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The Final Solution

It was the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht who recounted the story of an uprising in which the government propagandist circulated leaflets stating that the people…

It was the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht who recounted the story of an uprising in which the government propagandist circulated leaflets stating that the people had “forfeited the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts.” Brecht’s cryptic response was that “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dis- solve the people and elect another? We all remember what the Federal Minister of Labour, Mr Chukwue- meka Wogu said on a Channels TV interview on the 4th January: “We are Government. As a government, we are not expected to succumb to people we rule or pander to them. Fuel price increase is final government policy.”

As the Goodluck Jonathan Administration is not ready to pander to the wishes of Nigerian citizens in a democracy, and as his decision is final, he is well advised to dis- solve the Nigerian people and elect another one. All indications are that this is the path he has chosen. The massive street demonstrations in over thirty cities and towns round the country against his final decision has not impressed him because he cannot be seen to pander to the wishes of the people. After all, in our new democracy, what matters are the decisions of the ruler and not the wishes of the people?

Nigerians are shocked that in spite of their massive pro- tests, the President refused to take the opportunity of the talks with labour and civil society on Saturday 14th January to pander to the wishes of the people. During the talks, labour and civil society had correctly articulated the views of Nigerians as follows. That tension is very high in the land following the fuel price increase with resultant strikes, rallies and mass street pro- tests. That the response of state security agencies has been to shoot to kill Nigerians. In this context, the argument was made that the only way for- ward was the suspension of the new petrol prices so as to reduce tension and return the country to normalcy and the possibility of negotiation. A Passionate plea was made to President Goodluck Jonathan that in the overriding interest of the country, he should immediately suspend the PMS (petrol) price increases and direct that talks between government and Labour be concluded on the petroleum industry especially at it affects fuel subsidy and pricing within a short time frame. Labour and civil society made the pledge that once the price increase suspension is announced, they would call for a suspension of the strikes, rallies and street protests to allow for com- prehensive negotiations include corruption and waste in the conduct of government business. This position was rejected by government.

It is not clear what Goodluck Jonathan’s game plan is except dis- solving the people. Over the past two weeks, we have all witnessed the most spectacular grassroots mass protests in our nation’s history. Over twenty innocent Nigerians have lost their lives before the Government finally decided to call organised labour and civil society, to the negotiation table.

The evidence is clear that the organized labour and civil society remain committed to the demands of Nigerians for the price of petrol to be reinstated to N65 per litre. More importantly, the masses of Nigerians dictated the pace by initiating the struggle and neither labour no civil society can stop them. It is certain that Nigerians are determined to reconvene today, Monday January 16th 2012 to continue the struggle.

What is important is that this protest is no longer solely about the fuel subsidy – it is now a movement against corruption in the down- stream petroleum sector. Although N1.3 trillion is quoted as the cost of subsidy, the total amount spent in 2011 was even higher and amounted to over N1.6 trillion paid out to the cabal so far. This vast amount that Nigeria lost is composed of a genuine subsidy component of about N280- 300 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira that is the stolen loot taken by the cabal. The stolen loot can be decomposed in two components. One component is the fake template with 14 inflated items used by PPPRA. The second component is round tripping and false accounting recently outlined by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

As Labour and civil society attempts to negotiate a resolution with government on the subsidy issue, let us make it clear that the resolution cannot be based on simply changing the pump price of petrol from N141+ to N100 or N80. The resolution can only be based on dismantling the corrupt subsidy regime which has become the most stupendous record of loot- ing in the history of Nigeria.

The key demands of Nigerians are the following. The immediate reversal to N65 per litre for a 6 months period during which we work out a framework for dismantling the cabal and its corrupt subsidy regime by investigating, prosecuting and punishing those found to be involved. That the Goodluck Jonathan administration accepts that Nigerians have a right to benefit from their God-given resources. After all the government has an agreement with OPEC to allocate 445,000 barrels a day for local refining and consumption. That we develop a time bound programme for re-establishing the capacity to process and sell these allocations to Nigerians at a cheap rate. Nigerians have entitlements which cannot be ignored or disregarded.

Nigerians are also saying that the 1.47 trillion naira proposed for Security in the 2012 Budget must be reviewed downwards to provide for the cost of maintaining the real subsidy (300 Billion Naira) and providing for other vital services which have been cut in the budget especially in the health and education sectors.

It is worthy of note that the collective voice of the Nigerian people has been uniformly nonviolent but governments and their agencies have continued with unprovoked use of force and firearms. So many people have been shot. The OccupyNigeria protesters have been attacked repeatedly by security personnel. We condemn the use of curfews as part of the government’s dictatorial relationship with its peoples as evident in Kano, Niger, Kaduna, Oyo, and Adamawa States. They should take heed that curfews cannot be the solution to the genuine demands of the people for accountability, transparency and good governance.

There is a limit to the provocation that the people can take. Nigerians are gratified that Muslim and Christian leaders have shown unity and commitment to resist division along religious and primordial lines, though in certain cities government’s agents that has infiltrated the pro- tests and caused destruction of places of worship in order to continue its failed divide-and-rule methods.

The most important message from Nigerians is that the Good- luck Jonathan Administration must accept basic democratic principles. The views of citizens must not only be accepted but must be the basis for all policy development and implementation. Mr. President cannot dissolve the people and elect another one. For their part, the people are now realising that they do have the capacity to dissolve a government and elect another one.

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