"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: September 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nigeria Won’t Break. It’d Evolve. Here’s How

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Nigeria will be 60 years old as a formally independent country next Thursday, but the divisibility and tiresomely endless feuding that have emerged as some of its defining features since its forced birth more than a century ago show no sign of abating.

The immobilizing factiousness of the past five years have particularly conduced to the growing sentiment that Nigeria won’t be around much longer.  Opinion leaders of major ethnic groups are plotting exit strategies from the Nigerian union.

But as much as I respect the rights of any people to dissociate from a toxic Nigerian union that seems to hold everybody back, I think that news of Nigeria’s imminent dismemberment is greatly exaggerated.

What I foresee happening—bits of which are actually already manifest—is that Nigeria would use its current ethnographic resources to evolve into a completely different country. And here’s my admittedly imperfect ethnographic forecast of an evolved Nigeria.

Let me begin from northern Nigeria, Lugardian northern Nigeria, that is. Home to more than half of Nigeria’s over 500 ethnic groups, northern Nigeria is Nigeria’s most diverse region. Even the two major ethnic groups from Southern Nigeria are represented in the North.

There are Yoruba people who are native to Kwara and Kogi states and there are Igbo people—of the Ezza, Izzi and Effium sub-groups, who are also found in Ebonyi State—who are native to at least four of Benue State’s 23 local governments. That makes northern Nigeria the microcosm of Nigeria.

But I prognosticate that an evolved northern Nigeria would be monolingual with a few holdouts. The Hausa language already predominates in 16 of northern Nigeria’s 19 states. Only Benue, Kogi and Kwara states have so far resisted the linguistic hegemony of the Hausa language.

Every subsequent generation in the 16 Hausaphone northern Nigerian states internalizes the logic and desirability of Hausa-inflected linguistic uniformity and a corresponding abandonment of the plethora of native languages that dot the region’s linguistic map.

Even Fulfulde (as the language Fulani people speak is called) is dying in such northeastern states as Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi, and the resistance to Hausa in Kanuri-speaking Borno and Yobe weakens every generation.

The relentless march of the Hausa language in Northern Nigeria will ensure that a somewhat unified mega identity, riven only by religion, would emerge, and memories of previous ethnic and linguistic identities would recede or disappear—in the same way that many Hausa-speaking communities in northwest Nigeria have no memory that their distant ancestors were not Hausa-speaking people.

So two dominant identities would emerge from northern Nigeria: Hausaphone Muslim northerners and Hausaphone Christian northerners. The Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Igbo, etc. people of Benue State who have historically resisted the Hausa language would share more in common with the emergent ethnic alchemies of southern Nigeria than they would with Hausaphone northern Christians.

The Yoruba-speaking people of Kwara and Kogi states would also fit more easily with their kith in the Southwest, with Ilorin Emirate being a holdout even though its sociolinguistic and geographic singularities would not permit its seamless fusion into the Hausaphone northern Muslim identity.

The people of what has been called Kwara North—the Baatonu and Boko people of Baruten and Kaiama local governments and the Nupe people of Pategi and Edu local governments— who are culturally more similar to other Muslim northerners than they are to the Yoruba-speaking parts of Kwara State would easily meld well into the Hausaphone Muslim identity. Both the Igala and the Ebira of Kogi have cultural and linguistic kith in southern Nigeria and are easily amenable to Hausaphone Muslim/Christian identities.

The former Eastern and Midwestern Nigeria are already witnessing the incipience of an alchemic ethnic fusion of disparate groups enabled largely by the enormous creolization of Nigerian Pidgin English and the Pentecostalization of the Christianity of the regions.

By creolization, I mean the transformation of Nigerian Pidgin English from an anarchic, emergency contact language for episodic encounters to a stable, rule-governed, self-sufficient native language that millions of people speak and identify with on an emotional and cultural level such as is the case with the Krio of Sierra Leone.

The creolization of Nigerian Pidgin English seems unstoppable and appears primed to play the role Hausa is playing in northern Nigeria as an ethnographic glue to coalesce otherwise historically disparate people. The shared Christian identity of the people of the regions, which is now increasingly Pentecostal Christianity, would accentuate this process.

As anyone who pays attention to Edo State would testify, the new identity formation among southern Nigerian minorities is already killing Islam in Edo North where it has existed for decades. There is a mass Christianization of Muslims in northern Edo, and this would only intensify in the coming generations.

