Today is the 56th day of the Year 2012. It is already 55 days past and many strange things – both good and bad – had happened. I remember predicting that 2012 would be characterized by uncertainties, and bring bountiful blessings to Nigerians. True to that prediction, remarkable things are beginning to happen to individuals and corporate Nigeria. Do not forget that 12 is a special number. For example, biblically, it represents the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, etc. In short, it is very symbolic. For those that believe in its spiritual potency, the year will turn their lives around and usher in the grace of God in an unusual manner.
From all indication, 2012 is already running full swing even before the end of the first quarter. Was it not on January 1 - the first day of the year- that the federal government, through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), announced an immediate increase in the pump price of petrol from N65 to N141? The crises that greeted that seemingly unpopular decision almost dragged the country into a serious social problem, if the government had not stepped in promptly to douse the tension building across the country. The fuel subsidy removal impasse must have taught the government a very bitter lesson in handling the sentiments of the people it governs. Contrary to expectations, the people resented the increase and took to the streets to vent their anger. I am certain that those in authority did not anticipate the kind of protests that heralded the increase. Ordinarily, it would have expected the usual laissez faire approach that attended similar government fiscal policy somersaults in the past to be the case this time round. Never did it expect such a determined and unwavering opposition from a normally docile and gullible populace! This is why it is dangerous to underestimate the power of the people. Up till now, nobody can say for certain what the future outcome would be over the fuel subsidy removal.
In other climes the protests would have led to a more serious breach of the peace. It was, therefore, quite interesting that the people that embarked on the protests did not allow themselves to be used to cause truncate our fragile democracy. Instead of turning violent, they concentrated their energy on their legitimate demand for a reversal. Even though they did not attain 100% of their demand through the instrumentality of the Nigeria Labour Congress, at least, they were able to arouse the consciousness of other Nigerians to their rights and privileges as free-born citizens and custodians of the power that the political class wields.
For dutiful observers of national events, the fuel subsidy palaver is not yet over. In fact, what we witnessed in January would be a child’s play compared to what is to come. However, this depends on how tactful the government chooses to go about the whole thing. One thing nobody can dispute is that the Nigerian masses are getting continually wiser and more enlightened. This makes it increasingly difficult for anybody – particularly government – to pull the wool over their eyes.
The impact of the national strike over subsidy removal is yet to go away, as there have been recurring incidents of scarcity at filling stations all over the country, with petrol selling as much as N150 per litre in some places. This simply means that indirectly the subsidy removal carried out on January 1, 2012 subsists. In any case, one huge benefit of the government/labour face-off last month was the emergence of some committees for the monitoring of the oil industry and the administration of the proceeds from the subsidy removal. The Christopher Kolade Committee will ensure that the proceeds from the removal are judiciously and equitably spent, while the Nuhu Ribadu Panel will monitor the operations of the petroleum industry to deal with any perceived sharp practices or maladministration. The Alfa Belgore Committee will ensure that there is harmony between government and labour on the grey areas in the agreements reached on the issue of subsidy removal to forestall any untoward developments.
In totality, the fuel subsidy strike has accentuated the determination of the government to meet the infrastructural needs of the people and promote good governance, as well.
Curiously, the activities of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram witnessed a downward trend in the past 55 days as can be seen in a few bomb blasts recorded within the period. This contrasted sharply with the December 2011 records of at least one bomb blast per day. The worst in that month was the Madalla bombing that led to the death of over 43 worshippers on Christmas Day. Probably, the blood of those that lost their lives in that unfortunate incident is beginning to cleanse the land of the atrocities of the terrorists that relish in the death of their fellow citizens.
Save for the coordinated bombing of police barracks and installations in Kano in January in which over 200 lives, including the Kano Correspondent of Channels Television, Enenche Akogwu, were wasted, and the unsuccessful attempts to bomb the First Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, and the Government House also in Kaduna, in which a director was mistakenly shot by security men attached to the place the past 55 days were relatively uneventful in terms of terrorism attacks. The shot director, according to news report, died last Sunday at the 44 Army Reference Hospital Kaduna after an unsuccessful surgery. The death of the director, who was thought to be a suicide bomber by the soldiers guarding the Government House, opens another dimension to the fight against terrorism in the country.
My worry is that such an incident may become the order of the day in other sensitive government environments. This is why the death of the director should be thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities to determine the culpability or otherwise of the soldiers and policemen involved in the deadly incident. Nevertheless, it is important to also warn those who visit sensitive government offices to be patient and obey orders given by security operatives in order not to fall victim of extra-judicial killing.