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Friday, November 18, 2011

Short Essay 21: The Fuel Subsidy Trigger

The Fuel Subsidy Trigger

By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

President Jonathan represents a paradox. He is always quick to plead for leniency in expectations. "I am not David...or an army general", he declared in a church service two months ago. He only abides by the Hidden Hand of destiny that made him the President, he explained. With this property, one expects him to be passive and less ambitious than his predecessors who attempted to play God.

His actual ambitions, however, defy his unassuming mien. He has so far proposed two projects that have demystified three powerful generals before him. Amidst serious national security challenges that confined him to the Villa, the President proposed to the National Assembly the one-term elongated tenure bill. Though I reliably learned that the proposal was indeed borne out of his long standing conviction that second tenure kills executive initiatives and that he does not intend to benefit from it, the President was just too simple in hoping that his good intention alone was enough to overcome the public skepticism that would kill the bill even before it reaches the floor of the parliament, particularly when the memories of Obasanjo’s Third Term agenda are still fresh. Where does the bill stand right now? What made the President hope that he would succeed where the generals failed?

Removal of fuel subsidy is another task that has defeated generals before Jonathan. This ambition has so far survived every President since Babangida, except Shonekan and Abdulsalami Abubakar whose sleeps were too brief to entertain the dream. In the end, those generals consoled themselves with increasing pump price when they failed to remove the subsidy completely. This President is again giving it a shot and his attempt is already greeted with deafening protests from every Nigerian outside the executive arm of government. Nigerians are neither attracted by the pretext of his argument nor lured by its promise.

Telling Nigerians that money 'saved' from the subsidy will be used to advance their welfare is an old tale narrated by previous administrations. It was told by moonlight; by dawn it was gone. Nigerians are not ready to squander their hope on what they perceive as another empty promise, especially given the lightening speed with which the notorious Governors Forum approved it.

The pretext is more compelling to rejection. The teacher in the President exposed him to divulge that the removal is necessary to deny the syndicate of oil importers the bumper harvest of N800billion annually. This invited Nigerians to wonder why a President and Commander in Chief would choose curb a corrupt practice by punishing its victims and pardoning the culprits.

His meeting with members of National Assembly yesterday was an eye opener to the impossibility of his task. They will kill it on the floor of the house as they killed the 'Sad Term' of Obasanjo. Other Nigerians will be waiting. Labour in particular has made it categorically clear that it will fight the increase to the last man. Ordinary Nigerians may take to the streets. The President may not find supporters even among the clergy that dignified every mistake he committed before. The support by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria was met with immediate dissociation from his members. The cleric had to disclaim it unreservedly, realizing that unlike during the elections, Nigerians cannot be persuaded to empty their pockets at the altar of religious sentiment. It seems that the President has crossed the line.

There are unverified reports that the President is even threatening to resign should the proposal fail. I am not worried that much because in spite of his strong conviction on the necessity of removing the subsidy the President will soon yield to abandon it. As he retreats, he may find consolation that even generals have retreated from that front. Or as Abu Zaid would coin it in The Assemblies of al-Hariri:

"If your request is turned down, do not feel ashamed. Verily Musa and Khidr were turned down before."

As they sleep in the cozy beds of the Villa, Nigerian Presidents are bound to have all sorts of dreams, good and bad. That of removing fuel subsidy is a bad one, Jonathan must know. He must also be wise enough to make his ambition a function of his capacity. He must know his limits and abide by them. By this measure, a wise counsel will tell the President to forget removing the fuel subsidy. Instead, he should use the instrument of law to fight the cartel that is feeding fat on the blood of the lean Nigetian masses. It is better to die a martyr of a just cause than waste his time pursuing a bad dream.

However, should the President persist and effect the removal, I am afraid that it may just be the Bouazizi trigger we waiting for so long. In that case the paradox of the President would be a blessing to celebrate. So much fuel has accumulated on the floor of the Nigerian political forest. The spark needed to start its conflagration may just be around. From its ashes a better nation may sprout again.

Watch out

40 comments:

abziz said...

Very good piece; especially the part that said "he must also be wise enough to make his ambition a function of his capacity. He must know his limits and abide by them". Even though I am afraid, as his repeated actions have shown, that is beyond his comprehension.

Emmanuel, Abuja said...

