So What Next…After The Mother Of All Protests?

I am almost afraid and weary to write this article. This is

probably because of my penchant to dwell very long on issues that are very

close to my heart, but don’t want to bore the reader with a long treatise.

Unfortunately, however, the problem of Nigeria is my problem, your

problem, and you know what, the world’s problem.

In

sitting down to write this article, I have had to rely very heavily on comments

made by my friends and other people in the newspapers, internet media, the

social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, etc., not because I

cannot come up with my own, but because they are very interesting, inspiring,

sagacious and like our elders will always say in, two heads are better than

one.

Nobody

has a monopoly of knowledge or opinions. We all have to learn from each other,

and believe me; I have learnt a lot from my countrymen and women in the past two

weeks of the oil subsidy removal imbroglio.

Let

me state that I am in full support of removal of oil subsidy and deregulation

of our nation’s oil industry as long as it is driven by very sound economic planning and decision and, very importantly, as long as it

is handled with a sincere, transparent,

efficient, effective and well-meaning government that is not as corrupt.

That

is, a government that has a genuine interest and welfare of its people at heart

and such that is not bogged down by pettiness, political game-play and lack of

direction… but rather guided by sincerity of purpose and handled by competent hands in all positions of decision

making.

Alas,

we are yet to witness a government with such demonstration of will power and

purpose. In fact our country has not been lucky enough to witness many changes.

For

long, what we have seen is mediocrity, with purposeless, clueless, corrupt and selfish leaders (I prefer to call

them “rulers”) handling the affairs of our dear nation, at all levels of governance;

governments that have taken the generality of our people for granted especially

in the past three or four decades.

Hence

the justification for the current permeating anger and protest as demonstrated

by the people.

I

hold the same position with the people as a passionate Nigerian and that is the

reason for my opposition to the recent deregulation imbroglio.

Many

Nigerians currently in opposition to this decision I know are thinking along my

line.

However,

the reason for the recent protest, (which I believe have shaken this

government, especially the greedy, political ‘thieving class) has gone beyond

the popular Oil Subsidy removal.

We

must let our people know, even after the end of the strike that there are many

challenges facing our dear nation that are far beyond removal of oil subsidy.

We

are currently faced with bad governance, corruption, insensitivity to the

people’s plight, lack of vision and purpose, mismanagement of our natural

resources and many more maladministration drives; looting of our common wealth,

cheating, fraud, deception and deceit, mostly by people in government and their

backers outside the government.

So,

the protest goes beyond the subsidy removal. It is about sounding aloud to

those usurpers of people’s rights that enough is enough. There is a general

drive about taking our country back

from those usurpers of power and unlicensed authority, who had condemned us to

poverty, hopelessness and idleness.

There

are new dreams about setting a new groundwork and framework for a New Order; a

new power arrangement, a new system of government, such that will be answerable

to the people always.

I

have always opined in this forum that our true problems are not tribe or

religion. It is about corruption in positions of authority, bad leadership, bad

governance, lack of foresight and all these go beyond ethnic or religious

composition.

I

saw NIGERIANS of all professions, ethnic and religious affiliations taking part

in the protest everywhere in the country and I loved my people and I was very

proud them that at last, they are taking the initiatives. They want their

country back from the usurpers. I saw a renewed hope that may turn things

around for our deprived nation.

The

expression of our disenchantment through this protests must be sustained until

we achieve a positive result getting rid of corruption and bad leadership in

our political system.

This

recent action may be our only resort, our only and the only path to true

freedom, snatching back our pride and our rights.

Even

our respected Finance Minister, a staunch proponent of the fuel subsidy

removal, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala appeared to mirror my concerns: ”The issues on ground go beyond fuel

subsidy. We need to manage our resources so as to avoid the situation in

Greece”, she said

She

continued: “The cost of refining fuel is the problem (from N250 billion to N1.3

trillion). A responsible government should find a way of costing waste in the

system. The fuel subsidy gains will be directed towards the following under

mentioned projects”

  • To create jobs

    from the fallout of Subsidy removal

  • To improve our

    health care System especially for those in the rural areas

  • To improve the

    rail system so as to reduce the menace of accidents on our roads

  • To embark on

    roads rehabilitation

  • To cuts inefficiency,

    leakages in government which have been in existence from time immemorial.

  • Provisions of

    Youth Employment and Access to Credits to Youth to enable them to be Self

    Employed.

And our Governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, another

strong supporter of subsidy removal, contended that: “We are an oil producing

country; our refineries should be in place, the solution is not to undertake a

short term approach but a short term pain for a long term gains or benefits”.

“Let us

look at the costs (250 billion in 2011 to 1.3 trillion in 2012), some people are milking the country and a

system should be put in place to block all financial leakages. Our borders

should be closely monitored to reduce the incidence of border fraud of oil

products. It is in the economic interest of the country to remove it”,

he added.

“Our constitution is partly to blame for the cost of running the

government e.g. 776 local governments, 36 state governors, 26

ministers, special advisers at both state and federal levels, bicameral

legislature”. He strongly believes that the type of political

structure we operate now is too costly and we need amendments to the

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the Central Bank Governor

opined.

