‘Once upon a time many centuries ago an epidemic swept over a land far, far away. As the epidemic spread, many fled the land. The King of the land became very distressed and sought the advice of a wondering hermit. The hermit informed him that they had to bury some living things.
In desperation, the King followed the advice. First a cock was buried alive. Next, a goat and a poor orphan boy were lured to a wood-covered hill where a deep hole was dug. The boy meantime was enjoying a piece of bread and butter.
When the grave was deep, the boy was dropped into it. He begged them not to throw dirt upon his bread and butter, and in a few minutes, still alive, he was entirely covered and left to his fate!
The plague wasn’t cured and the King buried more of his subjects in order to cleanse his Kingdom until he became last one left. To this day, many who pass the hill where the boy was buried, hear a voice, as if from a dying child, crying, "Buried alive! Buried Alive! Buried Alive!"’
-This chilling tale of a Swedish legend reminds me of the scenario we find ourselves, where out of desperation for the survival of his kingdom, a leader is ready to apply a most severe policy.
Since the beginning of his rule as the acting president in 2010, President Jonathan never resembled the man ‘who would be King’, but did come across as a gentleman who, while chosen by providence, was ready to accept the greatness thrust upon him. There was a belief that he was a man that had the heart to sympathize with his country. This belief was further augmented when he choose to surround himself with the brilliance of seasoned technocrats.
However, the main benefit that a technocrat offers, that hypothetical way of governance in which the knowledge of science, engineering and technology is in control of most decisions, happens to also be the most impractical feature to apply in a country of 150 million poverty stricken people. When highly knowledgeable officials tell us that Nigeria will collapse economically unless grave action is taken, we believe them. But when they say the reforms that will alleviate the future suffering of people can only be achieved by the current euthanasia of the collective, we ask them to find another way.
This idealized vision of the economic experts on the removal of the fuel subsidy has blinded them to the actual state of those that exist in the country. With a belief that the removal of fuel subsidy is the only way the Nigerian economy can be stabilized, the economic team assume that the Nigerian people have the ability to absorb what the government considers a necessary sacrifice. I watched the fuel subsidy debate held in Lagos and I was deeply upset when the Minister of Petroleum-Resources, Mrs Diezani Madueke said that this initiative was a small sacrifice that Nigerians had to absorb in order to ensure a more stable future. While those who spoke on behalf of the government had valid reasons for the necessity of the reforms being proposed, I don’t think they fully appreciate the dark-dearth of the Nigerian situation. For most Nigerians the consequence of this policy is not about making the kind of sacrifice Mrs Madueke spoke about, it is literally about life and death. When experts talk about making sacrifices for the future, it is as if they don’t understand that the majority of Nigerians will not have a future if the present remains as it is. What kind of sacrifice are we talking about when most people cannot even afford to eat?
I have always known that there is abject poverty in Nigeria, but it was only when I contested for elections that I saw how deep that poverty was at the very grassroots of society. Honestly, it is no exaggeration to say millions of people in this country can literally not afford to eat, drink, even live. If a whole family could only afford to eat once in a day before, they will probably only be able to eat once every other day now. For most Nigerians, it is not about making the kind of sacrifice that the minister is talking about, it is about the fact that people will just absolutely not be able to live and be alive with the increase in prices. And I really believe that that is the point that the government is missing. What makes the situation worse is that people in government and the cabal that have contributed to the bankruptcy of this nation are living it up in their million dollar mansions, exclusive yachts and private planes while the countries’ infrastructure continues to disintegrate.
This is why Nigerians have reacted in a passionate manner. I don’t believe the agitation was ever so much about the removal of subsidy in itself but the long standing grievance that people feel regarding the total neglect of our infrastructure and the corruption in government, not only in the last ten years, but in the last fifty years. The agitation over the removal of subsidy is, if you like, the casus-belli of our long ingrained insecurity, of bad roads, of lack of transparency, of corruption. There is a bus load of issues that reflect the lack of health care, stable electricity and transparency. Unfulfilled hopes of democracy and dissatisfaction with government are what have culminated in the huge national upheaval of today, in which millions of Nigerians are protesting all over the world.
Nigerians have sacrificed enough and should no longer be the sacrificial lamb to feed fat-cats and the cabal that have introduced this political gas chamber which will eventually suffocate Nigerians by sending them to their early graves. Instead of targeting the general populace, government should cut back its spending by at least 50% and should curb waste by going after the fuel subsidy cabal and the bloated plutocrats that abused the subsidy in the first place. What about all those past government officials that have looted the treasury and are roaming about scot free? They still have Nigeria’s money in their possession. It would be foolhardy for government to remain impervious to better reason and not listen to the wishes of the people. The government should take the diplomatic and political opportunity to retrace their steps by jumping into the window of opportunity given to them by the House of Representatives when it moved the motion asking the government to suspend subsidy removal.
But even the House of Representatives, despite their heroic stand, are not absolved of fault. When they collectively spoke on behalf of the people, what they did was say to Mr President, “You are on your own”! Like your proverbial Pontius Pilot, who after handing Jesus Christ over to the crucifiers, turned around to say “My hands are clean”. They spoke as if they weren’t part of the element that gazumped a humungous part of past government spending. Someone in the legislature should have made the point that the fat-cat salaries they receive at the detriment of Nigerians needs to be slashed by a proportional amount. One of them could have taken responsibility for their own contribution to this impasse.
Like the King in that old Swedish legend, President Jonathan is proposing a policy that he has been advised will cure his country of a near fatal epidemic. But hopefully, unlike that King, President Jonathan will find a way of curing the plague eating away at our economy, our infrastructure and our country. For unless that happens, we may just become the country that will be lying six feet underground begging not to be "Buried alive! Buried Alive! Buried Alive!"
Article Written by Hannatu Musawa