Sir, this is the best Analysis that i have read on this Subsidy issue. I hope that Mr. president gets to read it personally and sleep over it.

Jameelrabo said...

A very good day Dr, this is a very good piece of writing that should serve as a reminder to the president and we the followers. It draws the line that could trigger channge with the masses on one side and the govt on another with no religous barrier. We are watching.....

Anonymous said...

A man does not know how blessed he is, until that blessing is no more to the extend of being like a mirage. We wish our president the meaning of his name (Good Luck). I hope he will not find the opposite of his name funny.

Idris M. said...

Thank you doctor for this article.
"A word, they said, is enough for the wise".

Anonymous said...

If we are deaf at least we are not blind. The so called Arab Spring brought down the Egyptian and Libyan Lords. The Economic Spring brought down the leaders of Italy and Greece. Better run economies are on their knees. May the government of Jonathan has it's eyes open if it's blind and it's ears open if it's deaf. To say nothing can happen is a bad dream for Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

This strategy by Dr Okunjo Owela in advising Mr Presdent on fuel subsidy as a solution to the economic crises will Only create problem and in security.After all were is the subsidy,the so called fuel subsidy.NASIRU GARBA

Abdullahi Salisu said...

Why should it be that it is the proceeds from removal of fuel subsidy that will be used to better our lives and not the REMOVAL OF THE HUMONGOUS FAT COSTS OF RUNNING THE WASTEFUL MINISTRIES, PARASTATALS, AND IN MOST CASES THE NEEDLESS COMMISSIONS that are scattered all over our beloved country called Nigeria????? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!! As we speak the ACT setting up PTF is still alive, why was the PTF DISBANDED?????? Where have all the increases on Pump Prices of PMS,AGO, KEROSENE been taken to all this while that the PTF got disbanded, with no justifiable explanations to the Citizens of this COUNTRY?????

Abbas Sule said...

Articulate, precise and clear. We pervently pray wisdom would prevail for the sake of us all.

Anonymous said...

A word is enough for the wise. This is point blank discourse, even the ordinary Nigerian understands this. Doc, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Aliyu, I am not impressed. You were one person who had 'supported' Jonathan's presidency by seriously opposing the most viable alternative through whom the country would have been on course by now. Enjoy Jonathan's talents and action! Some have called him Gridlock Donothing! I think he is doing Something however He is destroying the Nation ver fast infact.

Anonymous said...

What is your solution? Should we continue to allow the minority fat cats enjoy the "subsidy" which in effect is not subsidy because we rely on imports? or Wouls we rather open the field and deregulate so that there will be competition and the best price will attract the buyers. Government fixing prices of petroleum products not coming from our refineries is a way to fraudulently cheat Nigerians out of funds that could be distributed to the states for development projects even with the fear of most of the moey might or will be frttered by our state administrators.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know where Mr.Jonathan is getting his skills of politics, which always refer him to as local politician or a regional oriented one! Because that's what some defined him as.

JaƔfar said...

I love this master piece.It summarises everything on removal of fuel subsidy. The only likely good thing we are anticipating by removal of fuel subsidy is the turning point of the country towards either Egypt or Libya uprising. May God help us to let it be just like that of Egypt not Libya.

Anonymous said...

yes, someone is playing with the tail of A TIGER,the wind of BAOUAZIZI'S path to the promise land is fast blowing this way.

Anonymous said...

ABDULMAJID LAWAN . What else if not to say the truth, its obvious that the citizens of this country have lost hope in our present leaders, analysing the motive behind the removal - that few nigerians squander the money invested for the subsidy, this reason is giving in a country that claims to fight corruption to the core , if they cant arrest the identified few then what hope does the nigerians have in their fighting of corruption? What is the uniqueness of the few they will imploy to manage the money removed from the subsidy? Are the identified few still in existance? What is preventing the EFCC & the ICPC from bringing them to book?

Anonymous said...

ABDULMAJID LAWAN . What else if not to say the truth, its obvious that the citizens of this country have lost hope in our present leaders, analysing the motive behind the removal - that few nigerians squander the money invested for the subsidy, this reason is giving in a country that claims to fight corruption to the core , if they cant arrest the identified few then what hope does the nigerians have in their fighting of corruption? What is the uniqueness of the few they will imploy to manage the money removed from the subsidy? Are the identified few still in existance? What is preventing the EFCC & the ICPC from bringing them to book?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Tilde, 'kai wushe nan, ta dan fulani da yaje haji sau barkatai, yace,'annabijo dai!''. To kaima haka, Prof. dai!

