Reversing the rot in
A Critical Exposé on the Nation’s Economic, Religious and Political Cul-de-sac
Olusegun O. Oyegbami
REVERSING THE ROT IN NIGERIA
Published by Amaka Azie at Shakespir
Copyright © 2016 Olusegun Oyegbami
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used, reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the authors except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews. Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
This collection of essays was written and compiled by Olusegun Oyegbami. He has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of this book.
First published in 2016
Cover Design: Realdreams Media
This book is dedicated to the memory of the unsung Nigerians who have died without knowing about how their government’s petroleum marketing policies adversely impacted their lives and shortened their tenure on this side of the great divide.
It is also dedicated to the living Nigerians, intellectuals, politicians, legislators, activists and all who will now know about this phenomenon and see it strictly as an economic issue capable of immediate sensible solutions in the interest of all.
This book is further dedicated to all Nigerians mentioned by name or clearly referred to, being fellow travellers on this terrestrial journey to the hereafter. This is for them to know that we know. I also wish to acknowledge the diminishing tribe of Nigerians who believe that the only worthwhile prayers are, “May God crown my honest hard work with success and may your will be done o Lord!”
Finally, it is written in honour and remembrance of our father (and mother) who art now at peace in heaven.
Mr. Olusegun O. Oyegbami has done me a great honour by letting me read the draft of his book titled “Reversing the Rot in Nigeria” and also asking me to make a brief comment on it. The book is a collection of his articles on some important national issues in Nigeria.
It gives me tremendous joy to do so, as it is uncommon nowadays for commentators and the so-called public affairs analysts to critically express their views on contemporary national issues plaguing our dear country, for fear of being branded as saboteurs and or enemies of the Nigerian State. It is therefore refreshing and profoundly soul-lifting that Segun has veered off this unfortunate and cowardly direction. He has said his mind loud and clear without mincing words or caring about whose ox is gored.
Ever since his adolescent years, before, during and after his undergraduate studies, Mr Oyegbami has shown traits of his ideological bent. It is therefore not surprising to those of us who have followed his admirable life progression that he has now joined the ranks of those few Nigerians who could easily be described as thinkers and patriots.
Indeed, the book touched on some nerves which necessarily makes it controversial, so I have no doubt that it would provoke divergent views and comments from both critics and admirers, but my plea to anyone reading it and who intends to comment on it, is to let us have a healthy, robust and constructive debate.
All in all, I am very proud of the efforts of the author, for this book, and I urge him to keep the fire burning.
Chief H. O. Morenikeji
Former Deputy Registrar
University of Ilorin
7th March 2016
A book is midwifed and born when the author gets a stirring that he has a message, viewpoint or an idea to share with a select group of people or the rest of the world. He most probably wants everybody concerned to read it, not just because he is desirous of a bestseller or for commercial gain, but to allow such ideas to germinate and flourish in order to stimulate further discussions. The world would be a more interesting, dynamic, and progressive place with better understanding based on shared knowledge of some indisputable truth. The world is work in progress, and we should be ready to accept and appreciate this. If this is a truism, then what is better than helping to leave it a better place that we met it? Nothing else really matters.
The conception, gestation and birth of a book that examines current issues in different and hopefully more rational ways help to explore and foster more understanding among the different cultural groups of humanity. It helps to close the gaps and build bridges to one another, ultimately underscoring the imperative of mutual and beneficial co-existence. We are to move steadily from understanding our differences, to dissipating them, and later on towards appreciating our inter-dependence as humans in a global village, truly created by one God, the God of all humanity, under the ambit of justice, equity and fair play, with a garnishing of mercy.
