Make Dis Government Kill Us Make Everybodi Rest By Sunny Awhefeada


By Sunny Awhefeada

It has become trite to reiterate that the primary objective of government is the security and welfare of the people. This cliché which is taken for granted all over the world appears to be alien to the Nigerian context even though it is enshrined in our constitution.

Since we observe every regulation in the breach and go against the grain in all that we do, government has become the people’s most inveterate antagonist in Nigeria. The people have come to see government as an adversary and for good reasons too. The evolution of modern society from the state of unregulated and crude nature where according to Hobbes life was “nasty, brutish and short”, necessitated the birth of a system that came to be known as government.

With the passage of time, humanity settled for an option which demanded the surrendering to government which in turn offers the people security. Social philosophers have over the centuries debated the relationship between government and the governed. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, among others offered rational views on the essence of government and its relationship with the people. Their thoughts aggregated to what became the full manifestation of government. However, despite their postulations, their domain which was largely Europe suffered hiccups in its journey to the present. Socio-political eruptions by way of revolutions shook the continent to its foundation just as the social contradictions of the Victorian Age snowballed into the tragedy of the modern period. But one thing that held the continent and the many states embedded within it together was that government never deliberately shirked its responsibilities to the people. There were instances when governments faltered, but remedies abound which ameliorated the plight of the people.

The Nigerian experience of leadership has largely been cavalier and the people remain victims of the whims and caprice of government. It is in Nigeria that government will promise wine and offer vinegar and give the people scorpions instead of fish. While not absolving governments of the last century of citizens’ denigration and emasculation, the present century has turned out to be rudely tragic for Nigerians. The hurly-burly of the 1980s and 1990s were conceived to be the spasms that will engender a new order as embedded in the lofty attainments promised by the year 2000! What further kindled the hopes of Nigerians was that the tortuous sixteen years of unbroken military dictatorship ended on the eve of the year 2000 which we glibly christened the “new millennium”. The horrors of the 1980s and 1990s were mitigated by the thought of reaching the magical year 2000 when everything good was going to be possible. We did look forward to a new nation beginning from the year 2000. Indeed there were attempts at rebuilding Nigeria, but they were largely phony and self-serving and they were sacrificed at the altar of Obasanjo’s failed third term bid. 

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The subsequent administrations gradually nudged Nigeria onto the road to Golgotha and looking back, despite the anguish they inflicted on Nigerians, every previous government appeared to have been better than the one succeeding it. It is for this reason that despite the multiple afflictions the administrations that spanned 1999 to 2015 took Nigerians through, people now wistfully look back and wish those days were here again. The condition of living continues to deteriorate in the face of a failing economy and intractable insecurity, while corruption remains a national albatross. Inflation, declining wages and massive poverty are consequences of a badly managed economy. The government daily offers measures aimed at remedying the situation to no avail. Things only get worse. The tragic irony of the Nigerian predicament is entrenched in the reality that the country is one of the richest and best endowed spaces in the world. So much wealth was deposited in the Nigerian space that can sustain the entire continent of Africa and beyond. Nigeria’s bane is leadership and lately, the inability of the people to compel the leaders to govern well.

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When the incumbent president, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, mounted the soapbox during the countdown to the last presidential election, he waved the broom and promised Nigerians “renewed hope”, but what his government is offering Nigerians is the very antithesis of hope. The government is consistently offering the people sustained suffering, the kind of which they have never seen. President Tinubu showed his hand as an adversary the very moment he was being sworn in when he decreed petroleum subsidy out of existence without first thinking about the ruckus such an act would cause. The economy that was almost comatose collapsed and became a patient in an intensive care unit. The consequences of that pronouncement are still afflicting us one year after. Tinubu’s spin doctors have tried all the tricks in their books to no avail. The fact is that they have not only been reading the wrong books, they are also shorn of empathy and patriotism. In the face of galloping inflation occasioned by the subsidy removal and the devaluation of the naira, the government went on to increase electricity tariff. So far, all the measures taken by government to cushion the severity of the sufferings of Nigerians have failed.

In the wake of subsidy removal and consequent inflation and diminished purchasing power of the people, government agreed with organized labour that there was need for an upward wage review which will elicit a new minimum wage as the thirty thousand naira minimum wage had become criminally inadequate! Government played hide and seek and took the people for a ride for one year. It offered palliatives that were inconsequential as well as wage awards that did nothing to ameliorate the suffering of the people. Yet, government’s revenue tripled. From sharing billions during monthly revenue allocation, government started sharing more than a trillion. Sadly, the boom and burst in government coffers translate into poverty among the people. Nigeria’s status as an entity suffering multi-dimensional poverty got further entrenched as more and more people were plunged into the poverty pool.

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The recent negotiations for a minimum wage has again shown how grossly insensitive the Nigerian government can be. Labour is demanding for a living wage of six hundred and fifteen naira, but government is offering a wicked forty-eight and later fifty-four thousand naira. The worker receiving that sum is expected to feed his family, pay school fees, rent and medical bills! How heartlessly wicked can government be? As part of measures to ameliorate the economic hardship government introduced a wage award of thirty-five thousand which made the least paid worker to earn not less than sixty-five thousand naira. The offer of fifty-four thousand naira can thus be seen as wage reduction and not increment. This is the kind of illogicality on which Nigeria runs. The result of this is the deepening of poverty and its dreary consequences. It was the reality of this looming disaster that prompted a fierce debate regarding the purpose of government in Nigeria during a bus ride two days ago. As the debate raged, an elderly woman heaved and said “make dis government kill us make everybdoi rest”. The response was “yesoooo”, and the raging debate continued. The people’s apprehension of government has become that of an institution of oppression and exploitation. But this ought not to be so. What do we do? The people should stir from their long ennui and make government to govern well. It is possible and the time is now so that “government no go kill us”.                     

           


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