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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Strike Two

The streets are empty save the odd cars and busses, the boys are on the road either playing football or selling fuel, the girls? Who cares what happens to girls, hopefully they are cooking and cleaning at home, and no doubt a fair number will be “servicing” past and present beneficiaries of the systematic breakdown of our structures.

Yesterday was the to be or not to be cliff hanger day as other unions backed out of the strike declaring satisfaction with the concessions made by government. The NLC held out for a reversal to the old pump price so it is that the strike is back on.
Why president Yar'Adua (already nicknamed GO SLOW UMORU for his lack of swiftness and dynamism in his first few weeks) would choose the puerile strategy introduced by Babangida and perfected by Obasanjo is confusing to me. Granted he didn’t effect the increase but surely this is a brilliant opportunity to not only legitimize his government but also win over new allies and the Nigerian people. None of that annoying babanomics that claims to seek to increase our national bank balance at the expense of our well-being. How long are we going to continue the rounds of hike, strike, and reduce? We must not only hold out for reversal of the odious increase but we must insist on a criminal investigation into what has happened to the billions sunk into energy and power reforms in the past decade and a half and the initiation of progressive innovative economic strategies for the overhaul, repair and growth of that sector. Why must we listen to the cross section of buffoons (to be nice) and shylock businessmen of the “squeeze the people to death” economics?
President Yar'Adua must make up his mind about the ends he wants to achieve (hopefully one that best serves the Nigerian people) in the energy and power sector and fire anyone who tells him that end is impossible, especially if such (as will most likely be the case) have been a part of this long running soap opera of “just charge them more” school of “innovative” thinking.

Was it not acceptable “knowledge” that it was impossible to produce antiretroviral at less than a particular price a decade ago? What happened when Brazil decided that she was going to offer them to every Brazilian who needed them for a token or free? They found the innovative, progressive minds to produce generics in Brazil and the courageous strategy (exploiting a favourable clause) to break the international patent. The result saved millions of Brazilians and changed the world in that sphere for not only did India follow suit, the huge profiteering pharmaceuticals had to crash their prices. I know the politics are different for health and oil and thus more viscerally deadly but it is possible to develop sound economic, energy and power policies that are humane, self-sustaining, locally functional and globally competitive. It only requires a courageous visionary who will find the brilliant minds (oft not to be found amongst jobbers, self promoters, praise singers, cronies, cohorts and concubines) with the commitment and human (certainly not religious) values to deliver the strategies, systems and methods. Question; will Yar'Adua turn out to be such a visionary? We have as long as the strike lasts to answer that question.

21 comments:

Anu boy said...

somebody please tell me whats going on in Nigeria... really, how long are we gonna continue the hike, strike, and reduce thingy, is it that we Nigerians have not learnt the tricks the govermnet use or what??? i don tire oohhh, what a lovely way to start a new goverment....

abeg, somebody pls tell me what i do not know ohhh

snazzy said...

This strike is pointless and completely the wrong thing to do. That got your attention huh? The NLC should have taken the government to court over the VAT increase (which is illegal based on the budget that was passed) and there is even a case for the fuel thing too(apparently there is due process that has to be followed in fuel hikes). If that had failed, then you can try the strikes. The fact that their reflex is to reach for the placard is not a good thing. Due process goes both ways. Still I guess "hike strike and reduce" is fun for everyone. Just so you know, I completely agree with u on power, someone's gotta go to jail for some of that isht.

Jeremy said...

It does look like all the various forces and factions are cancelling each other out in Abuja at the moment. Whatever happened to the 100 days State-of-Emergency Marshall Plan idea? Let's hope the President is doing some deep-thinking and planning, and that is the reason for the silence..

Agaracha said...

Funmi thanks for that example of Brazil.I am learning a lot from reading your blog.thanks1

JJC girl said...

Am back to live in Nigeria after a very long absence: I had thought I knew a lot about the country before coming home but of course I now realise I knew absolutely nothing. Despite being shocked, appalled and stunned on a daily basis by the abuse of the ordinary people by their leaders, the women by the men, children by their parents and teachers, domestic and other staff by their employers, the constant casual brutality that surrounds us - despite all this, I am in love with this crazy land and its people because it's ALIVE in a way I can't describe. I am also discovering it through the work of Funmi and a couple of other writers, who seem to echo my own private thoughts in an eerily familiar way.
More power to you guys!

Ugo Daniels said...

Anything borne by a snake must ne long. Yaradua is a product of a system that was fraught with fraud, illegality adn intimidation. I can only see him making small amends.

