SHORT ESSAY 23
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Fuel Subsidy: SLS, Please Stay Off Debate
It is difficult to justify the removal of this subsidy. Personally, i believe that the Nigerian government can afford the 220billion or so required to sustain it on behalf of its people. That is just about $1.4 billion or less, just a fraction of the commission (or earnings) it makes from oil companies annually. That the amount has reached over a trillion naira is not our fault, but that of the government that deliberately fails to carry out its responsibility of checkmating them.
Incidentally, two weeks ago I was listening to a friend from CBN who was trying to educate me on the necessity of removing the subsidy. In the end his explanation boiled down to the sad truth that people benefiting from the subsidy cannot be confronted by the government. They are big, he said.
I told him the government is not honest. I then asked him a simple question that sealed the discussion: "Kai Kabiru! If the government would appoint someone like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to head the NNPC, will he be able to check this corruption and maintain the subsidy at the reasonable level of N200+ billion?" He said, "Yes, he can."
"In fact", he added, "the realization of the extent of extortion came when Sanusi started to question the storage capacities and other facilities of some oil companies whose claims were submitted to him for payment. Sanusi refused to pay them."
I said, "there you are. Let Jonathan be more courageous and have more Sanusis in government. If you want government to work, you must have corruption-free people in it. But removing the subsidy will definitely court trouble in this now highly inflammable country, so big that we cannot even imagine. Allah ya sauwake."
While we do that, we must keep vigil on some novice politicians that are now trying to ride on our anger to gain cheap popularity and access power. This is not about PDP. It is about our being. Other parties will do the same, given the antecedents of their leaders. Every past government since 1984 has visited us with its own version of heartless economic policies without consultation, leading to the ruin of so many homes forever. Though he is the present, Jonathan is not the first and if we will allow some manipulators power, he will certainly not be the last. The difference here is that, like citizens of the 21st century, we are now standing up to it, saying enough is enough.
Some of these politicians were the architects of World Bank sponsored privatization policies that were ill conceived and ill managed. They also designed the present deregulation in the early 2000s under Obasanjo in concert with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The records are there and the memory fresh. Like Jonathan today, they were deaf to the criticisms we wrote then. How would they gain our support today when we know they will do worse if allowed power again? They have written their records in our minds with indelible ink. They masterminded our present state of poverty and insecurity. Their children are abroad studying; ours are here wallowing at home. We will be reckless to trust them.
In fact, the mere participation of such politicians carries the fatal virus that will divide us, with the government and PDP members labeling it as a machination of the opposition. Then the government would buy some people to claim that Muslims and Northerners are plotting against their 'God-sent' Jonathan. In Nigeria there are always an infinite number of people that would swallow that argument, hook, line and sinker. At that point, many of us will withdraw and the government will have its way.
The labour is meeting today. Their resolution will determine when the real protests will start. This nonsense must stop.
I will appeal to Sanusi to please stay off this debate. Yesterday I travelled to Bauchi - a distance of just 100km - and had to use the fuel of N6,500.00 on the bus I carried my children back to school. This is madness and sheer wickedness. We the people are really angry. We can go to any length on this matter, and genuinely for that matter.
The only thing that would quench our fire is for the President to back down. Otherwise, we are ready to take the country high and wild. If this is a joke, please stop it SLS. "The people are like a river," if I must borrow from the wisdom of al-Mutanabbi: "cross it when it is calm, but avoid it when it is violent."