This book seeks to be thought-provoking and different from others in content and intent. Content-wise, the author is willing to wager that no matter how erudite, urbane and knowledgeable about Nigeria and the world any reader could be, he or she would pick at least ONE or TWO original ideas, different and plausible line of thought and deeper understanding, more than was known before. Be you a professor ten times over, this is equally applicable to you. Therefore, you are enjoined to keep your receipt and after scrupulously going through this book, if in truth that was not the case, you would be entitled to ten times the cost of purchase. Secondly, as far as possible, copyright of this book is hereby relaxed and it can be photocopied, loaned out and quoted freely. Decent, rational and cultured polemics is welcome, so as to extend the frontiers of knowledge and assist us all to make sense of our society and country, our world.
The more the labour-pains of bringing out a book, the more the mothering-author cries out, “enough”! She hopes that this child would do well, possibly be a prodigy in this complex roly-poly world of vicissitudes and fulfil its destiny of contributing howsoever minutely to human advancement. Little wonder that many mothers these days stay contented with having only one child! A follow-up sibling book therefore is not contemplated since the truth, if cogent enough is always the truth, i.e. monochromatic, with no colourings or variations whatsoever.
This book contains various writings dating back to sometime in 2008, which started as a commentary on the observed manipulations in the marketing of petroleum products in Nigeria, especially kerosene. The skewed and fraudulent handling of this product in particular has snowballed into so many socio-economic maladies and destruction of lives, equipment and property, such that it begs the question of whether we are a sensible and humane society at all. There has been so much selfish and thoughtless acquisition of material wealth in Nigeria by people who by virtue of their privileged education should have known better. Such people need a good re-orientation on the philosophy of what should be the purpose of life, and then be brought to account and judgement. Nigeria should NOT have been like this at all. We should hold conversations with one another, but first and foremost we need the knowledge of how and why we have ended up this way. That is the starting point.
The needless but palpable poverty foisted on this country by military misrule has deeply affected our psyche and we have become traumatised body and soul, rendering us more pliable and susceptible to manipulations of all manner of predators, especially the so-called men of God. This breed of men have multiplied so rapidly and filled up the airspace so much so that Nigeria has been virtually turned into a huge religion-peddling but thoroughly Godless society. These issues form the second focus of this book.
The continuing interactions of these two issues and insights gleaned from the Nigerian society form the core and inform some disconcerting but inescapable conclusions contained herein. Sampler:
There are no anointed men of God anywhere in the world, since as the Bible says, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. The behaviour and activities of these so-called “men of God” actually border on the criminal and if not curbed, they will continue to do it beyond tomorrow! By all means, we should always wear our thinking caps.
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsible, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” – Plato (427 – 347 BC)
“In Nigeria, we have been led by many groups of selfish and visionless leaders who have little or no enabling humanity in them and so could not develop any blueprint to move Nigeria forward in any material sense.” – O. O. Oyegbami
Nigeria has been variously described in unflattering terms as the giant with the feet of clay, the grown up man still wearing diapers, and its people as the wasted generation. These sum up the glaring fact that the country has underperformed on all positive indices of material development given the huge human potentials and the natural resources available to it over the years. Beyond generalisations of “bad leadership”, “excessive corruption”, “tribalism” and such like, it is necessary to probe further and if possible identify the particular swings, policy decisions, our actions and inactions that have brought us to this nadir of human existence. Obviously, we could sink lower if remedial actions to stem the rot are not taken, because human society is never stagnant, and things can even get worse and worse …. right down to what is presently unthinkable. (A sampler about the American society; people are warning against the future prospect of “marriage” or actual marriage to pet dogs or cats or any other animal as acceptance of the “fundamental human rights” of the perpetrators!)
Does it not challenge our humanity that in the world today, there are countries where there is abject poverty and people routinely die of starvation? Concomitantly, there are societies where we find well-equipped hospitals and factories that expressly cater for cats, dogs, horses and pet birds. These animals are enjoying a better quality of life that men and women created in God’s image! What are we, individually and collectively doing about this unhappy and embarrassing situation? Obviously, we do not expect our God to be happy with this denigration of His creation, especially because it is most perpetuated in the vociferously and sanctimoniously religious societies.
