By: Ola S. Sanmi
The United Action For Democracy (UAD) last week acted a drama of the absurd. The group assembled idle “area boys” in Lagos in the guise of protests against what it termed policies that exacerbated hardships on Nigerians by the administration of President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB). The only effect of the UAD stage-managed circuit show was to draw attention to itself, as a group resurrecting from the dead.
To curry public sympathy, it desperately, but fruitlessly sought to colour their ill-timed and doomed protests with a populist cause by matching through Ikorodu road, to the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, famed for its January 2011 “Occupy Nigeria” anti-fuel price hike rallies of the former President Goodluck Jonathan era.
But shamefully, even birds hovering in the air were more noticed than these bands of idlers who camouflaged as rights crusaders and labour unionists. For a start, the point should be made clearly from the outset that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) as a body has no issues with the Buhari government.
Labour knows the inside out of the cooking pot (Nigeria) and it is a living testimony to determined efforts of the Buhari administration, which has bent backwards to carter for the welfare of workers even in the face of ravaging economic recession inherited by the regime. Labour can attest that Buhari cleared and is still clearing in states, backlog of salaries owed workers by the preceding regime. Therefore, dragging Lagos state NLC into a meaningless protest is just the desperate search for backers to give credibility to an indefinable and ultimately worthless cause.
However, a scrutiny of the grievances of the so-called protesters as reflected on placards further brightened the emptiness of the mission and exposed the organizers as “strangers” in their own land. It betrayed them as people alienated from the happenings around them, but instead of asking questions, they preferred a misuse of the many liberties offered by democratic governance by embarking on protests, induced by vague reasons and implored unwilling Nigerians to reclaim their country.
Messages on the placards read to wit; “Arise against austerity and hardship”, “Reverse Deregulation and Naira Devaluation Now” and “Uphold Democracy in the Local Government Areas” and so forth. In the first instance, UAD and its peers have turned a blind eye to the fact that Nigeria under Buhari is undergoing healing and deliverance from the malaise of 16 years of bad governance. This is not a decay that can’t be remedied in a jiffy or under the less than two years of the Buhari Presidency. But the signs of positive changes are visible.
Government has consistently explained that it inherited a kobo-less treasury and foreign reserves saved for the rainy day rapaciously depleted by the corrupt political elite on sponsorship of partisan politics. A mono-economy, Nigeria’s only source of sustainable revenue to government comes from crude oil. Aside the fall in oil prices, sometimes to as low as below $30 per barrel, even the 2.2 million barrels per day OPEC has granted Nigeria cannot be met because of militancy in the Niger Delta.
No Nigerian is oblivious of the fact that despite the drastic fall in government revenues or its financial capacity, virtually every sector of the economy is enmeshed in teething problems. Contractual debts owed local contractors alone in the last 10 years is computed at over N1 trillion, outside the over N400 billion the Buhari administration paid them in 2016.
But in spite of these daunting difficulties, the Buhari Presidency has prudently applied sinewy resources to exit some of the problems. Prosecuting anti-terrorism campaigns, with the success Buhari has flaunted is a serious business, with huge financial implications.
Experts have assessed Nigeria’s economy as gradually recovering from recession, with the efforts on its diversification. The World Bank/IMF recently qualified Nigeria’s economy as growing even in recession.
The FGN advanced low interest loans to farmers and the bumper harvest experienced in the last cropping season is the positive testimony of this endeavor. This is sustained in the 2017 budget proposal and efforts are on the way to restructure the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) to enable more farmers benefit from the facility this year. Therefore, FOREX previously expended on importation of virtually all food requirements of Nigerians is saved as consumption of locally produced staple foods have taken over imported foods.
Nigeria, a country hitherto without foreign reserves before the advent of the Buhari Presidency can now boast of at least $1 billion in its kitty. The value of naira cannot automatically appreciate against the US Dollar, until Nigeria embraces and expands it exportation chest. That is what the revolution in agriculture is intended to achieve, as already manifested.
It is expected that the masses of a country under such dire economic stress would suffer some hardships and pains, until the recovery process goes full circle. Despite everything, the Buhari Presidency has created jobs for unemployed youths. His N-Power initiative is adjudged as one of his best policies. These are the measures already in place to empower Nigerians and reduce hardships. It is foolhardy for anyone to think these mortley of problems can be vacated in one fell swoop. Construction site are gradually opening to create menial jobs.
The Buhari Presidency has revived the three refineries in the country, which before now resisted revival. The refining capacity has not hit the maximum, but plans are underway to increase their refining capacity in 2017, to reduce reliance on importation of petroleum products and the attendant burden of foreign exchange.
The so called protesters canvassing for the reversal of deregulation now have not only jumped into a hasty decision, but intend to spite government and coerce it into a regrettable action. In fact, they are the masked agents of the oil subsidy fraudsters, who are angling for the return of the looting of Nigeria’s resources under the guise of fuel subsidy. Much as they hate Buhari’s policy on deregulation, it has saved the country billions of dollars, as the thieving elite who turned the NNPC into their ATM cards for personal wallet no longer have access to illicit slush funds, which accounts for the evident progress in the economy.
When the UAD protesters talked about upholding democracy at the local government level, it is baffling how President Buhari takes the blame. The third tier of government is independent and the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria empowers States Assembly to make laws governing the administration of the councils.
Whatever undemocratic practices experienced by councils in some states is the consequence of this freedom the Constitution has granted states. It explains why, under his tenure as governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu stubbornly created illegal LGAs and they are still existing as Local Government Development Areas in the same Lagos state, where the protesters staged a comic show. Why the refusal to tackle the Lagos State House of Assembly on this matter, but the convenience to shift the burden to Buhari who has no connection with it?
If UAD is irked about councils, the ideal destination is to challenge such issues in court. Buhari cannot apply fiat and if he does, it is the same groups who would shout hoarse to high heavens about his interference with councils administration.
Therefore, the ordinary masses of Nigeria, who have seen the selfless service of President Buhari and his unalloyed determination to better the lot of impoverished Nigerians, are rather clamouring for his continuation in 2019, as four years alone would be a scratch on the surface in healing the land and cleaning the mess. That’s why UAD’s phantom protests were not accepted or replicated in any part of Nigeria. They are just veiled agents of oil subsidy thieves and Nigerians will not accord them the luxury of audience.
Ola writes from University of Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.