Sunday, January 15, 2012

Retort to Paul Collier

Hi Paul,

Nigeria's current administration might have received a legitimate mandate but their actions since their ascent has been anything but.You only need look at the budget and its constituent executive and legislative expenditure which has incensed the masses, and is anything but responsible, to give you an idea of the reasons behind Nigerian's mistrust.

All we have heard from the government are the same tired platitudes of how our biggest problem as a nation is the subsidy. No problem however straight-forward has a single solution and at times the march to durable solutions begins with critical and radical reasoning. What we need are creative solutions but our leaders seem to be unwilling to solicit them or even consider suggestions all in the hope that the people will soon be distracted so they can get their way. Well, democracy is about listening and inclusion and Nigerians have begun to talk. Shouldn't our elected government listen?

The government claim to have offered palliatives but how does more buses after a hike in fuel prices help with the consequent price increase of everything from food, to power generation costs? Just so you can process and contextualise it, a fitting analogue to what the Nigerian government has done by artificially hiking the prices of petroleum products would be the UK government deciding without consultation and alternatives to scrap a service as vital as the NHS. Such an action would understandably be met by resistance, as its effects would be far-reaching. Fine-tuning the mechanics of the current subsidy regime with a view to increasing accountability and then working on solutions to fill the vacuum once it is eventually removed might have been the place to start.

As a Nigerian who has seen both sides of the coin I know the pangs of Nigerians and understand the mistrust. I have benefitted from appalling roads, the epileptic and largely DIY power supply and the abysmally funded education and health-care systems. Oh and did I mention the non-existent social security? To crown all this Nigerians have increasingly and of recent been served incessant helpings of violence by politically motivated mercenaries. In the years past there has been trillions spent on white elephant projects only for those funds to be trousered by the ruling elite and their cohorts so is it any surprise we don't trust them? If they couldn't deliver with all those trillions what good will a paltry $8bn a year do?

At a time like this what we would love to hear from intelligent media isn't that Nigerians are being manipulated. It is patronising but also lazy reasoning to think that Nigerians who have had to contend with 50 years of suffering and smiling are incapable of articulating how they feel. I think what good folk like yourself need to be doing is actually gaining a firm grasp of the issues at play and, if you are so inclined, proffering solutions.

Nigerians are among the most resilient and resourceful people I know. It is time our leaders stopped taking advantage of that great trait and started doing their jobs.

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