National Strike: Our Inconsistencies

After one week

of mass protest, the “irreversible and irreducible” federal government has

balked; the voice of the people which was misunderstood but not taken for

granted has impacted the right notes with Mr. President. Arguably, the inept

handling of the subsidy removal made it possible for the president to bear the

brunt of anger in the nation. This is the price of leadership. No sweat.

In other

nations, the Petroleum Ministry with the stealth directives from the presidency

would have been at the forefront of defending such a policy. The president’s

bravado of equating loss of his life with a national policy exposed the man’s

jejunity. Presidents don’t talk that type of language. It is inelegant, so to

do.

Ideally, elected

politicians, at least in the ruling party should have permeated airwaves,

acreage of newsprint and social media arguing the case for their party. They

could have put across the message for a removal of subsidy in the cities,

villages, conurbations, valleys and hills of our nation. Without engaging the

electorate, it means that policy changes are conducted in the same ineffectual

way, whilst hoping for a different result.

Ours is a

country that is largely operated outside normative economic theories and

judicial obligations. There are too many inconsistencies in exchanges between

government and the governed; citizens and society. Massive unemployment in the

throes of equal proportion of wastage have galvanised both sides to confront

each other in, at least, debating issues affecting lives of masses of people in

our country.

The debate, as

expansive as it has been, the inconsistencies that have brought about the

present problems still remain. In spite, resolutions are sought outside normal

practices. Citizens are more resoundingly clear about accountability,

transparency, service-delivery, security of lives and properties and respect

for the rule of law. Government, though wishes to resolve its citizens’

concerns, its actions are disengaging.

The seething and

repressed frustration of both young and old; working and middle classes found

their vent in a government policy announced recklessly in a period that another

policy was overwhelmingly approved and supported by the masses. The federal

government attempt for immediate shutdown of the cesspool of corruption in the

oil industry would have resulted in financial losses for unscrupulous civil

servants and oil marketing companies. Given what we now know, few would have

sympathised with the culprits.

But what of that

Naija Factor” or “it can only happen in 9ja Factor” which for long is an intuitive

behaviour and an economic currency inappropriate in decent climes? Is the decay now so bad that reaction of the

citizen is replete with inconsistencies; government seemingly, confused? After over

two confused weeks of inaction, investigations into corrupt practices are

announced. Such remissness and inconsistency are wholly unacceptable to the

expectation of the masses. Though, it should also be accepted that corrupt civil

servants and oil marketers are not Martians, they are Nigerians. Some of them

are probably out there protesting with the masses. Are they not always

revolving at through the entrance door to the seat of power?

Amongst them are

both classes of lowly and highly placed citizens. Consider going through

Customs checkpoints at our international airports at the airports: when was it

not inquired – “what did you bring for me”

or at police checkpoints: “Oga, wetin you

get for the boys”. What is the use customs checking of private effects

openly at international airports. It is only in Nigeria that you see a Customs

officer handling passengers’ opposite sex underpants and knickers to extract

money. What is the use of that check in these days of automatic scanners? These

checks are embarrassing; of course, if eliminated, those sharing monies

extracted from passengers stand to lose. The cabal at our international

airports are not different to the ones we now fight. Extrapolate fleecing of

passengers into the cadre of junior civil servants. The corrupt practice is the

same, though, with a lower denomination value.

The Federal

Government directive to withdraw its subsidy for importation, sale and

distribution of Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) was inconsistent with the goodwill

of the holiday season; its defence was uncoordinated to the extent that the

policy fast degenerated to a campaign championed by the Mr. President, the

Ministers of Petroleum and Finance and the Governor of Central Bank.

Where was the

rest of the cabinet and collective responsibility which demands that all

ministers should have been at the forefront of persuading fellow Nigerians? The

inconsistency was more of personal preservation. This type of “body-language” served to persuade the nation

that the policy was not in its interest. Aside from that, this point has been

well laboured: approved emoluments of the executive and legislative remain

inconsistent with output or present economic climate in the country. The governed

on whose mandate our democracy flourishes disapproves of 2012 Appropriation

Bill, wherein profligacy seems undeterred. Perhaps, this is an aside.

Within the same

government, a tier, the House of Representatives’ posits an inconsistency to

the other chamber, the senate, a half-way House which agrees with the policy

but not its timing. Now that subsidy remains and a higher price than the old

one is announced, where does that leave the National Assembly in its

inconsistency? Is this not the Naija

factor of sheer incompetence and governance slothfulness?

There are two

grave pointers which further elaborate these inconsistencies: firstly, both

legislative houses are predominantly occupied by members of the ruling party.

Where is party discipline? Where is its three line whip? The ruling party is

rudderless. Its perilous disregard for internal discipline is foreboding for

society. Secondly, members of the two houses are remunerated to represent

citizens’ interests. How many of them went back to their constituencies to

explain the government’s policy? How do they justify the large constituency

allowances?

