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We Shall Not Die



Sunny Awhefeada

By Sunny Awhefeada

Delta State born gospel singer, Harold Ikuku, released a popular album that was the rave of the moment in the tough and horrible years that the 1990s were. The song’s motif is “I shall not die”. Although a gospel song, it resonated with both Christians and non-Christians as a result of its affirmative message of survival in the face of brutal economic and psychological assault on the citizenry. It was this song that a man sang with so much gusto on hearing of the new pump price of petrol about three weeks ago, the second of such astronomical increase within two months of the present regime. When President Bola Tinubu said, in his inaugural speech, that petroleum subsidy was gone, his handlers must have thought that it was a masterstroke in view of the fact that petrol subsidy had become an albatross for the Nigerian polity. But perceptive and concerned citizens knew and rightly so that Tinubu misfired on that first day of all days. Yes, it was desirable to remove subsidy as it had become a massive drain pipe for the nation’s finances, but the new regime set the cart before the horse for so many reasons. The more than harsh and ultra-severe economic hardship that has become the lot of Nigerians since that pronouncement is a result of that bad timing of subsidy removal. The removal saw the skyrocketing of petrol price by nearly 300%. And just as the populace was struggling to come to terms with the debilitating reality another increase was slammed on the nation, as we say, just like that!

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The preceding regime, headed by Muhammadu Buhari, made a lot of noise on the issue of subsidy removal, but since that was a government that wasn’t really a government nothing was done to that effect. The Buhari regime was a ghost regime that was all over the place, but its effect in the sense of true governance was never felt. It was a wicked ghost that afflicted the people. Part of the deceit Buhari sold to Nigerians when he campaigned before the 2015 presidential election was to minimally reduce the cost of petrol by not only reviving the existing refineries, but by building a new one each year. An expectant nation jubilated and clapped for him. Sadly and disappointingly, eight years came and went and Buhari didn’t turn the sod for the foundation of even half a refinery. The most his regime could do was to sell us the bunkum of commissioning the Dangote refinery which we have now been told will not be functional until 2025. So, Buhari and his fellow travelers took the nation for a ride for eight years and left us more despondent than ever before. Realizing the enormity of the calamity he wrought on Nigeria, he told a scandalized nation that he would relocate to the Republic of Niger if he didn’t find rest in Nigeria after leaving office.

What is playing out now is an elongated torture script which the ruling class unrelenting as ever designed and is directing. Going by our antecedent of worsening condition of living with every new regime, it is quite likely that we have been forced on a trip to Golgotha. The subject of subsidy removal has been with us for as long as one can remember. Those schooled in the fine details of political economy have told us again and again that there are conditions to be met before embarking on such a sensitive matter as subsidy removal. Such factors include making our local refineries to function optimally, improving on the parlous electricity situation, adjustment of wages, massive investments in agriculture and transportation among other gestures that will ameliorate the negative effects of subsidy removal. Sadly, rather than do the foregoing, Tinubu via a kneejerk response announced the removal of subsidy as if he had a magic wand that will mediate and tame the consequences. So many views have been expressed since that moment all pointing to the reality that there was never a subsidy regime that favoured the economically vulnerable. Subsidy has always been for the rich. A video of a former state governor who authoritatively stated that those in charge of subsidy once went to a sitting president to tell him to stop subsidy because they were tired of making money has been in circulation since June.

That video aptly depicted subsidy as a buccaneering enterprise in which only the rich and powerful participate at the detriment of the weak. So many other perspectives on subsidy as economic crime have been aired and the present regime is playing the ostrich and not making any attempt to institute a probe to determine those who stripped Nigeria bare and raped her economically. What subsidy removal unleashed on Nigerians range from acute hunger to starvation and death. The jolt on the economy has led to unprecedented unemployment amidst hyperinflation and abysmally low wages. The poverty bracket has expanded beyond what statistics can accurately capture. Our lot before now has been to wear the medal of the world’s poverty capital and the reality of multidimensional poverty with over one hundred million people living in extreme hunger. Our nation has been run as if we have leaders who do not think or at best think only about themselves. The latter must be the reason why the legislative arm appropriated 70 billion naira as palliatives and the judiciary received 35 billion, while nothing went to the citizens.

What followed was that the head of the Nigerian legislature, Godswill Akpabio, saw our suffering as a fit script for comedy tagged “Let the poor breathe” and he and his fellow corpulent legislooters had a good laugh at our expense. His latest outing was his assertion that the lawmakers needed more money! He said nothing about us the people. His only reference to Nigerians was to profile us as thieves who besiege the National Assembly to beg and to steal. Yes, the people are begging and stealing because Akpabio and his ilk stole from them and abandoned them. Now, they are coming to take what is theirs. Akpabio should know that things could degenerate to a point where these people will have him and his colleagues for supper because there is acute hunger in the land.

Our rulers are driving us into depression. Nearly everything has packed up. We no longer have roads. Electricity is forever receding. Our schools and hospitals have collapsed. Insecurity has endangered agriculture. The net result has been hunger, anger and despondency. What is making the subsidy removal so inhumanly wicked is that we put petrol to triangular use: at home, on the road and at the workplace. So, our existence revolves around what we can do with petrol. If we had functional electricity, the burden of powering our homes and workplaces would have been reduced to just paying electricity bills. Unfortunately, electricity now sounds like a distant call and what is available is petrol so we are bound to it and its propensity to impoverish us.

As we groan and agonize over our economic predicament, those who rule and ruin the nation are fantasizing over a military action against the military junta of the Republic of Niger. Despite our monumental poverty, our crippling insecurity and many uncertainties, some fellows in Abuja would actually dream about going to war with Niger where billions if not trillions would be wasted. Yet, our people are dying of hunger and traumatized by insecurity. But despite the inhuman severity of our present ordeal and condition, we shall not die! Suffering does not last forever. Bad leadership has an expiry date. Those laughing at the poor shall someday be choked by their laughter that is if the poor didn’t have them for supper before that day. We will outlive our detractors. We shall not die!


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