By Anthony Akinola
Even the most ardent critic of General Ibrahim Babangida would agree with him that President Goodluck Jonathan’s removal of the oil subsidy was “ill-timed”. General Babangida earned himself the sobriquet of “Maradona” for his tactics of `wrong-footing’ Nigerians, leading them in endless debates when he had actually made up his mind on what to do! Dr Goodluck Jonathan would appear to have bought into the `Maradona tactics’ removing as he did the subsidy on oil on New Year’s Day while debates on the issue had been expected to last until April 2012.
Just like our senior Maradona, General Ibrahim Babangida, experienced a `miskick’ in his decision to annul the presidential election of June 12 1993. President Goodluck Jonathan may `have’ equally sustained a serious political `ankle injury’ that could have untold implications for his career. Nigerians are angry, and this anger may just have begun.
The fears that ordinary Nigerians have about the removal of the oil subsidy may have been vindicated by the instant response of the market. Transport fares have sky-rocketed while prices of food items have equally gone up.
House owners will transfer real and perceived expenses to hapless tenants. In a nation where most citizens live on less than 200 naira per day, it is hard to see how the removal of the oil subsidy would be in the long term interests of the poor.
President Jonathan may have provoked an unnecessary crisis but our governors, irrespective of the political parties they belong to, cannot be exonerated from this malaise. They must not attempt to make political capital out of it because most of them supported Goodluck Jonathan’s proposal vis-à-vis the oil subsidy. They argued vociferously that the removal of the oil subsidy would help them meet financial obligations which include the payment of the minimum wage of 18,000 (eighteen thousand naira) per month. We also do not have the moral right to blame voters for the election of Goodluck Jonathan as President, not least because we were all victims of the politics of that sentiment that produced him. The state governments may very well be able to pay the minimum wage now that the subsidy on oil has been removed but the truth of the matter is that the circumstances of ordinary Nigerians have been made worse.
The real problem with our society – a problem Jonathan himself cannot deny –is that we are corrupt. The problem has not been with the availability of funds for the implementation of infrastructural agenda; monies made available for improvements in our roads and electricity, for instance, have disappeared into private bank accounts. The political termites of our economy have always ensured that such monies were eaten up. Goodluck Jonathan has not demonstrated bold leadership in the fight against corruption; his failure to declare his own assets has helped quite a lot of uncomplimentary insinuations. Rightly or wrongly, many assume Goodluck Jonathan is corrupt.Even when his removal of the oil subsidy may not be without its own advantages, the prevailing culture of corruption argues the case for public scepticism.
It might have been a sermon to the deaf but not many can fault General Muhammadu Buhari’s admonition to Goodluck Jonathan and other politicians that the curtailment of their greed is the beginning of sanity in our society. There is too much corruption in the land, and the greed of politicians and public officials is legendary. Too many people earn too much money for doing very little. The allowances politicians award themselves are unjustified, as are also the money-gulping. frivolous trips they make to overseas countries. The greed of the elite must be curtailed, not least because of its wider implications for the future of our society.
The state of insecurity we find ourselves in today can be attributed mainly to general poverty in the land. There is massive unemployment; university graduates can be found here and there hawking pure water and icecream in order to make ends meet. Those of them who cannot descend to such a low level of existence have bolstered the ranks of criminals in our society. This state of poverty also threatens the corporate existence of our nation. Our insensitive democracy has heralded an era of sectarianism comparable to and even worse than what we experienced in the pre-war years. They must be laughing and patting each other on the back, I mean those “pundits” who wish not to see an important African nation emerge and consolidate. They predict that Nigeria will disintegrate by the year 2015 and the blasting of bombs here and there has been the type of signal they were hoping for.
The time has come for opinion leaders, politicians, traditional rulers, religious leaders and men of the media etc to congregate and plot the way forward for Nigeria. Ours is one great dream whose probable fulfilment makes enemies very uncomfortable.