Who's controlling the military? Obasanjo of course.

It's indeed perilous times for Nigeria. Only time will tell whether Yaradua will stick to the status quo of acting out scripts from his master in Ottah or take a BOLD step towards righting all the wrongs.

...only time can tell!

laspapi said...

"the huge profiteering pharmaceuticals had to crash their prices. I know the politics are different for health and oil and thus more viscerally deadly..."

The politics might be different, funmi, but the principles are the same. As you wrote, if Mr. Yar'Adua can look beyond the huge mass of latrine-abiding/offal-seeking flies that buzz around him, calling themselves aides and politicians, he might be able to apply similar principles to this country so the "curse" some ancient coven placed on us can be lifted. The Supreme Court re-instated Peter Obi...that is one of the most beautiful things this country's ever seen.

eastcoast said...

In my opinion, I don't think the new president would be such a visionary. He could make a difference but I don't think he would make a significant, self-sustaining difference or improvement. The world's tallest skyscrapers are not built from the top neither are strong, element-resistant,upright houses built without laying a solid foundation. In the same vein, for Yar'dua to be a visionary and reformer, those in office and other arms of government also need to be visionaries and reformers. They all need to have similar goals and work to achieve them hand-in-hand. Without their support, it would be almost impossible for the president to implement and concieve his envisions. Finally, at the bottom of the pack and most importantly comes the able citizens. Most West Africans are very traditional people. They prefer to only practice what they are acquainted with, and to some degree are very hesitant to change and antipathetic to ambiguous situations.
Provided the President has some profitable policies, intelligent advisors, rational governors, honest ministers, scrupulous and patriotic citizens, then we would be on the verge of becoming a real democratic and reformed country.

Nigeria Politricks said...

I'm a fervent supporter of your firebrand politicking, but I beg to differ on the Yar'Adua turning out to be such a visionary question....it may take a decade longer or (God forbid) forever to find an answer to that question! With the boundless blessing of human and natural resourse(energy, that is) our nation is blessed with, there are no visionary, humane, selfless, compassionate and courageous leaders in Nigeria at this time to channel all of these resources into fruitful and sustainable economic development for the Nigerian people...I dare our leaders to prove me wrong! However, I'm sure there are millions of us out there, who honestly wants to steer Nigeria in the right direction...it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Nigeria's socio economic problems; when there is total systemic breakdown of the fabric that holds us as nation, we need to start out building afresh.

We can start out by wiping out corruption from the polity completely; let the EFCC go ahead and prosecute those that they've found to have contravened their oath of office by illegally enriching themselves, without fear or favour. Secondly, we ought to make sure we have a voice in electing those that governs us; all election malpractices should be investigated and those found wanting should be kicked out, including Yar'Adua, and lastly, there should be security in the nation; respect for laws and constitution that binds us as a nation.
We need to speak out more; organize anti-government marches, protest rallies, let our voices be heard at the U.N, let the world know that we are being treated unjustly; we can only demand for better treatment by taking action!...Inaction is not an absence of action, merely an abdication of our responsibility to hold our leaders accountable!

dami said...

Nigeria a nation outrightly confusing completely annoying.no politician seems to sincerely love us. Its like a cassonova who just met his victim sweeps her off her feet and showers with attention once he gets what he wants he completely changes. Now our votes is cast and they are insensitive to our needs.

olla said...

Hi Funmi( Like say i know you)one good thing about the strike is that it has given you more time to write beautifully, you are such an inspiring writer with a charming humour.
Keep it up,something good has to come out of this nonsense.

My 2 cents said...

Good one and lwal! at Go slow umoru. That's my new name for him!

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ all, l am intrigued by snazzy's comments and as charged as nigeria politricks, something tells me our winning strtegy will be a marriage of the two and this l know Jeremy and laspapi will agree with. Oftentimes the opposition's reaction is a knee jerk one using tired and ineffective strategies, proactivity is minimal to non existent. As Obi's case shows there are ways within democratic provision to effect a change once there is knowledge. More importantly, there must be a pool of never aggregated, creative, informed solutions to many of our challenges. The need to organize (dem no go give non arse licking thinkers positions) into some sort of independent perhaps virtual (to start) think tank of creative startegy creators and mobilizers is non negotiatable. Are we going to be courageous enough to do it? How should we go about organizing ourselves?

@jjc, l'm feeling you on that aliveness. welcome home mai sista, abeg chop knuckle.

@olla and agaracha, ;)

Anonymous said...

