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By on January 13, 2012

And the drama goes on. Honestly, this show is as good as the best television series ever. Everyday something new happens and we simply do not know how it is all going to end. Starring Goodluck, Ngozi and Sanusi (who have turned from heroes to villains overnight ) on one side and the Labour leaders, social activists and music stars on the other.

The battle for the soul of the giant of Africa rages on.  It is true that we have watched similar scenarios in the past and they always ended the same way. I remember some years ago, when I was outside the country and a friend of mine who was not Nigerian came running to me with a worried look on his face. He said he just heard the news that Nigeria was going through a serious crises because the Government had increased the price of petrol.  Labour was threatening to shut down the country blah blah blah.

He was surprised at the cool way I reacted. I just smiled, told him to sit down and listen while I tell him exactly how the whole crisis will end.  Labour leaders will make a lot of noise for a few days, Government will call them to negotiate, prices will be reduced slightly but not to the level they were before and everybody will continue with their lives. The week after that, he came to me with a look of admiration on his face. “How did you manage to predict exactly what will happen”? I smiled smugly to myself; “elementary, my dear Watson”.

But this subsidy issue is very different from anything we have faced before. I don’t think anyone knows how it is going to end with both sides equally determined to fight it to the end. In my last article, I outlined some steps Government should have taken before removing the subsidy. They have taken some steps in the right direction by reducing salaries and trying to cut down on wasteful spending. It is however too little, too late. I think they are making even more impact with their relentless efforts at convincing us.

Each time I hear Ngozi speak, I feel like I am listening to an older sister. She looks so sincere and innocent that anyone who listens to her without overwrought emotions cannot help but be impressed. And slowly, very slowly, more people are being won over. I have been listening to TV and radio discussion programmes and unlike before, when every single person who called in to contribute only had negative things to say about the government, now people are beginning to say “why don’t we give them a chance”. From time to time we even get people who passionately defend the government’s policy.

I was not surprised at all to find that some people in Ebonyi and Bayelsa states are already taking to the streets defending the Government’s decisions. There will probably be more of such before long.
However, as many people have said, the struggle is now developing  into something that goes beyond whether subsidy should be removed or not.

Over the years, the Nigerian Government at all levels has nurtured a system that allows Government officials get easy and unaccountable access to obscene amounts of money from the coffers of the country. This is what I personally would like to see removed before this whole drama is over. I must confess that I hoped against hope that the senators or the house of representatives would mention the indecent salaries they are earning as part of the problem Nigeria faces today. It was not to be. They ended up repeating what we all know already.

The perception issue I spoke about before is still a problem here. As far as I am concerned, those people cannot really represent us if they do not stop wasting money that we are now told is running out. People keep talking about the cabal. I do not know the intricacies of how the famous cabal earned so much money but I am not aware that they have really done anything illegal.

They were simply rent seekers taking advantage of a system that benefited them. It is that system that the removal of the subsidy is supposed to get rid off. What bothers me more are things like security votes for governors, massive allowances for senators and house of representatives, millions of naira that disappears in the ministries every month with no one really calling anybody to account for it. This system has to be sanitized. I hope that President Goodluck will be able to have the same firm resolve in sorting out these issues as he has shown in enforcing the removal of the subsidy.

Now the whole country is at a standstill. I must commend the occupy Nigeria movement for the way they have gone about organizing the marches and protests. God knows that violence is always very much round the corner. I was very close to the place where a boy was shot in Ogba and it was really a miracle that things did not turn very ugly. The decision to stop marching in Kano because of miscreant infiltrating the ranks of protesters is also very admirable. Nigerians have come a long way and are showing themselves to be very mature people.

This kind of situation would have gotten out of hand in countries that are much more developed than we are. However the labour leaders have to re think their strategy. As I said  earlier, they are losing followers little by little. Many people really believe in the struggle but for how long can Nigerians sit at home? Already, in many parts of Lagos, people are coming out of their holes.

Boredom and the need to make money to survive is beginning to make people yearn to go back to their normal lives only 3 days after the protests began. I think they should continue dialoguing with Government and try to get them to give some concrete solutions to the problem at hand. As it is, the strike is having more of a negative effect on some people than the subsidy was having. Nigerians normally choose the lesser evil. Or maybe, the occupy Nigeria movement should give us a list of palliatives we will enjoy if we continue to sit at home for months.

Finally, we should continue to pray.  This whole situation is a keg of powder that can be ignited at any moment.  The earlier we find a solution the better for all of us as a whole. In the mean time, let us just sit back and continue enjoying the drama; a drama in which you can become a major actor/actress.