The imposed NLC strike was into its third day. The elite were getting bored and restless. “Let’s have a picnic,” they messaged each other, “Or how about a barbecue?”And so the Falomo Event was born.
It was a gathering of those who had “made it” and those keen to belong to the same group. They came out in their finery: designer slip-ons, designer sunglasses, designer bags, designer jewellery – understated for the most part, but all terribly elegant. And then there were the cars, among them high-class sedans, powerful SUVs and bullet-proof jeeps.
Next up, the food. Protein flown in from South Africa, fruits hand carried in cooler bags from across the world, all served up by chefs in neatly pressed uniforms.
As well-manicured fingers, many sporting diamond rings, reached out to take these delicacies, the conversation turned to “matters arising”. This, it soon became clear, was the signal to discuss those elected and appointed officials whose names had been circulating for days within this elite network of texts, Blackberry messenger and email.
Elite it may be, but sadly lacking in evidence. Instead of attempting serious discussion, the group seemed to be competing with each other to bring out more and yet more pieces of unfounded slander. Here are my questions for those Louis Vuitton and Hermes-wearing Nigerians who are so quick to pass judgement. How many of you actually pay your staff the minimum wage? And which of you, last time you came across a minister, did not seize the opportunity to ask for a “small favour”?
Last year the president approved the increase of the minimum wage from N7,500, to N18,000 per month. Fact: This was an amount approved for public sector workers, and does not hold the private sector to ransom. Fact: Less than 10 percent of Nigeria’s 160 billion citizens work in the public sector. Fact: Only 10 percent of those employed by the private sector actually earn N18,000 per month.
While progress has been made for some, it is clear that the booming private sector can certainly do better for the other working class Nigerians. At the very least, the N18,000 wage figure should be acknowledged as a living wage – not a noose around the nation’s neck.
How many Christians forwarded emails, BBMs and text messages in the past week without stopping to consider the truth of the content? How many simply disregarded the Bible’s teaching, and with the click of a button joined millions in spreading lies and slander across Nigeria and beyond?
How many Christians prayed for their leaders, then proceeded to curse and abuse them? How many made grand prophesies for the nation, then “humbled themselves to pray”? How have we reached this point of heaping the sins of all past presidents onto one man? Many of those past presidents are still alive, living out their days in palatial mansions for all to see. How can our current leader deserve to bear all the burden of the past 50 years?
I wonder how those from the Niger Delta feel in all this – those whose rightful wealth has fed a nation for nearly 50 years. Should they not be the ones taking to the streets to demand that the rest of us pay N141 per litre, while they pay nothing?
Fuel subsidy removal is not on the table of the minister alone. It’s a political, economic and financial issue. If anything, the removal will give the Ministry breathing space from handling allocation applications, to get on with the business of setting up a structure for the future of the industry, while increasing indigenous participation.
But perhaps it would be better if we returned to long fuel queues and exploding kerosene. Maybe then Nigerians would appreciate the positive progress the Ministry has made. Of course the Louis Vuitton-wearing Nigerians wouldn’t have to worry. Back in those days, they simply sent their (nearly) minimum wage-earning drivers to queue for fuel, and of course they don’t cook with kerosene. Instead, they put on their diamonds and their Vuitton and drive their jeeps to Falomo to have a protest picnic.
It is time to bring about real change in Nigeria – change that does not affect only those at the bottom of the pile. Our national resources should be used to benefit the entire population, not just the lucky few. As President Goodluck Jonathan and Alison-Madueke have repeatedly pointed out, the largest beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy were those at the top. No wonder they were so quick to sneer – perhaps the reaction of a guilty conscience, sensing the time when it will be called out?
I’m not just referring to those living off the profits of the private sector, but also our “honourable” legislators, the National Assembly. They certainly don’t have a taste for cuts; after all, in 2010 they awarded themselves a 100 percent pay increase. The initial 50 percent rise alone cost the nation an extra N4.65 billion – taking their payroll for the year from N6.3 billion to N11 billion.
Let us hope Goodluck Jonathan has the strength to continue on the course he has set. It is time Nigerians started paying attention to actions, rather than sophisticated words or slanderous stories.