Oil Has Kept Nigerians Suffering!

One could perhaps ask who are those people suffering and why are they suffering? Is it because the people don’t have money to buy what they need? Don’t they have land to cultivate their farms? Don’t they have mineral resources for exchanging for other essential commodities? Don’t they have highly qualified intellectuals at their disposal in technology? Don’t they have politicians to advise them on how to feed themselves? Don’t they have so-called religious leaders to teach them how to create and feed themselves? Yes someone with a clear mind out there will undoubtedly ask these questions proving a cry very difficult for the people to resist. Why despite all these, Nigerians are said to be suffering?

The last year, 2008, was particularly challenging for us but my major objective was to protest for Nigerians to live above average living standard – not pretend to be ok despite being indebted and poor. If this government is told that once they declared austerity, the citizens must feel it. They should hold my balls if not to order increment of petroleum prices by an unprecedented 98 percent. The consequences of last year’s crude price hikes and eventual collapse are there for even the blind to see. Millions of Nigerians heeded their advice to “squeeze their belts” this year 2009. They have squeezed this January, so hard that their waistlines now appear to be disappearing. Apart from his excellent self, the only other Nigerians who are developing more prominent waistlines are the poor members, those in this presidential team and a few bootleggers. This year, I have vowed to resist any intimidation by our proxy-economic managers in this government. For this reason, I have fixed steel shields around my balls to be able to withstand their ball squeezing intimidations. This year I assure you, my people, that even my dead body will not countenance any petroleum price hikes.

The mention of petroleum brings the issue of energy supply to the fore. Electric power supply in our country remains erratic and undependable. Elsewhere the power goes off once in 20 years and when it does everything comes to halt, the whole nation panics. In our country, Nigeria loyalists and opponents, everybody panics when the electricity supply is uninterrupted for 20 days. People panic in a situation like this because there are rumours that the PHCN , which is fast catching up with uncle Sege’s NEPA as the most unreliable energy company in the world, charges a special levy for supplying uninterrupted power for 20 days.

Delivering the goods in the five priority areas of this government development agenda has been as erratic and unpredictable as power supply from the PHCN despite the diverted electric power emergency votes. They can hardly develop any infrastructure without borrow from some distant shore in presence of abused and wasting oil resources. They have used their numerous shameful travels to go around the world, cup-in-hand, begging for assistance to build roads, hospitals, schools etc. They are happy to report that some of our developmental benefactors have been kind enough to make their tax-payers’ monies available to us for the development of our infrastructure. We can’t do anything without these benefactors and occasionally, They have to travel to the western kingdoms to pay homage to those who previously enslaved us and “ask for more,” as my favourite hymn says. In fact, we need more help in the area of infrastructural development. Take road transport as an example. Even though some buses have been brought into this country, the mass transit system they promised has not really taken off. For instance, the part of Rivers State where I reside ban the simplest means of penetrating to gully roads they refused to put in order, yet the needs us to ” camel” it daily. Well, don’t blame this regime. Those who promised to provide busses and taxis have failed to deliver on their promises, ostensibly because they are waiting for their buses to age further before giving them away. I am still waiting and I will urge you all to exercise patience. I have never experienced the hustle most of you go through each morning just to get a rickety ‘keke NAPEP’ to convey you to your various places of work. But I know it is a very tough experience which makes you sweat a lot like a pregnant fish. Until the mass transit service is fully operational, I will urge you all to invest in handkerchiefs.

It is about time for the sleeping Nigerians to wake up and hold every disloyal politician accountable for creating the woes of our country. We should as well be responsible for our immoral attitude which is the greatest iniquity that prevents us from holding other criminals accountable because we are also full of corruption and wicked minds.

About a quarter of a decade ago Nigeria was a military dictatorship on a downward slip to economic and political doom. There was massive plundering of the national coffers, infrastructure was in shambles, there was shortage of almost every conceivable item on the market, standards of education had deteriorated, and poverty among the masses of the people was very high. Now the country is a democracy and by the end of the next two years , we will have held our fourth general elections under the fourth republic. The first in the history of this country.

But poverty still reigns supreme among Nigerians today and people are increasingly finding it too difficult to afford a single decent meal a day. Unemployment is nearly 50% as young graduates are left on their own, public schools are a dismal failure, corruption in and out of government stinks to high heavens, the moral bankruptcy of political leaders and their lack of vision are so abysmal that even a blind cannot fail to notice it, our hospitals are graveyards, and where often the financial bottom line of the hospital gets more attention than a patient’s pocket line. Ballot snatching, intimidation of political opponents, voter registration fraud and voting fraud are all unfortunate part of our democracy. Hello, Is this glass half empty or half full?

Nigeria are proud of being a democracy, on the other hand, they cannot hide their revulsion for the political leadership and the political system that keep them in perpetual poverty. Nigerians have a love – hate relationship towards politics and politicians. While we love the label democracy, just being democratic is not enough. Our democracy must be responsive to the needs of the people. In other words, they should benefit directly and tangibly from it. Just guaranteeing the rights of the people in a constitution however important that is, is simply not enough. Those rights must translate into better standards of living for our people.

Obviously then, Nigeria today stands as a failed state that is unable to provide the conditions for the security and prosperity of the majority of its citizens. No amounts of euphemisms parading in platitudes such as our new-found democracy or vision 20-2020 of business can erase this indelible fact. Yet unlike a person born with a fatal congenital condition, we can return to the foundations of the state as a political entity and re-erect it on a sturdier plinth. The new comer industrialized countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea and also Germany are examples of committed and dynamic social engineering that have catapulted relatively backward nations into prosperity.

In modern times, even when a country is possessed of huge reserves of petroleum, industrialization has been the vehicle of socio-economic development, and Nigerians must demand a viable industrialization program from our leaders. It must be one that is rooted in the development of an integrated metallurgical industry utilizing Nigerian minerals and expertise to create machine-building capability for the country. Only then can Nigerians achieve the increased value of labor that arises from true value added activity. The process of industrialization i

s no easy one. In Nigeria, as in other countries, it must include a land reform process to alienate land and commercialize all agriculture, and a total reform of the educational system to make it more responsive to the countries industrial needs. Finally an industrialization program will expose the limits of unitarism and show our castle-based autocrats totally incapable of real nation building.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria stands at the crossroads of history. Then there is Nigerian economy, highly oil-dependent and no longer capable of controlling oil prices merely by issuing a press release about its production intentions. One expert on our politics and industry tells me that we promise to step up output can be worthless, since a significant portion of our “reserves” are “political barrels,” nonexistent or at best undeveloped barrels reported to enhance this government prestige but not actually quickly extractable.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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