What will YOU say if called to account on this, in the fullness of time by our Father who art in heaven? Well, throwing it up in the air is the beginning of doing something about it.
In Nigeria, we have been led by many groups of selfish and visionless leaders who have little or no ennobling humanity in them and so could not develop any blueprint to move Nigeria forward in any material sense. You cannot give what you don’t have. How could we expect Nigeria to develop if these people deep down in their hearts and their myopic and depraved understanding of life were really competing among themselves about how much money they had looted into their personal accounts, how many houses they built or acquired and how many commercial concerns, schools and universities they had to their names? The fastest and easiest way to stupendous wealth is to have served in government in Nigeria. Check out our billionaires and multimillionaires. Is it not anomalous and disgraceful that Nigeria MOST PROBABLY has the highest percentage of private universities in the whole wide world, owned by ex-heads of state and former high ranking public servants, in addition to the money-spinning churches? Apparently nobody is batting an eye-lid. If knowledge is being acquired “at all costs” in such circumstances in Nigeria, is it surprising that not much progress is being made overall in the society because Messrs Decency, Integrity, Equity and Morality have long ago, taken a slumbering back seat in the affairs of the nation! Even our intellectuals cannot exercise the full scope of their calling since he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Things are going from the bad to worse, the very worst, and likely to degenerate further into what is presently unimaginable. Can an Oyedepo, Adeboye, Obasanjo or Atiku go wrong in his own university?
One would like to know if these Nigerian leaders or more correctly rulers with blinkers whose visions are limited to seeing huge amount of money in their accounts and those of their wives and children, know a little more about life and the after-life than the rest of us. Maybe they know for certain that owning and stashing away billions of Naira and US Dollars on earth guarantees them a place in heaven when they die. Maybe. This acquisition syndrome cuts across all the strata of leadership both in public and private sector, the military and the religious institutions.
It is this lack of nobility of spirit, a deficit of humanism, and the poverty of the intellect even among the highly educated that has spawned deliberate misgoverning of the country in the usage of skewed unfair and ultimately fraudulent policies to line the pockets of the administrators. All these have led us down the abyss. Each and every one of the Heads of State who have authorized and midwifed the policy formulation, and supervised its implementation has contributed immensely to the drowning of Nigeria. Most of the time it has been a heady inebriating brew of oversized ego in a small mind alongside economic illiteracy that has turned Nigeria upside down, and into a tailspin of societal dysfunction. We cannot distinguish right from wrong again. The deliberate misrule and ensuing corruption has permeated all spheres of our lives.
It is high time we started to think more deeply and avert the shallowness of intellectual thoughts that has virtually overtaken the whole country. The notion that the way we are now is inevitable and irreversible is being challenged in this collection of thoughts compiled from observations of the running and ruining of Nigeria over the last 4 or 5 decades. Putting all these thoughts down now for perusal and consideration is certainly NOT a case of too little too late; it is more of “better late than never” because human society is dynamic and regenerative. A little tinkering here and there with honest concerted, focused efforts can make a lot of positive impact yet and lead to the desired improvement in our lives. Reprieve for Nigeria may just be around the corner and jokingly it is often said that the room for improvement is the biggest room in the world!
It does not require rocket science to turn Nigeria around to face a progressive positive path; it just requires honesty, clear thinking, fashioning out rational policies, and a commitment to the common good to get us on the right track. But of course all these must be under the ambit of the rule of law and order, and punishment for any infringements; there must be no sacred cows. There must be a strong will to effect lasting changes for God’s and humanity’s sake; the current rot has gone too far and too deep, and we must all be willing to say that enough is indeed enough! We all must accept that human life counts for something and everybody is potentially equal and important. We must provide opportunities and the enabling environment for everyone to optimize their potentials.