I really admire the way you use your 'third eye' in searching and initiating causal topics that could provide the trigger when listened to with the 'third ear'. However, the problem is the target audience, who from the comments advanced so far seem not to grasp the Tunis concept. People are scared of the Government's response to any kind of uprising. Nigeria has never been a free democratic state in earnest. Who then would you expect to pull the trigger? I have for long time lost my trust in the majority of the orchestrators of the National progressive and developmental movements. What next?

Anonymous said...

Its a trigger that will surely back fire hope the president listen 2 the yarning n aspiration of the masses. A gud piece thank you sir.

Anonymous said...

Peace unto you my Dr. and fellow discerning Nigerians. You have said it all when you said "why should a president choose to curb a corrupt practice by punishing the victims and pardoning the culprits?". Again, it is indeed a "tale by moonlight" because the masses can no longer be hoodwinked to believing that the savings from the removal of subsidy will better their lot. How has the government being able to check the lootings perpetrated by the high risers in our society?

Anonymous said...

A very good write-up in addition let govt repair our refineries and build more so that we can not import refined one (what a shame). Those that milk our oil subsidy are from inside aso rock and not elsewhere and govt know them let them be brought to book period!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I tell you, whoever advised the President on the fuel subsidy issue is not a friend of Jonathan. Jonathan is struggling and very confused right now about the security situation in Nigeria that the whole world is laughing at his ineptitude in handling Boko Haram. I guess Mr President has found out that he cannot buy out every extremists just as he bought out MEND. Now Jonathan wants to add fuel to fire as he yields always to ill advised greedy member of his cabinet. Thanks for an excellent analysis of Jonathan's fuel subsidy greed. I guess the Nigeria treasury is getting bankrupt and he is finding more ways to dupe and steal from poor Nigerians coin filled wallets. Can you believe that? what a shameless President. once a thief, always a thief type scenerio i guess.
Thanks again Doc.

Kabir H. Kura said...

Dr. Tilde, I salute you for this wonderful article. We have had enough of all this driblings. What was saved earlier is nowhere to be found and I dont believe they are ready to do anything different this time around. It will be business as usual. We must stand up against fuel subsidy removal now or in the future. We are sleeping in a food store, yet sleep and wake up with empty stomach. WHAT A PARADOX !!!

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

A good writer has a rule to follow always: express, not impress.

Anonymous said...

"The cleric had to disclaim it (fuel subsidy) unreservedly, realizing that unlike during the elections, Nigerians cannot be persuaded to empty their pockets at the altar of religious sentiment." I like this rational stance by the leadership of CAN and the asserted remorse of their past blunders. If people could learn to be rationale and objective in their stance on national issues, I believe things would get a lot better in this country.

And can the leadership provide us with complete analysis of costs of production i.e. costs of refining crude oil into petroleum products to shipping and retail. Let them publish the bench mark obtainable worldwide. And let also know how much the refineries are producing and at what cost are they producing. And why is it that locally refine products are sold at the same price with imported fuels? And why would a whole Minister of Petroleum resources be so reduced to acting a role of a PPMC manager in kerosene supply and distribution

When they are able to provide those analysis objectively the case of fuel subsidy would be determined and supported or rejected based on prevailing rationale.

Anonymous said...

If only we have a listening president, a president that can read clearly the writing on the wall. Its not even wise to further "punish the victims and award the culprit". Mr president the wind if change has started blowing since, it start from Africa slowly it creeps to most of Arab countries claimind three regimes so far and is still counting, pls don't invite it hear, unless if you are ready to quit before tenure ends.

Anonymous said...

A good write up indeed. Its infact, summarises virtually every thing about removing the fuel subsidy and its consequnces. The President should not embark on such unpopular policy. He should know that people are dying of hunger, poverty is at alerming, insecurity prevails, curruption has become the order of the day. Adressing these problems should be given priority rather than this anti people policy. WE ARE PUSHED....

Anonymous said...

When people ascend positions of leadership they aim to become statesmen by bequeathing viable and meaningful legacies. What legacy (ies) is President Jonathan desirous of leaving behind as his term in office expires?

