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.