Nigeria and the petrol subsidy wahala--more responses to SURE-P

Dear Reader, 

Bear with me. I am aware that mine is not a usual blog. It is long! Mea culpa, with reasons:  Nigerian survival as a nation is at stake. But I'm intent on honing my skills at communicating via this medium, so, keep hope alive. Below you'll find some of the communication with the Nigerian Minister for Finance and responses by other Nigerians who are equally concerned about the well-being of the nation.

Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome
_
date: Mon, Jan 16, 2012 at 10:50 AM
subject: Re: Pls Read and Pass on
Hello Dr Mojubaolu,

My apologies because it has been quite hectic in the last couple of days. I want to assure you that we are not pushing any neoliberal economic policies that have failed. What we have put forward are homegrown economic policies that fit our environment. It is not an easy task because I have relatives in the village as well. Sometimes these decisions involve painful tradeoffs.  I feel the pain as well. We are putting in place measures to slowly alleviate the pain the masses are suffering. 

On corruption, what most people do not realize is how deep this gangrene has eaten into the fabric of our governance system. From the Federal to the State and even the Local governments, the level of graft is brazen as it is shocking. Short of sacking virtually everyone, we are taking adequate steps to plug holes one at a time. Since we operate a Federal system, it is very difficult for us to impose certain conditions on the states and even other arms of government. What we do is engage them through moral suasion. We are also stepping up the anti corruption war. To this effect, I am gladdened that Nigerians have stepped out to send a signal to their public servants that it can no longer be business as usual.

On my Facebook page, many of our citizens complained about corruption and asked that we take immediate action against the cabal that had held the country hostage. We have just initiated that. You would notice that EFCC has been given the go-ahead to probe and arrest anyone found to have defrauded the government during this scheme. In my capacity, I have already initiated several probes into fraud running into billions. 

We do not claim to have all the answers. What we like are well thought suggestions and vigorous participation by citizens in the governance of our country. Our citizens should hold us all accountable. That is why we would be publishing everything that has to do with the palliatives. We are also involving distinguished Nigerians as well as the youth and representatives of different sections of society. 

God Bless.

NOI


Dear Honorable Minister,

Thank you for your response.  Unfortunately, I do not have a facebook or twitter account because given the limitations of time and energy, I would rather communicate through email and linkedin.  I applaud your efforts to connect with Nigerians and listen to them because one of the measures of a worthwhile democracy is the extent to which there is communication between the government and citizens. 

I respectfully disagree about whether or not the measures are neoliberal.  I don't think it is mutually exclusive for the measures to be both neoliberal and homegrown, first because Nigerians are part of the world, and are influenced by ideas that are prevalent in it.  At this time, neoliberalism is still the prevailing ideology.  The anti-globalization movement and the newly sprung Occupy Wall Street movement that developed with the World Economic Meltdown demonstrate to us that what Nigerians said when SAP began continues to be relevant.  I have to say that the Obama administration here and Western governments in general, and before that, the Japanese state, when their crisis was at its height seem to have been more concerned about their citizens' welfare than I observe in Nigeria.  The US, Japan and Western countries use heterodox measures to deal with economic crisis. Why not Nigeria? 

Corruption is a cancer.  I agree.  But how do we rid the country of corruption?  Is it by inflicting pain on ordinary people whose lives are difficult enough already?  I worry that although the idea is that short term pain would produce long term benefits, as the saying goes:  "in the long term, we're all dead".

I just heard that the pump price is reduced but agree with the consensus opinion from the responses I got that the matter is beyond the issue of petrol subsidy.  I am gratified that many bright and concerned Nigerians are responding publicly to this matter.  I'm glad that those responding are enabling our democracy to function in ensuring communication between government and citizens. 

The Nigerian government appears to be totally out of touch with reality. As I told a friend's son, who happens to support the subsidy removal, "although I'm not poor, I want everyone to imagine they are earning 18,000 naira a month, or have no hope of finding a job. How have they survived? How will they survive? There'll be no end to stealing, armed robbery and misery. Is that the kind of country we want? The government has failed in the basic task of being concerned about the welfare of its citizens. Comfortable and wealthy Nigerians have chosen to look the other way for far too long. The mark of a good society is that we realize we are all created by God and should be concerned about one another even if we don't have anything to gain."