As I’ve shown previously, Islam is a strong building block for identity formation in Northern Nigeria, so that “Hausa” and “Muslim” have become misleadingly synonymous in the Nigerian popular imagination. That is why people of northern Edo used to be erroneously called “Bendel Hausa” even though they speak an Edoid language that is almost mutually intelligible with the Bini language.

The association of Islam with Hausa—or, to use the trendiest hyphenated identity formation, Hausa-Fulani—is leading to its repudiation in even historically Muslim polities in southern Nigeria such as Yorubaland. Stories of Yoruba Imams who aren’t allowed to lead prayers in the North and of the distrust of the authenticity of the Islam of Yoruba people by Hausa Muslims help to solidify resistance to Islam. Today, overtly Muslim Yoruba people are seen by the non-Muslim Yoruba as perfidious toadies of the Muslim North.

If this attitude persists—and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t—it means southern Nigeria would become wholly Christian a few generations from now.

It is not clear to me now if Pidgin English in the former Western Nigeria would be creolized like it is becoming among southern minorities because of the social prestige of the Yoruba language and the numerical power of its native speaker base, but there are already signs that this is happening among the Igbo people.

The Igbo language is the only Nigerian language with millions of native speakers which is nonetheless classified as an “endangered language” because of the tendency toward what Professor Chukuwma Azuonye has called “the fetishization of English” among the Igbo, including code-mixing and  code switching, assimilation of Pidgin English into the Igbo language, among other factors he identified in his article titled “Igbo as an Endangered Language.”

I have a personal encounter with this. In 2000 when news filtered through that there were retaliatory mass slaughters of northerners in the southeast, the editor-in-chief of Weekly Trust where I worked requested that I travel there to cover it.

He said I could easily pass for an Igbo man and that my linguistic handicap in the Igbo language wouldn’t be an issue since Igbo people actually revere their kith who are monolingual in English. What he said turned out to be accurate. Throughout the five days I traveled all over the region, not once was I suspected to be anything but an Igbo.

I got along with a mixture of Pidgin English, Standard English, and a strategic sprinkling of “nna” and other popular Igbo intensifiers in my speech. In fact, when I was returning to Kaduna, someone in Onitsha actually asked why I was going to “where they are killing our people.” “Nna, na my business,” I said.

In other words, generations from now, the fissiparity that drives Nigeria’s current ethnic tensions will dissipate and the fresh contradictions of an evolved Nigeria would frustrate its dismemberment.

For instance, Hausaphone northern Christians, who are a huge chunk, would be invested in a united Nigeria for their self-survival. Although they would share linguistic affinities with the Hausaphone Muslim North, their apprehensions about religious domination would connect them to a creolized Christian South.

More than that, though, Nigeria has generated an enormous repertoire of collective national identity symbols that the upcoming generations, who won’t be moored to the same identities as us, would find hard to throw away.

Of course, as the example of Somalia shows, nations don’t endure merely because of the similarities and shared memories of the people that constitute it. That was why Steve Goodier once said, “We don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.” 

Oshiomhole and His Lizard and Lion Hyperbole

I watched a video clip of Oshiomhole's interview with ChannnelsTV a day before the Edo governorship election where he characterized Obaseki's promise to extirpate his "godfatherly" tentacles in Edo as the threats of a "lizard" to a "lion." (Obaseki is the "lizard" and he is the "lion.")

That's an unusually over-dramatic hyperbole, which aggrandizes the enormity of Oshiomhole's defeat--and the deep psychic rupture he must be nursing now. 

The defeat of a lion by a lizard is the stuff of legends. The Bible's "David and Goliath" story pales miserably in comparison!

Related Article:

Obaseki’s Win, Tinubu, and the Power of American Threats

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Obaseki’s Win, Tinubu, and the Power of American Threats

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Godwin Obaseki’s humiliating trouncing of Adams Oshiomhole (who infamously said for democracy to thrive people must learn to accept the “pain of rigging”) isn’t just a victory over Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole’s wide-eyed flunkey; it is also a repudiation of Bola Tinubu who recorded an impudent, cringy, error-ridden broadcast days ago urging the people of Edo State to vote for another slavish stooge he was propping up in cahoots with Oshiomhole.

