by Kolapo Olapoju
On 1st October 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the Independence Day celebration would be low-key. Nigerians were not in any way perturbed nor were they expecting any elaborate celebrations, considering the challenges the country was grappling with.
Information Minister, Labaran Maku sought to convince journalists at the state house in Abuja that the decision to have a low-key celebration was not borne out of fear but out of the will to save cost. He had said, “I want to make it very clear here that the fact that this independence is low-keyed has nothing to do with fear of Boko Haram or any insecurity.”
But the journalists and even Nigerians didn’t need convincing, for the writing was on the wall. The entirety of the populace understood why the government had to hold an in-house Independence Day celebration at the Presidential villa.
Boko Haram was bombing various parts of north-eastern Nigeria on a weekly basis, the socio-economic condition in the country was beyond palpable, the majority of the populace felt disenfranchised from the government of the day and its policies, many Nigerians were harbouring deep resentments towards the political elite as a result of their gross corruption and wanton pilfering of the state’s coffers, without punishment nor recompense.
The low-key declaration seemed to be one of the most popular declarations an unpopular president could make, at a time when the polity was heated, security compromised and terribly lax, and when hardship was commonplace among most Nigerians. Jonathan couldn’t have been more on point.
A year later, it’s another independence day, and in reality, little has changed. Nigeria is still dealing with the menace of the Islamic terrorist sect, Boko Haram, the citizenry still has no love for the ruling class, and poverty still remains a major problem, despite the growing economy of the country, a situation many have come to term ‘The Nigerian irony’.
In a nation where social, cultural and political ironies are a regular feature, the present economic irony is perhaps the biggest of all.
Between the last independence day and today, 1 October 2014, the average working class Nigerian has not experienced any significant change in their socio-economic conditions, nor have they enjoyed an increase in the supposed ‘dividends of democracy’.
From being underpaid to being unappreciated, the situation for the average middle class Joe still remains the same at their respective places of work. Due to the chronic unemployment problem in the country, many employees have had to acclimatize to inclement working conditions and stomach unsavoury job descriptions, all in a bid to make ends meet and put food on the table. Majority of the working class Nigerians for one reason or the other are disgruntled over time, in their places of work, but many have no choice than embrace whatever they face at work, because for every vacant position, there are a thousand persons hoping to take the spot, and worse still, for every taken position, there are equally a thousand people hoping it becomes vacant.
Hence, the average Nigerian employee, in spite of being over-used and poorly paid, have had no choice but to stick to their jobs, and hope that by some miracle, a better opportunity presents itself. Such is the sheer hopelessness of the Nigerian worker, in spite of the burgeoning economy.
From being disregarded to being taken for granted, the Nigerian worker has gotten little or no love whatsoever from the Nigerian government, as several government policies seem not to favour them in any way. In the past year, the nation has witnessed more strike actions than ever. Doctors, teachers, and many other professionals have had to embark on strike actions to force the hand of the government to provide them with the necessary motivation to perform optimally in their respective fields. In all of these strike actions, little result has been recorded as it has been from time immemorial, since the inception of workers’ protest in Nigeria. In reality, little has changed for the Nigerian worker in the past year.
The government has failed to improve on basic infrastructures which would have improved the lives of the Nigerian worker, and reduce the expenses made. Electricity, transportation, housing, cost of food items, and other basic needs of the average Nigerian has increased disproportionately to the income received.
If any change has been recorded, it has been at best ‘retrogressive’, because while the remuneration and welfare packages of the average Nigerian worker has remained the same, the cost of living and societal demands has surged, and keeps increasing by the day.
If the past year was an indication of what to expect in the next year, then there is a serious cause for alarm as the nation seems to continuously spiral down into the abyss of abnormal norms. Corruption is still as rife as ever, electricity remains poor, housing costs are increasing at an alarming rate, the cost of food items have never been this high in the history of Nigeria, the security situation is yet to witness any significant improvement despite the recent string of successes recorded by the Nigerian army against the Boko Haram. Public apathy to the polity and politics of government is growing in leaps and bounds, and the resentment for religious leaders and houses at this point in time, is higher than any other period in the nation’s development.
At the risk of being called a ‘pessimist’, the reality on ground has remained unchanged from 1 October 2013 to 1 October 2014.
For the Nigerian worker, things have evidently gotten worse and from the view of the horizon of time to come, status quo may remain the same. The picture remains gloomy, yet Nigerians forge ahead and remain hopeful, as ever.
Yet, hope alone has never been known to result in any change.