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On Wednesday, the government raised the price of petrol to ₦160 a litre, the third increase in a few weeks. Since then, there have been massive complaints and calls for action. The phrases Occupy Nigeria, Enough is Enough, Revolution Now and Days of Rage have been trending on social media. It is not only fuel that is at issue, electricity tariff too has gone up and food prices are galloping.
Nigerians have been shouting themselves hoarse and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari following the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) and the hike in electricity tariff to ₦66 per kWh. The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) set a pump price of ₦162 for petrol in the south-west region.
This followed the increase of the ex-depot price for the product by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, a subsidiary of NNPC. The price was increased from ₦138 to ₦151. Electricity distribution companies (DisCos) across the country also began on 1 September the implementation of a new electricity tariff regime of ₦66 per kWh.
Despite these occurrences, it is very noticeable that a good number of influential and controversial Nigerians have been very quiet about these occurrences.
This takes us back to slightly similar events in 2012 under the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan era when fuel subsidy was removed. Nigerians took to the streets, to social media and to the print media to vent their anger. Among these were notable Nigerians such as Professor Wole Soyinka, Bishop Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Josephine “Joe” Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin of the Women’s right movement Nigeria.
These individuals especially Professor Wole Soyinka had taunted and tongue-lashed President Goodluck Jonathan going as far as calling him a King Nebucaddenzar.
These onslaughts triggered the 2012 nationwide #Occupy Nigeria protest.
The first day of protest had residents of Lokoja, the capital city of Kogi State and an important link town between Abuja, Nigeria’s capital and the rest of Southern Nigeria, block the highway connecting Abuja with Southern Nigeria with bonfire protests.
In Abuja, civil society groups began collecting signatures that later transformed into full-blown protest in the heart of the city. By the second day, the protest had spread to more cities in Nigeria. From Lokoja to Lagos, Maiduguri to Sokoto, Abuja to Port Harcourt, Nigerians poured into the streets, angry and demanding answers from the government.
The protest went on without any formal organisation but a loose ‘Occupy Nigeria’ platform, modelled after the global occupy movements that season. Nigerians abroad also joined the protest. Many Nigerian foreign missions abroad were besieged by protesters seeking answers to pressing corruption issues back home. The protesters threw up questions that had never been asked by Nigerians. They demanded a probe into the fuel subsidy scheme and questioned the credibility of the government for not standing up to the ‘cabal’ it blamed for corrupting the scheme.
Musicians and actors openly performed for the crowd and popular APC chieftains paid for caterers to feed protesters. Each morning LASG cleaners prepared the venue. #OccupyNaija organisers had complete and total freedom under Jonathan. Politicians like Governor el-Rufai were on Channels TV slamming President Jonathan on the Morning News show while Buhari freely instigated Nigerians and publicly asked citizens to learn from the Egyptian revolution. Other social bigwigs such as Bishop Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Josephine “Joe” Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin rallied their fans and supporters against the Government, openly blasting Goodluck Jonathan and his Government.
The protest triggered increased national awareness, with citizens analysing the 2012 annual budget to the point where the president’s feeding budget was viewed as a major setback for the nation. Protesters demanded accountability in virtually all sectors of government. The protest was bolstered after the organised labour called for a nationwide strike on the fourth day of protests. Labour union’s declaration of strikes, indicating that it will join the protests, provided the movement with a needed fortress.
All these happened in 2012, but an observer steadily watching the current state of events in Nigeria might say Nigerians have been ‘shocked’ into silence by the blatant wickedness of this present Government.
That Wole Soyinka was antagonistic of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his administration was a fact too obvious to hide. Not only had he been contemptuous of the person of Dr Jonathan, but he was also cynical about almost every programme, decision or action undertaken by the administration. Indeed, like some members of the opposition parties, the Nobel Laureate had never found anything good with the Government.
Soyinka’s statement touched on several issues, some of which he had bottled up, including what he claimed to be President Jonathan’s involvements in the 2018 crisis of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, his handling of the Chibok girls, the Nyanya bomb blast, his alleged insensitivity to the recent Kano tragedy, campaign on ethnic sentiments and the sacking of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the late Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru.
Almost every statement that Soyinka uttered in his “King Nebuchadnezzar – The Reign of Impunity” article against Goodluck Jonathan was laden with biases of all sorts, political, religious and ethnic. For instance, he accused President Jonathan of impunity and at the same time found nothing wrong with former Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi who had no respect for the rule of law.