We need to “know where the rain started beating us, and where and how it is still beating us” These questions are being answered in this book. With deep reflection it is a plausible conclusion that fundamental human rights and religiosity do not form an easy mix. The notion that some people are anointed to think for others and lead them to God while they themselves are enjoying great material comfort does not sit well with a rational mind imbued with concern for humanity at large.
Everybody has a duty to perform in nation-building; the leaders to lead right in good conscience and the followers to demand accountability as they critically appraise the actions of these leaders. Many of our current thought processes, policies and expectations are vitiated, perfunctory or totally untenable in Nigeria of today because there is no real people-oriented governance going on. It is more of a charade or perhaps in tandem with our decades of militarized and brutalized orientation and recent history, it has been more of “government by ambush”. It was this kind of disconnection and rulership mentality that made President GEJ to announce a hike of petrol price from N65 to N147 per litre on New Year day of 2012. It was also the concern for the benefit of only the fraudulent fat cats that made the GEJ government create the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, purely as a child of circumstance, to save the face of the heavy debtors who are mainly friends of the government and, therefore in the corridors of power. These are the ones whose toes must not be stepped upon. They can do and undo. Whatever they owe must be written off or toned down so that their names remained untarnished.
AMCON has poured about five (5) trillion Naira into the banks to warehouse these indiscreet toxic, poorly collaterized loans while seizing assets that amount to only a small fraction of these loans. Our common patrimony, i.e. all Nigerians’ money is being used to subsidize, stabilize and protect these “sacred cows”. It is instructive to note that the total value of shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange today is only about nine (9) trillion Naira. That is the worth of the engine room of the Nigerian economy, manufacturing, service, banking and commercial sectors inclusive, which all Nigerians and foreign investors own. One would love to know the few Nigerians that the Nigerian Government is protecting with the princely sum of five (5) trillion Naira amounting to more than half of what is owned by all and sundry. This is blatant favouritism at its most reprehensible.
Nigerians across the board must first and foremost think as Nigerians and NOT as members of a tribal group within the geographical expression called Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) must lead the charge in this regard, otherwise the country will be doomed to collapse. Our president, PMB is arguably the No.1 Nigerian, and therefore we must expect his actions and decisions to reflect the genuine aspirations and desires of Nigerians towards the evolution of a society where no one is oppressed and where peace and justice reign, as we find in the words of our National Anthem. As the hoary sage WS has asserted, “Justice is the first condition of humanity”. In Nigeria today, Justice is a much abused, bruised, compromised, denigrated, emasculated, skewed and vitiated. But ironically, we are being led by “the new Sheriff-in-town” and a Pastor Professor of Law. Phew!
It is good for Nigeria, Nigerians and PMB that he is president today. It is safe to assume that he is most qualified for this job on the factors of age, experience, commitment and preparedness. He has continuously through the ballot box asked for the job for over twelve (12) years and one has the feeling that he is a man with a steely resolve, and on a mission. He knows what he wants to achieve; he is calculating and methodical in heading towards these goals. One can only hope that his goals are the actualization of the dreams and aspirations of Nigeria’s founding fathers for a progressive land of equity and material development. In all these, we Nigerians must critically appraise PMB policies to ensure that they transparently reflect and reinforce our hopes and aspirations.
He is the best person to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency being an ex-General, with utmost knowledge of, and respect from our armed forces. He is a former Petroleum Minister who has set up the policy framework for running this vital industry. He has been military head of state before and been involved in cleaning the mess of a viciously corrupt civilian regime before now. He is a Fulani man, and as President, is therefore in the best position to work towards resolving the issue of nomadic herdsmen versus sitting farmers which is now threatening the fabric of inter-tribal peace and harmony. In all these, PMB owes a duty to himself, God and country to toe a palpably Nigerian position.
While we are waiting and watching, the incisive constructive critic cannot give a pass mark to PMB thus far because he has NOT been decisive cerebral or clearly patriotic enough in actions taken so far. Examining some of these actions and inactions is the duty of all concerned Nigerians. We should talk about it now to galvanize the right decisions so that we can all be better off in a progressive, better administered country. We cannot afford to sit on the fence.
