Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Nigerian fuel subsidy rebellion

In an interview with the BBC Professor Tam David-West, the former Petroleum Minister, said that the planned removal of fuel subsidy will “squeeze the economy, increase inflation, hurt businesses and the public”.

The people of the African country of Nigeria have a long history of struggle against capitalism, dating back to when it was first introduced in colonial times by the British imperialists. Their struggle has continued both within and beyond the border, but in recent years the continuation of the oppression has been tolerated less and less, most recently due to the proposed removal of the fuel subsidy by the countries governors – the People’s Democratic Party, headed by Goodluck Jonathan.

This party is anything but democratic – since 1999, they have racked up an appalling human rights record with reports of torture and dismemberment, destroyed civil liberties such as same-sex relationships by punishing the victims of said law with up to 5 years in jail, slashed funding to the public sector (especially to health and education services) as well as privatised, casualised and deregulated almost everything state-owned. They have pedalled their thoroughly neo-liberal agenda to a people who have never, and will never, accept capitalism complacently in a sick attempt to satisfy them with less than they deserve, and it has shown through the Nigerian people's struggle in the past few weeks.

Though problems have been rampant since their election, the origins of the fuel-subsidy crises can be linked to the release of the People’s Democratic Party budget, released on Tuesday, 13th December, 2011. The parties plan did not include any funding for fuel subsidies what so ever – a cold turkey removal of what little welfare state aid the PDP has left available to the public. Though it has always been a controversial topic, state-provided statistics showed that around 80% of all Nigerians opposed the removal of a fuel subsidy.

Ignoring the statistic provided to him, Jonathan gathered the Nigerian national assembly on 1st January, 2012 and announced his plan to oust the fuel subsidy, as was expected by the local media.

There was a mass outcry - people in the street, people in their homes, at restaurants: everywhere people were talking about the latest move with anger and despair. In an interview with the BBC Professor Tam David-West, the former Petroleum Minister, said that the planned removal of fuel subsidy will “squeeze the economy, increase inflation, hurt businesses and the public”. But Goodluck Jonathan did nothing but ignore his people.

Protests were called, demonstrations held and nationwide strike campaigns were launched. The government proved themselves to be weak and faltered after only five days of general strike, with the announcement of the partial-restoration of the subsidy to the pump-price of 97 Naira per litre.

Although the people of Nigeria have their fuel subsidy partially back, we know that for today’s neo-liberal, rightwing conservative parties, nothing is sacred. The attacks on the welfare state will undoubtedly resume, and will be harsher with each renewed push, eroding what little real freedom we have left. The destruction of social democracy is a phenomenon that is consistent with capitalism, and those on the right and the fake-left seem to have it in for all workers. They tell us that their agenda cannot progress without this or that being removed, but the people of Nigeria have set an example for us all. We will fight those who wish to see us gone wherever they may be, and wherever we are there will be RESISTANCE.

-George M. SA

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