…Court has ruled to halt the proposed NLC protests against price increases of petrol and electricity
Nigeria, like other civilised societies, has thrived on both storm and tranquil of protests. Popular public displays of disapproval or dissatisfaction or opposition to an agenda which can be referred to as protests, or demonstrations or strikes have been major features of the Nigerian struggle since Independence.
In most cases, protests are championed by the masses who feel cheated or assaulted by the government of the day. In the Nigerian political scene, it is the last resort applied by the masses used as machinery to demand explanations from the corridors of power. It also can be used to make the authorities more accountable to the people.
It then can be said that Nigerian government irrespective of the personnel and system operating the state seem to be yielding to protests. And, if by the sole establishment of this, the planned protest slated for Monday, September 28, 2020 to demand the reversal of the increases in prices of petrol and electricity tariffs could be another mechanism that would rewrite the political narrative of this great country.
Without discussing the first and second republics in the country, an appreciable number of protests after the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election, which climaxed to a series of civil unrest, chaos and tension have been rewarding in the Nigerian state. These agitations, spanning from 1993 to 1998 metamorphosed to a national struggle, which heralded and birthed the present democracy. With a great tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to engender the democratic rule and those who forever bear the scars of showing bravery, Nigerian people got what they wanted.
The relevance of this spate of protests was that if properly managed, its instrumentality in changing the story of the government and its people was assured, and this is the reason the organised labour would embark on the protests or the government should relinquish its decision on the removal of subsidy among other ill-timed and inhumane policies.
If the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has quickly forgotten the wings on whose it rode to power, the history will refresh its memory that the nationwide demonstrations termed #OccupyNigeria was its vehicle to the Aso Rock Villa. The protest in opposition to the removal of fuel subsidy by the administration of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, which lasted 12 days began on January 2, 2012, did not only force the hike price of a litre of petrol from N141 to N97, but it orchestrated the downfall of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led government. That protest also compelled the government to have a budget review that slashed the allowances of the government officials. It was this demonstration that the All Progressives Party (APC) as the-then main opposition party built its strategies to rule the nation at the central from 2015.
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Now, this government is already treading on the unpopular path of its predecessor, and Nigerians are getting ready to show it the destination it might land itself. President Buhari announced that a litre of fuel would be N151.56 on September 2, having first increased the electricity tariffs. While his administration presented theoretical reasons for the policies, the decisions were greeted with criticisms, as an anti-people owing to the fact that the people are just recovering from economic and financial mishaps caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, while efforts by the stakeholders of the Labour Unions to mobilise people for the showdown was ongoing, the National Industrial Court in Abuja, through the ruling of Justice Ibrahim Galadima on Thursday, September 24, 2020, halted both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, strike. The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba had earlier said, “On September 28, 2020, we will be withdrawing our services if the government fails to reverse the recent price increases on petrol and electricity. I urge members to mobilise Nigerians within their vicinities. We also encourage you to stock up on essential items because the strike will be a total lockdown.”
Be that as it may, what the Nigerian government failed to realise is that it was only postponing the evil days. An adage says, “There is no one who puts coal of fire on the roof, and goes to bed.” In the case of this administration, it is heaping coals of fire on its roof, and preparing to go to bed with it. The government is trying to suppress the anger of the people, rather than to address it. If all the aforementioned records of protests with the purposes and results are true, then this administration should be aware that the protest that would liberate the people, would prevail sooner than later.
Let me quickly mention that even if the government succeeds in halting the unions, the people cannot be stopped when they are ready. If this administration is beginning to pose the structures of the military regime by suppressing protests, arresting demonstrators and journalists, intimidating labour unions; it should just reflect on all the achievements of the protests that had been staged many years back, and most especially the significance of the January 2012 protest.
As it is cheering to salute the efforts of the labour unions, the human rights activists and other well-meaning Nigerians who are given to the course of the masses, I will remind the Nigerian people that there is dignity in writing one’s brave story in the course of time. This brings to mind the words of the Founding President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Hassan Sunmonu, which says, “Until the lions start to write their own history about hunting, only the story of the hunters will be believed.”
May we have a safer, greater and better Nigeria that we dream of.
DISCLAIMER: This content is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Nigeria Today News.