Letters to the editor
The Goodluck Nigerians Ever Had
The Goodluck Nigerians Ever Had
By Kazeem Azeez Idowu, a Law Student at University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.
‘Is Nigeria meant for only Northerners?’ ‘They have ruled this country for a considerable number of years, are they the only ones?’ ‘This nation comprises both Muslims and Christians and why should the Muslims alone be allowed to rule?’ ‘Both the North and the South West have had their share of the reign, why don’t we allow the South-South to do it too, after all this is just their first chance for the first time?’
‘The guy has good luck: he became the head boy of his secondary school from the post of assistant head boy; from deputy governor he became the governor of his state; he became the president from the post of vice president. He has good luck, let him try it.’ ‘Let Goodluck do it, he is humble.’ All these and many more were the mantras which consciously and unconsciously found portion both in the lower and upper jaws of the mouths of the myopic and narrow-minded Nigerians prior to Mr. President’s re- election, nine months back.
Southwest Nigeria's Yoruba elders say that whether a particular Saturday would be good or bad, the evidence would be seen on the Friday that precedes it. The adventure first began with a sigh of relief which forced its way out of every Nigerian’s lips in March, 2011 when the Minimum Wage Act was signed into law by the president, the first good luck. This came at a time when there was intense insistence by the nation's labor unions that without the passage of the bill into law, the possibility that election would hold was a mirage. The development was lauded and seen as an elixir to the frequent duel between organized labor and the government over remuneration.
The Act requires a private or public employer with a workforce of at least 50 employees to pay its least-remunerated worker eighteen thousand naira (₦18,000, $120). Some keen observers noted the unnatural haste with which Mr. Goodluck signed the bill into law without second thoughts. They also noticed that he did not put in place any plans for its successful implementation and concluded that his action might have more to do with his ambition to win the April election by hook or by crook. They also rightly decided that Mr. Goodluck acted not because he consciously sought to improve the welfare of Nigerian workers. Whether this is true or not, res ipsa loquitur (the fact has spoken for itself).
This train of adventure continued when in July, 2011 Mr. Goodluck through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati announced to the whole nation his intention to sponsor a Tenure Elongation Bill to the National Assembly. This Bill according to him was not for his own benefit as he and Namadi Sambo, his vice, would not benefit from it. The bill sought to elongate the earlier four-year tenure of two terms to a single 7-year tenure for the office holder. This generated intense arguments and controversies from different quarters which nearly led to skirmishes among the political elites. Some contended that while there were pressing issues (such as epileptic power supply, dilapidated roads, foul water, etc) affecting the progress of the nation which require attention, why on earth or in even in heaven would Mr. Goodluck be more concerned about a selfish Tenure Elongation Bill?
It was around this time that the question of implementation of Minimum Wage Act willingly signed into law by our Goodluck arose, amidst this; an unwanted hike of transport fare in a place like Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State had resulted. The question further forced the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) to declare its intention to go on a nation-wide strike when it could not get a positive answer from government. Who knows what happened thereafter? Overnight, after some workers, having prepared their minds that the strike was certain, had traveled out of station, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) declared that there was no more strike.
While Nigerians were still attempting to figure out the voyage on this train of adventure, Boko Haram (i.e. Western education is a sin), a rag-tag collection of miscreants which earlier operated as does a foetus, became full-fledged with expertise in its operation which, at a certain time, obviously exposed to the whole world how weak the Nigerian Police force was and continues to be by the successful bombing of the Nigeria Police Headquarters. As if this was not enough, what followed were the bombing of Suleja, a satellite town of the Federal Capital Territory, and the UN building, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and a host of other places.
Simultaneously, in the Middle Belt region, the Jos crisis was journeying along side. This is not even the point; the point of laughter began the moment the government was shown the way out of Eagle Square, a public hall in Abuja. The Federal Government, out of the fear of death could not celebrate the 51th independence of Nigeria at the Eagle Square in Abuja where it usually celebrates it. Instead, Mr. President ran to Aso Rock to celebrate Independence Day. The question to ask at this juncture is, had the heroes and heroines who fought for this independence displayed the kind of fear the Federal Government personified by the President, so cowardly displayed, would Nigeria have attained independence or would it have become a reality in that year that we got it? Or can we say Mr. Goodluck didn’t want to become bad luck? Perhaps, it shows how brave and courageous Mr. President is.
