John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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A Nigerian Spring?

by John Campbell
January 4, 2012

A vendor displays a newspaper showing headlines of an increment in the price of petrol in Lagos January 2, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders.

Debate continues to rage in Nigeria over President Jonathan’s intention to remove fuel subsidies. Business Day Online cites a former Nigerian official as saying, “there is never a time the level of anger in society has risen to what is obtainable now.” Could anger over the threatened removal of the popular fuel subsidy be the catalyst that provokes broad-scale unrest?

In the past, observers have said that sustained protest in Nigeria is unlikely because ordinary Nigerians cannot afford to take too much time away from work. But technology may have changed the equation. Bill Wasik writes in “Crowd Control,” in the January 2012 issue of Wired magazine, that, “Today’s protests, revolts, and riots are self-organizing, hyper-networked—and headed for a city near you.” He notes in cases in North Africa, UK, the US, and elsewhere, that for these protesting groups, “suddenly coalescing into a crowd feels like stepping out from the shadows, like forcing society to respect the numbers that they now know themselves to command.”

In the US example, “street protesters were merely the visible symbol of the giant, subterranean mob of Americans struggling to get by.” “What’s really revolutionary about all these gatherings—what remains both dangerous and magnificent about them—is the way they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space.”

But for this to happen, “for tech to become effective as a tool for civil disorder,” Wasik explains, “it first had to insinuate itself into people’s daily lives.” Has this happened in Nigeria? Perhaps the process is further along than most realize. The telecom industry in Nigeria is robust and it is paralleled by a youth bulge, largely unemployed, but tech savvy. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, there are over eighty-eight million active mobile phones in Nigeria. Nigeria also has an Occupy movement, though little is reported about it. The stage appears to be set.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Obinnosource

    This period calls for total reflection and prayers…!

  • Posted by Sammy

    Go on…

  • Posted by Audrey

    Nigerian Spring you said? Do you guys think you have the liver to do something? A backing dog
    does not bite.

  • Posted by Remi Okunlola

    NNPC/PPMC/PPPRA importation and re-sale of petroleum products only ever benefited the few who made easy and plentiful cash – at great cost to ordinary Nigerians. There was never true pricing benefit to the ordinary citizen. I should know. 2. There never has been true subsidy in petroleum product pricing in Nigeria. We should stop confusing a regulated pricing regime for a discounted one. A simple international market/pricing analysis will establish this. What the government has finally done is replace a regulated pricing regime for one to be determined by the market. 3. What we actually require is government enforcement/guarantee of a true market for petroleum products. The government must ensure that Nigerians are not subject to market/pricing collusion by marketers – no cartels – no abuse of dominant position – etc. Petroleum product pricing will fall much sooner than most people imagine. 4. We need to be rid of this so called ‘subsidy’ to remove the last outstanding excuse for poor government. 5. Nigerians should look more to the true market as the more efficient allocator of scarce resources/capital. 6. The petroleum product debate is a poor cause upon which to let rip the voice of the good and longsuffering people of Nigeria. Let us push for good government – against the detestable wages and perks of ‘elected’ officials – against self serving, incompetent, rudderless, wasteful and corrupt leadership. We need to protest the moral bankruptcy at the heart of our government and leadership. Nigerians must speak up now. We have been cowardly and silent for too long. The world awaits the voice of a strong, committed, yearning, Nigerian people. Remi Okunlola.

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