Subsidy through the Barrel of a Gun

Deji Agbeniyi

We obviously have not discarded the military mentality even while we claim to practice democracy.

After one week of nationwide strikes and protests, Nigerians today woke up to the brute reminder of the kind of fabric African Leaders are made of: Leadership dressed in a culture of colonial tactics ,  brute force ,ruler-ship by decrees , and a disconnect from the demands of the citizens. Major city centers in Nigeria were overtaken by heavy military presence. A sad reminder of the days when the likes of IBB & Abacha were Lords of the manor over Nigeria. But why did Jonathan’s democratically elected federal government roll out kahaki boys against its own protesting citizens? Was it a foundation for the NLC/TUC plan to call off the subsidy strike while the government holds on to the announcement as a life line to harass “enemies of the state”  who insist on inciting citizens to further strikes and protest. On the other hand, an argument to maintain peace and security in the event of a breakdown of law and order In the face of all that has transpired in the last one week the former argument appears more appropriate.

The Nigerian government as at 16 January, 2012 has “decreed” the price of petrol from the initial N141 to N97 but the supposed reduction has been rather interpreted to mean a N32 increase from the former N65. As at today the strike has been called off by the NLC/TUC while Protests were stalled by the presence of the military in some cities but the Jonathan’s presidency has further dropped in its popularity. The Jonathan Presidency has in fact stirred a call by some Nigerians that the military should return to lead the country. The question that begs to be answered is why a man whom many saw with so much “Good luck” suddenly changed his leadership style from the gentle, reserved, accommodating man to one viewed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The highhandedness in the removal of subsidy on the pump price of fuel coupled with the attempt to use security forces to harass opposing voices to submission is dictatorial and undemocratic.

This attitude from the Nigerian Government now gives credence to the suggestion that there is a co relationship between our years of dominant military rule and Nigeria’s democracy. The military ruled the nation for over 33 years within Nigeria’s 51 years of nationhood. We obviously have not discarded the military mentality even while we claim to practice democracy. From 1999 till date the government has handled leadership and major issues as if the citizens do no matter .Legitimately processed court orders are ignored like President Obasanjo did in the case against Lagos state and local government’s funds. The same democratically militarized culture reared its head in the Killing of harmless citizens in Zakibiam, Benue state under President Obasanjo.

In 2009, a certain “CABAL” whom I have tried to locate fruitlessly in the Nigerian constitution held the nation to ransom without leadership for months while President Yar’Adua was sick in Saudi Arabia. The principal Legal officer of the country shamelessly told Nigerians that the President can lead the country from “anywhere”. Painfully it was the courage of the Civil Society in Nigeria to correct this constitutional fraud of the Yar’adua Presidency that eventually led to the emergence of a Jonathan Presidency. During this civil society agitations, then Vice President Jonathan acted pious, a man in whom the whole country was well pleased and were willing to march the streets. Vice President Jonathan became Acting President Jonathan and eventually President Jonathan, thanks to Nigerians.

If we have a leadership in this country why would President Jonathan whom emerged president by the popular will of the Nigerian People decide to enforce an unpopular policy without going through the national assembly and discussions with the Nigerian people but rather foster this fuel increase through the barrel of a gun .The answer we saw this morning; A sense of militarized leadership. A look at some more developed nations shows that the orientation of leaders is related to the method and fruits (dividends of democracy) of leadership.

The United States of America has always had a prevalence of lawyers in its ruling elite which have impacted on the values and beliefs of the American society. China and Germany have had a spread of engineers in their leading elite which leave these countries with impressive engineering projects. This engineering approach applies even to the planning of their economies. In Italy you see traces of business men (cabal) in their Italian political space which perfects environments for monopolies entrenched in mafia systems.

We can go on in tracing the relationship between leadership antecedents and fruits of such leadership. This is NOT to absolve the countries mentioned of past dictatorial decisions neither is the writer suggesting that the burden of Nigeria’s leadership crises is solely a function of past military rules. However we see traces of a relationship between past military rules and present undemocratic military styles of leadership. When we look at the fruits of leadership styles in Nigeria we ought to resist every suggestion to formal or informal military rule as some Nigerians did during the fuel subsidy protests.

The Nigerian government may appear to have won a temporary battle but the war against dictatorship and bad governance must go on. We must not fail to continue to organize ourselves to effective change movements. If you ask   me we have moved ahead as a nation of anything goes to a people more informed, more conscious of our rights and expectations from the leadership. More citizens are studying the budgets and many more are asking questions. This emerging Nigeria must be nurtured to its reality. We must not for any reason seek for escape in asking the military to return in any form. All forms of dictatorial tendencies must be condemned and resisted. President Jonathan must be made to understand that he would not always have his way in using military tactics in cowering his people into submission .While we march towards a country we can be proud of I am persuaded this  military leadership mentality under a democratic government would not last always


Deji Agbeniyi

Follow on twitter > @Dejiagbeniyi

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