There is no denying the fact that against the backdrop of the trending reports of the soaring prices of staple foods across markets in the country, and the way and manners Nigerians are groaning under the prevailing state of affairs, particularly since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as President on May 29, 2023, that the tendencies to protest cannot be ruled out.
In fact, the propensity to protest became foreseeable when Tinubu publicly announced that “Fuel Subsidy Is Gone”, and undemocratic enough, not a few politicians are referring to journalists and opinion writers who report or write about the danger of pushing the people to the wall in a contemptuous, insulting and defamatory manner, thus violating the principle of freedom of information. Given the foregoing, it is unmistakable to say that they are in the same vein drawing attention to the dishonorable way to which Journalists are often treated just for doing their jobs, and to which vocal Nigerians are silenced for speaking out about the harsh realities of the hardships they are been subjected to.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is germane to recall in this context that it is no more news that political leaders had had unjustified cause in the past to pick up journalists at the dead of night for reporting on poor people's struggles, and filing cases against them. If I may ask in this context, “Are these incidents supposed to happen in a democratic country? Why is there so much difference between the reality of common people and that which the government wants to see or project?
At this juncture, permit this writer to say that the inspiration to express this opinion came as he was infuriated to hear that not a few political leaders affiliated to the Nigeria’s ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), either serving or solidly in support of the ongoing administration, are alleging that the flurry of protests that recently broke out in Niger and Kano were instigated by politicians in Nigeria’s opposing political parties.
Though the allegation was rife, the one that particularly infuriated this writer emanated from the meeting that held behind closed doors last week in the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who met with the National Security Adviser, (NSA) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and some ministers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, over food security and protests in some states.
The meeting, which began at about 05:30 pm, also had in attendance the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Yemi Cardoso; Ministers of Education, Dr Tahir Mamman; Finance, Wale Edun; Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Agriculture, Abubakar Kyari; and Minister of State for Agriculture, Sabi Abdullahi.
As gathered, the parley was held as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and some opposition parties disagreed over cost of living protests in Niger and Kano states.
While the APC accused the opposition of sponsoring what it dismissed as anti-President Bola Tinubu protests, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party,(LP), and Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), had unanimously said the APC was chasing shadows and had itself to blame for the protests.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting that lasted for about three hours, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, expressed President Bola Tinubu’s worry over the development.
If this writer may ask at this juncture, “Is the level of hardship prevailing across the country at the moment not hard enough to trigger protests? “Must people be instigated or sponsored to protest when the level of hunger in the land is very thick that it can literarily be sliced with a knife?”
The minister was reported to have said that the President has directed that the situation should be arrested by the Presidential Committee in order to reduce hardship on the populace, and assured that there is enough food in the country, and added that some elements are trying to take advantage of the high food prices and the depreciation of naira to cause havoc.
He said, “We just rounded off a meeting. It is a special presidential committee to address the issue of food shortage or lack of enough food on the table of most Nigerians.
“This is just the beginning of that meeting. It is going to continue tomorrow and day after tomorrow. The government is very concerned about what Nigerians are going through, especially what has happened in Minna yesterday, and therefore government is taking some action to ensure that Nigerians have some relief in terms of the availability of food on the table.
“Of course, this meeting is not by itself exhaustive. It’s just like I said, the beginning. It is going to continue tomorrow and the day after.
“Now, some of these will involve unlocking the foods that are available in most of the storage facilities (National Food Reserve) around the country. You know that the Federal Minister of Agriculture has some food reserves. That is going to be made available to Nigerians.”
Given the fact that not a few Nigerians are groaning under the weight of the prevailing hunger in the land, it is absurd and unthinkable for anyone to think that Nigerians are so daffy and daft to protest as a way of sending messages to the government to come to their rescue. However, the APC has accused the opposition of instigating the protests against President Tinubu’s administration in the guise of protesting against the increasing cost of living in the country. Nevertheless, not a few Nigerians that are literarily been battered by hunger are saying that the allegation made by the APC-led government is unfounded.
It will be recalled that the so-called sponsored protests had hardly subsided in Minna and Kano before it resurfaced in Suleja, before the APC accused the major opposition PDP and the LP of being behind them. According to the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, the protest bore the bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort by “the mercenary opposition to instigate unrest and undermine the government, “and “promote social strife by its incendiary rhetoric and manipulative plots.”
Reacting, Morka’s counterpart in the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said that the All Progressives Congress-dominated Federal Government should be honest enough to admit that its policies in the last nine months have pauperized the majority of Nigerians.
He said, “Any government that has an idea of macro-economic policy management ought to have recognised that the suffocating policies of abrupt increase in the pump price of petroleum products, high cost of electricity and arbitrary floating of the Naira as executed by the government without due consultations, would have excruciating consequences to the economy as being witnessed today.”
National Publicity Secretary of the LP, Mr Obiora Ifoh, reminded his APC counterpart that Niger State is an APC controlled state, so the accusation of opposition as being sponsors of the protest was disingenuous.
President Tinubu-led APC administration.“National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Debo Ologunagba, in a statement in Abuja, said: “The action of the APC in threatening Nigerians for exercising their democratic and constitutional right to protest in the face of misrule, agonizing poverty, hunger, killings and other harrowing experiences under the Tinubu administration shows that the APC is insensitive and relishes the life-discounting situation in the country.
“These thoughtless policies by President Tinubu and the APC are responsible for the crippling of the productive sector with 28% inflation rate, crashing of the naira from N167 to over N1,500 to a dollar, closure of millions of businesses and mass exodus of international companies from Nigeria, resulting in a distressing 41% unemployment rate and unbearable pressure on millions of families across the country.”
In like manner, the LP advised President Tinubu and the APC to deal with the fallout of their failed policies instead of looking for scapegoats to blame for their ineptitude.
National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Obiora Ifoh, in a media parley said the APC was simply trying to play the ostrich because even its members who are ordinary citizens, are suffering like their peers on the streets and have lost any genuine reason to continue to hide under the guise of party support to deny facts.”
He said: “Those who took to the streets in Minna, Niger State, a state controlled by the APC went to the streets not as members of opposition parties but as citizens bearing the brunt of this administration’s ineptitude and lack of preparation for governance.”
Also, National Secretary of the CUPP, Chief Peter Ameh, faulted the Federal Government’s implementation of fuel subsidy removal without a plan and other actions for the biting hardship in the country.
His words: “Our standard of living has significantly gone downwards, hunger and starvation is not only staring us in our faces but gnawing our bowels. Most parents cannot send their wards to school anymore. Criminality is on a geometric increase.
“The unplanned, unprepared and unstructured removal of subsidy is the root cause of all these harsh economic realities and it brought crushing economic misery to the majority of Nigerians. A better plan would have been to phase it out in a way the poor will not bear the brunt of the economic consequences.”