On Sunday the 8th, the House of Representatives convened an emergency meeting to assess the State of the Nation. Watching the show that our honourable representatives put on made me want to cry and laugh at the same time.
It made me sad because save for a few, the people whom we call our representatives are a sorry lot, I’m sorry to say. Expertly tip-toeing around the elephant in the room, they couldn’t seem to bring themselves to pronounce the words ‘Boko Haram’. Their ‘minute of silence’ in honour of the victims of terrorist violence barely lasted 15 seconds. Their interminable, cackling laughter amid grave issues on the table annoyed me no end. And I especially can’t get over the detached way in which they kept referring to “the government”, as though it were some entity separate from them, and to whom they could conveniently pass on the buck. As far as the concept of representative democracy goes, I’m convinced that it’s totally lost on them, they certainly appear too well fed, too far away from the condition of the average Nigerian to claim to act on their behalf.
On the flip side however, the is fact that they were there, in the House, and on a Sunday no less. To discuss the issues that are foremost in the minds of Nigerians at this time. In what ultimately comes off as a grovelling attempt to acquit themselves favourably in the eyes of the people, the House of Representatives disowned Jonathan and passed a resolution opposing the removal of subsidy. I am impressed. Not with their sense of propriety or solidarity, both of which I personally believe to be acutely deficient. Rather I’m pleased with the effect that our actions over the past few days seem to have had on the legislative body. Between @NaijaCyberHack-inspired SMS/phone-call bombings and the growing power of the #OccupyNigeria protests, the legislators in the lower house seem to have had an epiphany and have elected to “stand with the people”. Whatever that means.
However, the memo that the government hasn’t gotten, or has decided to ignore, is that the occupy Nigeria movement is NOT about fuel subsidy removal, hardly, this development has only opened a festering can of worms that is decades old. It’s about so much more. It’s about challenging the corruption, waste and excesses of government at the expense of a groaning populace. It’s an expression of the pent up anguish and frustration of a society that has been betrayed over and over again by the ones whom they have granted custody of their rights. It’s about the breach of social contract. In a country where 70 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day, the cost of maintaining a bloated, corrupt and ineffectual government is heart stopping. This is not hyperbole, Jeremy Weate describes it quite clearly -
…the lived reality of citizens of the Nigerian state is that it provides little or no security, no infrastructure, no education and no employment opportunities…everywhere in Nigeria, the basic elements of civilised existence have to be taken care of house-by-house, compound-by-compound. You must sink your own borehole for water, buy, install and fuel a generator for power, hire security guards to keep the wolves from the door, pay school fees to ensure your kids get a half-decent education because the public school system is in perpetual meltdown. And to earn enough money to get through the day, you must hustle.
And all of this where government officials receive unthinkable sums in allowances, send their children to school abroad, travel in intimidating convoys, go on foreign vacations at public expense, employ special advisers for their special advisers. Now, in the name of development, they would serve the masses grave austerity measures while they keep the gravy. It is atrocious. It is criminal. It is why we are angry.
Nigerians have managed to come this far, eking out a bare existence, keeping body and soul together, without a government. But this same government has decided to take away the very reason why this shaky construct has held together all this time. They want Nigerians to make bricks without straw, and expect that people will carry on as before. Not so this time, as it turns out . The subsidy was merely the loose brick keeping the leaky dam together, and removing it has unleashed the pent up frustration and indignation that Nigerians have kept inside all these years. This time, it’s not Labour against the government. This is the people of Nigeria demanding their birthright, the right to a decent life and livelihood in a land that they call theirs. Surely, this cannot be too much to ask for. In spite of the unfortunate casualties, the protests are only going to get bigger, and the government will soon come to the inevitable realisation that this time, they’ve whipped the donkey one time more than they should have.
Nigerians are not against the removal of subsidy in principle. All we want is that things be done in a proper and humane fashion. Do not ask for our trust, because we do not have any left to give. If you want it, you must earn it. Cut government waste. Tackle corruption. Build refineries. Create economic buffers. THEN remove subsidy. Shirking your responsibility and asking the masses to bear the consequences of your incompetence, while you live lives of flagrant ostentation is not only totally unacceptable, it is an insult. And if you think throwing us dry bones, like that pathetic after thought of 1600 buses, will pacify us, then you’ve got another think coming. Nigeria is ours, and we will occupy it.
The issues are complex, and one can only gain the objective high ground by a reasoned appraisal of the facts. If you really want to know what Occupy Nigeria is and why it has come about, I ask that you take the time to read through this list of posts and articles and news reports that I’ve put together, the opinions of intelligent people on the subject backed by facts, figures, historical and political context.
- Jeremy Weate - Fuel Subsidy Removal Protests For Dummies
- Chude Jideonwo – This Is Why We Are Angry
- Vanguard Online, 4th December 2010 – National Assembly Consumes 25 Percent of National Revenues
- AllAfrica.com – The Presidency’s Billion Naira Food bill
- Feyi Fawehimi - Cut The Waste: Squeezing Water From The Rock
- Tolu Ogunlesi – How Not To Run A Country
- Sahara Reporters – Monumental Oil Subsidy Fraud And The KPMG Report
- EiE Nigeria Website – www.eienigeria.org
- Yomi Adegboye – I Am An Angry Young Nigerian Once Again
More relevant links to come.