Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF)
Nigerians under the aegis of the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF) protested the wasteful, misplaced and ill-advised Town Hall meeting organized by the Nigerian Mission to the US and featuring the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Viola Okwuliri. We were appalled by the unquestionable profligacy displayed by the Nigerian government in sponsoring the Minister on a whirlwind tour of such cities as Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, California, and New York. Besides, we understand that she is scheduled to visit four additional cities in the US before heading for Europe.
Such unjustifiable gallivanting is a reflection of the waste and corruption that the Nigerian government has come to epitomize. At a time when President Goodluck Jonathan is imposing mindless burdens on millions of impoverished Nigerians, it is no less than an act of provocation and insensitivity that Nigerian government officials are embarking on trips and travels that are motivated by pecuniary gains, despite the subterfuge of serving the public interest. We hope the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would make public the total costs of these unnecessary town hall meetings.
Several questions beg for answers. What does the Nigerian government intend to achieve with this series of so-called town hall meetings? If the government truly regards Nigerians in the Diaspora as an important constituency, why did the government not consult that constituency and seek its input before taking the disastrous decision to increase the price of fuel? Should a prudent and serious government not have sought our contribution to the debate when it would have counted – prior to making a decision that has far reaching and harsh consequences on most Nigerians?
We decided to make it clear to the Minister that Nigerians abroad cannot be hoodwinked by her purposeless junketing in the name of explaining policies that an overwhelming majority of Nigerians find anti-people, indefensible and punitive. We believe that the only value of the series of meetings was to enable the minister and her entourage to draw estacodes and to enjoy the opportunity to engage in shopping sprees in various US and world cities even as millions of Nigerians are starving, condemned to living in abject poverty. We can no longer accept a country where officials revel in unconscionable acquisition of wealth while the vast majority of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day.
We dare the Minister or any other Nigerian government official to organize a similar town hall meeting in any major Nigerian city – and see if they would survive to tell their stories. It is in Nigerian cities – in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Calabar, Jos etc, etc – that town hall meetings should be held if the government is convinced of the soundness of its policy of imposing higher fuel prices.
The government should first seek to sell its policy products to Nigerians in Nigeria who are immediately and directly affected by the repugnant hike of fuel price to N97 per liter. It is after all Nigerians within the borders of the country who are grappling with the concomitant high cost of living and who also suffer the effects of the wanton and massive corruption by Nigerian leaders and their cronies who profiteer from the fuel subsidy scam.
In disrupting the minister’s charade of a town hall meeting, we chose to echo the sentiments of Nigerians back home who despair of the extreme sacrifices they have been forced to bear while political leaders in the executive and legislature gorge on the nation’s resources and allocate themselves obscene privileges and perks. Nigerian officials’ inexplicable and gargantuan remunerations, allowances and embezzlements have become an albatross on the nation. Nigeria groans under the weight of their deplorable pathological greed.
Like most Nigerians, we are also piqued that the government was interested in funding wasteful town hall meetings abroad while it continues to display gross incompetence in handling growing terrorist acts in Nigeria. The government has shown no sign that it possesses the security intelligence, political acumen or diplomatic skills to respond to the widening threat that Boko Haram – whose leader was assassinated several years ago – constitutes to security of lives and property in Nigeria.
Rather than sending its officials to insult the intelligence of Nigerians abroad, the Nigerian government ought to immediately announce its plans to pay substantial sums of money as a token of compensation for the unarmed Nigerians that were senselessly killed by the police during the protests against the increase in fuel price. Each victim’s family should be paid a compensation of N100 million.
We deplore the government’s deployment of soldiers to occupy Lagos and other areas in Nigeria. Such deployment represents an act of provocation and an attempt to unleash brute force on unarmed Nigerians who were protesting the barbaric policies of their government, including unjustified increase of fuel price and the non-prosecution of corrupt government officials and their cronies.
The NDLF hopes that the Minister of State took time to learn how professionally trained police respond to protests. She saw that officers of the New York Police Department who were invited to arrest the protesting activists were quite courteous and exhibited professional restraint in handling the situation. By contrast, funds meant for the training of members of the Nigeria Police are routinely diverted and stolen by Nigerian government officials. God save us!
We commend the Nigerians who answered our call to take part in declaring to the minister that "Enough Is Enough!" We hope she would deliver that message to President Goodluck Jonathan as the position of Nigerians abroad who are in solidarity with the suffering masses of Nigeria.
The NDLF will continue to advocate that there is an urgent need for change in Nigeria. We want to assure our allies and well-meaning Nigerians that our goal is to ensure the enthronement of good governance in Nigeria. In the same manner that we condemned the wasteful town hall meetings abroad, we protested two years ago in the frigid weather of New York against the cabal that prevented then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from assuming the Presidency when a comatose Umaru Yar’Adua was in a Saudi Arabian hospital.
We remain determined to agitate and to use all legitimate means to ensure the emergence of a truly transparent, accountable and democratic governance in Nigeria and a Nigerian state that responds to and serves the best interests of the greatest numbers of its people. Nigerians deserve nothing less!
Mr Bukola Oreofe
Dr. Willie Nwido
Director, Publicity & International Affairs
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