Elasticity limit of people’s suffering
– Oyoze Baje (Poem titled; ‘Another Song’, 1988 from his collection, Petals and Thorns)
At last, the cookies have crumbled! The long era of self-deceit in an anti-people structured democracy, characterised by what I have always referred to as “the restless run of the overtly avaricious political locusts,” who have been feeding fat on our common patrimony and going scot-free, is coming to an end. If in doubt, let us consider the recent trending news headlines, both in traditional and social media. The first one was: “Youths in Minna storm the streets in protest over high cost of living.” That was on Monday, February 5, 2024.
The protesters blocked both the entry and exit points of Minna, at the Kpakungu roundabout, disrupting traffic flow. Beyond hurling stones and wielding cudgels, their vile vituperations were directed against President Bola Tinubu and their state governor, Mohammed Bago. It was no child’s play for the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Shawulu Dan-Mamman, and the anti-riot team to quell the protest.
On that same day, another breaking news was that of protesters taking to the streets in the densely populated Kano metropolis, for the same reason. But if the self-serving political leaders thought, that was the end of it; they must be living in a dreamland. Of course, they are.
Two days later, on Wednesday, February 7, the engaging news item was: “Protests in Suleja over leadership issues.” And before you could blink an eyelid, it was the Northern Elders Forum giving a stern warning to President Tinubu to address the dire food insecurity plight of the common man. Added to that was a similar protest that same day by market women in Lokoja, Kogi State, against leadership issues. Gradually, it is moving southward, as one noticed.
As reported, the tragi-comedy was the heady headline stating on that same Wednesday that: “Nigerian market women warn: If we see Tinubu, we will beat him up over hardship.” Going further, they asked him to resign as the nation’s president, as it was apparent that his administration lacked the solutions to the ever-searing economic dire straits. Read that again.
What that simply means is that political leadership is not about serving the self; it is about sacrificing one’s whims and caprices in the best interest of the state. That was from the aggrieved market women in Ogun State. Interestingly, that statement also reflects the valid position of the Suleja protesters who stated on one of their banners: “Leadership is about improving the life of the masses. Tinubu, do something now!” The other read: “Nigerians are suffering. Stop the hardship now!”
Unfortunately, instead of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, admitting to the fact that it has not lived up to its promises and pledges to improve the quality of life of the citizens, it has resorted to cheap blackmail. A statement by the party’s spokesman, Felix Morka, said, “That the protests happened simultaneously in both cities is not coincidental. It bears the bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort to instigate unrest and undermine the government. This mercenary opposition tactic is a clear and present threat to public peace and national security.” But some concerned analysts responded stating that it was balderdash!
Such a response is most unfortunate as if the spokesman, Morka, and his allies live in a different country. The bitter truth is that the prices of goods and services have soared beyond the reach of the common man. The consumer inflation rate has escalated from 28.20 per cent to 28.92 per cent over a 12-month period. That is according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Sadly, that was the highest in more than 27 years.
As for insecurity, farmers cannot access their farmlands in some states including Zamfara, Niger, Benue, and Plateau states, where some have to pay to get there. With all the banditry and kidnapping spree, it is not surprising that the poverty rate in Nigeria has risen from 40 per cent to 46 per cent, meaning that the figure of helpless people caught in the terrifying trap of poverty has increased from 79 million people in 2018 to 104 million as of December 2023. With all these taking place while political officeholders are openly and consciencelessly enjoying the perquisites of office, it has fueled mass protests against the current administration. This is not the time to defend the indefensible by telling us that the cost of living in Nigeria is one of the cheapest in Africa. That is another cheap talk!
What it all boils down to is that the hunger in the land has metamorphosed into anger as exhibited in the protests. The youths do not need any political party to instigate them. But what we should be concerned about are the lasting solutions that the government, as the policymakers, should embark upon to salvage the serious situation before it degenerates into anarchy.
I believe that, with all due respect, President Tinubu should humbly reverse the gear on fuel subsidy removal, while simultaneously identifying the masterminds behind the subsidy scam, prosecute them, and bring them to speedy justice, no matter whose ox is gored. Similar measures should be meted out to the sponsors of terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping for ransom. That will serve as a deterrent to others.
Another pragmatic step to take is for the president to agree to the long-drawn issue of the holistic restructuring of the country, beginning with state and local government policing.
The next noble step, of course, is to allow the states to control their natural resources, and pay an agreed percentage of income to the centre which should free itself from the issues of education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, and transportation, and focus on the military as well as international relations.
Doing so will reduce tension in the land, enhance internal security to boost food production, as well as allow the free flow of business transactions. This has become expedient to avoid the call for “Occupy Nigeria” by members of the Osun Civil Societies Coalition, as it took place in January 2012 at the Gani Fawehinmi Park under the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration fueled by the increase in the fuel price. Prevention will be far better, wiser, and cheaper than cure.
But a refusal to do so means that the patience, tolerance, poverty, hunger, and anger of the people have cumulatively reached their elasticity limit and like an overstretched rubber band are ready to snap off in anarchy!