But more than that, it’s a victory for the power of international pressures on Nigeria’s election riggers. The single most important reason the election wasn’t manipulated was that the US State Department announced a visa ban on APC riggers in previous elections and threatened to impose another ban on future election riggers. The UK and the EU also threatened visa bans on election riggers.

I observed in previous columns that Nigerian leaders have an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship, and see the United States as that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom they bow in duteous awe.

As WikiLeaks’ 2011 expose of troves US diplomatic cables show, Nigeria’s compulsively mendacious and crooked politicians suddenly become honest, truthful, and straight-talking people when they talk to Americans. You would think they were standing before their Creator—or at least before a stern, omniscient, no-nonsense dad who ruthlessly clobbers his kids for the littlest lie they tell.

Well, if the infantilization of Nigerian leaders by the US is the only thing that forces them to do the right thing, it is sadly welcome. Congratulations to Godwin Obaseki!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sadism as a Governing Philosophy in Buhari’s Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Responsible and morally sensitive governments all over the world toil day and night to invent novel ways to make life a little better for their citizens and to assuage the inevitable existential injuries that life episodically inflicts on people.  But not the Buhari regime.

The regime's single-minded obsession and raison d'ĂȘtre, it would seem, is to make life a little more miserable than it already is for everyday folks every day. One of its core governing philosophies is sadism, which is the perverse pleasure derived from the suffering of others.

(Someone who knows Buhari at a close range told me sometime ago that Buhari is himself a sadistic narcissist who derives pain from the success of people close to him but who’re not his relatives. He said Buhari resents people who wear expensive clothes and drive nice cars (like he does) and that people who want to be in his good graces have to learn to pretend to be poor even if they’re rich because he derives joy from thinking people aren’t doing well.  So there’s a convergence between his personal disposition and his regime’s governing philosophy).

His regime’s entire policy thrust almost from inception has been centered around tactics and strategies for tormenting Nigerians. In 2016, the regime precipitously hiked petrol prices and instigated a devastating recessionary spiral that catapulted Nigeria to the position of the world’s poverty capital. It again increased petrol prices this year at a time of global slump in the prices of petrol.

Petrol is Nigeria’s lifeblood and the engine of its economy in ways it is not anywhere else in the world. When the price of petrol goes up in Nigeria, everything else goes up—except, of course, the already measly salaries of common people. It incites a rise in the cost of transportation, which leads to increases in food prices, in rent, and in the cost of other necessities of life.

There is no other part of the world I know of where fluctuations in the price of petrol automatically activates across-the-board inflationary conflagration. So the regime knows that jacking up petrol prices under all kinds of idiotic guises is a surefire way to achieve its governing philosophy of mass pauperization of Nigerians.

 The Buhari regime is also one of only a few governments I know of in the world that charges its citizens “stamp duties” for every bank deposit they make—in addition to the exploitative charges that banks impose on their customers. (A relative of mine who lives in Ireland said the Irish government also charges a negligible “stamp duty” on bank deposits and ATM transactions, but the standard of living in Ireland is lightyears above Nigeria’s, not to mention that Ireland has one of the world’s best social welfare systems).

In other words, Nigeria is one of only a few countries where people lose money by keeping it in the bank.

Not done with stealing from the poor in the name of “stamp duty” on bank deposits, the regime, in July this year, “directed landlords and property agents to charge six per cent stamp duty on all tenancy and lease agreements to shore up its revenue sources,” according to the Guardian of July 29.

The regime’s goal in introducing a 6% stamp duty on tenancy and lease agreements appeared to be to expand the misery of already traumatized Nigerians by causing a rise in rent. In the aftermath of enormous nationwide indignation, it backed down, but it achieved its aim nonetheless by hiking petrol prices a few weeks later, which has led to rent increases.

In 2016, former Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu sponsored a bill in the National Assembly for a 10-percent tax increase on phone calls, text messages, and Internet data plans. After popular outcries, the bill was “suspended until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.”

That same year, in November, Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele proposed that all phone calls that lasted longer than 3 minutes should be taxed, saying, “government could earn about N100 billion per annum from this alone.”

Electricity tariffs have gone up more times in the past fives than at any time before, and each increase brings forth more darkness and despair. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where the government forces people to pay more for less and to subsidize ineptitude. But that’s what a governmental philosophy of sadism entails.