I also told a fellow Nigerian who is a member of a public interest group that responded to my comment the following:

"My niece just emailed that the strike has been called off due to the reduction of the petrol price to 97 naira.  The overwhelming sentiment from most of the people I've heard from is that the matter goes beyond the petrol subsidy issue and is about transparency, lack of fiscal probity, good governance and in particular, the huge and massive deployment of Nigerian people's money to feather the nest of the top members of the cabinet and the legislature etc."  Demonstrating to Nigerians that the government will embrace sacrifice and show that we can plan projects, budget for them and implement the plans with clear outcomes that improve people's lives would convince skeptics that the SURE initiative is not just another beautiful plan that will not come to fruition. 

The struggle to bring development to Nigeria should be seen as ongoing.  I want to include others who have responded and share some of their responses as well.  I have not identified anyone of them by name because I did not ask their permission before responding.  But I am glad that you see this is an opportunity to engage one another and see what we can do to bring sanity and well-being to our country.


I OMIT THE EMAILS THAT I REFERRED TO BECAUSE THEY ARE ALREADY POSTED, IN PREVIOUS BLOGS AND IN THE INTEREST OF BREVITY.


I am glad that despite the fact that you are a very busy woman, and there are many fires to put out, you responded.  Could you please also respond to [name omitted] concerns? 

I want to encourage all people of goodwill to continue focused attentiveness to governance and economic planning in Nigeria.  I want the continued conversation between government and the people.  I want transparency, probity and concern for the welfare of all Nigerians, particularly the poor and marginalized.  I want Nigeria to realize its full potential for greatness. 

Of course, as a concerned Nigerian, who like you, wants the best for our country, I still have much more to say.  I posted a beginning on a blog that I have which is at mojubaolu.blogspot.com

God Bless you and Nigeria.

To the reader:  Below are the concerns, to which I refer, part of which I emailed to the Minister for Finance.


From Public and Private Development Centre
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 1:00 PM
Could u kindly get the minister to respond to the request for cuts in the Executive and Legislators Budgets. I believe many people want to see what sacrifices if any the people in govt are willing to make
Public And Private Development Centre runs a listserve that support citizens monitors of  public procuremnt and public finance managment in Nigeria.

Forgive me for coming back to you again with this issue. Like one prominent Nigerian once wrote, it is " because we are all involved".

I am here forwarding to you a mail I sent out a few moments ago, in response to requests for a meeting by some ordinary citizens groups, and some individual professionals to consider seriously some issues relating to the current impasse in Nigeria. Central to the issues will be that of possible budget cuts.

The arrangements for this meeting are going on and the meeting will go on whether or not government is willing to give an eye to its outcome.

I am just writing to ask you, can you confirm from the Hon Minister if she is willing to receive inputs on this issue of budget cuts and measures for budget cuts and if she has any further information she will like to share with a group such as this. I am not particularly interested in making her acquaintance, she can simply respond through you and when the groups work is done, we can also agree if on seeing it she will like further clarification by the group.

As you will see from the mail below, the group will ultimately decide other ways to engage government.  I will not be offended if you do not want to be involved. I am just assuming that since she bothered to send you an explanation on the proposed benefits of this budget she will hopefully she will respond to you too on the issue of possible cuts. 

Should you feel free to contact her on this please also confirm whether you will mind that I inform the group that you will be doing so.

Dear All.

I want to sincerely thank everyone for the enthusiasm shown in attending the proposed meeting. The reality of the current situation is that there may need to be two meetings, the indications of interest has come largely from individuals and organizations in the Lagos and Abuja areas with some resident in the North and East. In doing this we will be following earlier suggestions made on this listserve. And we encourage colleagues outside these areas to attend the meeting venue nearest to them.

We will conclude compilation of indications of interest to participate tonight, and will immediately after arrange a venue for the Abuja meeting. I am looking up to Father Ngoyi and other colleagues in the Lagos Area to arrange there meeting.

Having said the above I suggest we try to agree on a common agenda for this meetings in Lagos and Abuja. Labour is currently negotiating issues relating to fuel subsidy with government, though there is progress in the form of a unilateral reduction in pump prize by government, and an invitation to the EFCC to investigate allegations of fraud in subsidy payments, the situation is far from resolved. But I believe that the issue of subsidy or no subsidy can remain at the level of Labour /Government negotiations, perhaps we may choose to only contribute ideas to that process. However many of us have continued to argue that the current challenges go beyond fuel subsidy or no fuel subsidy, but have more to do with the waste in public administration and the continued difficulty and  failure to fully implement existing laws. Challenges which will if not confronted eliminate whatever gains may come from subsidy removal or continued application of any amount of subsidy. My take therefore is that we need to deal with three major issues in these meetings. Perhaps these three issues may be widened or reduced during the meetings themselves.

1. Identifying rational and much needed budget cuts, and ways of reducing waste in government administration starting with the 2012 budget proposals.

