Never before have the 36 states of Nigeria, including Abuja been united to fight a common course. Not even the protests over the annulment of the June 12 elections of M.K.O Abiola.
It was protestation galore in every state of Nigeria, since the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from the first of January, 2012, a sad New Year gift that left the people dazed making some who traveled home to sell their cell phones and laptops to pay transport back.
Immediately after the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy, a litre of fuel which was selling at N65, jumped to N150 and in some states, N200, making transporters to capitalize on it, raising the transports fare in accordance to their whims and caprices.
The governors forum headed by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State agreed with President Jonathan to remove the subsidy which they said has escalated to the level of N1.3 trillion. an amount equal to the entire budget for expenditure on capital projects.
“Governors agreed with the President that we are going to carry on with the removal of subsidy. Though we observe what people are demonstrating about it, this is a sacrifice we have to make as a country to ensure that the oil industry is deregulated, so that we can save money for other developments”, Rt. Hon. Amaechi stated.
On Tuesday January 10, 2012, he told the Nigeria Labour Congress who marched to the gate of Government House that the state stood to gain N44bn from the saving.
Earlier, before the protest of the NLC of Rivers State, Governor Amaechi had told journalists after a meeting of the Governors Forum that they have resolved to implement palliative measures to complement federal government measures to cushion the effect of the withdrawal.
He said governors would provide guaranteed low rates to local transporters to acquire fleets of vehicles for both intra-state and interstate mass transit schemes in their respective states, and that huge investments would be made in mechanized Agriculture in order to increase food production and create jobs in the process
However, the major stumbling block to the dousing of the fury of the people of Nigeria is the total lack of confidence on the leaders.
In a country that is a major producer of the liquid gold, oil, there is no constant light, no clean pipe borne water, no good roads, no employment, no functional education system and no functional hospitals. Yet politicians salaries and allowances kept on increasing while the rest of the masses wallow in poverty.
When the burden of paying for fuel without building up the refineries and other palliative measures piled up and now shifted to the masses to compound theirsufferings, the masses simply shouted no, re-informed by the ill-timing of the removal of the petrol subsidy when even government officials said a date has not been fixed for its removal.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Muslim Congress, Occupy Nigeria, Trade Union Congress, Professionals, Youths all and sundry gave a resounding no to the removal of subsidy.
Even the House of Representatives and the Senate, in a rare show of solidarity with the masses, have called on the president to rescind his decision.
Prominent Personalities including notable writers like, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, J. P. Clarke, have issued statements urging the president to make a rethink.
All argued that the nation which is currently besieged by the deadly bombings of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, and particularly with the pain of the Christmas day killings of the sect, it was inappropriate, they argued, to impose more suffering on the beleaguered masses.
As the situation has so deteriorated that many people have traveled back to their states, a dangerous situation akin to the civil war period has thus emerged.
When President Jonathan stated that the unrest was worse than the 1960s Civil War, Wole Soyinka said, “it’s not an unrealistic comparison it’s certainly based on many similarities,” and on the question if the unrest threatened the state of Nigeria, he said, “it is going that way. We no longer can pretend it is not. When you’ve got a situation where a bunch of people can go into a place of worship and open fire through the windows, you’ve reached a certain dismal watershed in the life of a nation”.
The federal government has said the strike is illegal, and has urged labour to reconsider it in view of the National Industrial Court ruling.
Lives have been lost. Some have insinuated that subsidy beneficiaries financed Jonathan’s election and the FG has regretted the loss of lives.
Many have suggested that the F.G. is fighting corruption by enriching the corrupt, because those who received the so-called subsidy have not been punished. The burden is only shifted to the masses to pay them.