Four years ago, the Goodluck Jonathan administration made a decision to end the costly fuel subsidy that many believed was fuelling corruption in Nigeria. The decision was based on the belief that the subsidy was a drain on public finances and that it was unsustainable in the long term. President Jonathan said the move would save the Treasury over one trillion Naira in 2012 and that the money saved would be better spent on infrastructure development in the country. But Nigerians cried foul. Protests, some of them violent, erupted in different states across the country as people asked for a reinstatement of the fuel subsidy scheme and a presumed return to low fuel prices. Many more called for the impeachment of the Head of State at the time, President Jonathan.
The protests soon evolved into a movement and thanks to social media, #OccupyNigeria was born. It was termed the ‘Nigerian Spring.’ The movement had activists, civil organisations, labour unions, opposition parties and celebrities speaking out against the government, leading and catalysing protests in real life and on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The world paid attention. International media weighed in and very soon, the Nigerian government and labour union negotiated a partial subsidy removal that brought the petrol price up to N97 from N65 a litre, instead of the initial N141 it would have been at, had the subsidy been totally removed.
Yesterday, President Buhari’s government announced the removal of the subsidy for the sale of Premium Motor Spirit with immediate effect. This moves the price of fuel in Nigeria up to N145 per litre. The reaction of Nigerians to this news is surprising to say the least. The general public is, for the most part, remarkably silent.
For certain, Jonathan was far from perfect. Politicians rarely come close. He was rightfully criticised for many things. But where are the prominent folks who spoke out against Jonathan’s government now that Buhari has done the exact thing? Where are the the self appointed political activists, the people who championed #OccupyNigeria, some of whom jockeyed for their five minutes of fame by bashing the government in interviews granted to international media organisations like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN?
Where are the likes of Seun Kuti, Omoyele Sowore, Gbenga Sesan, Omojuwa and others? It appears they have run out of placards, and internet data. Perhaps, they have been protesting so long that their throats are dry and they cannot speak. Or maybe they have suddenly rationalised this administration’s decision by claiming that the current president has more credibility to carry out a subsidy removal than the last did.
Many Nigerians are waiting on them to organise and protest. “Fuel Subsidy removal again. Where are those wailers who wailed 4 years ago? We are waiting for the one month strike that rocked the nation then,” a Facebook post read. Another Nigerian said, “Castigating subsidy removal in 2012 and accepting it in 2016 just reeks of double standards no matter what anybody thinks or says. I hear a number of ‘Buharists’ talking about the benefits and resultant effects of subsidy removal right now, but where were these thoughts in 2012? So you mean we could have done this and gotten it out of the way since 2012? Ebele was a genius after all.”
In January 2012, Seun Kuti, a Nigerian musician, Gbenga Sesan of EnoughIsEnough, and Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters, were on Al Jazeera criticising the Jonathan administration on its decision to remove fuel subsidy. “This is a callous decision by our government,” Mr. Kuti said of the subsidy removal. “This is why I’m a part of it [the #OccupyNigeria protest] to see change in Nigeria, to end our government’s abuse of the people’s senses and rights…We have to be a different generation, we have to be outspoken about our future,” he added. Why is Kuti silent now? What has changed, if not the administration? Or is this generation different from that which Kuti spoke about in 2012?
Mr. Sesan opined the government was bending the truth in their own favour when it said subsidy was unsustainable in the long term and a drain on public finances. Mr. Sowore stated that the government spends a lot of money on food and personal allowances. But this is true, even until now with our padded budget and our public officials spending billions of Naira on luxury sport utility vehicles. Why isn’t anyone protesting Buhari’s ‘callous’ and ‘selfish’ decision yet? Things are certainly no better than they were back in 2012, if anything, the standard of living of Nigerians in the past year of Buhari’s presidency has deteriorated.
Fuel at N145 per litre is a far cry from the N40 per litre Buhari’s camp promised during the heat of the elections. Transportation fare prices have doubled. The price of food is on a steady ascent. There is no electrical power. Companies are downsizing and salaries remain the same. Yet the people who are, or were, supposed voices of the masses have changed their tune or have stopped singing all together. If you occupied Nigeria four years ago, if you called the past administration callous, selfish, or ineffective for a policy that you vocally or implicitly support today, then you have either truly mastered the doctrine of change, or you need to get your head checked. The choice is yours. As for me — I’ll be waiting in line with my jerrycans.
Culled from http://venturesafrica.com