By Rose MOSES
If the present federal government were able to do so, it could have you not just pay for, but also add premium tax on the air you breathe. Afterwards, the government would possibly blame it on the so-called mess caused by past administrations, particularly that of the Peoples Democratic Party.
If you were old enough to have listened to or even come across the coup speech of late Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro announcing the ouster of the Buhari military government on August 27, 1985, you would bet that little has changed with a Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa.
Instead, Nigerians have been so impoverished with the cost of living going way beyond their reach as the government daily churns out very harsh and wicked policies with hardly anything on the ground to cushion the effects on the masses.
Today, it would appear like the government’s sole purpose is to accomplish whatever agenda was cut short in 1985. Or how do you describe a government that wittingly or otherwise looks the other way as essential commodity prices are way beyond the reach of the ordinary people? Would it be wrong to say that the present government is a classical example of taking everything away from the have-nots and enriching the already advantaged?
Most annoying is that in this apparent broad daylight robbery of the poor, the same government mounts the podium at the slightest opportunity to sing of the imaginary lifting of 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
While the cost of practically everything is rising per second, the same government under whose watch we have seen job losses, pay cuts, non-payment of salaries would, in addition, be squeezing what is left of the people’s lives with an increase in levies, duties, taxes, tariffs and just anything you can think of.
And wait for this, the system is such that while those in government keep looting the commonwealth dry, they still hardly pay for any of the services for which the poor pay through the nose.
From the increase in electricity bill, pump prices of petroleum products, to even cutting down on the interests accruing to bank savings, while on the other hand wantonly increasing the interest you have to pay on loans, to the introduction of road tolls, the Buhari government is detached from the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
For instance, in addition to the numerous harsh policies that have not been of any good to the majority of the populace, the federal government announced, just days ago, a reintroduction of the toll collection system on selected dual motorways across the country.
Although tagged a new open road policy, meaning that the collection of tolls on roads will be without the use of toll booths, that is, some sort of an all-electronic tolling or cashless tolling system, those in government that live extravagantly on the sweat of the masses will, as usual, most likely be exempted from paying this toll.
It is noteworthy that the return of road tolls comes almost two decades after former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration dismantled all toll gates on federal highways.
Besides that and after the long grammar on the new arrangement, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said on August 11, that the new development would see vehicles paying between N200 and N500 toll per trip, depending on the vehicle type. Diplomats, military, para-military as well as tricycles and motorcycles would be exempted from the scheme.
Add this development to the issue of cooking gas, among many others, and you wonder how an average Nigerian survives under the circumstance. With the re-imposition of the cooking gas tax, Nigerians should brace themselves to pay up to N10,000 for a 12.5Kg cylinder.
Already, prices of cooking gas across the country have skyrocketed, which would further worsen with taxation. And to think the same Buhari government had, in 2019, announced the removal of VAT on the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), also known as cooking to increase its domestic utilization, speaks of policy summersaults.
What chokes the most is the speed with which market prices increase. For instance, the 12.5kg cylinder now going for about N7,000, sold for about N4,000 on average a few months ago. In all of this, hardly are workers’ salaries increased. Instead, jobs are lost, daily; salaries are either cut or being owed, sometimes running into months. Worse still, there are hardly any vacancies for fresh graduates, except the children of members of the ruling elite. Or if you know someone in government.
But let’s get back to that (in)famous palace coup declaration of August 1985. Dogonyaro, who died at 80 this year at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, read the military statement ousting the then head of state and brought in General Ibrahim Babangida.
From the archives, here are snippets of the historic declaration. “Although the military intervention that ushered in the military government of Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the end of 1983 was welcomed by the nation with unprecedented enthusiasm, it was clear that almost two years after, the fulfilment of expectations wasn’t forthcoming.” The rest, as they say, is history.
The 754-word speech reads in part: “The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration.
“Although a lot of problems were indeed left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body; subsequently, the business of governance has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations.
“The ruling body, the Supreme Military Council, has, therefore, progressively been made redundant by the actions of a select few members charged with the day-to-day implementation of the SMC’s policies and decisions.
“The concept of collective leadership has been substituted by stubborn and ill-advised unilateral actions, thereby destroying the principles upon which the government came to power. Any effort made to advise the leadership met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty.
“Thus, the scene was being set for the systematic elimination of what was termed opposition. All the energies of the rulership were directed at this imaginary opposition rather than to effective leadership.
“The result of this misdirected effort is now very evident in the country as a whole. The government has started to drift. The economy does not seem to be getting any better as we witness daily increased inflation.
“The nation’s meagre resources are once again being wasted on unproductive ventures. Government has distanced itself from the people and the yearnings and aspirations of the people as constantly reflected in the media have been ignored.”
Wow! Going through that speech of about 35 years ago, you can see a lot of the Nigeria of today as described. The more you live through the happenings in the current administration of the same Buhari, now midway into his second presidential term, the more all those ills reeled out in 1985 by Brigadier Dogonyaro seem to be the same, if not worse.
Under the present leadership of President Buhari, Nigerians have never had it this bad. Six years into his civilian presidency, public trust in the Nigerian government is almost down the abyss alongside a growing perception of political exclusion. This is even made worse by negative economic impacts which have taken a whole new ugly dimension in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as undelivered campaign promises.
Despite the colossal failure of government, at least, going by daily lamentations of the populace, what you get to hear from government salespeople is that the administration is on the right course and highlights of non-existent efforts in building strong institutional capacities to fight corruption.
Yet corruption is going on smoothly today practically in every sector of the economy, even more than before. Mismanagement of the nation’s diversity by allowing disappearing old ethnic and religious fault lines to reopen in greater fissures with drums of bitterness, separation and disintegration as the order of the day, while killings of citizens by terrorists or bandits…or kidnappers go on unabated.
Unless and until something drastic is done to arrest the ugly trend, Nigeria, indeed, may well be described as an edifice on the edge of collapse.