Dr. Patrick Iroegbu email@example.com
When the critical masses of Nigeria say they are hurt, they will react, just like a live rabbit in its underground hole being smoked out by hunters for a kill-game will do – smoke back at the life hunters. Why not? Touching the lives of Nigerians with fuel subsidy removal will require a crucial ritual to stop the smoke by the President now.
Writer Prince Charles Dickson wrote and published in some websites, including this column a clear article on not only how to understand President Jonathan of Nigeria, but also to beg him and his cabal to do their duty to the people of Nigeria. The writer suggests that the Jonathan leadership can be occupied through Nigerianism as I must add. And the piece equally suggests that a cabal of leaders; one can describe as the Nigerian mafia and illuminantis, can hardly be handled. As such, it is because of this inability of government to manage the tough thorns and stains in its Excellency Garment that is orchestrating impediment to restructure and make transformation easy to come by.
A government no matter how it is looked at is bound to offer a duty to Nigerian people to show its need to be in place. Dickson outlined the following points of duty and I quote “provision of road, electricity, water, and health services, etc., and argued that they are not palliatives, they are the duty of government”.
It is important to say that this writer offered a brief detail of the railway mode of transportation, what problems exist, how they are handled, as well as how they are faced due to the intervention of the Nigeria’s economic mafia opportunists. What stands out from this is that a president cannot simply push a group of owners and makers of the nature of Nigerian economic and management system away – just like that. He must see their point of view and appreciate their position and impact on the economy and entrepreneurship for development. His rehearsal of this is important to have a glimpse of what sort of intrigues play out in government and to what extent regional issues and persons can tie a president down to sometimes not respond effectively and do the wishes of the people. For his perspective please read his full article captioned: ‘Nigerians Should Beg the Cabal Or ‘Occupy Jonathan’
But in the face of all the debates around the fuel subsidy removal and what benefits Nigerians will stand to gain; one needs to think also about options open to the foray. Why did the Jonathan government not follow a simple economic plan that works in situations so sensitive like the fuel consumption economy and its direct impact on Nigerians? What went wrong with a simple understanding that a piecemeal removal approach would have solved this problem?
A simple anthropology of economic planning demands that subsidy can be granted to palliate or mitigate intensity of period of hardship or share the proceeds of a boom time but it is not intended to last forever. Granting subsidy of any kind is good, the purpose of which is to soften hardship and open opportunity for investment and growth. At the same time, the same simple economic planning logic requires that planners be cautious when removing economic support services such as fuel subsidy. Nigerians will surely understand a piecemeal plan of removal as far as the burden is not too weighty to bear at a time like what is happening now. Everyone is angry, charged up, and feels cheated by the political office holders in Nigeria. Will anyone blame them and for what so to say? Have they the right to protest against what is hurting and humiliating them at the advantage of the political office money-bags?
To reduce the intensity or severity of the fuel subsidy removal in the over charged atmosphere in Nigeria the current administration headed by president Jonathan should stand up to the game and tell his cabinet officers that it is high time to reverse the gear and look for alternative options. Attempt has to be made and consequences borne in a radical goodfaith. There is no shame in trying to make things better for Nigerians. A policy that hurts is a policy that calls people out to the streets. So is the infamous fuel subsidy removal today.
This takes me to the next reasoning. If the economic planners will sit down and say okay we have over-heated the issue and we have to redraw the map of fuel subsidy removal, it will make sense and that will in itself show that the present government is listening and caring; and not imposing. Sympathy and support will be gained even though some oppositional party opportunists will cash on the development to make noise. But would that matter? Not at all in matters that affect Nigerians in their daily survival struggles.
Jonathan and his team of leaders should know and if they do not know let them be told that the fuel subsidy removal, which has turned out to be wrongly timed, is a fight they cannot win 100%. A rethink for a compromise is what is expected of them now. One should suggest that a piecemeal plan of action over the next ten years will go a long way to softening the tension in the country today. Anything short of stretching the fuel subsidy removal program over several years to come – in other words, on a prorated basis will fail.
For example, is there anything wrong for this government to go back to its drawing board and come up with a plan that prorates the percentages of fuel subsidy removal each year – a sort of amortization program or tax or impact reduction plan effect? A declaration to say we will follow a reduction plan effect that Nigerians will feel the pain so little and will be happy with is what my government will do. Again, my government will work towards ensuring that the benefits of this removed fuel subsidy over a period of ten years will weigh in on investing in infrastructure, education and other areas of prioritized immediate interest and attention.
The most unfortunate error I think this administration has opened itself up for a kill is to tamper with what holds Nigerian daily life and society together – that is, the fuel subsidy removal, which Nigerian masses consider as the only thing they benefit from oil and gas produced in Nigeria that belongs to everyone. And because the wide gap between the politicians and the masses is clear to see, no explanation will ever do the magic to believe in the politicians that the revenue to come in from the fuel subsidy removal will be used judiciously to better their lives.
