What a country!
LET me confess that I am in a choleric humour and simultaneously weeping inside. Thus, in writing this piece, words are failing me. Truly, what can I say that no one has not said about the Nigerian condition? My friend and compatriot in the struggle against military dictatorship, Mr. Kunle Ajibade, Executive Editor of The News magazine, who spent some years at Makurdi prison for being accessory after the fact of a coup d’etat titled his last reflections on the Nigerian question, What a Country. The pains that the rulers of Nigeria have inflicted on the Nigerian people are immeasurable that one cannot help longing for that day that the people will take their pound of flesh from their traducers; a revolution to consume the bashers of our collective destiny. Not the banalised version so-called ‘silent revolution’ but classical revolution whose dreadful aspect William Shakespeare captured so well in his Julius Caesar thus: A curse shall lie upon the limbs of men, Domestic fury and fierce civil strife shall cumber all the parts of Italy; Blood and destruction shall be so in use, And dreadful objects so familiar that mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quarter’d with the hands of war; All pity chok’d with custom of fell deeds: And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Ate by his side, come hot from hell, Shall in this confines, with a monarch’s voice, Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war, That this foul deed shall smell above the earth/With carrion men, groaning for burial.
No! Nothing short of a revolution. In the last couple of weeks so much pain has been inflicted on the Nigerian people that upon contemplation, I kept muttering to myself, ‘what a country’. Just visit any local market and see the long faces that market women and their customers wear. Or the anguish of those queuing for fuel at the filling station or the sufferings of commuters who have to pay exorbitant fares through their nose and the nuisance value of blocked thoroughfares by those queuing for fuel. Add this to the all-time low electricity supply. It is so bad. It is so sad. Quite frankly, we have had it to the hilt. Something just has to be done or else worse days will endure.
In the aftermath of the last general election, The Guardian, flagship of the Nigerian print media, wrote a three-part editorial, titled Nigeria on the rise. The paper felt no matter the degree of contradictions of the Nigerian state, patriotism calls for the inspiring of hope in the people. It knew fully well that the elections have not changed the fundamentals of the Nigerian state: a country without a national creed – a no man’s land peopled by homophobic and sadist species; a country with a substructure that is rentier and accumulation process that is largely primitive; a country with an elite who love the best in the world and loathe their replication in their own country; a thieving elite made up of ceremonial fops and parvenus who now owns sizeable per cent of the choicest property in central London investing about £250 million on property per annum and have also bought up a huge chunk of the apartments in Dubai and numerous others in other climes with fleets of private jets to boot. Contrast that with the sufferings of our people. Over 70 per cent live on less than $2 per day, over 10 million of our children are out of school, empty ivory towers and broken infrastructure and multiple social crimes, a raging insurgency in the north east and the failure of two-thirds of the states of the federation to pay workers’ salary. The Nigerian condition is so bad that even corpses lying in the streets are further objectified by the refusal of state institutions to perform their statutory duties.
The latest exploit of this elite is the tightening of their stranglehold on the country through the oil scam, so-called subsidy. The country has become a victim of its blessing through the activities of this warped and backward elite in the name of oil subsidy, a mathematic fiction, and drainpipe through which they have milked the country dry in the last five decades. The oil racketeers, I mean marketers, are claiming that the incumbent Federal Government, its collaborator in the pillaging of the country, owes them some arrears of unpaid subsidy. This has become the basis for shutting down the country ahead of the inauguration of a new leadership in a bizarre manner never seen in this history of this country. Issues have come to a climax in which Nigerians can no longer access fuel and the product now sells as much as N500 per litre with a spiralling inflationary effect. Simultaneously, the ever-epileptic electricity supply, has seized completely to gasp in the hands of the state looters who acquired them in the guise of privatisation with generous subsidy as well as un-incurred cost recovering tariff. Many who have bole-holes cannot pump water, food storage in the deep freezer and charging of handsets have become impossible. If this is a blackmail to continue the pillaging order, it will not work; we can’t take it anymore. No more!
This change must be meaningful. This oil noose on our neck is inexplicable and absurd at a time when both the spot price and futures have remained on the downside. What sort of economic law is it that dictates quite absurdly that a country must pay international pricing for a product in which it has economy of scale? Put in another way, what sort of economic logic dictates that a country’s natural endowment must be accessed and used by the owning country at international pricing? Such warped thinking can only come from the development set staffed by neoliberal ideologues. The latest noise from those patrons of poverty as I called them in a recent work came from Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Nigeria must be courageous to do away with oil subsidy. We will do away with oil subsidy not according to the prescription of the medicine men from IMF and the World Bank but because it does not exist; it is mere fraud. What a country!
• Dr. Akhaine is a visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board.