The fuel subsidy protests across the country and beyond are over. But Nigerians have spoken in clear language: The status quo, corruption, mismanagement and dictatorship in the country will no longer be tolerated.
Last week and early this week, Nigeria was shut down by millions of demonstrators, who protested against the removal of fuel subsidy by the President Goodluck Jonathan Administration on 1 January, 2012.Many people were shocked when they discovered that a litre of fuel at filling stations across the country skyrocketed from N65 on 31 December 2011 to N141 and N150 on 1 January 2012, triggering an inflation of about 200 percent overnight.
The protests started on 9 January and lasted until 16 January. During the shutdown, streets across the country were empty or taken over by the aggrieved protesters, offices were shut, banks, airports were under lock and key and markets were closed down. Virtually all sectors of the economy were brought to a halt. According to the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria lost over N300 billion in the early days of the protests.
And as more revelations about corrupt practices and mismanagement in the oil sector and in government were made public, more people came out to show their anger and disgust. In Lagos State, millions of people were believed to have converged at Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota.
The anger and disgust were palpable at gatherings. Nigerians carried placards with some reading “Kill corruption, not Nigerians”. They also wore T-shirts bearing that inscription.
Pictures of protesters carrying coffins or protesting goats were posted on social media websites instantly. Revelations were circulated on Facebook, Twitter, blackberry phones and other digital platforms in tens of thousands. Nigerians were discussing the protests online and proffering solutions.
It was, according to many, the most successful protests since Nigeria became independent on 1 October 1960.
We hope the Jonathan administration got the message: With new digital gadgets and the resolve of Nigerians for a better, more democratic and decent country, it will no longer be business as usual. People can gather as far as they want to challenge government policies and decisions.
Nigerians are now ready to suffer for some time to create a better future for themselves and their children. The Nigerian government must pay attention and listen to the voice of the people who elected them into office.
In a democratic dispensation, the government is elected by the people and run for the people by the people. Any attempt to lord over the people may result in instability, street protests and eventually chaotic change.
Now that the government has started probing officials who are either suspected or accused of corrupt practices, we hope that those found wanting will be prosecuted and jailed.