The anthropology of everyday life reality of Nigerians is speaking out in the light of the fuel subsidy imbroglio or embarrassing situation to the political leaders and the Nigerian masses at the present time. The police and the military are becoming over stretched with efforts to keep peace and order from breaking down. For how long this will last, is left to everyone’s guess like mine. The phenomenon of Arab Spring – which refers to revolutions stemming from people in Arab countries against their sit-tight leaders such as Egypt, Syria, and Libya, has come home to Nigeria like a wild wind. Nigeria would have been the least to suspect or think of having so quickly its critical population mass on the streets now. But events in Nigeria seem to repeat themselves to usher in the critical population mass on the Arab Spring or Riot, Disable and Occupy Phenomenon. Can President Jonathan will this away? Will he suppress it? Will he Boko Haram it with police and tear gas bombs? Dreaming that Nigerians in their over excited and compulsive obsessive hurts will disappear will be a wrong line of hoping for the better.
What can he then seriously do now? It is simple. Apologize to Nigerians and regret strongly the fuel subsidy removal to have come at a wrong time. Let him at the same time offer Nigerians a plan “B” that is economized on prorated basis of action reduction program spread over ten years or more. By that, I mean a simple anthropological focused economic plan that will not hurt like the automatic total removal of the fuel subsidy is doing to Nigerians now. A plan that suggests, for example, from 2012 – 2014, fuel subsidy will be reduced by 25% to 30%, and NOT the outrageous 100% which has astronomically increased fuel pump price per litre from #65 to over #140 in Nigerian naira currency. Also that the proceeds will be turned to infrastructural development, education, job creation and other areas in real terms and outcomes.
Like Dickson rightly pointed out, when an economic system is managed by your all-knowing army of advisers, to listen and know what to choose and discard can be problematic. By it, we can only but ask Nigerians to help themselves, lift a finger, beg the cabal or occupy Jonathan peacefully for a deserved critical change. I cannot end this article without commending the President and his Economic Management Team to have touched on the basic salaries of political office holders in Nigeria with a 25% cut and encouraging lower number of overseas travels and reduced expenses and medical attention being sought in foreign countries. The president should have also shown some cuts on the huge amount budgeted for his feeding and that of his deputy. Cost of running the government is a concern for Nigerian economy and there is a need to continue to restructure, prioritize, discard and limit excesses.
Millions of Nigerians cannot afford three meals on the table. Many feed from hawkers and roadside fast-food corners along the streets each day on anything they can pay for as a matter of necessity to put something into their tummy. The pleasure of sitting down around a table over a good meal and drink is not accessible to many. Surviving on an equivalent of less than $2 (two dollars) per day is unacceptable. Health problems are on its own as everyone is responsible for what happens to him or her with regard to health risks and public insecurity in the country. I think the political office holders should offer more sacrifices to make Nigeria a better place for all than eating alone and hording the wealth of the nation to themselves and their close cohorts.
With the active social media spying and telling stories as I have in several instances stated in my writings, time to do crude and sacred cow politicking may be over. Everyone is involved and everyone wants to be engaged in the transformational agenda of Nigeria.
Fuel subsidy removal for this administration needs a crucial ritual of rehabilitation in a simple anthropological healing process. It is up to you Mr. President and the planners of Nigeria to rethink and act wiser in transforming the people and economy of Nigeria. To transform is not to humiliate, kill or impose social, economic and political hurts on the more vulnerable Nigerians.
In line with a couple of press releases and communiqués flying around, I consider it important to draw from the one offered by the Akwa Ibom State Leaders in the USA for saying that:
1. While we are able to understand the necessity for removing the fuel subsidy as ways to foreclose excessive corruption in the oil sector and help stabilize the Nigerian economy, we believe that the sudden implementation of the policy was unnecessary, ill-advised and could have been done differently for the sake of ameliorating dire economic hardship now being forced upon Nigerians. Therefore, the Federal Government should take immediate steps to put in place, a mechanism to alleviate the deleterious effects on the masses occasioned by the removal of the fuel subsidy.
2. We believe in the constitutional right of citizens to peacefully protest against government policies they consider repressive, insensitive or unacceptable. In this case relating to the removal of fuel subsidy, we believe that while the Federal Government is not entirely insensitive to sufferings by Nigerians, opposing parties should exhaust all opportunities for negotiation in order to bring about mutually acceptable solutions. Therefore, we appeal to the Federal Government to re-strategize ways of implementing the fuel subsidy removal policy and undertake consultations with all the stakeholders with a view to ameliorating sufferings and hardships on Nigerians.
I conclude therefore and say that a simple piecemeal process of percentage reduction of the fuel subsidy will lighten the burden of impact of the fuel subsidy removal. It will surely answer to the precarious conditions in the country today than anything else of an approach. Nigerians deserve to have something better than the total one time removal.