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The immediate-past National Vice Chairman, Northwest, of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, Salihu Lukman has described the recent protests in Minna and Kano against the rising cost of living as a wake up call to the federal government, lamenting that President Bola Tinubu’s renewed hope agenda was fast turning into renewed anger.

This was as he slammed the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka for attempting to turn logic on its head by blaming the opposition for sponsoring the protests, even within APC strongholds.

He said instead of blaming some imaginary opposition parties, the APC leadership and government should simply take responsibility.

“If the truth must be told, there is hunger in the land! As a committed member of APC, it is very depressing that this is happening under the leadership of our party.

“Even more depressing was the statement issued by Mr. Felix Morka, our National Publicity Secretary alleging that opposition parties are behind the protests.

“For Mr. Morka to issue such a very dishonest statement points to only one thing – that the leadership of our party has completely lost it and at this rate their political utility value is zero. This clearly suggests that even the old pretences about being progressive has been thrown to the dogs.

“How can we be talking of opposition sponsoring protests in the strongholds of the APC? Both Minna and Kano are strong holds of APC. In the case of Minna, Niger State, APC is the ruling party. Kano is the home state of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the APC National Chairman.

“To suggest that any opposition party could mobilise citizens to protests against our government is already defeatist. The hard reality is that these protests are logical responses to the realities facing Nigerians. If these realities continue unattended to, these protests will spread like bush fire across every part of the country within a very short period. No one should be deceived, these are justifiable protests, which tests the responsiveness of our party, our leaders and above all our democracy. APC and President Asiwaju Tinubu may wish to ignore them at their own peril.

“It is quite heartbreaking that we appear to be almost back in the old politics that characterises military dictatorship. Instead of calling meetings of organs of the party to initiate strategies of mobilising all governments controlled by the APC to coordinate responses to democratic demands of citizens, all we want to do is to criminalise the protests.

“As it is now, the renewed hope agenda of our party has been floated. Like the Naira exchange rate, Renewed Hope is being exchanged for Renewed Anger. The value is becoming more and more provocative to citizens.

“At this rate, all appeals for patience may be simple waste of time given the challenge of survival. Already complicated by worsening security situation in the country so much that Abuja, the Federal Capital has also become unsecure, it is in our enlightened interest both as a party and as Nigerians to put pressure on President Asiwaju Tinubu to do the needful by putting in place immediately a clearly defined economic policy to resolve the situation”, Lukman added.

He said the protests happening in less than a year of the President Tinubu administration, call for urgent response by the government.

According to him, such a response must as a matter of necessity address existing realities whereby prices of goods and services, especially food items are astronomically going up, almost on hourly basis.

“There are gory tales of Nigerians going to the same markets within short intervals of less than 24 hours encountering higher prices for the same quantity of products. These are predictable realities triggered by conscious decisions taken by the government of President Asiwaju Tinubu.

‘Recall that as far back as August 2023, about four months into the tenure of the current government, I had cause to draw attention to some disturbing signals in an open letter to President Asiwaju Tinubu.

Specifically, one of the disturbing signals was ‘the management of policy process’, based on which petroleum subsidy was withdrawn without clearly defined initiatives to guarantee local production.

Related to that was the decision to float the exchange rate of the Naira, which turned out to be isolated decision without the corresponding clearly defined economic policy. At the time, the caution was raised that the ‘consequence is that the Naira is on a downward swing.

Combined with rising cost of transport because of withdrawal of subsidy the inflationary pressure on the economy is very high. As a result, living condition is getting worse. At this rate, poverty incidence will be terribly high, beyond any rational expectations.’

“The protests in Minna and Kano confirms the validity of the concerns raised as far back as August 2023. Sadly, six months after those concerns were raised, the situation is only getting worse as prices of food items are beyond reach of most Nigerians”, he declared.

He said while reports suggest that the Federal Government is not ignoring the protests, the worrisome reality is whether the government will decisively respond by coming out with a clearly defined economic policy, which should once and for all resolve the challenge of subsidy withdrawal and floating the exchange rate.

“Withdrawal of subsidy and floating the Naira against other major currencies are very necessary decisions, which should have been integral part of broader economic plans. Withdrawing subsidy without addressing the question of what needs to be done to guarantee local production of petroleum products is bound to have the current mess of skyrocketed increase in prices of petroleum products.

“Similarly, floating the Naira against other major currencies without taking the needed steps to reduce imports will also produce what we have today whereby the value of the Naira is permanently on a downward slide.

“Once government is unable to settle these issues, it is predictable that cost of living will continue to go up. Once prices of necessities are beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians, citizens will respond in the streets to compel our leaders to do the needful. This is the value of democracy”, he stated.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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