2. Articulating much needed improvements in implementation of both the Fiscal Responsiblity, Procurement and FOI laws.

3. An evaluation of current government announced palliatives and recommendations for effectiveness.

I encourage all individuals and organizations who have made indications to seek out and try to obtain a copy of the proposed budget. I also encourage us individually to begin compiling previously identified candidates for cuts, already suggested cuts and all available materials on government proposed palliatives, please obtain any available to you, even those distributed on the list serve in soft and if possible hard copies. If you already find any document relating to the above or you already have one please email or simply post on the list serve. Our hope is to compile all materials available for use of all at the meeting. Everyone should please prepare to join one of the three possible groups by studying any available, fact based and credible information and documents.

My thinking is that we should support government in identifying areas of waste and propose cost cutting measures that are not only rational and practicable, but also will show the willingness of our leaders to sacrifice for the good of the nation. This is one way I believe we all can begin to breach the trust deficit that currently exists between our government and us citizens, and lay a foundation for more peaceable resolution  of the current crises. Once we have arrived at good proposals we can then agree on how to communicate to and with government. As we are aware the fiscal Responsibility law requires such contributions from civil society and mandates government to take account of it in arriving at fiscal policies and budget proposals. It indeed has a mandatory provision for the Minister of Finance to consult citizens on such issues. Additionally we have had a practice of engaging legislative committees in consideration of budget proposals and have in the past successfully influenced the mainstreaming of people oriented policies, programs and projects, so we will be doing nothing exceptionally new in these meetings.

Please do kindly send your suggestions or amendments to these proposals. I will appreciate if a copy can come directly to my mail, you may also choose to post your suggestion in the mailing list, your kind assistance in this regard will be helpful, it is really difficult to go through every mail in the listserve.

We will notify you of date and time of meeting, which will be soon. Please feel free to circulate to others whom you believe can bring value to this process.

Once more welcome to 2012, the year has already handed us an opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of our nation.

Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2012 6:48 AM
Subject: Re: MR BEN BRUCE REVEALING MESSAGE ON EXECUTIVE & NASS MEMBERS' EARNINGS

The research conducted by PPDC on the implementation of the Public Procurement Act already showed that NASS was not following the Law that they passed themselves and were running a totally opaque financial system. As usual, most good works done by our own researchers are not followed up because no funder has brought out any money to bring us together. The result is here for all of us to see: our big guys are doing what they like with public and common resources. Now that the scandalous and shameless removal of fuel subsidy has woken us up, can we handle this issue of 2012 budget without having to wait for any funder? Can we continue with the same spirit of personal sacrifice to promote the good of all as we are already doing so well with the ongoing NLC/CSOs protests? Many have already said it: we should not allow this momentum to wither away. We need to join hands and make use of the expertise among us to push for good governance by demanding for total disclosure, transparency and accountability across board. NOW IS THE TIME.

Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 21:40:57 +0000

Subject: Re: MR BEN BRUCE REVEALING MESSAGE ON EXECUTIVE & NASS MEMBERS' EARNINGS
We have to start now before consideration of the 2012 Appropriation so that we demand for reduction in their (MPs and Executives from Presidency to LGAs) and their retinue of SSAs, PAs etc and scores of official cars fueled and maintained at govt cost, be paid from their consolidated remuneration. For Senate President to earn N88million in a month! Then to pay N18,000 as minimum take home! Nigeria we hail thee, if we cannot say it today we will not be able to say tomorrow. Our core training as Total Development Cost Consultants, we have expertise in Budgeting and Cost Management to face the MPs whenever wherever.

Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 00:48:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: MR BEN BRUCE REVEALING MESSAGE ON EXECUTIVE & NASS MEMBERS' EARNINGS

Thanks for the response, though, with a dangerous eye-opener.  How can such budgets be in lump sums?  How can NASS be demanding transparency in the MDAs via their oversight functions and yet nobody knows the details of their budget and expenditures?  Worse still, they do not advertise their public procurements (I have never seen any in the tender journal or in the newspapers), which is a contravention of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.  They pass laws they do not obey!

Who is heading the FOI Coalition?  As a strong member of that Coalition, I believe you can start something in our demanding for openness (details) in those budgets you mentioned using the FOI Act provisions.


