Nigeria is in dire straight. The nation is contending with centrifugal and centripetal forces, but unfortunately, it is still far from equilibrium. This piece intends to explain my take on the war of attrition between the government and the organized labour coupled with the take of ordinary masses as I see it.
There are some things that are not possible both in logical and familiar worlds. Logical world is a world of arithmetic, where analytical statements are used to express what is obtainable, but in reality, is not given. In this line of thought, monkeys and human beings may fall into the category of mortals, but can they be given the same respect in line with the division of soul conceptualized by Plato? No! So, logically monkey and human are the same, but in reality, it is not obtainable; that is the distinction between the concepts of possibility and impossibility.
Another interesting point is possible worlds. In these worlds, everything conceived in the mind is possible, horses could develop wings to fly, mountain of gold is possible, man may live without food and water, economy of a troubled nations can boom overnight, and poor man who went to bed with empty stomach last night may wake up to become multimillionaire in the morning. But can this happen in reality? No.
In a robust debate, idealist would stay glue to the notion of possible worlds, while the materialist would insist that whatever is not obtainable in reality is not possible, for there is no possible worlds anywhere except in the realm of ideas.
The debate on fuel hike and economic meltdown in Nigeria falls into the aforementioned categorization of the concepts. The government is terribly broke, and claims to have only one option left- free the cash locked up in oil sector, the major source of our foreign exchange, or be perpetually broke and fail obligations like salaries of workers.
However, the only way to free cash is to hand over the petroleum market to the marketers who would source for foreign exchange elsewhere and bring in petroleum resources, particularly premium motor spirit (pms) that we call petrol for the use of the country people. That was the narrative of the government.
According to the narrative of a faction of labour union, the government has not consulted widely with the concerned stakeholders, and that the fuel hike has taken away the purchasing power of the national minimum wage. So, no to fuel hike, yes to N56, 000 new minimum wage, and if the government insist on having its way, the economy would be shut down.
Because of the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the unprecedented looting spree of the immediate past administration of PDP Goodluck Jonathan, the masses were confused on where to go. And the country hangs in the balance. As it stands, the labour has declared total strike (which is flopped) and the law has become casualty; while the organized labour, which was the voice of the masses in the recent past has also become fall guy pathetically.
What is my take in this brouhaha, for once, we have to appeal to reason as a people. It is quite painful for me to advocate for hike in price of anything, let alone the gasoline which connects everything the masses survive on, but can we afford lay-off of workers? Can we contend with work without pay? Can we encourage fleecing of our collective patrimony by the profiteers, who collect subsidy money, and still rip-off the ordinary Nigerians? Can the nation afford economic shutdown? Can we take the cost of total strike at this troubled time? These are the questions that must be brought to the negotiation table.
I support this government, but I feel the heat on the ordinary Nigerians, and it is like a case of a man between the devil and the blue sea. How do I heap the blame on the government that is fighting corruption, but contending with the vandalism of the oil pipes in the creek of Niger Delta, because the corruption must fight back? Do I blame the ordinary people who threw the Jonathan government out of power to have a better life then? These are the posers that brought about the concepts of possibility, impossibility and obtainability in fuel hike war.
In that wise, I would suggest we work with the reality of our economy, and dialogue on what is obtainable, not on the ideology that the organized labour must fight based on theoretical terms of Marxist doctrine, because this is an unusual time, but the government must develop a communication strategy that would explain the economic masterplan without ambiguity. For now, that is the way to go.
In a related development, I read that Amitolu Shittu, one of those who laboured for democratic rule we are enjoying was booed and heckled at a rally organized by the labour in the State of Osun. If the story was true, then those who planned to humiliate the activist, because of his political belief were unfair to him, because they may have an axe to grind with him on his support for Governor Rauf Aregbesola, which is his exclusive right to political belief, but to make an attempt to downgrade the role he played in enthroning this democracy is the greatest injustice done to him, and yours sincerely condemn it.
I am sure, when some of those who reportedly booed and heckled the man were nowhere to be found, it was Amitolu Shittu, who provided leadership and face together with Waheed Lawal, Goke Butika, Babatunde William (RIP) and other Comrades who put their lives on the line in the face of military brutality. So, we should not humiliate or attempt to downplay the role of our activists who struggled while it was difficult to do so.
Butikakuro is an intercontinental journalist.