Here’s a thought-provoking piece I came across this morning. I hope it helps answer questions you have in mind about the ongoing “#occupyNigeria” movement in Nigeria:
The President is Not Better than You Are, or Maybe Not
I have a few words for you.
After spending about seven hours walking in protest on the long, hot highway from Yaba to Ojota, I went back home cramped and tired. I got to my little kitchen and discovered insufficient cooking gas. There was nothing else available to eat. I grabbed a can of beer and crashed on the sofa hungrily wondering what the hell possessed me to go out protesting the fuel subsidy removal (#fuelsubsidyremoval) in the first place.
In fact, I could accommodate the financial effects of the subsidy removal. It would cost me some more thousands of naira in my monthly budget. I would have to reduce my savings. My dependents would be forced to accept less than usual from me. But I have a fairly comfortable job, and like the President sermonised, in the long run, I would adjust my lifestyle to the new way of life.
But why should I adjust my lifestyle to the new way of life? Why not the President himself?
Come on, you say, the president is The President.
Oh, I see! But I have a few questions too.
The President has a more generous kitchen budget, but does his family have better and more expensive taste buds than mine? I don’t own a car, and he has several—does his body have to be carried around in separate pieces? When I fly, I go by Dana, Aero and Arik, he flies in several luxurious “presidential” bomb-proof aircraft—is his life more precious than mine? If he wants to enjoy all of these, then let him do as I do! Let him work his ass off 8am to 6pm daily in a private sector job! Then he will be entitled to the fruits of his sweat and not that of the Petroleum Profits Tax.
But if you think the President is clearly God and I am a mere mortal, then, fine. You are right. I should not protest against God—I will adapt my own economics to the new reality.
But how about those who have only enough to eat, how do they adjust to the new reality? Why not let us just save ourselves the trouble of killing them in the long run and just do it now and fast? Let’s just round up every family that lives on less than N300,000 in a month and every individual that lives on less than N100,000. We will put them in concentration camps and have them shot in batches. It will be quicker and less expensive. Think of the benefits! We can clear the commercial buses off the road and have them plied by private cars alone. No more stinking markets, just shopping malls. No more street beggars, no more hungry relatives. It will be just like the paradise promised by religious teachers! Indeed, the President is God!
Economists are not Hungry People—Except Your High School Teacher
Wait a bit, you say. This is about advanced economics.
Of course, it is about advanced economics. There are few things that confuse an average human being more than advanced economics. Even economists are stumped by advanced economics. Now, throw in African, plus Nigerian, add illiterate and a dash of religious—and you get the perfect combination of naïve and ignorant. With a citizenry where that combination is in the majority, you can get away with anything in the name of advanced economics. I mean, any-fucking-thing. So the President gambled on this factor and he’s planning to get away with his retarded economic policy.
Luckily, simple economics on the other hand is what it is—simple. Question 1: You have N1000. You know if you spend above that you’re broke. If you spend below that, you can save something. You decide whether you want to be broke or not—either way, you know what’s cooking. It’s so simple primary school students can solve it using basic arithmetic. We may be confused by advanced economics, but we are experts at simple economics. Simple economics tells us that the subsidy removal would leave us broke.
As a test, let’s give the Minister of Finance N50,000 and have her manage it as a livelihood for a month without going broke, then maybe she’ll understand the true meaning of simple economics. My mother does it every month without running into debt. And if my mother says she can’t do this with the subsidy removal, then that does it for me.
I am tired of getting smoke-screened by the so called economic benefits of subsidy removal. I agree there is a benefit somewhere for someone (and maybe even for me if I know where to look), but I do not want to suffer to get IT—especially when IT is an undefined and non-specific theory. At least the Israelites knew they were getting “milk and honey” not just “benefits”. So to hell with these economic benefits. The only person who can convince me otherwise is my high school economics teacher on minimum wage.
Anyone not on a budget of less than N80,000 per month should shut the fuck up about the benefits of fuel subsidy removal. Anyone in a tailored suit who doesn’t shut up about the benefits of fuel subsidy removal should be stuffed in a drum of petrol and sent down the River Niger.
You May Be Too Smart To See the Obvious
Just in case the economic benefits theory convinced you and you’re feeling smarter than us ignorant folk who can’t do calculus to save our limbs from being torn to pieces, hang on a bit.
See, I agree with you. The subsidy removal is economically correct and IMF sanctioned. Maybe, my mother and a few other financially unfit persons would be killed off. So what? Charles Darwin had already written that this was inevitable in life, we’re only adding a new twist to it. The survival of the financially fittest.
Now how about you? Would you trust a swindler because he makes sense? The longer you look at a 419 scam the more sensible it becomes. Always trust your first instinct and walk away. The first instinct of the public is that this policy smells, and it smells bad. To you, this may look like the best idea since Lugard invented Nigeria in 1914, but government ideas always look that way. Every time. 1960 to date has not been bereft of ideas. But sometimes, ideas can be a distraction from the obvious.
What’s the obvious, you ask? One, the fuel subsidy removal could be a graduated process—you start with 5% and work it over to 100% over 5 years. For every percentage removed, equal social development is set in place. Two, if we need to encourage hasty foreign investment, all we need to do is remove the legal and tax bottlenecks imposed on doing business: we reduce fees for governor’s consent, reduce stamping fees, reduce capital gains tax, reduce NAFDAC and other agency fees, reduce customs duties, reduce a hundred other fees! Three, if we need to conserve money, then we should split the budget of the legislature into half and then subtract another N100 million from it!
But I bet, if they did all that, you and your family will stop benefiting from this oil money too. Right? So let I and my family suffer instead? Not likely.
Try and Be An Average Nigerian, Just For Today
But let’s forget all of the above. Let me just plead with you.
You’re smart and rich or maybe your daddy pays the bills so you don’t give a fuck about the protest (#occupyNigeria). Maybe you’re like me—not wealthy, but comfortable. But think of this, how many people like yourself do you know? They can’t be many or they won’t call your social circle exclusive. Then think, how many like yourself do you see around every day? Fewer. For every two people in a car, there are thirteen more people in a bus and that’s just a randomly generated fact. Even if you live in the fortresses of Maitama or Ikoyi, you are surrounded by gardeners, househelps, drivers, salesgirls, and others.
Forget the big business owners you rub shoulders with, it is their employees and the small business owners that matter in this protest. No one has asked you to donate your money to other people or increase staff salaries. No, you have a right to your money. This is not socialism or communism. This is about public funds and government spending. It is about popular demand. It is about democracy. It will not hurt you to lend a voice and more.
But it will hurt all of us very much, if you do not.
– Ayo Sogunro