Subject: Re:  MR BEN BRUCE REVEALING MESSAGE ON EXECUTIVE & NASS MEMBERS' EARNINGS

Date: Thursday, January 12, 2012, 3:41 PM

The budget of the National Assembly after the constitutional amendment has become a statutory transfer which is just stated in block sum in the budget without any breakdown just like the budget of the NJC, UBEC and NDDC. This practice of stating these budgets in lump sums is not provided in any Nigerian law but is a practice against transparency, accountability and value for money in clear contravention of Fiscal Responsibility Act, of 2007. So, it is up to us to use the Freedom of Information Act to ask for the details of these budgets and query them, otherwise we will still be groping in the dark

On 1/12/12,

Dear Colleagues, Yesterday, somebody showed me the unbelievable earnings of the Senate President (N88 million per month) and other earnings from the other Government Officials.  The person promised to send me the full details via e-mail but has not done so nor could be reached for now.  The message actually originated from Mr Ben Bruce, the showbiz guy who attempted to be a Governor in Bayelsa State a few months ago. Please does anybody have that message?  It needs to be in our litserve and circulated to every Nigerian.

Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 9:09 PM
Subject: Occupy Calabar (Peaceful Protest) resumed tomorrow (Wednesday 11th Jan, 2012)

Dear Comrades, Occupy Calabar (Peaceful Protest) resumed tomorrow (Wednesday 11th Jan, 2012), Time: 7am, Venue: Zoo Garden Car Park, by Mary Slessor, Calabar. Come and make your NO to The Untimely Removal of Fuel Subsidy be heard by Mr President Jonathan and his supporters. Powered by NLC, TUC and CSOs in Cross River State, Nigeria.

On 1/7/12,
Dear Comrades, Please find attached and below our concerns as concern CSOs in Cross River State. Thanks

*POSITION PAPER BY CONCERNED CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS IN **CROSS RIVER STATE ON THE REMOVAL OF FUEL SUBSIDY.* THE CHANGE YOU MUST RESIST. (Petrol subsidy removal by Federal Government of Nigeria)

Dear Nigerians, We have in the past four months been living in fear occasioned by the dastardly act of the Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram. We have been living in grief for those who have died in the UN house bombing, Yobe, Niger, Jos, Borno and other communities in Nigeria. As if to punish Nigerians further for surviving the Islamic Fundamentalists onslaught, the Government has forced yet another bitter pill down our throats, throwing citizens into more hardship by the new price of PMS (Petrol). This act of crass ineptitude and callousness on the part of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not only insulting but a gross violation of the human rights of the entire citizens of Nigeria.

During his presentation of the 2012 budget proposal to the National Assembly, President Jonathan promised that fuel subsidy would not be removed until April, 2012 (to enable Government put in place necessary palliatives), based on the fact that the 2011 budget covers the fuel subsidy. Is January now April? Or is this another type of April Fools in January? Or has he started implementing the 2012 budget without the approval of the National Assembly? 

Who is fooling who? Is the President trying to mislead Nigerians? The removal of petrol subsidy in January is callous, ill-timed and should have been done after the provision of the much-vaunted safety nets and palliatives. Why is nobody being prosecuted for the over 90billion naira stolen, being money appropriated in the last eight years to get our refineries working at full capacity? How much fuel do Nigerians actually consume a day and how did the government obtain their statistics?

The mischievous New Year gift from President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigerians, through the Petroleum Product Price regulatory Agency (PPPRA) is totally unacceptable and must be resisted. The time is now. We must remind ourselves that Nigeria and her resources are the collective commonwealth of every Nigerian. Since Nigeria is not a “cocoa farm” for our politicians, we must resist any attempt by them to sell, impoverish and punish us under any name (policy/plan or agenda).

*GOVERNMENT HAS SAID THAT:* -         
Nigerian petroleum prices must go up because other countries around Nigeria like Ghana, Niger, Chad and Cameroun sell higher than us; -         

Less than 100 cabals/cartels are enjoying the fuel subsidy money; -         

Money realized from fuel subsidy will be used to fix road and other infrastructures; -         

Employment will increase due to the de-regularisation of the downstream petroleum sector -     

Our four refineries are producing less than 50% of their installed capacities and thus creating the impetus for imported fuel; -         

1,600 mass transit buses will be purchased to cushion the effect of mass transportation around the country;

*BUT WE THE PEOPLE ARE ASKING TO KNOW WHY:* -         
Nigerian Leaders always duplicating policies that will further impoverish our citizens? -         

Nigerians leader must allow over 150 millions Nigerians to suffer because of corruption and illegal business characterising petroleum product importation which they are afraid to tackle? -         

Road and other infrastructures in this country have suffered neglect not as a result of lack of money to construct them but as a result of our leaders failing to follow up on contracts awarded and tackling corruption in award of contracts as well as prosecution of failed contractors. -         

Employment opportunities that will be created (if any) will be reserved for children of political office holders as we have seen in the past. -          

