The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.... We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights "when will you be satisfied?"
Martin Luther King Jr "I have a dream"
After ten months of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians woke up to realise that revolution only is not enough. They experientially and palpably realised that fundamental error of Marxism, i.e, the inability of Marx to show or point out how things should proceed after the revolution. Perhaps, devoted Marxists will argue that Egyptians are just experiencing that intermittent phase of dictatorship. If so, then that phase is really appalling. Whatever the case maybe, the hard lesson from tahrir square is: revolution alone is not enough. It gives no guarantee against the conditions that generated it or that tendency inherent in every government to lord it over the goverened. However, Egyptians must be applauded for being alert and watchful to that incipient opportunism of revolution.
The Egyptian military really proved to be the descendants of Pharaoh who didn't want to let the people go. However, like the Pharaoh of old they have learnt by force that power truly belongs to the people. The Egyptian military reminds me of an Igbo saying "Ala adighi mma bu uru ndi Nze." The Nze a body of titled men is designed to settle disputes. However the parties to the dispute must come to the body with certain requirements like food, drinks or cash. The opportunism of dispute also manifests itself when some of the members of that body insist on adjourning settlements just to continue their parties without a consideration of the parties in dispute. In a nutshell, disputes become avenues for exploitation. In such a situation, the parties in dispute will be right to jettison such dispute-settling body due to a fundamental breach of trust.
In the law of contract, apart from explicit repudiation, a fundamental breach relieves the contracting party from the obligations of the contract. As Sagay puts it " with regard to a fundamental breach, the emphasis is on the character of the breach itself and whether in consequence of it, the performance of the contract becomes something totally different from that which the contract contemplates." (see I.E Sagay, Nigerian Law of Contract, Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1985 p.180.) The ousting of Mubarak was not just because of his long stay in power but also because of his abuse of power. The trust which the Egyptian people requited on the military was betrayed through their high handedness. They found in the revolution an opportunity to assert their own power. The people however made their stand known that what they fought for was not just a change of government but a demand for the respect of the fundamental liberties of the citizenry.
Back home, many people have started proclaiming against the Jonathan-led administration "this is not what we voted for." But unlike a revolution, democracy fosters the virtue of patience. A four-year hope drives or sustains that patience. However, like the Egyptians of the tahrir square, we must realize that elections no matter how free and fair they are are not ends in themselves rather the first right steps towards sustainable development. Therefore we must also watch out for the opportunism of power in its entire disguise.
In all the things happening in Nigeria, my mind goes to the issue of fuel subsidy. The arguments - pros and cons - have been flying around but there is something appalling in the campaign being championed by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). In that campaign, we are reminded that millions of Nigerians die due to bad roads, others die due to inadequate medical facilities while the government is spending lots of money in fuel subsidies. The campaign thus ends with exhorting Nigerians to support the removal of fuel subsidy. The argument is that the money saved from fuel subsidy will be used in building good roads etc. The Ministry of Information continue to insult our collective intelligence through such campaign.
The issue to be noted here is not whether the removal of fuel subsidy is good or not but attributing or linking the existence of bad roads and poor medical facilities to the issue of fuel subsidy. Somebody should remind the Ministry of Information that these things are incommensurate. If fuel subsidy is removed, the pump price of fuel will increase thereby affecting everything. Drivers will hike taxi fares, the costs of food will increase etc. Is it better for Nigerians to die on bad roads and poor medical facilities or to die of hunger? In order to justify the removal of fuel subsidy the government is latching on stupid items. Bad roads and poor medical facilities are now providing opportunities for the government to argue for something that should stand on its own. They forget that if the government has an obligation to provide good roads and good medical facilities so does it have another to make fuel affordable for the people. The government must realise that governance is not business.
The whole issue of fuel subsidy has shown how a government can thwart logic for its own use. Any sane person should know that the means by which the government can save money and at the same time make fuel affordable to the people is by expanding the refining capacities of existing refineries or by building new ones. The government can partner with private entities to provide refineries at home and nearer to the raw material. Since the government cannot provide such cost-subsidizing environment, it cannot complain of spending too much money on subsidising fuel not to talk of the crass campaign going on in NTA . The government through NTA is providing the masses with a distorted discourse on fuel subsidy and such opportunism should be denounced.