Nomadic life is out of tune with modern existence. This is simply a fact of life. There have been nomads in many societies in the world before; The American Indians used to follow their buffalos around some centuries ago, but eventually this way of life (the culture and traditions) had to give way to a more modernist, accommodating and universally acceptable social system. All available land has now been filled up, mapped, surveyed and owned by individuals, families, villages, towns and states in upward graduation. There are no frontiers again…… Only well-defined boundaries. Even the airspace is acknowledged as being owned by different countries airspaces and hence aeroplanes don’t fly freely everywhere. They pay money for passing through different countries before they get to their destinations. Trespassing is now very real and can be very painful and criminal. Having said this much, it will take honesty, courage and genuine statesmanship to resolve this vexatious issue, or at least move decisively towards its resolution. We hear of farm settlements, ranches, animal husbandry and grazing land enclosures. Some definite steps should be taken in this direction. Sometimes silence is not golden; it might be devious or at the least negligent.
Nigeria needs a just peace and transparently sensible policies for genuine material progress to nestle on its shores, land and environs. Let us all speak a lot of truth to ourselves. The rot has gone far enough and we should now commence the loooong walk back to sanity and rationality. Must we continue to live in deception and denial? The answer must be a resounding NO! NO!! NO!!! A recurrent comment in these write-ups is that we all have accounts to render.
Welcome to the book.
“Man has no nobler function than to defend the truth.” – Ruth McKenney
“They saw Buhari as an embodiment of integrity, frugality, modesty and aversion to corrupt enrichment, all in contrast to the existing order of a corruption-suffused set-up. Buhari was seen as a distinct opposite of Goodluck Jonathan and Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for him.” – O. O. Oyegbami
The Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) has come and gone. It was a huge disappointment overall, because rather than deploy the best in cerebral and structured approach to governance, to improve the quality of our lives, it merely set higher levels for, and eventually, enthroned corruption and mediocrity in Nigeria. Despite the fact that there was a full complement and possibly, a surfeit of technocrats in the cabinet of this president with the highest level of education compared to his predecessors, it was a looting galore, capped by the mind-numbing allegation of the disappearance of a whopping $20 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)! As earlier predicted, the bizarre and hitherto unthinkable became commonplace in the President Jonathan-led Nigeria.
Worst of all, the president earned the distinction of regularly displaying hypocritical piety by hobnobbing with pastors and other so-called men of God, publicly kneeling before them at the slightest behest. “Let us pray…” Down, he went on his knees, Mr. President the humble… pious. All these actions availed nothing to the development index of the country as our international image plunged sharply, leaving very few redeeming features, if any at all.
The defining moments were the presidential pardon saga which really highlighted Nigeria as a haven for suspected looters of the treasury, who would also jump bail in a country which is built on, and proudly operates on the platform of the rule of law. There was also the non-prosecution, or rather, clay-footed half-hearted and inconclusive prosecution of oil subsidy thieves, soft-landing for well-connected bank debtors via warehousing of their toxic debts by AMCON, and the bypassing of official law-enforcement institutions in preference for ex-militants and other numerous rag-tag groups to protect oil-pipelines. Many of these decisions and other embarrassing events such as hiring an aircraft for just two years at N10.0 billion (buying one could cost about N5.0 billion) and ferrying of cash to South Africa for an underhand arms deals for whoever, by the Nigerian government, leave the otherwise sane observer bewildered.
