by Ayodele Olofintuade
I used to consider myself an armchair critic, and then I graduated to a social website critic. I constantly moan and groan about Nigeria and the myriad problems her government has plunged her into over the years. The overbloated, corruption-riddled central government, ruling over 160 million people of ‘the most populous black country’ in Africa.
Aside from crude oil Nigeria is also blessed with other natural resources like coal, gold, bitumen, silicone etc. but the government is only concerned with the crude oil, which is exported in HUGE quantities without proper monitoring.
Now to the point of this article. Over the past 2years I have joined several groups hoping that something will happen, there was always talk of mass protests, I remember a particular year when I joined a particular group and they had a rally in Abuja I was hopeful … well until they turned into a campaign team for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, that name that gets my blood boiling.
Late in 2011 the president of Nigeria Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (henceforth called Badluck, Egbere, Jo-lantern and other expletives), Diezani Allison Madueke, the Minister for Petroleum Resources ( the bimbo) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance (the banshee) started talking about removing subsidy on Petrol according to them, in order to prevent the country from plunging into an abyss of Economic instability we would NEVER recover from, in fact it will be worse than the one Greece is in presently.
My first reaction was stunned amazement, are these guys living in la-la-land? Don’t they know Nigeria’s economy has already collapsed as far as the average Nigerian is concerned? Do they realize how little the minimum wage of N18, 000 can do? In addition, these are government workers, I know people who earn N4, 000 per month. Already kerosene, which is the fuel most people use, sells for N120 per litre. Government hospitals are bare of equipments and drugs, most people resort to using either overpriced private clinics or ‘cheap’ butcher houses called clinics. There is no power supply, the roads are death traps, the ills are endless. Pray tell me, what the heck is economy collapse?
Then I saw the 2012 budget and realized that once again the government is spending over 70% of the budget on itself, as successive governments have done over the years. That was when I reached boiling point.
I immediately joined another group on Facebook called ‘Nationwide anti-fuel subsidy removal’ but there was lots of talk and trying to get people to join, for me I had reached boiling point and was ready to go to Abuja and start a one man march all by myself.
On January 1, I woke up to the news that our President, Jonathan the idiot, has removed fuel subsidy. Petrol price jumped from N65 to N145 per litre. The effect was immediate, transportation immediately more than doubled, which of course affected everything else, it was utter madness.
Then I joined twitter and that was the turning point for me. I saw a group called OccupyNigeria and followed immediately, then a tweet came in that Occupy Nigeria members are to meet at Mokola Roundabout in Ibadan, I did not hesitate, the following morning I was at roundabout. I met up with about 20people. And that was how it started. Every day we went protesting. Secretariat, Mapo, Beere, Gate, Yemetu, Ogunpa, Ring-Road, Challenge, Toll Gate, Iwo road. The list is endless, everywhere we went people joined us. From a trickle we grew into a stream, now we are a flood.
We have people occupying their neighbourhoods now.
Our first strategy was to educate people about the fuel subsidy, the fact that the protests are beyond the restoration of the subsidy that we want good governance and transparency. A cut in the amount of money these people spend. Their non-taxable allowances that allows them to list furniture, computers, scanners and software as recurrent expenditure. That we want to scrutinize the documents of the method by which the government is giving away our crude oil and importing it as petrol. We want a voice. A week after we started NLC called a nationwide strike, which gave our group more impetus.
I wake up as early as possible, feed and water my children, give stern instructions (which are promptly ignored), put some money in my pocket, fetch my sunshades, my trainers and hit the road. I have led a rally, been lost in the midst of a crowd, trailed behind a crowd, trampled, pushed, hugged, kissed, chased. I have faced the barrel of guns twice by gun totting army personnel intent on shooting on the crowd. I have been rude to the governor of Oyo state, been interviewed by the SSS.
Through all these one emotion that stands true and that keeps me going is the anger of the crowd, the fact that Nigerians have realized that there is power in the multitude. It is us against them. There are only, at most, one million people in government nationwide. There are over 159 million of us.
We are the people, we shall win!
Ayodele is the author of the LNLG-Nominated children’s book “Eno’s Story”. She writes from Ibadan.