Nigeria Prevailing Despite Setbacks
To say that 2011 was a dramatic year in politics is putting things mildly. From the Arab Spring in January to the political unrest in Cote D’Ivoire following the April elections, to the death of Kim Jong Il in December and the Christmas day bombings in Nigeria, one could easily have assumed that perhaps the first few months of 2012 would be calmer. Alas, no such luck.
Whilst in the middle of investigating the Christmas day bombings by the Boko Haram, the Nigerian government dropped a bomb on the Nigerian public. The government announced that it would cease subsidising the price of oil or any costs surrounding oil production on 1 January 2012 . In layman’s terms, Nigerians would be spending twice as much on petrol. The price of petrol per litre shot up to 94 cents from 45 cents per litre. The government’s response to the outrage of the general public was a ‘promise’ that the biilions saved through not subisidising the cost of oil will be re-invested into the country’s infrastructure, in addition to deploying the military to the streets of Lagos to prevent the protestors from getting out of hand.
The Nigerian government was facing the age-old challenge of balancing public spending in a manner that does not render the government completely penniless. Doesn’t this all sound familiar, if one were just to rewind 20 years (the 1980s for the mathematically challenged) when certain African countries such as Tanzania were ‘strongly advised or recommended’ to cut public expenditure to help their economies grow and reduce government debt. This resulted in the opposite effect – African economies experieced negative growth and some are today still dealing with the ramifications of the implementation of those policies. This is not in any way to negate other external factors such as the drop in demand for primary products which African countries exported or the effect of the oil embargos of the 1970s. However, there have been some indications that the decision to stop subsidising economic sectors that tended to bring in the majority of a country’s earnings resulted in negative economic upheavals.
So where’s the progress in this case? The advancement made is in the fact that even though Nigerians are still paying 60 cents per litre more than they did before, the people of Nigeria and the unions have demonstrated that civil society can raise its voice and force the government to take note and repeal their decision, albeit through harsh conditions where about 15 people unfortunately lost their lives. But at the core of this case study, the people spoke and the government had no choice but to listen. Now all we need is for civil society or individuals to protest any decision made by the government which they feel is detrimental to their wellbeing in a peaceful environment. Oddly optimistic? Perhaps, but let us see what the rest of 2012 will bring that may perhaps bring more progress in the democratic practices on the African continent.
Image by naijanedu.