The Federal Government should have ensured that the old and new refineries work before the removal of the subsidy. -         

The resolution by FEC on Wednesday (4th Jan, 2012) to purchase 1600 mass transit buses for over 150 millions Nigerians is not acceptable. Not only is the number grossly inadequate, but also the resolution is a product of a naïve bent of mind that assumes that the only effect of the subsidy removal is high transportation costs. Its evil hand can also be felt in food prices, goods and services. - 

Nigerian leaders lack the political will and courage to tackle corruption in the oil and gas sector; thus, the removal of petrol subsidy. -         

Removal of Fuel subsidy was not part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign agenda. So why the quick implementation of an agenda that was not part of the so called transformation agenda, while the key issues of the campaigns are left unattended to? -         

Why has the proposed April, 2012 kick-off date now 1st Jan, 2012? The removal of fuel subsidy amounts to gross abuse of democracy. The Federal Government should have if at all they have been paying oil subsidy, first done the following before increasing the pump price: -         

Ensure steady power supply to all Nigerians, as Nigerians spend a large chunk of their incomes on fueling their generators both at home and workplaces. -         

Build and rehabilitate existing refineries to operate at or near their installed capacities. By so doing there will be no need to buy imported fuel to the detriment of Nigerians. -         

Exhibit political will to crack down on illegal fuel importers that also benefit from the fuel subsidy regime. -   
Build trust and confidence among the citizens -         

Reduce cost of governance -         

Reduce opaqueness and bureaucratic corruption.

WHY CANT WE HAVE COMPARATIVE COST ADVANTAGE ON OUR PETROLEUM PRODUCT?

NIGERIANS SHOULD NOT PAY FOR THE PRODUCT BUT ONLY PAY FOR THE COST OF PRODUCTION. *Petroleum Subsidy is the only benefit we derived from Government for living in an Oil producing country.

**TAKE ACTION! NIGERIA BELONGS TO US ALL, NOT ONLY TO THE ‘SELECTED’ LEADERS AND POLITICIANS. WE MUST ACT NOW!




From a lecturer in a Nigerian University during the mass action

My dear Sister,

May God bless you for the wonderful reply given to the  honourable Minister. Let us keep on praying for God to take perfect control of the whole situation so that the government will understand the suffering of we the masses. In fact today I was not myself when I heard there was no solution to the situation and that the strike should continue.

With all the troubles in the country our morale is down and our intellectual productivity is also low.

From Ahmed Sule
Dear Professor,

I read with interest your article on the fuel subsidy removal on your blog. The points you raised were very valid. I hope that our leaders will take on board everything that you have said.

I would like to share this article which I wrote a couple of days ago with you. The title of the article is Martin Luther King's Letter To Occupy Nigeria. This article is a hypothetical letter, in which I imagine end MLK writing a letter to the Nigerian masses expressing his support and giving words of encouragement to the protesters.

Feel free to forward to your contacts and I hope that you find it interesting.


Continue to keep up the good job.


Regards

Ahmed Sule, CFA
http://about.me/ahmedsule

Martin Luther King’s Letter To


#OCCUPYNIGERIA

Transcribed by Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

http://about.me/ahmedsule

16 January 2012

Martin Luther King’s Letter To

#OCCUPYNIGERIA

Transcribed by Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

http://about.me/ahmedsule


In the United States, the 16th

of January 2012 is Martin Luther King Day. The

day is a public holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King’s birthday. During

King’s life, he championed justice, equity and freedom. In Nigeria, the

masses, who have been continuously raped by past regimes, have once

again been dealt a serious blow by the present regime with the complete

removal of the fuel subsidy. As a response to this subsidy removal, Nigerian’s

for the first time decided to fight back and formed a protest movement called

#OccupyNigeria. The economic justice, which #OccupyNigeria is fighting for,

is similar to the cause that King began to pursue between 1966 and 1968. In

this hypothetical piece, I imagine a situation where King writes a letter to

express his support and offer his advice to the #OccupyNigeria movement.

Please note that actual Martin Luther King’s citations contained in this

hypothetical letter are in quotation marks.


My Brothers and Sisters In the Struggle,


Happy New Year to all of you. I know you may ask what is so happy about the

New Year, especially as you all woke up on the first day of 2012, only to find

out that the pump price of petrol in your country had increased from 65 Naira

per liter to 140 - 250 Naira per liter. What a way to start the New Year?