Elected

representatives of both houses, particularly, the majority in the ruling party

and ministers failed to educate their electorates; the current dialogue has no

specific agenda; it is not about removal of fuel subsidies. The government

seeks to persuade citizens of unsustainable budgetary expenditures. In

response, citizens state that the subsidy is a subterfuge for protestations of

the level of waste and corruption. Government provides more figures and

statistics to persuade the governed; in its inconsistencies, the almost

bankrupt Greek economy, an inappropriate example, was used to frighten listeners.

The ministers

defending the policy conveniently forgot that the variables in Greece are so much

inconsistent with problems enhanced by the Nigerian factor. More instructively,

though, both government and the governed were arbitrating two interlinked but

separate issues. The result is that the government has yielded ground of what

it perceived as concerns of its electorate. If not debating the same issues,

shifting ground resolves no concerns. So, the electorate remains in the

streets, protesting.

It is not only

government inconsistencies that are astonishing. The Trade Union Congress (TUC)

and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have inconsistently become a combination for shadow

government because of a lack of credible opposition. They called a national

strike and negotiated with government. Negotiated, on whose behalf – members and

non-members? No one volunteers the percentage of the population in their

memberships. What is the population of employees and retirees in the rolls of

these Congresses in contrast to the total Nigerian population on whose behalf

they negotiated with the Federal government? Generally, industrial relations

collective bargaining stipulates modules for trade unions? Here, in Nigeria,

these are theories inconsistent with the Nigerian Factor.

If the

activities of Labour Congress are, at all, considered galling, emergence and

re-emergence of groups such as “OccupyNigeria” and “Save Nigeria Group (SNG)”

compete with failed politicians who at recent polls could not persuade the

electorate to vote decidedly for them. They lead the same protesters who

rejected them at the polls. Welcome, to Nigeria. What are these politicians

doing in the vanguard of protests? They are seeking relevance, again.

“OccupyNigeria”

is opportunistic in its inconsistencies. Is the current protest to evolve like

occupation of Wall Street, New York or St Paul’s Cathedral, London? In the

alternate, is Nigerian Spring now due? Neither premise is consistent with what

is happening in Nigeria. So, what is Pastor Bakare preaching that could not

garner votes for him in the South-West of Nigeria? His “Subsidy 101 made Simple” assists the government’s position for

immediate removal of fuel subsidy, even if that was not his intention. There

is, in my view, inconsistent hypocrisy in his attempt.

This man is a

failed politician. He provided his party’s policies to the nation; he was

rejected. In decent societies such politicians wait to present themselves and

their failed policies again, at another election. But, this is Nigeria. Mr.

Bakare has dropped the garb of his political party to re-emerge in his primary

constituency. May be a lesson can be drawn from these protests. It is in a

credible opposition elected members of the House of Assembly that leadership

must come, not these jackboots.

To boot, past

ministers are joining the fray as if corruption in Nigeria started under the

current administration. Their rights, as nationals, guarantee their opinions,

no doubt. What are most unacceptable are personal insults of by these

supposedly respectable members of society, to the person of the president. Such,

is inconsistent with proper conduct. The name calling is indicative of a dearth

of logic. If truth be told, the corruption that is being complained of, and

from earlier disclosed information, existed also in the administration of Mr.

Olusegun Obasanjo.

Amidst several

inconsistencies, the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji, in

his broadcast, exhibited uncommon chivalry where leaders have failed,

miserably. His call for withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Lagos informs

that there are still leaders who can abide by proper conduct. Mr. Fashola’s

broadcast shows that the president is not surrounded by good advisers.

In a democracy,

you do not send soldiers to quell protests of unarmed citizens. The governor’s

analogous example of politicians dancing before the electorate to crave votes;

contrasting such to sending military power to quash electorate’s dance when

craving that the government listens, sums up the inconsistencies and

insincerities of leadership in our nation.

A premium of

thirty-two Naira, where a majority exist on less than two dollars a day,

embodies hardship. What immediate actions can assuage the electorate? There is

a need for palliatives that can appear in this month’s pay packets, costs of food

and transportation prices. If government were to subsidise wholesalers and

retailers, with the Nigerian factor, a zero sum policy shall emerge. So, what

can be done? Amidst too many inconsistencies, the protests may not easily

abate. Governance shall all the more become difficult.

Could it be true

that removal of subsidy may well be a stratagem to cover the news of combating

Boko Haram? The ploy is presently effective. Has anyone noticed that in the

last week, little reports are provided as to military engagements in those local

government areas? Is there a news blackout; has the deployment of garrisons of

soldiers on whom a lot of expenses have now resulted in overstated

intelligence? Who can inform us?

No matter how

consistent such military campaign may be to restore peace and order, let Mr.

President, from time to time, ensure that he is properly advised. Keep faith

with leaders of those local government areas to be sure that eradication of

Boko Haram is achieved with as much a mutual objective, as possible.

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