Whatever the outcome of Nigerian Labour Movement’s “appropriate response” to the current hike in the pump price of fuel in Nigeria is, it is certain that nobody in Nigeria will buy fuel at the old rate again. The benefit of history is my base in this assertion. Between May 1999 and August 26 2005, the administration of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo had jacked up the pump price of fuel eight times! And on each occasion, the Nigerian Labour Movement, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress had vowed to ensure that the price was reverted only for the movement to settle for a middle-level price. So this time around, I expect the same result with some modification.
What makes the current struggle against the hike interesting is that some Nigerians, and this include labour itself, see the jack-up as necessary. What they consider unacceptable as some Nigerian newspapers want us to believe is that “the money that would accrue from the hike will eventually be siphoned by the people in authority”. My focus in this piece is less concerned with the timing of the hike neither does it want to join issue with those who see it as inhuman, sadistic or insensitive. What the Nigerian masses are wont to do to survive the hardships that are surely going to follow the current hike is my concern here.
By “the Nigerian masses” I mean the taxi and molue, drivers, the Okada man, the jobless, the teachers, the lecturers, the farmers, the iyalojas and babalojas, the dry cleaners, the bus conductors, the civil servants, in short all Nigerians who are not direct beneficiary of government lapses in Nigeria.
We should expect transport fare to shoot up as soon as labour and government are able to settle their wrangling. If there is no sharp increase in transport fare, you can be sure that the drivers will insist on conveying passengers on short distances on the current per drop charge; those on long distance will have to bargain the fare.
“Mama Ngozi, this your fish small this morning o”
“Ha, no be me o. Na the fish seller cause the problem. Dem say fuel don cost”
Nigerians, especially those like myself who cherish their pepper soup and cold beer are likely to engage in this kind of verbal rapport with their beer and pepper soup seller.
Parents, especially those with children in tertiary schools should brace up to cough out more. Apart from tuition and other development fees payable to the institution, which are going to shoot up, lecturers are going to demand more. What with the fact that most of us are now more of booksellers than teachers, we are now intellectual consultants than project supervisors; some of us don’t care two hoots about collecting material gratifications which influence students marks. Primary and secondary school teachers? In the absence of the privilege to prescribe books and be the writer, the publisher and the seller of the books (this is the major “benefit” lecturers derive from their calling in Nigeria), teachers are now unofficial supervisors, invigilators and mercenaries at public examinations. Coupled with this practice is that most of the shops in our locked up markets are wholly or partly owned by teachers and civil servants. Those who are not involved in “organising” students for examination or owning shops in markets chase one form of contract or the other all over the place.
Iyalojas and babalojas, those men and women who own retail or wholesale shops will have to take their survival cues from the quality of what is going on around them. Like the farmer who will arbitrarily increase the selling price of his farm products because the driver who will transport the products to the markets has increased his fare, the market men and women will wait for the manufacturers to increase his selling price.
The conscious parent will now increase the allowance he gives to his child every month. If he is not that way inclined, the child will have to lie to his parent by inflating the price of the materials he needs in school. So, a book the lecturer sells for
N 350 will go for N 500 multiply by the number of courses the child offers.
The armed robbers, pickpockets, burglars will have to be more ruthless in their approach because their prey may not have enough to “donate” when they come calling. Some of them will have to diversify too: an armed robber may delve into car snatching for a while or a common burglar may turn an armed robber, briefly.
The unemployed will be more daring. He may be more aggressive in his search for a job. If the application of aggression and intensification is futile, he may consider joining a group of his half brothers: armed robbers or burglars.
How about the pen robbers and the political robbers? These are the most privileged group of Nigerians! Surely, more money will be available to plunder, steal, misappropriate and embezzle. In conjunction with the career civil servants, there will be more contracts to inflate, more unexecuted projects to certify executed, more fake foreign trips to embark on and definitely more posh cars and flashy houses.
So, in the next four weeks or thereabout, a bag of guinea corn, which Senator Danso Sodangi said, costs
N 15, 000 should be about N 20,000. A 50kg bag of rice will jump from its present price of N 7,500 to N 10,000 while a bag of beans which sold for about N 9,000 last year, which now sells for N 12,000, will jump to N 15,000. The price of gari, the staple food item in Nigeria, has been flying from the reach of the Nigerian masses since Mr. Obasanjo made his entry into politics in Nigeria. According to Leke Salaudeen in the New Age newspaper of Wednesday, August 24, 2004, “a 20 litre tin of Ijebu gari
which sold for between
N 600 and N 700 earlier in the year now costs between N1, 200 and N 1, 400. Similarly, a bag of yellow gari which used to retail for N 4, 000 last year is now selling for N 6, 000. Thus, the price of everything is going up, including tomato and pepper, which have tripled in prices. So also have the prices of edible salt, palm oil, dry fish, crayfish eggs, and onions”.
The implication is that, with the current hike in the litre-price of fuel, Nigerians should be ready for hikes in the prices of food, and other essentials. They must be ready to perfect their means of survival in consonance with the dictates of their situation because, to Man, survival is a natural instinct.