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Please President Bola Tinubu: Before we all die…

It must be a matter of different strokes for different folks with respect to the disposition of various principal actors in the recent two-day nationwide…

It must be a matter of different strokes for different folks with respect to the disposition of various principal actors in the recent two-day nationwide protests which held between February 27 and 28, 2024, over the resultant hardships from the removal of fuel subsidy and was at the instance of organized labour. For instance, according to the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Joe Ajaero, Nigerians came out in protest over several pains which include high cost of living, inflation, insecurity and general hardship across the country. Meanwhile, according to the Minister of State for Labour Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, the protests were over just rising food prices, which is at variance with what Ajaero said. She even went further to accentuate her position not only by referring to him as the source of her take, but also claimed that the government has fulfilled the terms of agreement with labour by as much as 90%. Hence in stretching her argument it would seem that the protests were unnecessary and Nigerians came out in a nationwide protest over piffles. 

Then comes President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who recently berated the NLC for being too vociferous for his liking as far as the recent protests were concerned. Speaking during the inauguration of Phase One of the Red Line Railway project in Lagos, Tinubu – obviously irritated at the proclivities of the NLC, lashed out at the organization when he asked them to maintain peace as they were not the only voice in the country. According to him, the “labour union has gone on strike four times within my nine months in government.  That is a record. Calling for a strike in just nine months of an administration is unacceptable. The NLC is not the only voice in the country”. 

The foregoing creates a backdrop to some disturbing angels of the protests. In one vein is the genuine protest by Nigerians over the grinding pains of daily living in the country. Another is the questionable   take by the Minister of State Nkeiruka Onyejeocha which trivialises the entire protests across the country as she tacitly mis-presented the real situation on ground. And yet another is the expressed aversion of the President towards the protests as being rather unnecessary. 

Seen in context Tinubu’s grudge over the frequency of strikes during his nine month tenure may be justified if such outings were frivolous. But can the circumstances that spawned the recent protests be justifiably called frivolous? Can the circumstances of extreme hardship which cause the death of citizens   be seen justifiably as frivolous? The point is are Nigerians actually dying from hunger and starvation under the present administration? 

Given that the answers to these questions are in the affirmative this is an appeal to President Bola Tinubu to adjust his stance towards protests by the NLC and see them as valid alerts to the state of affairs in the country, as far as citizen welfare is concerned. To act otherwise is to betray leadership insensitivity, and an unwelcome tendency by the President to contest the inalienable right of labour to protest over failings by government. 

 With Nigeria dipping in her unenviable credentials beyond standing as the poverty capital of the world, to full membership of the league of the hungriest nations on the globe, nobody should blame the citizens (who have seen better days), for protesting – even if it is for the sheer exercise of sounding out their grievances. Is it not a cliché which holds that a hungry man is an angry man? 

With prices of basic food items now sky high, transportation costs beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerian, stories of people dying from starvation and poverty driven conditions of ill-health are now common place. Hence the motivation for the protests is to tell the government to do something before things go beyond this stage – that is before we all die. And this is just putting the situation metaphorically.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of his presidential campaign mantra of fostering a renewal of hope for Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had demonstrated significant appreciation of the deplorable state of affairs in the country, especially as such affected the economy. Even the mantra of Renewed Hope vindicates the President as standing on the right track towards restoring the country to winning ways. Not surprisingly therefore, with the administration now in the saddle since May 29, 2023, Nigerians had been expecting some definitive turn around in the state of affairs as far as living conditions across the country are concerned. However what most Nigerians see as being offered by the government since its advent are promises, al-be-it, of a better future.  Yet to get to that better future Nigerians need to eat, and live. 

In the same vein if with all the promises by the administration Nigerians are now protesting with so much vociferousness over the proclivities of the government, it points to a break in communication between the government and the governed. 

And as had been advocated in this column severally, communication gaps between the government and the governed are not resolved by threats and mis-presentations, but by intensifying the information exchange protocol. To do otherwise is to act as the proverbial handsome young man who was winking at a beautiful girl in the dark. Only he knew what he was doing.

 Once again therefore, this is an appeal to President Bola Tinubu, to allow unhindered, the run of civil protests, in order to activate the needful responses by his administration, before we all die. 

 

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