On protesting Nigeria’s fuel subsidy removal

You can’t go anywhere on blogville without hearing about the Occupy Nigeria movement that was sparked by the fuel subsidy removal, leading to more than doubling of fuel prices overnight (among other things). I want to talk about how this particular issue touches me from the perspective of a Nigerian who was raised in diaspora (ugh, I don’t like the way diaspora sounds).

When something serious happens in Nigeria, like bombings or a presidential election, I often don’t talk about them (on my blog or elsewhere) because they’re usually related to politics and I’m politically apathetic (I do vote though!). I’m not interested in Canadian, American, Nigerian, or any politics. I care about people, their struggles and how their lives are affected by politics.

Because I’m out of touch with politics, it’s hard to share a strong opinion when I’m not in Nigeria experiencing the event. So, that means I base my opinion on information culled from twitter, Wikipedia, and other online sources. Phone is my main mode of communication with our family in Nigeria, but when we talk, it’s more to make sure everyone’s alive and healthy than to have in-depth discussions; it’s just too expensive.

Though I lived in Nigeria between the ages of 3 and 6, I didn’t get to experience the (political, social) “system” because I was too young. If you’ve gone through Nigeria’s secondary school system, or post-secondary education, you have a better idea of the Nigerian system, how things work or don’t work. It’s not just that you have a better idea, you’ve actually lived it, and you may have even been a victim of the system (sadly there are many). So when you hear something like this fuel subsidy removal, even if you’re in diaspora and have been for decades, you’re more stirred to respond I think. If you spent at least some of your teenage years in Nigeria, I think it gives you a deeper connection to Nigeria’s political and social issues than I will probably ever have.

In the past, I’ve let that stop me from posting about various topics. I often think the opinion of someone who barely lived in the country really does not matter. I know for a fact that I have a naive view about Nigeria and what is needed to shape the country up but what’s the harm in sharing my opinion? Maybe I’ll accidentally share information that’s wrong, but that’s what the community of readers is for. If you ever see anything that isn’t quite right, or if you feel like educating me, please do! It’s how I’ll learn.

Speaking of naivete, a few days ago I was telling my friend about the difficulty my mom, sister, and I had returning to Canada after our visit to Nigeria in 2008. I was recounting the bribes we were asked to paid, increased, no doubt, the moment they heard my sister and I speak, and how they went through all our suitcases by hand. I told my friend that next time I’ll travel with an oyinbo person because surely they wouldn’t dare open the suitcases of an oyinbo and riffle through their belongings, or ask them for bribes. Wouldn’t they be afraid of how they’d be perceived on an international level? My friend just laughed and said our countrymen will try even more with a Caucasian, thinking they have more money than the average Nigerian. A sobering thought!

So back to the fuel subsidy removal. I learned about twelve hours ago that there will be an Occupy Nigeria protest in front of the Nigerian embassy in my city on Monday. I was about to share this information on the Facebook page of the Nigerian association that I’m the interim communications person for, when someone (God) told me to check with the president and vice-president of the association first. In the end, I was asked to wait before sharing the information, and that didn’t surprise me because while waiting for the president and vice president to reply to my email, the answer came to me. The current high commissioner who runs the embassy has been very supportive of the work of our association. Even though the protest is not against the embassy (though God knows it could be!), the embassy might take the protest personally, because we’d be asking them to speak up and do something about what is going on in Nigeria. I’m wondering if it’s ok for me to go and protest. As long as I don’t say anything about belonging to the association or imply that the association endorses my actions, I should be fine.

There are people who will never protest because “things never change” (others may choose not to protest because the cause doesn’t mean anything to them; that’s fine). Well maybe things don’t change (quickly anyway!), and maybe they won’t change, but at least you can say that you did something and stood up for what you believed in in 2012. You didn’t just sit there complaining. Like they say here all the time when it comes to voting in politics, If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain!

If you live in the Nation’s Capital (that’s Canada’s capital) and you’d like some details about what’s happening on Monday, please let me know!

5 thoughts on “On protesting Nigeria’s fuel subsidy removal

  1. That was a good call – checking with your association's leaders. I think you will be fine protesting. I know that sense of needing to do something but feeling like there isn't much one can do this far away from Nigeria. Rock it out and let us know how it goes!

  2. I'm proud of you for wanting to join the protest seeing your antecedent. Great you checked with your bosses (before you put your foot in your mouth) but its also greater that you have chosen to make a personal stand inspite of it. Do tell us how it went!

  3. I'm also not a very political writer (I know you can't read my blog, cause it's in Dutch, so you'll just have to believe me), so I don't have a lot to comment on that either. But on the case of the searches of the luggage at the Lagos airport … I can confirm what you said. They also searched my bags (I'm an oyinbo, as you say (I have a translator here at home)) when I left from Lagos back to Europe ;-)

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