This week, I was transported back to the Republic of Biafra! On Wednesday, in parts of Lagos, the streets were practically free of cars but a mass of humanity trekked for miles and miles, many with loads on their head.
A few words spoken in Abuja had messed up what was already a bad situation. As transport fares suddenly shot up, tension mounted and the blood pressure of many also shot up. In a few hours, things fell apart and the center could no longer hold and Lagos in 2023 became Biafra of 1969, where you just trekked and trekked with the ever-present sound of shelling, sometimes not knowing where exactly you were trekking to.
Nigeria has been removing subsidy on petroleum products for as long as I can remember. The result? A recurring decimal of hardship, violence, and the degradation of the quality of lives of Nigerians. I am astonished that the few words spoken in Abuja could have been spoken without giving deep thought to their huge consequences and without putting tested plans in place to absorb those consequences.
How exactly do you announce such a policy at a time when there is no cabinet to think through the policy and no ministers who would in their different areas manage the fall outs from the policy?
If you go back to the root of the policy, the question returns: Who is subsidizing whom? We have been through this circuitous experience so many times that we ought to have learnt something. The moment you make the price of petroleum products higher, the price of everything else goes up, massive inflation takes over resulting in the loss in the value of the Naira and the need for more Naira required to buy the dollar necessary to import the products. This is one of the reasons for the continuous exchange rate pressure we have faced. Answer: Except you truly fix the refineries and stop importation of fuel, you will remain on the same spot.
Of course, I agree that the concept of the official exchange rate (the CBN rate) is one of the biggest scams in history. There are Nigerians making obscene amounts of money by just sitting in their luxury suites, making phone calls, getting dollars at the CBN rate and selling the dollars at the black market.
Let’s face it Nigeria is subsidizing so much beyond petroleum products. The Nigerian people are subsidizing the CBN exchange rate scam and the massive corruption that has eaten up our nation. Of course, the Nigerian people are subsidizing the offensive lifestyle of our government officials at national, state and local government levels. I still do not understand why it should cost Nigeria the humungous amount spent on the National and State Assemblies. What incredible laws are they making? This is another scam that Nigeria is subsidizing.
A certain Nigerian became a national phenomenon by answering Nigeria’s existential question in these words: “We must move from consumption to production”. I completely agree. Some people ask me whether Nigerians will ever know peace again. The Nigerian orgy of consumption is responsible for the orgy of corruption. Many in Nigeria have become so immersed in this orgy of the enjoyment of money they have not worked for that it will take something like exorcism to pull them out. Until we deal with our orgy of consumption, how can there be peace?
How can there be peace when there are too many self-centered people in our nation? Too many liars, 419ers, hijackers, kidnappers, armed and pen robbers, election riggers and many who think that Nigeria was made just for them and them alone. How can there be peace when less than 5% of the people have more than 95% of the money in our country?
How can there be peace in a nation in which the official monthly minimum wage is N30,000?
N30,000 means just N1,000 a day in a month of 30 days! It is from this ‘enormous’ sum of N1,000 that a salary earner is supposed to pay his transportation to and from work, pay rent, buy food, pay for healthcare, pay his children’s school fees and make the sundry expenses every person must make every day.
Lest we forget, N1,000 is really the cost of one decent loaf of bread. It is the equivalent of one dollar, 30 cents yet some state governors in our country, after driving around in their long convoy of choice cars and quenching their thirst with choice champagne, and buying houses all over the world, will come on television and have the audacity to announce that the minimum wage is too much for them to pay. Did anybody force them to become governor?
Oh, the world is filled with people walking around with only a body but no soul. They believe that they have a right to oppress everyone and God does not exist except for them. How can there be peace without justice?
Believe me, there can never be true peace without justice. Peter Tosh, the late great Jamaican singer expressed this succinctly in song.