Nigeria marches dangerously on the way of Arab Spring
ONE man changed the history of the world by setting himself on fire. The Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, was unable to find work and had to make ends meet by selling fruits at a roadside stand.
100 in the twinkle of an eye.
Nigeria had a spectre of the Arab Spring when the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012. This was done without the consent of the legislature. And there was not even enough dialogue with labour unions and civil society organisations. The very unpopular New Year “gift” sparked off spontaneous anti-government demonstrations in many Nigerian cities the very next day, that is, on January 2. Nigerian towns such as Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kebbi, Gusau, etc. were literally on fire as many protesters marched on the streets with placards and made bonfires.
The demonstrations involved people from diverse social strata and different works of life. The various classes of people were all united in opposition to the fuel price increase. The uprising brought together the unemployed, the under-employed and even the employed. The poor and ill-assorted classes of people were involved. The educated and uneducated persons shared company in the marches. The artisans and sundry workers, musicians and diverse artists, students, all kinds of activists were united in the struggle. The name that was given to the crusade was “Occupy Nigeria”.
A melting pot of the struggle was the Gani Fawehinmi Square in Ojota, Lagos. For a week, from sunup to sundown, the many classes of Nigerians converged at the square. The number of protesters increased steadily by the weekend. The fear in the air was that the coming week’s protests could turn into the Nigerian version of the Arab Spring. It was akin to waiting for the Nigerian Spring!
The “Occupy Nigeria” protests petered out when the government rolled out tanks and ordered soldiers into the streets of Lagos to stop the protesters in their tracks. Jonathan then announced that the government had reached an agreement with the labour unions to put petrol price at N97 from the high of N141. The leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress(TUC) decided to call off the strike. And thus was averted what would have amounted to the Nigerian Spring.
Nigeria is once again in the season of anomie. President Muhammadu Buhari has somewhat been indulged after raising the fuel price to an all-time high. The exchange rate of the naira has become well-nigh unbearable. Inflation is all the rage. Tertiary students were on strike for months on end.
Nigerians are suffering the naira redesign cash crunch. People have resorted to re-buying the old currency at exorbitant costs wherever it can be seen. Buying naira with naira is on the way to getting costlier than buying US Dollars.
Then there is the matter of fuel that costs so high but cannot even be seen to be bought. Nigeria is in deep trouble.
The hunger that made Tunisia’s Mohammed Bouazizi to set himself on fire, thus sparking off the Arab Spring, is an everyday Nigerian reality now. In short, anything can happen.
And as if to cap it all off, a very ominous presidential election is afoot. One small misstep can lead to cataclysmic tragedy in the manner of the Arab Spring.