You may also ask why I have decided to write a letter to you specifically and

especially today, as it is my posthumous eighty-third birthday and 300 million

Americans have taken the day off to commemorate my birthday. Well this

letter, which I am writing from Father Abraham’s bosom has been penned

because your cries have reached my ear drums and my eyes have seen your

suffering and pain, thereby leaving me with no choice than to write you and to

offer you some words of encouragement and wisdom.

I salute your courage for standing up for not only the unjust act of the

government’s removal of the fuel subsidy, but also for saying NO to poverty,

corruption, the astronomical cost of maintaining public officials and the lack of

provision of electricity, healthcare and other basic amenities by your

government. You have been bearing this injustice for decades without

reacting or as my brother Fela Kuti would say you have been suffering and

smiling, but as I always used to say: “

there comes a time when the cup of


endurance runs over.”


I am always intrigued when I read in a number of newspapers like the


Financial Times, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal and when I see

government, finance and economic officials within and without Nigeria use

Nigeria’s growing Gross Domestic Product, expanding middle class and

increasing Oligarchs as an index to analyze Nigeria’s prosperity. They commit

what the philosophers call the fallacy of composition, as they infer that

because all is well with these few Nigerians, all is well for the majority of

Nigerians. A problem with this fallacy is that it creates a false sense of

achievement and ignores the plight of the millions of Nigerians living on the

margins. It relegates people to numbers, statistics and percentages. This false

sense of prosperity has often led the rich and the so-called middle class to be

apathetic to the sufferings of the poor.

The government’s fuel subsidy removal has had the unintended consequence

of creating a ‘

symphony of brotherhood’. One can see from the


#OccupyNigeria movement that it does not matter whether you are young or


old; rich or poor, male or female, Christian or Muslim, Urhobo or Igbo or

whether you are a

"Ph.D." or a "no D.” ; you are all united in your tears, pains


and sufferings.


You may be frustrated that the mainstream Nigeria media has not given much

coverage to your protest . I smiled when I learnt that you marched to some of

the media houses to let them know that you did not like their asymmetric

reportage; I must congratulate you on introducing a new concept to protesting.

However, remember that you have a tool, which was not available during my

time, i.e. the social media. I have been amused how you have been able to

use the social media to your advantage not only to mobilize, but also to get

your message across the world. During our time, we had to use our bodies to

get attention from all over the world. When we started the Birmingham

campaign, very few people were interested in our plight. But when the whole

world saw on their TV screens, old women and men battered by the police,

boys having their shirts ripped off their bodies by water hoses and girls having

their heads cracked open with police batons; our struggle then became the

center of global attention

You must be frustrated with the attitude of many of the religious leaders who

have remained silent to not only your sufferings but also to the government’s

clampdown on your movement by its security apparatus, which has resulted in

the death of some of your colleagues in the struggle. You may be

disappointed that some of these leaders have endorsed your oppressors in

the past or provided them with platforms to air their political messages. I must

commend the few religious leaders who have decided to buck the trend;

leaders such as Tunde Bakare and some Catholic Bishops have been very

vocal in protesting against the subsidy removal and they are the very few lone

voices in the wilderness screaming: GOVERNMENT GET YOUR ACT

TOGETHER.

The attitude of most of your religious leaders is not new. King Solomon was

right when he wrote centuries ago that there is nothing new under the sun.

When I was leading the Civil Rights movement, I witnessed how many church

leaders were apathetic to the sufferings of my African American brothers and

sisters. When I was arrested in Birmingham for leading a protest against

segregation, eight clergymen published an article in the newspaper saying

that my activities in Birmingham were unwise and untimely. I was accused of

being an outside agitator. I have always been disappointed when I see

religious leaders take the side of the oppressors to the detriment of the ‘least

of these’. I once had to let the church know: “

it is not the master or the servant


of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and


the critic of the state, and never its tool.”


I must warn you that the biggest threat to your movement is not your


oppressors, but rather the potential for internal disunity. I want you all to

maintain the unity that currently exists. Do not let tribalism and religious

differences break up your movement. You must work towards making Nigeria

a country where people will be judged not by their tribe or religious affiliation,

but by

the content of their character. You must watch out for forces that may


try to sow the cords of disunity among you in order to disrupt #OccupyNigeria.


When we were battling segregation in the USA, our great victories such as the

Montgomery Bus Boycott, The Selma March and the Birmingham campaign

occurred when the civil rights organizations came together as one body and

united in the fight against a common problem. Our less victorious battles in

places such as Albany occurred due to suspicion, infighting and bickering

among the various civil rights bodies.