It also entails a thoughtless closure of the borders, a ban on food importation even when there’s a severe food shortage because people have abandoned farming all over Nigeria as a consequence of the escalating homicidal fury of Fulani herders on sedentary communities, which the government studiously avoids talking about much less finding a solution to.

After taxing everything that moves, stretching the elastic limits of price regimes, and imposing “stamp duties” on everything that catches their sterile fancies, regime honchos were running out of ideas on how to make Nigeria an even more treacherous snake pit than they've already made it.

Then one of them must have had an epiphany and thought: Oh, we can make Nigerian bank account holders re-register their bank accounts even though they already went through hell to get Bank Verification Numbers a few years ago. They decided to call that “re-certification.”

It's obviously pointless duplication, but that's not the point. The point is to inflict pain and misery on Nigerians, which is the Buhari regime’s reason for being. It is what gives it its highs and delectations. I hear the policy has been withdrawn now after a massive social media uproar.

But there's more on the way. Regime strategists and tacticians are perpetually brainstorming on the next sadistic agony to visit on Nigerians. When they are out of ideas, they might choose to tax the air Nigerians breathe, the land Nigerians walk on, and even the saliva they gulp.

This is all part of what I have called Buhari’s reverse Robin Hoodism, which I defined in a December 3, 2016 column titled “Reverse Robin Hoodism as Buhari’s Governing Philosophy” as “robbing the poor to enrich the rich.”

The increased taxes, stamp duties, and tariffs Nigerians have been paying in the last five years aren’t used to build or renew non-existent or crumbling infrastructure; they are used to subsidize the life of epicurean lavishness of Nigeria’s political elites. They are used to fund yearly brand-new cars, medical tourism, sitting and “hazard allowances,” and so on for politicians and their hangers-on.

Of course, the increased financial burden on poor Nigerians also helps to keep them in check and renders them more docile and controllable. The poorer people are the less strength they tend to have to resist oppression and the more likely they are to be esurient for crumps from their oppressors. So the regime’s governing philosophy of sadism is rooted in the desire to keep the vast majority of the people dirt poor, miserable, ignorant, and therefore more manipulatable.

At the rate things are going in Nigeria, as I pointed out in a recent social media update, the next logical step for APC would be to change its party symbol from a broom to a cutlass and to change its name from “All Progressives Congress” to “All People's Cutlass” (APC) since it has become a proud, equal-opportunity weapon for cutting down people's joy, hopes, and peace.

In true democracies, people run the government; in Nigeria, the government runs the people. In Buhari's regime, the government goes further than run the people; it runs them to the ground, incapacitates them, and ruins them. That’s the sum of its ruling philosophy.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Let’s Talk About the Subsidies for the Rich


By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The poor in Nigeria are continually stripped of subsidies that subside the existential hurt that comes with living in the poverty capital of the world.  Petrol subsidies are particularly enduring emotional blackmail weapons against the poor by people in government.

Since 1970 when Yakubu Gowon increased the pump price of petrol from 6 kobo to 8.45 kobo, subsequent Nigerian governments have always insisted that subsidies are unsustainable and must be removed for the “benefit” of the people it helps!

 Just when you think they have finally removed the last “subsidies” and would now  grant the masses freedom from the emotional blackmail of being told that they are undeserving beneficiaries of government’s unjustifiable benevolence, they tell us again that they need to remove what they had told us they'd removed. They interminably guilt-trip an already distraught and beleaguered population.

But, as I did four years ago, it’s time we changed the conversation. Let’s turn our gaze to the walloping subsidies that pay for the hedonism of Nigeria’s notoriously self-indulgent elite, shall we?

While Buhari said “no kobo” of Nigeria’s foreign reserves would be used to import food and fertilizers for the country  in spite of food shortages that have necessitated Nigeria begging for maize from its neighbors, he and his family members routinely go abroad for medical treatment for their littlest ailments and use the planes in the presidential fleet for even non-official domestic and international travels.

The presidential air fleet needlessly and avoidably drains Nigeria’s national resources. According to a November 17, 2015 statement from the presidency, there were 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet, which cost more than 2 billion naira to maintain in just 6 months.

After public outcry in 2016, which I helped to amplify, the presidency said it had put two of the 10 presidential jets on sale to "cut down on waste." It turned out, as I correctly guessed then, that it was all a subterfuge. No jet was sold.