The colossal failure of the previous administration gave so much fillip and sinew to the slogan of ‘change’ of the gang-up of the DISPARATE and motley group of opposition parties cobbled together to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). This is because politicians will always take advantage of any situation to advance their own personal and selfish agenda, especially in a dog-eat-dog society which Nigeria has become. Indeed in the twilight of the GEJ misrule, any hope of change would be fervently embraced by most because Nigeria was really being buffeted by a gale of rampant corruption, and headed to the rocks! The merger culminated in a landslide victory for President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), who had contested for the position thrice earlier as a Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, but was now swept into office as a well packaged avatar and the long-awaited personality to sanitize the country as the APC presidential flag-bearer. After all, his records as a former head of states, former chairman of PTF, former state governor, and former Commissioner (Minister) of Petroleum Resources speak volumes for his competence and integrity.
The umpteenth coming of Buhari to run Nigeria is being seen as a breath of fresh air, to blow off the stench of mindless corruption that characterised the past regimes, in all facets of our life, especially during the last 16 years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration. Naturally, there is a huge expectation and inordinate amount of goodwill attached to this new administration because people feel that Nigeria is at the nadir of its existence, and being virtually prostrate or comatose, the only direction to go is up, since the positive agent that the Buhari regime represents is now in charge. The impunity, weak denials, and outright glossing over of otherwise serious allegations and corrupt practices of the Goodluck Jonathan years, if catalogued, would read like an excerpt from a book about barbarians, or the story of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves. The profligacy and vote-buying desperation sequel to the March 2015 presidential elections may have no parallel in the world history. It virtually brought the economy to its knees. This was, in reality, what brought the contraption of strange bedfellows together to chant “change, change” repeatedly from the rooftops, in other to get a good listening ear from the frustrated Nigerian populace turned electorate.
People desperately needed a change, and the APC-assumed philosophy of non-corruption and slogan of change resonated with them. They saw Buhari as an embodiment of integrity, frugality, modesty, and aversion to corrupt enrichment, all in contrast to the existing order of a corruption-suffused set up. Buhari was seen as a distinct opposite of Goodluck Jonathan, and Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for him. Indeed, Buhari is different from Jonathan in very many ways, but may not be much better for the overall progress of Nigerians, mainly because he carries the baggage of different interest groups demanding his attention for their ultimately contradictory needs.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan did not fail. In dancing to his own drumbeats, he merely disappointed very many Nigerians because he did not perform to their expectations as their president, preferring to pursue his own agenda of caring for himself, family, tribal group, and friends, most probably in that order. Being a president to all Nigerians all the time did not rank high on his priorities. This is most probably why he committed many unpardonable faux-pas and illegalities due to his limited vision of life. He was just a simple easy going man thrust upon the national and world stage by our manipulative Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ), who in all fairness, should take the largest share of the blame for this GEJ pestilence on Nigerians in the fullness of time.
GEJ forgave Diepreye Alamieyeseigha because he owed it to the latter as his mentor and former boss; he instituted AMCON to help his business friends escape bankruptcy and liquidation, gave oil pipeline protection contracts to private armies and ex-militants in preference to law-enforcement agents, to distribute largesse to his friends and family; other instances are legion. We don’t know how Bishop Oritsejafor, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president, was able to afford a private jet costing billions of naira. We can only speculate. In open defiance of GEJ’s ‘cashless society’ policy, this aircraft was later used to ferry hard cash of $9.3 million to buy weapons of war in open market in South Africa, and was impounded, leading to a lot of diplomatic imbroglio with that government.
As an aside, GEJ saw it fit to pay a commiseration visit to TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations over a collapsed church building, an action which would have been seen as an affront and callousness by the government of South Africa, whose 85 citizens died in the avoidable mishap. Little wonder then that the seizure of the Nigerian cash-carrying plane was given so much damaging publicity. This was typical of GEJ who displayed traits more of a ‘townsman’ than a statesman, and who mortgaged and sacrificed the image, respectability, and economic progress of the nation on the altar of loyalty to a coterie of friends. He simply believed in building and deepening personal relationships, rather than strengthening institutions to advance national interests and stature. As for the accountability, image, and socio-economic development of Nigeria, presidentially speaking, he did not give a damn!
