Is development really possible in Nigeria without increasing the yoke of hardship upon the already weary masses? I’d like to believe it is. Development takes time I know but those saddled with the responsibility of bringing development to the citizenry must be seen to have a vision, focus and a proper modus operandi.

Sacrifices must be made by every citizen to move the nation forward as was aptly enunciated in the timeless and sagely words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 35th president of the United States.

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country…”

This has been the silent posture of all consecutive governments in Nigeria and more so, since the advent of the Fourth Republic and true to who we are, we’ve patched on. We’ve endured harsh economic policies in the hope that things would improve but things have regressed at astronomical proportions.

It is crystal clear that this talk of sacrifice never applies to the political elite. Public officers in the Nigerian realm are demi gods. They hurl policies that benefit their own pockets and further degrade our economy from their exalted Mount Olympus while encouraging the masses to make sacrifices. Take the current administration of President Jonathan for instance. Here is a man fortune smiled on and by sheer luck found himself at the most exalted position in Nigeria. Most believed that the man was heaven-sent at the time (for your info, I didn’t ). His seemingly honest and calm demeanor which projected good intentions for the country propelled many Nigerians to vote en masse for him at the polls last year. Little did they know that good intentions count for nothing. Today, our polity is awash with heart-rending stories ranging from series of unpopular policies to massive tidal waves of corruption to a state of anarchy in terms of wanton destruction of lives and property and the masses are amazed at a dream that has in a space of less than a year, turned into a horrible nightmare.

Yesterday, June 1st 2012, Nigerians were faced with another harsh reality that there really was no going back on the planned increment of power tariffs regardless of the epileptic power supply that has plagued the nation for years. This comes exactly 6 months after an arbitrary increase in the price of PMS. While I don’t not dispute the fact that for the power sector to be viable, the tariffs ought to be increased, I am vehemently against the method and timing. Here’s why. Constant power supply has been an almost insurmountable problem in Nigeria for as long as I can remember. However, in recent times, it has never been so bad. Despite billions of naira allocated for the revamping of power infrastructure since the inception of democracy in 1999, supply have declined steadily due to unchecked corruption and shameless looting.

When President Jonathan assumed office, he declared that power would be given utmost priority, refusing to allocate a minister to the portfolio for many months. When things continued to get worse, he relinquished the sector to Barth Nnaji and since then, all we’ve heard are promises and commissioning of various projects without any visible impact.

I was privileged to have a discuss with a staff of the defunct NEPA who informed me that the current charges being paid as power tariffs were way below cost price. The FG had actually been losing money funding it, hence the drive for privatization. In order to ensure privatization, that deficit had to be eliminated to attract potential investors. Sounds perfectly logical to me.

My question is why now? Wouldn’t it be prudent to genuinely solve the problems of power supply first before jacking up tariffs? Are we to feed on promises once again and “take one more for the team”? This team where all sacrifices continue to come from one section of the divide while the other gorge themselves fat on the unwarranted trappings of power. This increment to me is tantamount to “putting the cart before the horse” which has proved time and time again to be the usual method employed by successive governments of solving problems. Nigerians are still trying to adjust to the hardship occasioned by the increase in pump price of PMS which supplies power to every household and now this?!

Could this be another ploy by the government to further impoverish the masses? What other choice do we have than to assume the worst? And sadly, Nigerians are currently distracted by the smoke screen that President Jonathan created on the 29th of May by changing the prestigious name of UNILAG to MAULAG in honor of the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola.

Months after the fuel subsidy probe began, even after it became clear that the government was actually subsidizing its gross inefficiency and corruption which stinks to the high heavens and not subsidy in the real sense of the word, nobody has gone to jail just yet. The Minister of Petroleum is still sitting pretty with her over-priced jewelry. There’s been no major shake-up in the PPRA. Are we now to believe that the much coveted change has finally come?

I sincerely hate to sound like an incurable pessimist but I’m being realistic here. There is every indication that when all the hullabaloo dies down, it all goes down to “business as usual”. That’s why I laugh when PDP and its cronies as well some individuals with a very superficial understanding of what’s going on read out of context the warnings of General Buhari who emphasized that there may be an outbreak of violence if the elections of 2015 are not free and fair. To buttress the general’s position, this saying is instructive.

“Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

He who has ears, let him hear.

Malcolm O. Ifi.

Follow Malcolm on twitter @saymalcolm

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