OPIN­ION

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

the in­dis­cre­tion of invit­ing me to an event where crit­i­cism was not al­lowed. The new per­ma­nent sec­re­tary should find out who chopped my hon­o­rar­ium and pros­e­cute the per­son.

In my pa­per, I had ques­tioned the as­sump­tion of Pres­i­dent Jonathan and his Gov­ern­ment that na­tional trans­for­ma­tion is about what pres­i­dents do, on their own. I ar­gued that pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion is what has been on-go­ing in Nige­ria for the past three decades and the mo­tive force of the trans­for­ma­tion has been the role of trade unions, pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions, cit­i­zens and civil so­ci­ety in putting up bar­ri­cades to con­front many decades of mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship and fight against tyranny at a very high cost to their lives and lib­er­ties. The re­sult has the re­turn of democ­racy as an out­come of pop­u­lar strug­gles. I agreed that there was in­deed a trans­for­ma­tion agenda in the coun­try but added that those in power had been stum­bling blocks rather than part­ners in the pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion of Nige­ria. In the 1980s, our rul­ing classes took the side of the mul­ti­lat­eral agen­cies, the World Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. They told Nige­ri­ans a nar­ra­tive about how we have lived above our means in a con­text in which our pro­duc­tion was not at pace our con­sump­tion so they must im­pose dis­ci­pline and aus­ter­ity on us. It was in that con­text that SAP was im­posed. There were cuts in public em­ploy­ment, mas­sive de­val­u­a­tion of the naira and in­fla­tion, the with­drawal of the state from so­cial pro­vi­sion­ing and so on. Nige­ri­ans de­cided they must trans­form that re­al­ity. My con­cern at that time was that there was a need for a real de­bate on na­tional trans­for­ma­tion but when the con­cept is re­duced to what a serv­ing pres­i­dent says he is do­ing, the de­bate dies be­fore it even takes off. It is clearer to all to­day that the regime of Pres­i­dent Jonathan was the stum­bling block to na­tional trans­for­ma­tion and was in­deed steer­ing the coun­try to­wards na­tional de­struc­tion.

Maybe it is not sur­pris­ing that Pres­i­dent Jonathan would con­tinue to be­lieve that the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Nige­ri­ans in dozens of cities all over the coun­try were on the bar­ri­cades cam­paign­ing against fuel sub­sidy be­cause op­po­si­tion politi­cians were ma­nip­u­lat­ing them. It’s the re­flec­tion of an at­ti­tude that sees the peo­ple as those who should just ac­cept what they are told be­cause it is their gov­ern­ment that is talk­ing and that gov­ern­ment, as he said, was elected by a wide mar­gin. The vi­sion of na­tional trans­for­ma­tion that was be­ing ar­tic­u­lated was one that con­ceived of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change as some­thing pres­i­dents and their min­is­ters say they were do­ing. Al­most ev­ery Nige­rian knew that all the Gov­ern­ment was do­ing was mega loot­ing, and yet the praise singers spoke of na­tional trans­for­ma­tion. The cur­rent regime has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to un­mask the cha­rade that was de­scribed as na­tional trans­for­ma­tion and lay bare the re­al­ity of loot­ing. Yes in­deed, let the tri­als be­gin.

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