A few days ago, it was the minister of state for agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri:
We can be generous and say that half of the cause of rice prices skyrocketing was caused by the devaluation of the naira and the other half by government policies. The reason for this, allegedly, is that Nigeria should be growing its own rice and save forex in the process. Fine, you can say that’s a reasonable goal for any country, at least on paper.
But at this point, there is only one thing the government can do — help Nigerians by finding any means it can to bring down the cost of rice to ease some suffering. Clearly, local rice production can’t meet up to demand and is nowhere near competitive in price yet.
As I said earlier, you don’t need a PhD in economics to know that Nigerians must surely have reduced consumption of an item that has nearly trebled in price in less than a year. You complain that Nigerians consume too much imported rice? Fine, you have managed to raise the price to the point where the thing is now unaffordable for millions of poor people. Well done, you have won.
But the goal of this was not to make rice too expensive to eat. It was to switch from imported to local rice. Where is the local rice? Ok, it’s on the way. Maybe when it finally arrives, prices will reduce so that people can eat.
How then did we get to this point where a week cannot go by without the agric ministers talking down to Nigerians and blaming them for their own hunger? You’ve already used different policies to make the item more expensive than it should be. You have not delivered on your side of the bargain by making local rice cheaper or more available. So what’s the story here? Except the argument is that eating rice at all is now a crime, what’s up with blaming the victim?
The government is not powerless to ease the pain caused by high prices of a popular staple. It has chosen not to do so. In fact, the same Audu Ogbeh was recently telling Nigerians that the hunger will last longer than expected.
A recession is never a pleasant thing. In a country like Nigeria, it is painful. Just by standing still, people’s standard of living is being cut in half. Is this really the right time to increase the amount of nastiness in the polity?
From ‘Change Begins With You’ to constantly blaming Nigerians for their ‘taste’ for foreign goods and importing ‘too much’ — is it really necessary to conduct governance by nastiness in this way?
I hope the APC government knows that it will face Nigerians again for another mandate in 2019? Yes, there are other ways you can win elections in Nigeria other than through votes. But still, it won’t be easy to switch from blaming Nigerians to asking them for votes when that time comes.
If suffering for greater glory is part of APC’s plan for Nigerians, that’s fine. But there’s really no need to rub it in.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
This op-ed was first published HERE