• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Now that governors have so much money

Now that governors have so much money

I made this call first in September 2023. I am repeating it in light of recent happenings on the streets of our major cities featuring citizens’ demonstrations against hunger. It is not Uhuru yet. The change will happen only when the Middle Class begins to pay more than a passing interest on how the government manages the three key rates—inflation, exchange, and interest—and their consequences on GDP and livelihoods.

Arise, O compatriots, obey the call of accountability. Demand actual dividends of democracy in performance management from your governors and local government chairpersons. Do so in tears because of your pain from the Tinubu fuel.

Read also: Economy: PDP governors ask APC-led FG to resign

Taxes have inflated the coffers of the federal and state governments.

Have you heard the news? Funds available for distribution between the Federal Government and the states have doubled since June 2023 because of the higher income from increased fuel prices. In other words, as citizens suffer the pains of higher prices individually, states at all levels of citizen representation have more funds to carry out their duties.

Reports state that total distributable revenue increased from N786.16 billion in May 2023 to N1.9 trillion in June 2023. It similarly doubled in July 2023. One of the fallouts is that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu authorised an Infrastructure Fund, with each of the 36 states getting a minimum of an extra N2b.

A more recent accounting in February 2024 showed that the states have received, on average, 50 percent higher revenues since June 2023.

You can correctly deduce that the federating states are flush with cash. They have never had it so good. Some of them have gone on a spending spree. It means citizens should also block their ears to any stories about the lack of funds from the state governments. It is most probably untrue.

Call of the middle class:

We stand at a pivotal moment for the Nigerian middle class. It must move from the chattering class to play the historical role of the middle classes in societies that have witnessed growth and development. The middle class is the driver of change everywhere.

The Nigerian middle class is responsible for the state of our democracy. A high level of citizen apathy characterises Nigerian democracy. It comes alive briefly during elections. Even that has declined with the voter figures recorded in the 2023 general elections.

Economic conditions often combine with politics. Will the higher fuel prices cause enough disruption to wake the Nigerian middle class from its slumber? Will they carefully question the self-allocation of more funds to the National Assembly and the Executive while squeezing citizens or insulting them with desultory palliatives?

“Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and never will.”

Read also: Insecurity: Allow creation of state police— PDP governors tell Tinubu

Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist who escaped from slavery in Maryland and became one of the leaders of the abolitionist movement, stated the above. He was a middle-class activist.

Research shows that the middle class has significantly influenced political developments and social change in many countries worldwide. They have been at the forefront of movements for democracy, human rights, and social justice.

The Nigerian middle class led the struggle for independence, for returning the military to their barracks, and for the return to civil democracy. Critical players in that struggle stopped playing before the referee’s whistle. The result is what we have and have lamented for 24 years. We can do better only if the middle class gets involved again as citizens.

Here are some examples of the role of the middle class in political developments and social change:

The middle class played a crucial role in the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States. They also played a significant role in the election of President Barack Obama.

The middle class has been a major force for economic and social change in India. They have played a key role in promoting democracy and good governance.

In Brazil, the middle class played a crucial role in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. They were concerned about the corruption and economic mismanagement of her government.

In South Africa, the middle class has been a major force for change in the post-apartheid era. They have played a key role in promoting economic growth and social justice.

The middle class is often seen as a stabilising force in society. They are more likely to be politically active and to support democracy. They are also more likely to be tolerant of different cultures and ideas.

In Nigeria, the middle class can do more.

Read also: 6 major takeaways from Tinubu meeting with state governors at the State House

Here are some of the specific ways in which the middle class can play a role in political development and social change:

Increased civic engagement. Officials at all levels are classmates and neighbours of their middle-class colleagues. If these citizens engage more actively, they can call officials to order. The Nigerian middle class must stop the attitude of “Everyman to himself, God for us all, and may the devil take the last.” The devil has often taken the first.

Advocacy: The middle class can use their influence to advocate for policies that benefit them, such as better education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Social movements: The middle class can also play a role in social movements, such as those for environmental protection or social justice.

Economic power: The middle class has economic power that can influence political and social change. They can boycott businesses that do not support their values or invest in businesses that do.

Social networks: The middle class has social networks that can be used to spread awareness of political and social issues. They can talk to their friends and family about these issues or use social media to raise awareness.

The role of the middle class in political development and social change will likely become even more critical in the years to come. The key is greater involvement and less aloofness.