By Stephen Ubanna
Abudulsalami Abubakar, a retired Army General and former military Head of State has given an insight why Nigeria at 60 is still slopping back . Abubakar, who midwifed Nigeria’s third Republic that had produced four elected Presidents through the ballots box is not happy that the large number of political actors in the nation’s political scene have not ‘’learnt the lessons that led to the crisis in the previous attempts at entrenching democracy and good governance’’ in the country.
Appearing on Channels Television on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, an aggrieved Abubakar said the political actors ha thrown caution to the wind, stressing that there is a lot of agitation in the country for separation over alleged marginalization . The former Nigerian Head of State cited the Arewa Consultative Forum` in the north, Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural Organisation, the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOD, which is fighting for the Actualisation of Bifra, the Urbho Nation, Ijaw nation and several other groups, fighting to pull out of Niggeria.
He noted that the agitators are no longer thinking of the country but thinking of their tribe, ostensibly ‘’to carve out an empire for themselves, a nation for themselves where they believe ‘’there will be equity and justice which they feel is being denied’’ . Abubakar’s worries about what is happening in the country speaks volume. It was a clear indication that the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder that may explode at any time.
The high level of insecurity in the country may have informed why Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, had ordered increased surveillance and security Operatives deployments across the country ‘’to forestall any breach of peace and to ensure a hitch-free celebration as the country marks its 60th Independence day celebration, on Wednesday, October 1, 2020. The IGP, may have known that he trouble makers may want to take advantage of the country’s 60th Independence anniversary to cause trouble that he enjoined the people ‘to go about the celebrations without any fear or apprehension’’.
He had given a matching order to the Commissioners Police and their Supervisory Assistant Inspectors General of Police, AIG, to ensure the safety and security of the public peace in their various Areas of Responsibilities. Frank Mba, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and the Force Spokesperson said the strategic Officers deployed to the states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT helped in strengthening the visibility policing structure and in carrying -out Confidence building patrols , particular, around residential buildings, major highways and government/private structure to prevent any untoward situation.
In keeping with the IGPs directives, security was said to have been tightened up in Lagos and the FCT, described as the country’s two flashpoint cities in the country . The Value News cited a good number of the heavily armed policemen and other plain loth security Operatives around the late Gani Fahweheimi Park at Ojota, Lagos.
A resident of the locality informed the Magazine that as early as 6 A.m, most of the armed security operatives had arrived at the location awaiting to apprehend those that would make hate speech that Could disturb public peace. The situation was not different from the FCT, where the Katsina state born Nigerian President presented the 60th Indepence anniversary speech at the Eagle square. Police Surveillance and Nigerian Air Force gunship Helicopters were seen hovering around the city to avoid given room to the agitators to foment trouble.
The 60th Independence celebration may have informed by the Nigerian Labour Congress Leadership shelved its planned nation-wide strike against the hike in Electricity Tariffs and the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol, at both at the deport and filling stations to avoid further dislocation of the economy which the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China merged coronavirus virus, or COVID 19, had already disrupted in the last five months as many of the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises , SMES, had been shut down, Leading to the sack of thousands of workers, across the country. That much was explained by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress , NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC.
The Labour leaders in agreeing to shelve the nation-wide strike, which had been given wide publicity said the government officials on the negotiating table comprising of Chris Ngige, a former governor of Aambra state and now minister of Labour, Productivity, Silver Temipre, a former governor of Bayelsa state and now minister of state, Petroleum Resources, and other top officials of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration had made presentation to show the poor state of the economy and the drive behind the approved cost –reflective Electricity Tariff adjustments and deregulation of the downstram sector of the nation’s petroleum industry. The Labour Leaders said they were also touched by the impact of the COVID 19, on the economy.
Many believe that if the Labour Leaders had gone ahead in calling out Nigerians to participate in the Monday, September 28, 2020, Industrial action,it would have worsened the economy. The Katsina born Nigerian President may have alluded to this in his 60 independence anniversary speech when he disclosed that the country’s economy along with every single economy in the world was in crisis.
The Nigerian President may have justified the adjustment in the Electricity Tariff and pump price of petrol , in his 6th Inependence Anniversary speech ‘’to the 40% drop in the country’s Foreign Exchange earnings from the sales of crude oil in the International Oil market and which also affected the country’s Internal revenues as well as steep drop in economic activities , leading to a60 % drop in government revenue since outbreak of the pandemic in March 23, 2020.
He had justified the N161.00 Adjustment in the pump price of petrol in the country to what is happening in other parts of the world. He cited Saudi Arabia, a major oil producing Company in the world, and a member of the Oil Exporting Countries, OPEC, which sells a litre of petrol at N168.00, Chad, another oil producing Company which charges N362.00, Ghana, N326.00, Niger, N346.00, and the North African country of Egypt which charges N211.00 per litre, going by the respective countries exchange rate to the naira.
Many had expected the President to tell his fellow countrymen what the minimum the minimum wage in these countries are compared to the figure in Nigeria in order to know whether the Adjustment in t Electricity Tariff or pump price of petrol was really necessary. There is no gain saying the fact that Adjustment in Electricity Tariff and Pump price of petrol has further dislocated the economy as the prices of goods and services had gone up without a Commensurate in the country’s minimum wage, even as thousands of workers had been laid off in factories that had been disrupted by the COVID 19.
Note that the minimum monthly wage in Saudi Arabia a about 3,000 Riyals, or N305, 147.00, Egypt, EGP 42,000 or N1.16 million, and Chad, CFA 496,000, equivalent of N338,000.00 going by the current exchange rate of N0.68.00 to one CFA. While the Ghana minimum wage as at 2019, was $1.94 or 10.65 Cedis. The West African country minimum was said to have been raised to $2.16, as at January 2020.
It is instructive to note that the country’s minimum wage , which was increased to N35,000.00 per month from the the initial N19,000.00 last year was approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, after much pressure from organised Labour.
Nigerian s who listed to the President’s Independence Anniversary speech may have been disappointed as they had expected to hear from the retired Army General about the restructuring of the country to end the agitations in different parts of the country. The Nigerian President may have sealed the hopes of agitators when he said ‘’our founding fathers understood the imperative of structuring a National identity using the power of state and worked towards unification of Nigerians in a politically stable and viable entity’’. This is an indication that he would never succumb to the restructuring of the country.
The only reference he was said to have made about people’s demand for the restructuring of the country was when he said ‘’we need to begin a sincere process of national healing and eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are’’.
Attahiru Jega, a Prfessor of Political Science and for Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has a word of caution for Buhari: to go beyond talk to implementation of policies. According to Jega, ‘’the critical thing was not what the Nigerian President had said in his 60th Independence Anniversary speech in Abuja but how it is followed’’.
Describing the Independence Anniversary as a period of sober reflection, he said what the Buhari Administration need to do is to ensure that when Nigerians are called upon to serve their father land they would be taking pride in doing so, insisting that ‘’there are certain things that encourage and help people to be able to take a pride in their country affairs.