Prof Wole Soyinka’s attempt at assessing the 2019 general elections and the outcomes, where he praised the Buhari administration to high heavens and concluded dogmatically that Nigeria would have collapsed if former President Goodluck Jonathan had won the 2015 polls, muddled up his own public record and left him punching below his weight.
It is clear now that Wole Soyinka would soon discover that he wasted his time praising the Buhari government, especially as he deliberately failed to raise the red flag on obvious and avoidable sloppiness on the side of the terrible government.
Is Soyinka happy with the excruciating but unending fuel situation, spiralling decline in naira value, prevarication and tardiness on the issue of subsidy, embarrassing lack of economic blueprint, constant demonisation and criminalisation of Nigeria and Nigerians at international fora, as well as Buhari’s abhorrent disdain for those he governs? Juxtapose those with the method of the Jonathan era and please help spot the difference.
When President Buhari was sworn into power in 2015 and he decided to personally run the petroleum ministry, the popular understanding was that he was committed to solving the fuel subsidy regime issue by reviving the refineries and producing sufficient fuel locally. He ordered for the refineries to be fixed, the contracts were issued but the goal of local production was not achieved. While Nigerians were wondering what happened to the 2015-2016 contracts, it was recently announced that new contracts have been issued to revive the refineries once again.
Today, Nigeria is broke and there has been a massive reduction in the national revenue inflow. It is very difficult to maintain petroleum subsidy and if the country persists along this line, the cost in terms of other needs, including public sector salaries, would be too high. The electricity sector has been in deep crisis since the privatisation process and the government has been subsidising the electricity generation companies (GenCos) and the distribution companies (DisCos) for the past seven years. The economy is in deep crisis, millions of Nigerians have lost their livelihoods, the cost of living is unbearable.
In response to the new hike, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority unexpectedly increased prices of bus fares. Addressing the chorus of queries and concerns over the move, the state government said the price hike was the only way to prevent the transport business from going under. To offer further clarity on the decision, Abiodun Dabiri, LAMATA MD, noted that the monies being expended by the operators on fuel, oil and tyre had increased by 71%, 64% and 90% respectively. Not peculiar to LAMATA alone, price hike also surfaced in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) which recently raised Passenger Service Charge (PSC) by 100 per cent for both domestic flight passengers and international travellers. Similarly, the toll rate of prepaid users accessing the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) was jacked up by 300 per cent. To cap it all up, airfares have significantly increased since domestic flights resumed in July, with some airline operators raising prices by as high as 50 per cent. Reported prices of local goods indicated a significant increase in the cost per unit of these goods. A 50kg bag of rice previously sold for ₦18, 000 is now ₦30, 000, while a paint bucket of Garri that was ₦300 and ₦350, is now being sold for ₦2,000.
The fact that these same people who were jumping up and down in Ojota in 2012 when Petrol was ₦86 are now buying for ₦160 without any complaint. This form of hypocrisy should indeed be put up as a case study.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with Bishop Enoch Adeboye. Apart from Mr Adeboye, who heads the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), others at the meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari.
Although details of the meeting were not disclosed as at press time, it was alleged to be in line with the components of the newly signed Companies and Allied Matter Act which seeks to regulate not-for-profit organisations including churches. The Act has been causing major apprehension amongst Christians. Sections of the Act indicate the rights to empower the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to suspend church trustees and appoint interim managers.
Under the new law, they can replace church trustees “if they reasonably believe there has been mismanagement, misconduct or fraud to protect its property in the public interest”. Today’s mega pastors do little to hide the fact that they are billionaires. They flaunt wealth, ride expensive cars, fly in private jets, and live in vulgarly ostentatious mansions while their congregational members suffer deprivations.
They argue that churches have spiritual foundations and it is only courting trouble to empower any agency to appoint people who don’t share that same spiritual insight to oversee their affairs. This is fallacious because most pentecostal churches are one-man businesses where when the founder dies, his wife or son takes over. Undeniably, the motives behind the CAMA 2020 amendments are suspect. In 2017, there was a public hearing in which the concept of public control over religious institutions was roundly rejected.
The CAMA Bill has already been put in place by the Buhari-Led Government and despite the numerous litigations and protests, it looks like a law that has come to stay.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK