Petroleum subsidy blues: The patriots, the pretenders

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MIKE Ozekhome
MIKE Ozekhome

By Mike Ozekhome

 

INTRODUCTION

LAST week, we commenced our discourse on this volatile issue. In Nigeria, oil is life. Life is oil. Last week, I took a periscopic view of what is deregulation, countries that have deregulated; the advantages and disadvantages of deregulation; why Nigerians are angry at the new brazen deregulation; and facts versus fiction regarding deregulation. I then took us down memory lane by visiting history, to show my very strong views about deregulation in 2011 (9 years ago), against complete deregulation of the oil sector, until certain things had been put in place by the government of the day.

Today, we shall take a look at the new-found love for deregulation by historical revisionists, who had strenuously fought President Jonathan and his government in January, 2012, when he touched this “forbidden fruit”. Today, these same people now populating this government are singing a new tune, calling for total deregulation. I term them the “pretenders”. They pretend to be patriots fighting for the common man when it suits them and their political party, class or regional interests. Then, they suddenly summersault, when it does not favour them. I will always expose them for their double positions, their contradictions and sheer duplicity. Nigerians are going to now read what these pretenders or patriots had said about, and the position they had taken about oil subsidy removal in 2011. I had made my views known in the Sun newspaper of May 18, 2016 (nearly 4 and half years ago). I speak for the masses, for the teeming hapless Nigerians who are voiceless. That is why I am always consistent and dead on track; not being partisan and not being a card-carrying member of any of the present political parties. I look at those messing up our hard earned democracy eye ball-to-eye ball; anyanya; korkoro eyes. I answer the questions. I even question the answers. I speak truth to authority; interrogate power, and proffer solutions. In doing this, I leave no stone unturned and no turn unstoned. Please, read my May 18, 2016, views:

WHAT I WROTE ABOUT DEREGULATION ON MAY 18, 2016 (SUN NEWSPAPER)

 

“GOVERNOR FAYOSE’S PREDICTION NO 2 OUT OF 20, PUNCH OF DECEMBER 22, 2015:

 

There will be removal of fuel subsidy and petrol (PMS) will sell over and above N100 per litre, leaving the masses in more serious hardship. The product will not be available and long queues in petrol stations will persist through the first quarter of 2015 and beyond”.

 

Me: Fayose, dead on target.

 

EL-RUFAI, VANGUARD, JANUARY 8, 2012

 

“If another government was in power, let us assume General Buhari was the President of Nigeria, he would not withdraw the subsidy. He will fix the problem. He will audit who is taking the money in the subsidy, who is paying what, how the money multiply three times in one year and fish out the thieves and deal with them”.

 

Journalist:

 

“So, why do you think Jonathan lacks the political will to deal with them?”

 

El-Rufai:

 

“Because they financed his election. But Buhari would have sorted that out. That is the first thing to do. Now, while you are paying the subsidy, even one quarter of what you are paying is a lot. General Buhari’s administration would have ensured that within 12 months all the refineries are working at full capacity. His administration would have built the fourth refinery that will bring our domestic production to the point that we don’t need to import a single drop of petrol. And once we can produce our petrol from our own crude oil, at our own cost, we can sell it at any price we like. That is what Buhari’s government would have done. Nigerians made a very big mistake for not electing Buhari, and they are learning every day. Many people have told me that they voted for Jonathan and they are regretting it now…..

 

“There is no question of Buhari withdrawing subsidy because he has been Petroleum Minister, Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and so on. He built three out of the four refineries we have in this country. And he built that out of patriotism to ensure that we can produce domestically. So, the question of withdrawing subsidy would not even be on the table”.

 

Me: Mallam, how now? Let us hear you speak out as APC governor of Kaduna State.

 

“MUHAMMADU BUHARI (with British PM, Cameron, as President – Elect):

 

                       “I do not understand what subsidy is” – 24th May, 2015.

 

Me: Sir, do we take it you now understand it? Tell us sir.

 

PRESIDENT JONATHAN NEEDS HELP– ACN spokesman, Lai Mohammed: (2012):

 

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said  removal of fuel subsidy at a time the country was facing its most-potent internal security threat ever, had exposed the limitations of President Goodluck Jonathan as a leader and heightened the need for elder statesmen to come to his rescue, before he brings the house crashing

down on all.

 

Me: Honourable Minister, the situation is worse today: Boko Haram, Herdsmen, Avengers, Kidnappings, hunger, squalor, disease, padded budgets, disobedience to court orders, lack of rule of law, etc.

 

“TINUBU – DECEMBER 18, 2015 – POINTBLANK NEWS:

 

“Because he (GEJ) is slave to wrong-headed economics, the people will become enslaved to greater misery. This crisis will bear his name and will be his legacy. The people now pay a steep tax for voting him into office. The removal of the subsidy is the ‘Jonathan tax….. The situation shows that ideas count more than personalities. People may occupy office but how that person performs depends on the ideas that occupy his mind.” Insisting that the subsidy removal was ill-timed, he said there must be some conditions precedent before such a step could be taken.

 

“First government needs to clean up and throw away the salad of corruption
in the NNPC. Then, proceed to lay the foundation for a mass transit system in the railways and road network with long term bonds and ….., fully develop the energy sector towards revitalising Nigeria’s economy and easing the burden any
subsidy removal may have on the people.”

 

“TINUBU, NOW: BELLANAIJA.COM, 13TH MAY, 2016:

Me: The APC leader now sings a new tune:

 “President Buhari has, with this decision, put an abrupt and just end to this assault against our economy and political system. He has made a courageous and prudent decision. It is time to end the fuel subsidy and to begin to subsidise the true needs of the people. To Mr. President, I say congratulation for having the courage to remove the subsidy.”

“Tinubu who admitted that the development meant “higher fuel costs generally”, and will cause “pain and dislocation”, said the president did not end the subsidy regime essentially to save money but “for the nobler purpose of putting those same funds to fairer, more equitable use in order that government might better serve those of us who are truly in utmost need.”

Me: Really? What has changed? Where are the mass transit system, developed energy sector, revitalized economy and “easing the burden any subsidy removal may have on the people” which you argued are conditions precedent? What about it being “Jonathan tax”? What about the people getting “enslaved to greater misery”, as you predicted? The situation is certainly worse today.

 

“BAKARE:   

A coalition of civil society groups led by Pastor Tunde Bakare’s Save Nigeria Group (SNG) had vowed to continue with the protests even if the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) said otherwise, unless the government reverted fuel price to N65 per litre. The group literally “occupied” Lagos, Kano, Ilorin, Asaba, Ibadan, Oshogbo, and Abuja for days.

Me: Where is my good friend and brother? Speak out. Nigeria, we hail thee.

 

MY VIEWS PUBLISHED MAY 25, 2016 (SUN NEWSPAPER)

“SUBSIDY BLUES: HISTORICAL REVISIONISM AT WORK: 

THE PATRIOTS, THE PRETENDERS (Part 2)

 

“We continue this week on the way and manner some Nigerians have since stood logic on its head and reversed their earlier stand on fuel subsidy while GEJ was president, as against now that PMB is president.

 

“For the records, many socio-economic palliatives such as Sure – P, Y – win, Labour mass transit, etc., were even introduced by GEJ after deregulation. None at all by the PMB government.

 

“Note, the issue is not merely about increase. No. It is about breach of governance pact by the PMB government that had, during campaigns, vowed never to deregulate. As APC Senator Shehu Sani succinctly put it after deregulation, “it amounts to capitulation and outright deception for those of us who led millions of people, out in the street, few years ago, against pump price increase and against subsidy removal to now give economic excuses to justify same. The moral flag we raised in the past is now the scale of Justice to measure the degree of our conscience in the presence”.

 

“SOME REACTIONS WHEN GEJ REMOVED FUEL SUBSIDY IN 2012.

 

VP YEMI OSIBANJO

“In 2012, VP Osibanjo fiercely opposed deregulation.

Me: Today, however, as VP, he preaches on roof tops and media houses about the dangerous “cost implication of subsidy removal”.

 

CAMPAIGN FOR DEMOCRACY (CD)

 

“By suspending the strike, labour has dealt the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians for affordable fuel, and the movement for accountable and corruption, free governance, a huge blow”.

 

Me: CD, your present silence is loud and deafening. Why?

 

WOLE SOYINKA

 

“That patient beast of burden called the Nigerian Citizen is over loaded; it’s kneel are bucked; only it’s spirit refuses to be crushed. No wonder the gasp that emerges from its constricted throat is that cry of historic desperation: enough is enough”.

 

Me: Kongi, Nigerians are waiting for your grandiloquent and highfalutin grammar to describe PMB’s new onslaught against the same “patient beast of burden” of a Nigerian citizen.

 

“PROF. TAM DAVID – WEST – PUNCH, APRIL 14, 2015:

 

“I want to assure you that by the time he (Buhari) takes over, petrol will be dispensed at N40 per litre”.

 

“Me: Prof. West still maintained his stand, even before his death (may his soul rest in prefect peace). Arguing that locally refined products cannot be sold at international price, he wonders why the common man should pay for depletion of foreign exchange: “no matter the reason, N145 per litre is not justified… right now, we are interested more in business men making profit while they (government) turned their back to common man being exploited or suffering”. Kudos, Prof.

 

“OBY EZEKWESILI

“Ezekwesili, former Education Minister under OBJ, who kicked against deregulation is today singing a new lyric. To her, 2016 is a better year to deregulate, than 2012.

Me: Her reason? It is all about “trust”. Good God! (To be continued).

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

“Deregulation created this epidemic of greed which according to the rules of capitalism was OK. Beyond that there was criminal behaviour. There have been no repercussions and it’s hard to make your peace with.” (Brad Pitt).

 

LAST LINE

Fellow Nigerians, synergise with me every week, to put our heads together on how to retool Nigeria. Right here on “The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D.

– Sept. 28, 2020 @ 13:14 GMT /

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