Anonymous said...

This is a appealing post by the way. I am going to go ahead and save this article for my brother to check out later on tomorrow. Keep up the high-quality work.

Anonymous said...

Prof., please allow me to continue from where I stopped...
...what next? Yes, all the killings of innocent souls, all the destructions of businesses, homes and families, all the unemployments,all the poverty and broken factories, all the perpetuated illiterizing schemes, all the religeous instigations and the tribal intollerances as well as all the open government hate pollicies are intelligently directed and executed in the northern nigeria every day. As citizens of this blessed country, we are elligible to know the answers to all the following questions: Why does this happen to the North? Who is responsible for it? When is it going to stop? How is it going to change for good? And WHAT is going to CAUSE this CHANGE? The last question when properly attempted may bring about the TRIGER we have long been waiting for. Long LIVE Nigeria!

Hayatu Ngura said...

Thank you Dr. I think these are the kind of suggestions that the President can fall back to in the absence of an honest one from inside the cabinet. Fuel subsidy is not the only leakage through which our resources are diverted. There is the oil bunkering business and the monumental corruption in MDAs and other public institutions which the president should concern himself with. Creating a special agency to manage the subsidy proceeds is diversionary because such never worked before except to some extend PTF. A good example of such failure is the NDDC. With all the money being pumped into it, they have nothing to show for. The poor people of the oil producing areas still grunt under poor infrastructure. As one Corrupt Board goes it is replaced by another one even more corrupt. The same fate will befall the proposed special agency to manage fuel subsidy proceeds. As Dr Tilde said, the president should fight the cabal that feed fat on the subsidy-that should be number on his transformation agenda,

Mohammed Garba said...

Thank you very much, Dr., how I wish all Nigerians will get this information!!!

Anonymous said...

A very articulate piece which I pray our leaders have the time to read and the patience to digest. Many articles and opinions have been espoused on this sensitive and important issue which should not be ignored by any leader who has the interest of his people at heart. Let our refineries work and let us have more of them, thereafter we can see if the subsidy palaver will remain topical. Thanks Dr.

Chukwuka Uzochukwu said...

President Abraham Lincoln fought America's very bittr civil war for three years to make the now famous proclamation, "Forever free those slaves withn d confedracy" Yet d slavery debate in America predated his coming 2 power by nearly hundred years, a little like our fuel subsidy dilema predates Presidnt Jonathan by nearly two decades. President Jonathan must be a man and if the removal of fuel subsidy is the right thing, as is my view, then let him write his name on the walls of history, with his own hands, by removing this clog from the Nigerian economic progress wheel.

Mohammed S. Mahmud said...

Punishing the victims... We shouldn't be surprised if President Jonathan is following the model he sees from the "Cradle of Democracy" i.e. Greece; The "elected" representatives of the masses have approved austerity measures in order to get more interest-laden loans (bailout) to try to settle the problem of previous interest-laden loans, essentially telling the masses to go jump into the Aegean Sea for all they care. In effect, put fire out with petrol.

Anas Galadanci said...

i wish i could get access to that bouzizi trigger!
Good Piece,
welldone Sir.

Halliru Abdullahi said...

Allah ya kara ma ilimi Dr.

Maina Garkuwan Tilde said...

"And from its ashes,a better nation may sprout agan" UNPUTDOWANABLY Tildish.ALLAH ya ja zamanin Aliyu Srakin Yakin Sarkin Musumi,amm ba na yanzu ba.

Engr. Bello Muhammad said...

Thank you Dr. Kindly follow this piece with in-depth analysis of the process of production to the point the fuel reaches the pump. By the time you come with a piece Nigerians will get to know how our God given resources are being mismanaged. I wish you Allah's guidance in your efforts. Happy New Year 1433AH

Dr. Bello Abubakar said...

A good short essay indeed. I think the long one should follow. Let our fellow country men and women understand how we got here in the first place. How can we continue to have just 3 refineries for 30 years. And the funny part is that, non of the refineries has ever, I mean ever worked at above 30% installed capacity. We have refused to refine the crude at home, so that, we could have subsidy.
Again the issue of bunkering has not been address. So also is the issue of the huge amount that was used for election. Come on, no one should talk to us about subsidy and let them not try and increase the price of PMS, Kerosine or Diesel or Iraq will be a child's play, period.