“These pupils and young students are our tomorrow. The tomorrow we claim to be working to protect by inflicting the pains of today”
By Wole Balogun
Sadly, most Nigerians are currently facing hard times. Things are difficult, life is very hard and harsh, courtesy of the sudden and brutal removal of the fuel subsidy by our new helmsman, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Prior to his inauguration, the optimistic Nigerians, particularly those who had firm belief in the slogan of ‘Emilokan’ and had chorused it in high spirit, were eagerly expecting President Tinubu to promptly apply a timely soothing balm on the bruises inflicted on our collective psyche by the unmindful rulership posture of our erstwhile President Muhammadu Buhari , but what suddenly happened? Many Nigerians received the shock of their lives on May 29, 2023 when the dark-googled ‘Emilokan crooner’ pronounced those four dreadful words: “ Fuel Subsidy is gone!!!” at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
Those four words pierced the country’s peaceful air like a volcano and erupted violently into full blown hardship, anguish and unending lamentations occasioned by skyrocketing prices of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise called petrol and Nigerians are still writhing in pains from the injuries it keeps inflicting.
Many experts on finance, economic matters, public affairs analysis and what have you have explained the President’s sudden action on the brutal subsidy removal, describing it as the best decision ever taken to heal the economic woes the country had been plunged into.
Others have kicked against it arguing that it was too sudden and harsh, advising that the government ought to have made the removal a gradual process. Yet, some have also argued that subsidizing energy is a must for all governments that mean well for their citizens and that the President’s decision was grossly unthoughtful and doomed to backfire with dire consequences.
For some of those in favour of the President’s action, they have argued further that it was best he removed the subsidy at a single stroke so as to prevent the daredevil few beneficiaries of the bazaar from working against him and frustrating his timely and ‘angelic’ move.
While those against his action, have urged him to either reverse the decision or provide urgent palliatives to cushion the adverse effects of its consequences. Others still in support have equally called for urgent suitable palliatives with viable suggestions.
Unfortunately, more than three months after the President suddenly removed the subsidy and succeeded in plunging the nation’s middle class and masses into untold hardship and suffering, there have been no significant palliative measures to alleviate the suffering or cushion the biting effects of the subsidy removal on Nigerians
While the labour unions have remained at daggers drawn against the government with the government seemingly playing the ostrich, it appears to this writer that Nigerians might have come to the realization that the fuel subsidy is indeed gone and more of the ‘subsidy’ or ‘subsidies‘ may even go in the nearest future. What matters most now is how do we get our capitalist President to alleviate this suffering for us? How do we force or placate him into providing suitable and soothing palliatives for the masses and the middle class because the bourgeoisie are clearly not feeling the pangs of this sudden subsidy severance!
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine with four children in the nursery, primary and secondary schools was lamenting the now exorbitant school fees, prices of textbooks and notebooks. She mentioned in particular how the newly recommended textbooks have become a huge burden for middle class parents and the masses. Her words: “Had they not recommended new textbooks now, my younger kids would have simply made use of the textbooks their elderly ones used!”
And it occurred to me that hardly have we seen any of the state governors who reportedly received N5 billion grant as palliatives from the Federal Government provided free textbooks or notebooks for the pupils in the primary, secondary or even students in tertiary institutions.
We understand that some of them are procuring school buses that either convey pupils and students freely or on subsidized fares, while others are busy distributing bags of rice to mostly party loyalists in their states, but are these the palliatives that are there to provide?
Many parents cannot currently afford school fees, textbooks or notebooks for their children or wards because they have spent their salaries or meagre daily earnings on exorbitant transport fares and skyrocketing fuel prices.
There are currently millions of Nigerian pupils and students in both public and private schools whose parents cannot afford textbooks and notebooks let alone school fees.
While we give kudos to governors who have gone beyond providing school buses and cups of rice to the masses by adding the palliative tokens to salaries of workers, It is high time our governments looked in the direction of providing free or subsidised textbooks, notebooks and fees to pupils and students up to the tertiary level. These pupils and young students are our tomorrow. The tomorrow we claim to be working to protect by inflicting the pains of today.
Wole, a young Nigerian public affairs analyst, who writes from Ado-Ekiti, can be reached on email@example.com