The silence around drew my attention to the commotion several yards down my street. The air’s complexion had changed from the usual to a thick black shade of smoke, which I erroneously interpreted as presage of a heavy downpour. Actually it was indicative of some imminent downpour, but apparently of a different sort. The silence was due to zero vehicular movement while the smoke was courtesy of burning rubber tyres.
Needless to say, the current hit song on every pair of lips is “Fuel Subsidy Removal” and that track is topping the musical chart of national concerns with terrorism following much too closely. The media has been agog with the saga of Government’s seemingly persuasive yet uncompromising stance on the fuel issue as well as tales of citizen’s polarized perspective and response. We all know that. So I doubt if there is any point recounting what we know too well.
I refuse to dwell on the scenario of the protest earlier today where vehicles underwent coronation (with leaves hinged on their windshield wiper) as though attaining chieftaincy titles. Neither will I attempt to paint the picture of Friday, 7th January at 8:00 p.m. when many citizens were unable to watch the Presidential address on fuel subsidy removal courtesy of power outage nor worse still, when they could not run their generators to view the same address on TV owing to the escalated price of petrol. No, I won’t drift to all those. I prefer to dwell on something less obvious but equally pertinent. And by that I mean the trio of what, why and how – especially the how.
As I took in the sight of inflamed tyres and dancing smoke, my thoughts unwittingly perched on the rubber material in the flame and picked up one simple, cursory detail. What are the masses canvassing? That fuel subsidy stay. Why? The current price of fuel is sudden and burdensome; perhaps that they don’t trust the government with the revenue from the subsidy removal scheme; or even that they feel the average citizen with his economic status cannot survive the aftermath. But the crux of this piece is How are we doing this? By burning tyres with the same fuel whose price we presently are agitating a downward review of?
I will appreciate if you fail to forget that this is not some attention-hungry write-up or a literary attack on any person or party. After all, I made my personal views known days ago when I blogged, “Full-Hell Subsidy Removal” (see below). So, I’m not shifting grounds. However, I strongly opine that what we do and why we do same are no more important than how we do them.
The Boko Haram Sect, for instance, in its “unofficial, inaugural press conference” claimed its mission is to antagonize Western education. That is What they wanted to do. And Why? Well, maybe they feel western education summarily has done more bad than good, or is outright evil. They have their reasons. So what was their approach, that is, How did they further their interest? By random bombings on arbitrarily selected locations all over the country! Also, when did churches stop being religious institutions and start being educational institutions that will qualify them as bombing targets for this terrorist group? Please, when you claim to fight western education do you then use guns and bombs whose production are outgrowths of western scientific and technological development – courtesy of education? The erstwhile militants down south were not called terrorists because they were fighting for a cause and after being summoned to a platform of reasonable dialogue and fair hearing they presented their claims and their demands were apparently aired and heard. They never needed to earn the label “terrorists” for themselves. And why was that? Because of HOW they did it. So why can’t Boko Haram folks via a roundtable talk demand that the Government severe whatever educational support it has been providing and let them be? [That is if indeed their sole aim is abolishment of western education, and nothing more/else].
Similarly, what the Federal Government wants to do (or has already done) is to remove fuel subsidy. Why? To rake in more revenue for job creation, sustainable development, execution of lagging projects etc. But again (approach), How was this done? By abrupt hike in fuel price with the vain expectation that the masses have this all-powerful shock absorber that will absolutely cushion the effect as though subsidy never existed! Faulty approach, I opine. Whatever happened to putting appropriate facilities in place first? Why not patiently fix the power sector and allow the common man be able to boast of uninterrupted power supply for all that he needs – or have they forgotten virtually no means of livelihood is independent of power supply? And truth is, the power issue has been a nagging headache for countless years (at least, those whose domestic bills are not allowance-driven will understand this). Whatever happened to reinstating railway transport? Or are we too old to institute bullet trains shuttling Abuja to Lagos in minutes, for instance? When basic yet seemingly unachievable amenities stand aloof how can we be convinced that more challenging obstacles of a national nature would be surmountable? The leadership simply needs to win the populace’s trust on a matter of this sort and by winning trust I do not mean wishful words or promises on paper or projects in prospect, or some mantras on media. Not at all! No one builds a reputation on what he has not done. Trust is earned, not demanded. The principle is simple: Do more, get more. No doubt, subsidy removal has its attendant benefits but I feel the removal is rather premature and impulsive. Even at the eventual establishment of the basic necessities (not luxuries), the subsidy removal should be progressive not abrupt. Every naira counts in the life of the average Nigerian, for goodness sake.
Likewise, why abandon the peaceful but efficacious approach of nonviolent protests only to burn tyres with petrol purchased at N140/L – the same figure for which you hopped into the street to protest? (Because I’m sure from experience and education that water isn’t combustible). I mean why should patriotic and well-intentioned citizens adopt measures that will only aid any right-thinking observer to categorize them as hooligans and rabble-rousers while they would never been seen in such light if they had given vent to their grievances via smokeless protests?
“The end will justify the means,” you may say. Listen, the adage never said the end will nullify the means. Therefore, that we eventually arrive at the desired destination does not, in any way, suggest the path we trod to reach the destination is irrelevant. Well, you think the means does not matter? Then wait till you reach the end. Achievements are as important as the methods adopted to attain them. So, from the grandest of life’s ambitions to the littlest menial tasks, the scope of our consideration should extend from the “what”and “why” to “how” we achieve them.
As for the title above, “N140 per Litre”? Well, that’s the phrase qualifying the substance fueling the writing of this piece – petrol – and, of course, arguably the single most important subject in this nation as we speak.
I lack the words to express my gratitude to you for devoting to this write-up a portion of your most valuable asset – your time.
Thank you very much.
P.S.: Comments are much welcome.