Franque continues his insightful rant here… Open your mind and share your thoughts in the comments if you wish.
On January 1st, the Federal Government announced the removal of fuel subsidy, effective same date. People who could, rushed to the filling stations that were open for business and stocked up. Word got round and more people thronged to the stations. By late afternoon, the station operators stopped selling PMS and told the people waiting in the queues that had formed that when they re-opened for business, fuel would be sold at between N138 -N141/litre.
“Jokers!” Some hissed. “Rogues! Thieves!” Others fumed. “Let us see how long this will last. I bet you, you will revert to N65 before this time tomorrow. I am out of here.” They said as they got into their cars and drove off. Some others stayed back and filled their tanks and jerry cans with this liquid gold. Then the social media community jumped into the fray and, as is to be expected, while some hit the nail on the head, raising questions and succinctly pointing out the problems and dangers of this bold move, there were those who missed the mark by so wide a margin, one wondered what they were aiming for in the first place.
2nd came and 3rd too. The 4th came and passed as well, and in all this time the Labour Congress was quiet. The people they represented wondered what they were playing at. Then on the 5th they issued the Government notice of an indefinite strike action commencing on the 9th. This announcement was met with mixed feelings and for the most part it was a feeling of wary betrayal. “Yea, impeccable timing,” even I thought. “Some people were buying themselves time for…” I said. What I did not know was time for what?
On January 1st, the Federal Government announced the removal of fuel subsidy, effective same date.
That same afternoon a call went out to all Labour leaders across the country, the subject: “Holiday is over.”
That same evening a meeting was convened between Labour leaders and the Government. Each half of the table had their say and the meeting ended in a stalemate; Government: “No going back.” Labour: “We will get back to you in a little bit.”
Before midnight a caucus meeting was held between Labour chiefs and other sympathetic high profile persons, a section of the elite. They admitted knowledge that this day would come, but did not think the Government would be so foolhardy to go ahead with it so soon. They were caught off guard, yes, but this action had only forced their hands. It was time to implement a measure they had started working on when the first murmurs were heard about fuel subsidy removal.
The first step was to set aside emotion and the things that Government had used to thwart past efforts: religion, tribe, politics – all of them tools of divide and conquer.
The second step was the selection of clear leaders, each responsible for a zone or section according to how the federation had been divided. These leaders were to organise protest matches and rallies in as peaceful a manner as possible.
Next action would be to close down all Government parastatals – indefinitely. Till the govt decides to acknowledge us and the people we have sent to represent us. Only essential services providers would be allowed to function: media, telecommunication, healthcare providers, banks will run a skeletal framework (but only because people will need cash)… These people will be allowed to come and go without hindrance. Markets would be open and the shops and kiosks in the neighbourhoods will open.
Research had shown that the reason past strikes had broken down was because it had been initiated as a ‘lock down’ rather than a ‘tools down’. Everything was usually on lockdown, and since the masses for whose benefits the strikes were staged could not afford to pay the price of a total lockdown, after three days the same masses usually called on the Labour groups to dialogue with the Government and reach an ‘amicable’ compromise. And the Government is aware of this. In fact, the Government is counting on this.
The truth is, the Government can not afford a prolonged strike and neither can the cabal, the puppet masters.
Considering how much they have amassed over the years and how these monies have been invested in businesses, not lying under their beds, when they realise (and they will realise very quickly) how much they are losing while the strike continues, they will want to talk.
Now do this math: 14mill Nigerians buy 1ltr of fuel @ N138, N73 more than they should, for 14days. This gives N14308000000. If the average fuel purchased per individual per day is 20ltrs (and more than 10% of the population will buy this fuel) we are looking at roughly N286,160,000,000.
Bear in mind this calculation is based on PMS alone. Then think of the other sectors they will make money due inflation caused by the subsidy removal. Tidy scam, no?
This might look like a lot of money, but it is chick feed compared to how much the country, and by extension her rapists, would lose if there is a lock down of all ports (air and sea), and everything else.
What we have in our favour is number. We out number these few. We voted them into office, they should fear us and not the other way around. So they will want to talk.
Part of our demands then should include sacrifice on their part. Half of what they have budgeted for their foibles: feeding, watering gardens, refurnishing offices we do not even recognise, bulletproof cars – hopefully the picture is getting clearer – these they will put into fixing the refineries, one refinery at a time. Then fix the power sector as well. It will take time to achieve, and we will return to work while work is ongoing, heck it would even employ the labour of the hundreds of thousands who are qualified but out of work. We will also give them a period to evaluate their progress, and if in six months nothing tangible happens, we go back again. We will wear them down.
We will not stop there, unlike in the past where we rejoice at the reversal of fuel prices and let bygones be bygone, we will ask what happened to the monies made on PMS between Jan 1st and the date we the price is reversed.
And we will make them accountable to the people for, maybe the first time in our history.
This is just an idealist speaking, but this idealist is also a realist. This is what will most likely happen:
We will embark on this ‘no focus’ strike on the 9th, it’ll be called off before the 14th. Government may shift grounds a little to maybe N100/ltr (maybe not), and if they do, we will be so pleased this has happened, we wil not ask what happened to the monies made on PMS between Jan 1st and that date.
Nobody would ask, and they would quietly share it and “clean mouth”, leaving us feeling we have achieved something worthwhile. Rather than make them account for the money and put it into sectors like education or agriculture or tourism or even research, we would be too happy to pay N35 over the original price as opposed to N73 to bother about this minor detail.
I have heard some really funny things in this past week. I heard Government is ordering 1,600 buses to ‘cushion’ the effects of the subsidy removal. Talk about taking your citizens for a ride.
A shell company will be set up and awarded the contract to procure the buses and they will charge top Dollar. As we would say, “One person don hammer!” Meanwhile, 1,600 buses will not suffice in Lagos alone, so please tell me what manner of silliness is 1,600 buses for the major cities of the federation? Again, will the busses carry farm produce? Or do more than transport people? We know that the transportation of persons is not the only aspect this subsidy removal will affect.
And when an agreement is reached with labour, we will be lucky to 160 buses – forget where the money for the remaining 1,340 went.
Again I hear the buses would be handed to (bogus) private companies to run along the same lines of the Lagos State Waste Management Agency franchise. I do not want to get started on this.
This morning I received a broadcast message about Martin Luther King jr, and before that there was the one about CAN asking christians to fast and pray. Again I will not attempt to draw a comparison, we all can think for ourselves. All I want to draw from the actions of the former is that he desired something, sought it out in himself and changed it, then pursued that change with men of like conviction without counting the cost, and he paid the ultimate price: his life.
Today we are fighting slavery of a different kind, brought upon us by our own greed. Corruption has eaten so deep into the fabrics of this nation, it has become a question of the chicken or the egg. In our case it is neither; it is both.
We need to divest ourselves of the things that have held us bound, free ourselves from the shackles of corruption by purposing to change our country, our society, ourselves one person at a time starting with us; each man from himself. Only then can we make policies and put systems in place and allow them work.
Until then, all we would be doing is chasing pavements.