According to him, the cost of running the government is too high

and this is where the problem lies.

In

the words of Olutoyin Eweje, a Constitutional Lawyer based in the UK: “The government should tackle corruption in

the system, operate a welfare system of government, address the gaps between

the rich and the poor and then remove fuel subsidy.”

She

went further: “If the Federal Government

is really sincere in fighting corruption within the Oil and Gas sector they

should institute an independent and unbiased regime to investigate the going-on

within the petroleum industry so as to bring all the perpetrators to book”.

(Easier said than done, in our country, but it could be done with the right

people in authority, if we put our mind and backs to it)

“But the probes as presently

being done will not see the light of the day. A case in point was the panel on

the Power sector (The Hon Elumelu & Co) which was never concluded and all

the culprits are back to their respective offices…”The FG should stop making

mockery of the system and need to show commitment in their handling of matters

of utmost importance to the generality of Nigerians. Until the perpetrators of

all these corrupt practices are made to face the music, the people would never

believe the ability of the Government to fight corruption. Corruption is a

malaise and must be nip in the bud”, Eweje

concluded

So

what is next on the agenda?

I

believe Nigeria will not (or maybe I should say – should not) be the same after

this protest, which has opened more Nigerian eyes to the reality and

frustration of our existence.

Many

more Nigerians, including our rural dwellers and market-women, whom our rulers

(I won’t call them “leaders” anymore) have generally regarded as illiterate and

not knowledgeable and usually disregarded and deprived, are now aware of the

poverty and hopelessness which their rulers and their corrupting backers and

cohorts have been subjecting them to for many decades, stealing their common

wealth and literarily causing them death and other untold inhumane torture and

degradations.

In

a highly corrupt country such as ours with abundant natural resources, there is

one solution to our profligate and corrupt culture. We need to go back to the

Parliamentary system of government where cost of governance and corruption in

all facets of our national life will be drastically reduced by checks and

balances from a vibrant opposition with its own shadow cabinets and less

political hangers-on, thus making politics less attractive to the present crop

of political misfits, opportunists and charlatans.

Nigeria,

with endemic corruption, is not a good ground for the current Presidential

system of government. Let’s give it an objective thought!

This

democracy is built on a very shaky foundation. Perhaps it is time to get an

interim national government (ING) of civil society leaders for 18 months,

convene a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to determine our Union, work out

and establish a new Constitution, and then organize fresh elections and thereby

build a new democracy on a solid rock foundation.

I

know the above suggestions are fraught with dangers and uncertainties, nor are

they infallible, and are not a definite panacea to our problems. But, we could

at least consider some, if not all of them.

There

are other suggestions such as a 100% commitment and utmost sincerity in

tackling corruption, ensuring total transparency, total accountability, and

attaching 100% importance to managing and cutting waste in government. A 75%

reduction in the salaries of government official and political office holders

will go a long way in accomplishing the last.

Government

must be made unattractive to thieves, hangers-on, charlatans and the mediocre.

It is only then that we will be able to identify patriotic intellectuals and

technocrats who really want to serve and are not going into government just to

make money. We have too many thieves and clueless people in government right

now.

We

need people in government who are relentless promoters and practitioners for

greater transparency and who are against corruption and who will strongly

support the need for greater social accountability, responsibility and civil

society engagement.

There

are too many conflicts of interests and private and selfish agendas. It seems

like it is only in our country that conflict of interest is not an issue.

The

current Petroleum minister and her husband are key players in the industry she

is meant to supervise. Many former ministers and top government officials own

oil companies; and an incredible number of retired military officers and

politicians. When they are not stealing the money, they are getting N1billion

feeding allowances.

In

conclusion, apart from those mentioned above, why are our four refineries not

working and why is the government not taking steps to fix them and build more

Nigeria

produces 2.5 million barrels of oil per day and our domestic consumption is

only between 300 and 400,000 barrels per day, what is happening to the huge

excess?

What

steps, if any, is the government taking to tackle the oil marketing cabals who

have been defrauding the country for several decades? Is there any connection

between the cabal and the refineries’ inability to work?

A

final word on the military occupation of Lagos.

And

finally, regarding the sending of armed soldiers to occupy the City of Lagos;

when a democratically elected government tries this kind of intimidating

technique on its citizens, it does not portray Good Governance.

Good

Governance demands that governments (and leaders) are more accountable to their

citizens, and more importantly, that citizens have a VOICE in how the state is

run.

What

the Federal Government has done has a strong undertone of totalitarianism –

which alienates citizens, reduces trusts, and engenders social unrest as we

have seen in the Arab spring. It also firmly portrays the government as a weak

and cowardly institution afraid of its own people. The government was obviously

ill-advised to take this step – military on the streets – to intimidate

law-abiding citizens carrying out protests, voicing their displeasure at

unpopular policies, and demanding for a concerted fight against

corruption.

Please

give it a thought.

The

Truth must be told always

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