The most important thing I have to say to all of you is to embrace nonviolence

in your protest. I am pleased to learn that, your protest movement

has generally been peaceful. However, I was saddened to learn about the five

people killed in an attack on a mosque in Benin. This attack was supposed to

be a reprisal against Muslims for previous attacks against Christians of

southern origin in the northern part of the country. I also heard that in some

parts of the country, a number of buildings have been set on fire and

government officials attacked. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE refrain from

violence. I know that your oppressors have treated you badly and that you

may want revenge, but as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us:

love your


enemies and pray for those that persecute and despise you.


I have a few


tips to tell you about the importance and benefit of adopting a non-violent


approach in your struggle. Below is what I have said in the past about the

non-violence philosophy:


“Non violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a


tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is

forced to confront the issue.”

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not creators of tension.

We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”

“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence.

It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

“I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of

constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

“…..we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of

tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of

prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and

brotherhood.”


Whatever you do, make sure that you do it in love. Showing love and


embracing non-violence in your protest is redemptive, as it should

appeal to the moral compass of your oppressors. However, I appreciate

that many of you will say that your oppressors do not have any moral

conscience, especially when one learns that between 2000 and 2008,

they siphoned almost $130 billion out of the country, some of this looted

funds could have gone to satisfy the hungry bellies of the millions of

children who go to bed without a meal everyday; especially when one

learns that

75 per cent of the budget was spent on recurrent expenditure;


especially when one learns that Nigerian legislators earn almost


$140,000 a month, while the state governments continue to drags its

feet to implement the minuscule minimum wage of $90 (18,000 Naira) a

month; especially when one learns that a former Speaker of the House

inflated contracts to the tune of 984 million Naira; especially when one

learns that

the government earmarked more than $150 million to buy a new


aircraft for the presidential fleet; especially when one learns that the


government budgeted nearly $6.5 million for meals for the households of the

President and Vice President, and millions of dollars more for the purchase

and refurbishment of furnishings in the 2012 budget; especially when one

learns that Nigeria is a country that provides no social safety net for its

people; especially when one learns that politicians who have raped the

country dry have now installed their children to continue raping the country;

especially when one learns that a former party chairman was sentenced to

only two years imprisonment for stealing 100 billion Naira, only to be given a

heroes welcome upon his release from prison, whereas another person who

stole yogurts worth less than 500 Naira still languishes in prison having been

sentenced to five years in jail. Despite all these crimes against humanity, I still

believe that human beings have the capacity to change. I hope I am proved

right in the Nigerian situation.

Another thing you need to bear in mind is that the road to justice is a long

journey. My brother Nelson Mandela once said that there is a long walk to

freedom. You may appear to be cruising initially, but there will be setbacks

and dark days. However, in these dark days, do not despair because: “

the arc


of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”


One reason for


the long time it often takes to achieve justice is because: “

Freedom is never


voluntarily given by the


oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”


You have taken the first step in demanding freedom from your oppressors, the


next step is to ensure that the oppressor gives you that freedom.

There will be many detractors made up of your oppressors, those who do not

believe in your cause and supporters of the status quo. You will be called all

sorts of names ranging from loonies, jobless and troublemakers to radicals,

rebels and communist; you will be beaten, tear gassed and bruised; you may

lose your jobs, you may lose your friends and at the very extreme some of

you may pay the ultimate price by losing your live. It happened before my

time, it happened during my time and it is happening after my time. Despite

this, I want you to take heart. It is people like you that have made this world a

better place. As I have said before: "

The saving of our world from pending


doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming


majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming

minority."


Others may argue that you should all keep quiet and stop voicing out your


grievances, because change will come to Nigeria sometime in the future. This

is a wrong approach towards the quest for justice. You have remained silent

for fifty-one years and nothing has happened - you must always have at the

back of your mental sheet that: “

Change does not roll in on the wheels of


inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must


straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless

your back is bent

.” You may be hated, vilified and insulted today, but I can


assure you that tomorrow, the pages of history will record that there was once


a generation of Nigerians who stood up to tyranny, oppression and corruption

and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Believe me when I say this. When I spoke

against America’s war in Vietnam, I became one of the most hated figures in

the USA. The Washington Post wrote this about me

[

…he has done a grave injury to those who are his natural allies…. and


an even graver injury to himself. Many who have listened to him with


respect will never accord him the same confidence. He has diminished

his usefulness to his cause, to his country and to his people. And that is

a great tragedy.]


Paradoxically, forty-five years after the article was published, I am now


regarded with respect in America and today 300 million Americans are

marking my birthday. That is the irony of life.