The British Prime Minister had no dedicated fleet of aircraft until 2016 when a plane was purchased for the Prime Minister (and “other ministers and senior members of the royal family when they travel on official engagements”) at the cost of $15 million. That’s about how much it cost to maintain Nigeria’s presidential fleet between May and November in 2016, according to the presidency.

Hundreds of billions are allocated every year to finance the feeding, travels, medical bills, brand new cars, and even sewage disposal of people in the presidency.

Now compare this to America, the world’s wealthiest nation. American presidents pay for their own food from their pocket. As Gary Walters, a former White House Chief of Staff, told the (London) Guardian, “All those things that are personal in nature that we all pay for, the first family pays for.”

“It’s just the tradition that it’s continued on through time that the president will pay for their own food and, I guess, if they needed something for the house that was personal. Toothpaste, cologne or whatever,” William Bushong, a White House historian, told the Guardian.

Wife of President Ronald Reagan was shocked when she discovered that she and her husband had to pay for all their personal needs. “Nobody had told us that the president and his wife are charged for every meal, as well as for such incidentals as dry cleaning, toothpaste and other toiletries,” she was reported to have said in 1981, according to the Guardian.

If the world’s wealthiest country doesn’t subsidize the personal expenditures of its first families, why do Nigerian budgets earmark billions for the convenience of the first family but talk of “sacrifice” and being “broke” when it comes to giving subsidies to the poor?

The Presidency isn’t the only usurper of subsidies, of course. The crooked, ineffectual, and rubber-stamp National Assembly routinely allocates billions of naira to itself for renovations, wardrobe allowances, and even what it calls “hazard allowances”!

State governments also spend billions every year to buy brand new cars and other objects usurious vanity for governors, deputy governors, commissioners, and state houses of assembly members.

Nigeria’s subsidy regime is a classic case of taking coals to Newcastle, that is, giving assistance to people who don't need it and depriving it of people who desperately need it to survive.

As I pointed out more than four years ago, in Nigeria, there is a concentric circle of privilege and subsidy regimes. At the core of this circle are elected and appointed government officials—the president, vice president, ministers, numberless coterie of aides and hangers-on, and so on; members of the National Assembly and their aides; governors, their deputies, commissioners, members of state legislatures, etc.; and local council officials.

 At the second layer of the circle are a whole host of private sector intermediaries, including fuel subsidy scammers nicely known as fuel importers, who act in cahoots with key elements (or their representatives) in the core circle to swindle the nation to pay for their privileges.

The next layer is composed of middle-class elements of various stripes who are reasonably buffered from the blows of the political and intermediary classes and whose sympathies vacillate between the oppressors and the oppressed depending on their mood.

 At the peripheral layer of the circle are the masses, the great unwashed, who perpetually writhe in the misery inflicted upon them by people in the first two layers of the circle.

People in the first two layers of the circle have historically been jealously protective of their subsidies. They consume a disproportionate percentage of Nigeria’s resources, and leave only the remnants to people at the lower end of the circle.

When you hear “Nigeria is broke,” it usually means the subsidies that finance the inordinately lavish lifestyles of people at the core of the concentric circle of subsidy regime are financially threatened. It means, in essence, that remnants that keep the masses in check in the form of salaries are drying up, which might instigate a revolt.

 So what to do? They tax the poor to pay the poor. They rip them off to fund the remnants that keep them in check! That’s why only the poor are called upon to “sacrifice” in moments of economic distress, and why they are perpetually told “subsidies” must be removed from them.

The truth, of course, is that if the toads ensconced in the inner sanctum of the concentric circle of subsidy regime give up just a little bit of their privileges, there would be no need for the steep fuel price increase being rammed down the throats of people already condemned to the margins of society.
 
If members of the Nigeria political class are serious about “sacrificing,” in light of the fact that the country is “broke,” they should first give up their own “subsidies.”

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” Nigeria has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for the political elites’ greed.

Related Article:
4 Reasons It’s Stupid to Compare Nigeria’s Petrol Prices with Other Countries

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

4 Reasons It’s Stupid to Compare Nigeria’s Petrol Prices with Other Countries

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In trying to justify Buhari's latest callous hike in the price of petrol (amid a pandemic, no less), Buhari’s supporters increasingly sound like noisome idiots straining hard to be low-grade morons. Here are 4 reasons it’s stupid to compare Nigeria’s petrol prices with others:

1. Nigeria is the undisputed poverty capital of the world, thanks entirely to Buhari’s inept “leadership.” That means, on average, most countries on earth have a higher standard of living than
Nigeria.