@snazzy
i couldnt let your statement go unchallenged;I think the strike should have started long before now and certainly immediately the illegal increases were made...
Do you have any idea how long a court case drag for?during which time, the NLC would be unable to declare any strike because the matter would be sub judice?
We are not dealing with people who feel what the (extra)ordinary people of Nigeria feel or go through on a daily basis-increases of anything should be planned well in advance,thats part of thinking, you can in dec say from next year May, there will be an X% increase in so and so because of xyz reason...
The govt needs to go on and reduce those prices without kingigbe speaking with this c%&* saying its not because of labour they are reducing it, do you need a magician to tell you there are ripple effects of increases which people never planned for?
My only irritation is that Segun Adeniyi has joined his govt. and i fear he will be rendered ineffective(lone voice syndrome)-may resign or cross to the 'dark side'
i agree with the person who says that Yaradua cannot be a lone visionary-the people he surrounds h/slf with make a diff. see donald duke example.
o pa ri

Chibuzo said...

I see how everybody is complaining about their different issues.. Others want strike some dont want it...Left to me i dont support the strike no matter how it is gone about... School children are at home... That is one of my concerns.. People that have to work everyday for livelihood are home left to their own fate... What a mess?? Finally no matter how we got our new president, GOOD or BAD, LEGAL or ILLEGAL. The man has not even been our leader for one month and everybody wants to swallow him.. Afterall it is written that if you dont have what you love, you should love what you have....Please, lets us all give him a chance and build this beautiful country TOGETHER..

lolaojiks said...

It is really sad and depressing that most people expecially the labour leaders do not realise the effect the strike and its publicity will have on Nigeria's position in the global economy.

Nigeria has been identified as being one of the N-11 Group of economies.The N-11 Group is made up of countries that have the potential to follow the path of the BRIC fast-growing economies.

With strikes and fuel scarcity, it is highly unlikely that Nigeria will fulfill this potential.

O'DARA said...

Well i cannot totally justify the NLC actions but really will the government budge if they were taken to court? i think not!....We can only pray for our country hopefully one day we'll say remember when....Indeed i feel bad but lets forgive Yar'adua till next year. This time every year when students are about to begin their promotion exams especially the secondary level and below- the strike begins and in the process students have to make choices play or read more it dangles on their mind scales and which do you think weighs more...it's just God's grace.... hopefully Yar'adua will give us something better to say- this time next year. Ahem! Miss Iyanda that was a splendid interactive session at the Youth conference yesterday. thank u!

Anu boy said...

i still think this whole thing was done to brain wash all of us ohh... make people forget about the rigging of elections and throw in something to think about or rather worry about, and at the end of the day Yar'adua becomes the hero....

Ladybrille said...

It is depressing to read your commentary. I recall living in Naija back in the 80s and the hikes and strikes were still a major issue. Lines at the gas stations that seemed to stretch thousands of miles long. My family waiting patiently, in line, hoping we could fill our gas tank so we could be on our way to school and work. At the end of the day, it was a futile wait. We the children ended up "trekking" and catching public transportations to school. Sadly, over a decade later, it is still an issue.

I like the question of whether Y'Adua is that visionary to make real infrastructural changes. I doubt very much. I wonder why in 2007, Nigerian citizens have not gotten angry enough to cause and call for a revolution-- this might be a start towards reforms of age old issues of'NEPA'[energy/power], miserable infrastructures and corruption. The question for me after much hashing and atimes rehashing of these issues is always, what are we going to do about it?

bobo said...

This piece is very interesting, its so constroversial.

However, i totally supported the strike action because some times when you talk and talk action is required to back it up.
To my amazement, in this Abuja(it is so government centric- they literally would not eat until they do government work)not everybody observed the strike action, some banks even opened to customers. I dare to say that we are not so united in our Stand(300 should be aired on NTA so we wuld know what to fight for a course in unity is).

As for Umaru sha je ka ma wo. His gentility must have substance!!

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Hello Funmi, I find your blog posts very insightful and well-written. I thank you for articulating the views of most Nigerian citizens. It is refreshing to read the variety and richness of your topics. It has finally sunk into my skull that the Nigerian government holds its citizens in great contempt. Infact, I would venture to say that we as citizens are negligible. It is a great pity. I am currently doing a master's degree in South Africa and it depresses me that things work here. The government actually plays a part in nation building. I don't see what is so special about SA or other parts of the world, why things work and this does not seem possible in Nigeria. It is a mystery, it really is.