By Olu Oguibe
“No, we can’t take any more.”
On 3 January, 2012, the Harmattan of Justice that is now blowing through our country witnessed its first bloodshed. An innocent Nigerian citizen was killed in Ilorin. The police have disputed the cause of death of this brave patriot, but we know why he was killed. We know why he gave his young life.
Just over a year and half ago, millions of Nigerians gave Mr Goodluck Jonathan their mandate to lead. Despite his poor record, he promised to put the struggling Nigerian people first, to bring a breath of fresh air to our politics, to fight corruption and inequality and poverty, to create jobs and improve our lives, to right the wrongs that have ailed our country for so long.
Many of us prayed for Mr Jonathan. We said to ourselves: “He is a godly man, he is from among the poor, he understands our plight, and he is one of us.” Many of us were sure that he would not ignore the suffering of ordinary Nigerians or add to the daily hardship that so many hard-working Nigerians are forced to endure. We thought that once in office, he would serve the Nigerian people with clean hands and a clear conscience.
We were wrong!
We placed our trust in Mr Jonathan, yet time and again, he has betrayed our trust.
When Jonathan decided to remove the petrol subsidy, he knew that the price of petrol at the pump would jump so high that it would be very difficult for most Nigerians to cope. Some of us pointed it out, but as has become customary for Mr Jonathan, he and his ministers lied to us. Now, what many of us feared has happened.
It is important that we understand what Nigerians are fighting for. Nigerians have nothing personal against the president. The subsidy that he has removed to share among his friends in form of inflated contracts and payments to useless committee members is $8 billion dollars. Yet, each year, he and his ministers, his fellow politicians, and blue-collar criminals in the civil service steal more than $8 billion dollars from our public coffers to enrich themselves and their families. So, why is it so difficult for Mr Jonathan to ensure that ordinary, hard-working Nigerians can get to work without paying with their blood at the petrol station or for impossible bus and taxi fares? This subsidy is not up to what our politicians steal from us each year and put in their foreign bank accounts.
Our roads are in shambles, our schools are in shambles, our lives are in shambles, our country is in shambles. Millions of us are out of work. Now, so many of us can no longer afford the petrol to fuel our power generators and make sure that our children do their homework at night, while Mr Jonathan and his ministers and friends live in absolute luxury with guaranteed power supply, day-in and day-out, without power failures.
On every count, President Jonathan’s government has failed Nigerians. That is why we are saying: “Enough is enough!”
This is not an occupation. We are not occupying Nigeria. We already occupy Nigeria. It is our country and we are Nigerian citizens. What this is, is our desperate last effort to make our voices heard as Nigerians, and takes back our country. This is our Harmattan of Justice!
Obviously, many of us will be reluctant and circumspect to join the effort. Many of us will question whether anything can be achieved through peaceful protest. But we have to begin somewhere. Prayer alone cannot do it because God only helps those who help themselves. We have to draw the line somewhere and say: “No, we can’t take any more.”
The struggle that we have started is not just about the fuel subsidy. It is also a struggle to hold those that we elect into office accountable. It is a struggle to let our leaders and politicians know that we will no longer suffer and smile while they enrich themselves and ignore our suffering. It is a struggle to ensure that our democracy is worth the effort, and that when we put our trust in a leader, we expect him or her to be truthful, honourable, and faithful to the oath that they swore to serve the Nigerian people and not their own pockets.
For too long, we have allowed politicians and false prophets to sow divisions among us. Now is the time to put our suspicions and squabbles aside, and help each other through the rough times ahead. Now is the time when we must share what little we have with each other, instead of cheating one another through inflated prices, artificial scarcity, demanding and giving bribes to jump the line or secure fuel, or fighting each other at the petrol station instead of directing our anger at our common adversaries.
If you are a police constable or army officer, you are a Nigerian, too. This is not the time for you to raise your hand or gun to shed the blood of innocent fellow Nigerians and protect corrupt politicians and their wicked policies. Rather, this is the time for you to protect and defend your right as a Nigerian and the rights of all Nigerians, to protest what is wrong and fight for what is just. This is the time for you to stay on the side of your compatriots instead of turning yourself into the enemy.
Nigerians, we must put our fears aside and pull all efforts together. We must put our selfish pursuits aside and join other Nigerians, because Nigeria belongs to all of us.
Take time off from work and join a peaceful protest. If you cannot attend a sit-in, send food and water to those who can. Be kind to your fellow Nigerians. Nigeria is your problem, too, and if we win, you and your family will also benefit from our collective victory.
As much as possible, do not fight with police. Let us not give anyone reason to shed further innocent Nigerian blood. Do not burn down public buildings or throw things at the military or police or rival groups. Let us make this a peaceful battle of right against wrong, justice against injustice, and courage against corruption and wickedness. Let us confront this government with the peaceful might of righteousness.
We need to force Mr Jonathan’s government to restore the fuel subsidy and ease the hardship on struggling Nigerians. Eventually, we will have to replace this corrupt and untrustworthy government with men and women who will keep their word and honour the trust of the Nigerian people.
With God on our side, we will take back our country this time, and our efforts and prayers shall not be in vain.