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  • Updated: February 27, 2024

Subsidy: How Tinubu reacted to 2012 nationwide protests 

Subsidy: How Tinubu reacted to 2012 nationwide protests 

"Because of the terrible substance of the decision and the haughty style of its enactment, the people feel betrayed and angry. At this moment, we know not to where this anger will lead. In good conscience, we pray against violence. Also in good conscience, it is the duty of every citizen to peacefully demonstrate and record their opposition to this draconian measure that is swiftly crippling the economy more than it will ever cure it." That was the exact statement of President Bola Tinubu in 2012. 

Tinubu who was a chieftain of the opposition in Nigeria said in an article published on January 11, 2012, while the then president, Goodluck Jonathan announced the removal of the fuel subsidy that it was the right of Nigerians to protest against what they consider unfavourable to them and the economy. 

On the removal of the subsidy, Tinubu condemned the decision, describing it as "terrible" and characterized by a "haughty style of enactment." 

He highlighted the widespread anger and sense of betrayal among the people in response to the decision.

President Tinubu in the piece further said, "By taking this step, the government has tossed the people into the depths of the midnight sea. 

"Government demands the people swim to safety under their own power, claiming the attendant hardship will build character and add efficiency to the national economy. It is easy to make these claims when one is dry and onshore."

"Government would have us believe that every hardship it manufactures for the people to endure is a good thing. This is a lie. The hardships they thrust upon the poor often bear no other purpose than to keep them poor. This is such a time."

Tinubu argued that the removal of the fuel subsidy would have detrimental effects on the economy and would disproportionately impact the poor and vulnerable segments of society. 

He emphasized the importance of peaceful opposition and called on citizens to express their dissent through peaceful demonstrations.

"But we know this is about more than the fuel subsidy. It is about the government’s ideas on the role of money in bettering the lives of people, about the relationship between the government and the people and about the primary objective of the government’s interaction with the economy.

"It is about whom, among Nigeria’s various social classes, does government most value. This is why public reaction has been heated. 

"It is not so much that people have to spend more money. It is because people feel short-changed and sold out. The government seeks to convince us that the Jonathan tax is an unavoidable decision mandated by immutable economic principles.

"If you accept their premise, you must agree with their conclusion. However, their argument falters at its inception. There are few immutable economic principles. Economics is not an exact science with unbreakable rules like physics.

"Economics is no less subjective than politics. It was born an offshoot of politics and there it remains. What this government claims to be economic decisions are essentially political ones. As there is progressive politics, there is progressive economics.

"As there is elitist politics, there is elitist economics. It all depends on what and who in society the government would rather favour. The Jonathan tax represents a new standard in elitism."

The federal government led by President Tinubu 12 years after had warned the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its nationwide protest scheduled for February 27 and February 28, 2024.

Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) in a letter dated February 23 and addressed to the counsel to the NLC, Femi Falana (SAN), the AGF said the planned industrial action could amount to contempt given a restraining order of a National Industrial Court.

But the Joe Ajaero-led NLC has insisted it will go on with the protest in the interest of the country. 

Allnews.ng reports that a midnight meeting between the representatives of the Labour Unions and the federal government ended in a deadlock.

The meeting was called in the instance of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. George Akume. Though the details of the meeting are yet known, Labour has vowed to proceed with the nationwide protest. 

It is yet to be seen whether Tinubu, who is the current Nigerian president, will respect the right of Labour and Nigerians to peaceful protests or further frustrate their move.

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