Following calls and interventions by well-meaning Nigerians, the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, (AUFCDN) called off its boycott of markets in the southern part of the country in protest against the killing of its members and destruction of trucks and goods.
The AUFCDN embarked on the strike following failure by both the federal and South-west governments to consider its demands for the payment of N475billion as compensation for the loss of lives, trucks and goods incurred by its members during the EndSars protests as well as the recent clashes in Shasha, Ibadan.
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The strike which lasted for about a week resulted in all round losses running to billions in monetary terms on the part of both the suppliers of the commodities and the consumers. While the strike lasted prices of onions, tomatoes, yams and other foodstuff as well as livestock hit the roof beyond the reach of consumers in the southern part of the country as the items became scarce.
On the part of the suppliers who had embarked on the strike, they were left with rotten items as well and a subsequent drastic drop in the prices of the commodities in the northern part of the country due to glut of the items in the north. This of course led to a triple jeopardy for them, in having to cope with not selling their goods in the lucrative southern market as the strike lasted; slump in prices in the north as a result of oversupply and rotting commodities.
Beyond the monetary losses, the strike also served to exacerbate the already existing tension between the northern and southern parts of the country as all kinds of incendiary statements laden with dangerous threats bordering on the corporate existence of the country were made from both sides.
Once again as in similar other cases of this nature, the government was found wanting. Having been notified by the AUFCDN of its intention to embark on strike over its grievances, the federal and state governments, especially those in the southwest were inexplicably lethargic in taking the necessary pro-active measures. Indeed it was quite regrettable that even while the strike was on there was still no concerted action by both the Federal and state governments to look into the matter in view of its sensitive nature.
The glaring failure by both the federal and southwest state governments to live up to their responsibility in this case, allowed all kinds of acidic innuendoes to fester on the motives behind the strike further straining the fault lines in the country.
This abdication of responsibility on the part of the government has become a noticeable pattern when misunderstandings between various groups occur in the country. It is a disturbing and unacceptable trend which ought to be addressed in the interest of peaceful coexistence and unity in the country.
The overriding lessons we can draw from the AUFCDN strike, is that as Nigerians we need each other. Whatever grievances that may have led to the strike by AUFCDN, there should have been more circumspection in taking that option. The AUFCDN should have taken into consideration that withdrawal of food items as a strike option would be counterproductive no matter the circumstances. Because food is critical to survival, withdrawal of it from the southern markets by the AUFCDN in that manner brings back sad memories of the civil war where millions died through hunger and starvation.
In this time when nerves are already frayed by the unhelpful utterances and actions by state and non-state actors alike, the action by AUFCDN was bound to be construed as a deliberate act of blackmail aimed at the south. This has widened the already existing gulf of mutual suspicion in the country which hardly encourages the sense of national cohesion and unity we all want to see.
As the strike has now been thankfully called off, we believe the only way both the federal and southwest governments can redeem themselves for the obvious lapse in not preventing it in the first place, is by working concertedly to manage whatever fallouts that may emanate in the immediate and long term so as to prevent a recurrence. Government should ensure that all those found culpable in the killings and destruction are brought to book and compensation should be provided for victims.