many that if Mr. President had sat in council with the Economic Minister, the Minister for Interior, the National Security Adviser, the Inspector General of Police, the Minister of Transport, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a few other key cabinet members, to consider the issue of removal of subsidy on petrol and allowed everyone of them to speak freely, while he himself assumed an unbiased mindset, the way an manner this subsidy removal implementation was done would have differed much. The wastefulness of many days of national shutdown which did no one any good would have been averted. But because he didn’t, a large section of the country feel insulted in the timing, the methodology and the sheer insensitivity of government.

Imagine an almost unanimous House of Representative passing a motion for the reversal of a major decision of an executive president of a nation, only days after such a decision was made. It means that the President irrespective of his intention had played very bad politics capable of bringing the good name and image of the country into disrepute, and in saner climes this tantamount to a vote of no confident and subtly obliges the President to resign. In places like the United States of America, a policy with impact so pervasive on the populace such as the one we have here, would have been subjected to bipartisan consensus both on the construction and implementation fronts. But here, the PDP is still trapped in the early post-colonial mindset whereby the views of opposition Parties were regarded as either Communist or Capitalist incursions (depending on the leaning of the status quo) to subvert and overthrow the incumbent regime and which must ruthlessly be crushed.

Because the opposition is so put down and disregarded in the scheme of political affairs, Civil Society groups and Labour picked up the gauntlet to check perceived excesses of government which all too often have resulted in grave socio-political and economic consequences. All too often the government turns around to blame sponsorship of these reprisals on either ethno-religious or opposition party elements, or the so-called enemies of the administration. This is like the proverbial dog chasing its tail while much beneficial food materials pass by.

Finally, many observers erroneously believe that Nigerians are protesting merely against the effect of increase in petrol prices occasioned by the removal of subsidy on the commodity, whereas the more discerning ones see the strike for what exactly it is. Nigerian people for the avoidance of doubt are demonstrating against age long unacceptable levels of official corruption and its attendant putrid essence within our village neighbors in a new world where citizens individually have literally become ambassadors of their own nations. They are protesting against the great inequities and widening social gaps fueled daily by the enthronement and celebration of mediocrity in society. We are ventilating our disgust about the insensitivity of our government to critical development challenges and the relegation of meritocracy. Nigerians are expressing their anger at the lack of capacity and political will to effect sustainable change in the most endowed environment imaginable, by an inept bureaucracy. The people are unhappy with an irresponsible, truce breaking and agreement-bending government bereft of moral qualms, as well as their alienation from a strange Constitution by which they must daily abide and uphold. Nigerian people are hateful of all their so-called representatives who emerged through subverting the electoral process and whose collective greed is funded by one quarter of their annual National budget. Nigerians believe that all their past sacrifices were imposed upon them just so that the rich and ruling class may feed fatter, and that the current call to sacrifice will fare no better. This round of avoidable strikes has already cost our economy billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Mr. President, Nigerians desire for starters that you please set clear benchmarks, tasks and targets for all your appointees and key public office holders, explain clearly the principles of discipline against tardiness and dereliction of duty which you must ensure are applied unbiasedly.

 

Chigbu Tobechi (Ezinearticles Expert Author) is an ACN statesman and a political scientist. He writes from Owerri. ptchigbu@gmail.com - 08033434775


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