Why We Must Protest By Victor Popoola

By Victor Popoola
2 August, 2023

It was Abacha, I believe, that was allegedly asked why he had to arrest and detain human right activist and lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He was reported to have said that he did it because every government before his own had always arrested and detained him. In essence, Abacha believed he must kept the tradition - whether Gani did anything wrong or not.The current strike/protest by the labour movement against the removal of subsidy on PMS is akin to the above scenario. It's a case of tradition must be followed - whether justifiable or not. Adams Oshiomole's NLC led protest/strike against fuel subsidy removal. Ayuba Waba's NLC led protest/strike against fuel subsidy removal. So, why should Joe Ajaero not lead a protest/strike against fuel subsidy removal? It's all about keeping the tradition. It's all about ego of labour, or more precisely, ego of labour leadership. Currently, negotiations between labour and government are still on. Negotiations have not broken down. Labour has not opted out of negotiations. Same labour, however, believes it must shut down the system in protest/strike. It's all about ego.Are there pains in the land, worsened by the removal of the subsidy on fuel pricing? Surely and seriously. No sane person will deny that. It's biting hard on everyone, except the privileged few. But for any individual or group to demand restoration of fuel subsidy payment regime, is not a patriotic demand. Let's not be deceived, the pains of fuel subsidy removal won't just disappear overnight. Not even if we have the best government. The pains will be with us for some time. The responses of the current government may not have been the possible best, but embarking on protest/strike action to demand return to old regime of subsidy, with all the associated issues, is out of it.While the federal government can't be said to have done anything tangible to ameliorate the pains of subsidy removal, many states, I believe with the assistance of the federal government, have started doing some things. Some states have reduced the number of working days, while some have slashed the fares on public transportation, all in a bid to reduce what the populace spend on transportation. Some states have added about 10,000 naira to the salaries of their staff members, while some have started distributing food items, farm inputs, etc. Some people may argue that what will 10,000 naira or reduction in transportation fares do? They may not do much, I agree, but they will do something. As a matter of fact, they are not meant to do everything. That's why they are called palliatives. Palliatives are not solutions. They are just to help a bit.Now that labour has led a protest/strike, it has gone into the records. The tradition has been kept. Ego has been appeased. Let this not be a continuous or daily event, unless if there is a strong justification for it. For now, there is no justification, not even for the one-day protest.Labour should return back to the negotiating table and negotiate, with sincerity and objectivity, for the best possible palliatives Nigerians, and not only government workers can get. And there should be a difference between negotiation for palliatives and negotiation/suggestions for lasting solutions to problems of energy in the country. The two are different and should not be mixed.God bless Nigeria. 

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