Brothers and sisters while you are occupying Nigeria, please do not forget

those who are suffering. Reports reaching me tell me that shortly after the

movement started, in an unrelated event, some people in the Northern part of

the country were brutally murdered because of their religious and ethnic

affiliations. I implore you not to forget the sufferings of the many Igbo’s who

have seen their kinsmen and kinswomen killed in the churches, on the streets,

on the buses and other places in Northern Nigeria. My heart bleeds for them,

as I am sure that they must be having a feeling of déjà vu and having

flashbacks to the pogroms of 1966. As I have said before: “

injustice anywhere


is a threat to justice everywhere.




As negotiations go on towards resolving the fuel subsidy debacle, I implore


you not to suspend the struggle should the subsidy be restored, as the issue

at hand is more than subsidy removal. The social contract that the

government has with the people has been torn to pieces by the government

and you should ensure that the government becomes committed to delivering

the dividends of democracy to the people. Do not retreat if corruption among

public officials is not resolved; do not recoil if the provision of basic amenities

to the people is not resolved; do not relent if the senseless killing of innocent

Nigerians is not resolved; do not reverse if the high incidences of infant

mortality and maternal mortality are not resolved; do not relax if the poor

state of the roads which have sent hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to an

untimely death is not resolved; do not relieve if the deplorable condition of the

healthcare infrastructure is not resolved. DO NOT RETREAT, DO NOT

RECOIL , DO NOT RELENT, DO NOT REVERSE, DO NOT RELAX and DO

NOT RELIEVE .

Finally, be strong, keep the faith and remain resolute. Positive change does

not come cheap, positive change does not come free, positive change does

not come easy; but if you remain committed to the cause, one day Nigeria will

come to fulfill its long awaited, long due and long expected potential. I must

now sign off because Father Abraham is beckoning for me to come and

observe how my American brothers and sisters are marking my birthday.

Yours in the struggle

Brother Martin Luther King Jr.

January 2012

© Ahmed Sule 2012

From Olayemi O., A young Nigerian

Good day ma'am

Very excited about the responses I have read so far on your blog. More encouraging is the fact that people like you are out there engaging the government of the day in intellectual debates that makes the average man feel that he is not a mad man demanding for stuffs that should be naturally within his reach.
My perspective about the oil subsidy removal is very similar to yours. For me, issues that demand our attention are much more than the subsidy issue. I wasn't surprised when Mr President took a dumb approach to the endemic corruption that was uncovered in the administration of the subsidy fund. I have been privileged to see how on a first hand basis, his last campaign benefited from some of the guys caught in this whole mess. Be that as it may, I would still have expected a government to put up a show of commitment rather than resign to its inability to tame a few that are behind this whole mess.
For me, the government's insincerity is the basic reason why Nigerians are on the street. We have a government led by people whose word cannot be trusted. They are demanding more money from Nigerians in order to do developmental projects... it makes me laugh and at the same time sick. why you want to ask?

Practically all governors in the last twelve years have an issue with corruption which no one is willing to unearth. Come to think of it, I have a councillor in my area who was just a street boy yesterday. Gaining power and influence turned him around. under a few months he bought a new car, built a solid house and then moved out of his primary constituency.
It becomes a lot more painful when you see the arrogance displayed by the so called public servants. they become untouchable, unreachable and the only wise one. The populace suddenly become the mess they don't want to be associated with.
On the way forward, I feel strongly that the crux of our problem is with the legislature. The law makers are our greatest challenge. This so called budget goes through them and comes out even with higher expenditure balance. They see Mr President and executive arm violate the constitution and the people and all they do is either say aye or nay. More importantly is the lack of intellectual debate needful for nation building and growth. We need to demand more from this arm of government. But for the present outburst on the street, the current year's budget would have sailed through without any scrutiny. In fact, it has become a give and take thing, the executive needs the budget passed, the legislature needs more money, so the conclusion will be that the legislature overlook the excesses of the executive while they add more to their own allowance.

My submissions:

The average Nigerian must insist on following closely and demanding more from the legislature. we need to make them more accountable
The presidential system of governance in my view seems not to be working for us. We may need to redesign our system to permit for checks and balances. A true federal system of governance patterned in a way best suited for the Nigerian system needs to evolve. A situation where no region will feel cheated by another region.
We need to hit the street away from our computers and educate the Nigerian on the street so that he consciously demands leadership to be more accountable.
Leadership should become less fashionable for reasons of emolument received for service. After all it should be public service coming from a spirit of sacrifice and desire to provide voluntary service!
Lastly, I would appreciate it if leaders of thought engage we the younger generation in their discourse so as to get us more informed with regards to the right path for our nation.

Thank you for the good work you are doing together with your associates.
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