With a $77 per month minimum wage, Nigeria has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world. In other words, everyday Nigerians are worse off than most people in the world and don’t have the same economic vitality as citizens of other countries.

2. Nigeria is an oil-producing country. It’s unreasonable to deny Nigerians the expectation of cheaper prices for petrol. It’s like asking people to hold cream on their hands while their faces and bodies are dry. That’s cruelty. Most Nigerians would be at peace with high petrol prices if their country doesn’t produce oil.

A wealthy parent who starves his children and justifies his cruelty by pointing to the starvation of the children of his poor neighbors is an irresponsible parent who doesn’t deserve his children.

Buhari and his gang of buccaneers are irresponsible to invoke the petrol prices in neighboring African countries (that are not oil producers) as a justification for increasing domestic petrol prices.

3. Oil is the engine of the Nigerian economy in ways it is not elsewhere. When the price of petrol goes up in Nigeria, everything else goes up—except, of course, the already measly salaries of everyday people. This is not the case in many countries.

In the US, Benin Republic, even Saudi Arabia, etc., fluctuations in the price of petrol doesn’t automatically activate across-the-board inflation. So you can’t just arbitrarily jack up petrol prices and ignore its other unsettling effects on other facets of the Nigerian society.

4. A way bigger waste than the “waste” of petrol “subsidy” that people aren’t talking about is the extortionate amounts Nigeria expends to subsidize the obscene opulence of its political elite—from the president down to a ward councilor.

If the subsidies that finance the luxuries of the political class (such as billions budgeted to buy new cars in the presidency every year) are directed towards everyday Nigerians, Nigeria can afford way cheaper petrol than it currently does.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Buhari’s Growing Cruelty Reflects the Wishes of Nigerians

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The All Progressives Congress (APC) subsists on lies and deceit, like its twin the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but the party told a fundamental truth on September 2 when it said in a statement, according to the Sun, that Buhari’s “hiked petrol price, electricity tariff reflect [the] wishes of [the] citizenry.”

This may come across as a bit counter-intuitive, but there is no greater testimonial endorsement of the claim that Buhari’s steep, sudden hikes in the prices of commodities, which have made Nigeria a snake pit of infernal cruelty, reflect the wishes of Nigerians than the fact that there have been no protests against the policies.


From the 1960s until Buhari ascended to the presidency, every hike in petrol price had been greeted with massive protests. But not only have there been no protests against Buhari’s punishing petrol price hikes, a whole lot of people in the North actually came out in 2016 to stage demonstrations in support of Buhari’s first petrol price increment and against opposition to it!

In 2012 when the Goodluck Jonathan administration arbitrarily hiked the pump price of petrol, I was the first to suggest an “Occupy Nigeria” strategy to force the government to reverse the hike. I didn’t anticipate that my suggestion would fly. But it did. It meshed with the self-interested political agendas of people who are now in government and ignited a massive social convulsion.

Four years later in 2016, I made the same appeal. But as I pointed out in my May 14, 2016 column titled, “Petrol Price Hike: Time to Occupy Nigeria Again,” the people and circumstances that conduced to the 2012 Occupy Nigeria protests had changed.

“But I doubt that my appeal will resonate with many people this time around; President Buhari’s tight emotional grip on the northern and southwestern middle class would likely frustrate the formation of the kind of remarkably unexampled pan-Nigerian solidarity that confronted former President Jonathan,” I wrote.

Well, sheepish acquiescence in the face of Buhari’s plot to transform Nigeria into one massive mass grave through thoughtless and callous hikes in the prices of everything that is essential to survival is proof that the APC is right to insist that Buhari’s morally objectionable suffocation of Nigeria reflects the wishes of Nigerians.

I made these points four years ago, and I will repeat them because the circumstances warrant their repetition: Every responsible, socially sensitive government subsidizes essential commodities for its citizens. It is only Nigerian governments that interminably tell their citizens that they have no responsibility to make life a little easier for the people they govern.

