I am not a politician and I am not an economist. I don’t hold the strongest opinions on either.
I am a Nigerian and this imposed fact means I can speak my half-baked mind on the issue.
I do not support the subsidy removal and as it stands I don’t think I ever will. Now listening to both sides of the debate, it appears the subsidy would have to be removed eventually. The government claims the money is to be used on infrastructure. A laughable idea since it sounds like the provision of infrastructure is a favour to Nigerians. The argument against is hinged on the timing and there is the theory that there isn’t any subsidy in the first place.
Like I have said I am not an expert in this field so I say as a layman with only the elementary economics taught in one of the public schools that previous government have allowed go to ruin, that the thought is callous. Since the issue was raised in public discourse, my faculty has been inundated with various arguments with well annotated calculations that fly over my head. The only one I consider of any merit is basic arithmetic that starts from the minimum wage.
Basically for simplicity, let’s use 18,000 as minimum wage. Since the increase, the average fare from places like Nyanya to Gwarimpa (using Abuja as setting)has gone up to about 250. Now to and fro would be 500. So daily transportation expenses is N500/day. If we assume the worker doesn’t go to work Saturdays and Sundays in a 30-day month of three weekends, that would mean 24 days of 500/day fare which would amount to N12,000. So for all other expenses he has N6,000 to be used in a world where food prices have doubled.
Just peachy, isn’t it?
The example is for a single person, but there are families that actually have less than 18,000 as sole income. Spokespersons for the government say the benefits would be seen in about three years. And I ask, how long can a family subsist on that income while it awaits this bright future?
Truth is, such a family won’t survive three months. It is impossible. But knowing Nigeria, people who haven’t lived like this ever are telling us to wait, give government time, joy cometh in a few years. Bollocks, I say.
Of course, few experts would take this type of analysis seriously since there isn’t any fancy economic jargon involved. I know I have ignored large swathes of economic postulation to get this across but I doubt the majority of Nigerians understand anything higher than this pedestrian view.
The government says it will get better, market forces (that faceless entity) based on demand and supply, while the money saved, that mythic 1.3trillion, would provide roads, hospitals, health centres, and yes the elusive power! All that may be good but how long can the vast majority of Nigerians wait for market forces?
It really is that simple to my mind.
Any expert reading this especially the Iweala’s, Sanusi’s with their foreign tutored brains would label this silly. But there isn’t another way to see it. Aside the fancy education that prevents these people from understanding the simple things of the world, there is also the money and power. Chances are none of these people or their kids have to purchase fuel most of the time- official cars ferry officials fuelled with official fuel- the life. Such life comes with a lack of empathy as handicap. Even if they have to pay, the obscene amount of money as salary is a mighty soft cushion. If they had to live on 20,000 a month, I am sure they would find Tropical Editions of Harvard textbooks to imbibe.
Again, if by the most definition of democracy, it is for the people and by the people; now same people have said they don’t want the policy, how can it stand and yet claim to be democracy. I must be missing something here.
For us young people, Nigeria has for the most part being a la Awolowo a geographical entity. There are hardly any of us who can claim to be patriotic and show proof. We have not fought wars, we didn’t fight for Independence, the transition to democracy was achieved through prayers and an anecdotal apple. A lot of us can’t recite the full anthem and pledge completely and accurately (fortunately, our politicians can’t either).
But it takes only one episode to transform a docile people into a horde of irate protesters. We have watched the people of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, a lot of them young with only books and oral tradition telling them when their leaders came into power tackle their governments, marching angrily on the streets defiant. They may have been speaking to their leaders but in their agitation was a message to us, we the meek people of Nigeria- of which I am a card carrying member- appear to have found an opportunity to stand for something.
Come tomorrow, I drop that card and pick up a placard in its stead.