The adventure has not ended as some hilarious display of inertia and ineptitude by our Goodluck passed unnoticed. Perhaps, citizenry was too busy to notice them or perhaps, they were too silly to talk about in this piece. A classical example is his idea that he deliberately didn’t declare state of emergency swiftly following the unrest in places like Jos, Yobe, etc, because he didn’t want to make a mistake. While innocent lives are being wasted, he was particular on his fear of making mistake, what a Goodluck!
The train was still on the track when on the 5th of October, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan announced once more through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati that the subsidy on petroleum products was to be removed. Nigerians welcomed the news with frantic opposition. The President justified his intention on the basis that the subsidy fund has over the years been misappropriated while the masses are contending that such removal would fuel inflation and aggravate their sufferings. But the relevant question to ask here is: does the removal of subsidy hurt the poor?
On the 1st of January, 2012 our Goodluck through the same harbinger of bad news announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, while the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike was still going on. This was welcomed as a new year’s package, though with intense opposition and swift condemnation on the policy itself and its maker(s). It came suddenly and was considered bizarre by many. Nevertheless, it is imperative to note that the intention to remove subsidy might be founded on the belief that the ‘government will eventually be vindicated when Nigerians start feeling the effects of the removal of subsidy on education, roads, health, water, and other infrastructure’. As laudable as this may appear to be, it is considered as a smokescreen intended to deliberately blur the view of the Nigerians. This is because there has never being a time that Nigerians got the much touted dividends of democracy. It is regrettable, in advance, that the savings to be realized from removal of subsidy would end up being hijacked by a few people somewhere while little crumbs would get to the targeted audience.
On the 3rd of October, 2011, the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati was quoted, on several Radio Channels, to have said that Nigerians should learn from Ghana’s experience on removal of subsidy. If not for certain clarification, I could have said that his comment as regards this does not merit any comment whatsoever. What did Ghana do in 2004, when it became apparent that world oil prices were unlikely to come down much and that Ghana could not maintain for long its policy of subsidizing petroleum products? The government of Ghana launched a poverty and social impact assessment (PSIA) for fuel. Guided by a steering committee of stakeholders from ministries, academia, and the national oil company, the PSIA was completed in less than a year. By the time the government announced the 50 percent price increases in February 2005, it could use the PSIA findings to make its case for liberalizing fuel prices to the public—including the fact that the price subsidies most benefited the better-off.
The minister of finance launched the public relations campaign with a broadcast explaining the need for the price increases and announcing measures to mitigate their impact. A series of interviews with government officials and trade union representatives followed. The Energy Ministry used newspaper advertisements with charts to show that Ghana’s fuel prices were the lowest in West Africa after Nigeria’s. The mitigation measures, transparent and easily monitored by society, included an immediate elimination of fees at government-run primary and junior secondary schools and a program to improve public transport. While the trade unions remained opposed to the price increases, the public generally accepted them, and no large-scale demonstrations occurred.
Is the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati not aware of many alternatives and mitigating measures and schemes put in place by Ghana? He would never be aware, why would he be aware? When he goes in his personal vehicle fueled with the government’s money?
Today I now understand what is meant by love of one’s country. I have realized that mere accident of birth in a certain country does not itself constitute the love of country. We practice democracy, democracy which is already conceived in civilian servitude of the masses, in their economic enslavement, and nurtured in the tears and blood of innocent people. Every leader including our Goodluck claims to love this country, then I will agree with them all without any argument, that they love this country, if love of one’s country includes turning blind eyes to its social fault, in deafness to its social discord and in articulation of its social wrong. Is it the same way Ghana removed subsidy that our Goodluck did? I do not require any answer. All I do know is that this train of event has not yet reached its destination. We are patiently waiting to watch more as the funny heart-warming scenes will subsequently unfold themselves. With all the above, to my mind even if nothing is done again, they are enough for one to base his/her submission that this is indeed THE GOODLUCK NIGERIANS EVER HAD.