According to a January 3, 2012 TIME Magazine story titled “Petrol Politics: Why Nigerians Are Enraged Over the Rising Price of Gasoline,” America’s 50 states collectively spend $10 billion a year to subsidize the fuel consumption of their citizens.

 In America, with all its vast material prosperity, the surest way for any government to collapse irretrievably is to encourage any policy that causes the price of petrol to go up.  As TIME put it beautifully, “One of the fastest ways to alienate voters is to be seen supporting anything that intensifies pain in the pump.” 

It said, “politicians’ refusal to increase gas taxes in line with inflation and construction costs starves needed infrastructure of funding.” Sounds familiar? The recurrent excuse governments in Nigeria advance to increase fuel prices is that the government needs money for “infrastructural development.”

 But no sensible government starves its people to death because it wants to build infrastructure. Only the living use infrastructure.

There is an instructive example in the Midwestern state of Iowa of how a caring government, faced with a cash crunch, responded to recommendations for an increase in petrol prices to raise money. I will reproduce parts of the story, which is from TIME, without authorial intervention:

“In Iowa, which hasn’t raised its tax in 22 years, a citizen advisory panel recommended an 8 cent to 10 cent bump per gallon in November. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad quickly took any increase off the table, instead asking his Department of Transportation to look for savings.

“‘Everyone realizes that we need more funding for roads and bridges,’ said Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Branstad. ‘I don’t think the legislature was especially willing to put a burden on Iowa’s taxpayers at this time.’”

Governments don’t save in Nigeria. All they do is raid the national treasury to subsidize their lavish lifestyles (and those of their cronies) and tell the masses of the people that they don’t deserve any subsidy. Nigeria isn’t poor because of the need of its people; it is in dire straits because of the greed of its elites.

But everyday Nigerians who feel the pinch of the cruelty of their elites would rather expend their energies to fight for God than fight for themselves. The same Nigerians who fly into a tempestuous holy rage and demand the blood of their fellow humans when their God is “blasphemed” are asking for their God’s intervention— instead of acting— now that Buhari is determined to kill them piecemeal through cruel hikes in the prices of everything essential to their existence.

They kill fellow humans in defense of their God but ask God to defend them against an oppressor who is killing them by other means—and looking the other way while kidnappers and terrorists periodically murder them in the hundreds.

If you have the capacity to defend God, shouldn’t you have an even greater capacity to defend yourself against murderous oppressors since self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature? Or is “God-preservation” and self-annihilation the first law of nature in Nigeria?

If God, with his omnipotent powers, can’t deal with blasphemers on his own but needs your defense, why and how do you think he can defend you against a man who is—-or people who are— smoldering you?

Nigerians aren’t victims of Buhari; they’re willing participants in and enablers of his vicious asphyxiation of Nigeria. There’s nothing that he’s doing now that he hasn’t been doing since at least 2016. Read my past columns: you’d think they were written in response to Nigeria’s current existential torments.

For instance, on December 6, 2016, I wrote: “I used to say that it was impossible for any Nigerian president to be worse than Jonathan…. So in May 2015, I started out investing enormous hopes in Buhari to transform Nigeria and to build enduring institutions.

“After waiting 6 months to appoint a predictable, lackluster cabinet, it became clear to me that my hopes were misplaced, that Buhari wasn’t prepared to be president, so I scaled backed my expectations and hoped that Buhari would at least be minimally better than Jonathan.

“But when Buhari hiked fuel prices, reversed the few crumbling subsidies that sustained the poor, and became a prisoner of the ‘Washington Consensus,’ I scaled back my expectations again and hoped that Buhari would be just as bad as Jonathan was.

“When his government’s incredibly inept husbandry of the economy continued to deepen the recession it instigated in the first place with its wrongheaded policies, I hoped that Buhari would just be slightly worse than Jonathan for the sake of Nigeria’s survival.

“Now with the unceasing rash of counter-intuitive, mutually contradictory, insanely irrational, and thoughtless policy prescriptions from this government, the very foundation of the country is tanking before our very eyes, and I just hope Buhari never does anything again till 2019 when his tenure will expire—and with it the torment he is inflicting on Nigeria. A stagnant, do-nothing Buhari is now better for the country than this madness we’re witnessing! Nigeria is fast sinking to the nadir of despair and ruination.”

Nothing has changed. Nigerians can only show that their plight isn’t a reflection of their wishes if they damn the consequences and fight the source of their misery.