Nigerian politicians have all but wrecked this country. Rather than have any realistic blueprint on how to stem the rot and slide in our economy, they have continuously jostled for power to lay their grimy hands on the national cake, and gobble it up. Politics has been displayed as the easiest path to stupendous wealth and influence, hence the exploitation of the failure of the GEJ-led PDP to form an alliance of hitherto sworn enemies, strange bedfellows, marginalised, disgruntled, and therefore rebellious PDP members, and a previously frustrated homogeneous opposition group to form a mega-party whose sole basis or purpose of coming together was to wrestle power from the grip of PDP. PDP, suffering from internal strife and dissention, massively corrupt, and losing its hold on maverick OBJ, lost out, but the APC too, sewn together with thread spun from spider web, could never hold together. This has been predicted, and it is happening within ONE month of the inauguration of the Muhammadu Buhari (MB) administration. What we are witnessing is just scrambling for posts since each person or group wants to line their pockets rather than key into any development plan with specific assignments.
Balancing of appointments for the different parties-within-party has become a major headache for Mr. President. It is making him clay-footed handicapped, and heading for what would have been an avoidable crisis if there had been a dosage of true unity, honesty, and candour in the merger. Zoning of offices, federal character, and all such extraneous considerations on the Nigerian political landscape is simply an admission of the pervasive endorsement of corruption and corrupt practices in our national life. Were it not so, anybody should have been able to function anywhere, for the common good. Even if all the principal officers of the NASS were from only one ethnic group, and their actions and decisions can be analysed and determined to be of service to the fatherland, it should not be a cause for bickering, but because the currently ruling APC is really many parties pretending to be ONE, each unit wants to carve out its sphere of influence for continued horse-trading and sharing the booty of electoral victory. Nigerians are waiting for ‘Change.’ It is becoming increasingly obvious day by day that these APC politicians will spend Nigeria’s hard currency and paper money, and share out to the Nigerian people, pitiable coins as the ‘change’ that was promised.
“Change! Change!” What change? If there had been any genuine attempt at change, it should have started during the time of the merger of the four or five main disparate and desperate groups that coalesced to form the APC, whose only objective was to grab power at the centre. These groups, CPC, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the new PDP, a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and some other elements, never came out with any unified philosophy and manifesto, and didn’t have any pact with Nigerians. Also, during the campaigns, these ‘heroes of change’ with their brooms did not address any press conference to declare how they were going to collectively make the difference such as reducing salaries of NASS members and the overall cost of governance. It was all about laundering the image of MB, and hiding behind him, with their ‘hidden’ agenda. It is all in the open now, and we can all bear witness to the scramble for juicy positions, and the obvious splitting of the cobweb threads at the seams to expose the cliques and parties-within-party.
“Change! Change!” What change? Apart from the in-fighting which is developing along power-bloc lines, there have been physical skirmishes in different State Houses of Assembly; and huge take-off grants paid to all legislators across board. Also on 14th July 2015, the president announced a concessionary rate of N160/USD to pilgrims instead of the market rate of about N240/USD which means that it is business as usual on the religious front despite the parlous state of the economy. The primary constituency must be compensated, pandered to, and pacified. Oil subsidy removal is being ‘weighed’ by Mr. President. It is morning yet on creation day, but as they say, morning shows the day!
Two mainstream groups of people with widely divergent interests and expectations voted for Muhammadu Buhari – the core North and the South West. The core North have always been monolithic in their voting pattern, and Buhari had always enjoyed their solid support in his previous three attempts at electoral contest. This time around, APC, with Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the former ACN as the arrowhead, packaged MB, his fabled modesty, and anti-corruption stance, and gave him massive South-West support, which inevitably tilted the scale for his victory. The OBJ factor in supporting APC, and the transparent impartiality of the Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) completely sealed the victory in routing the GEJ regime. Buhari has the office, but what really are his antecedents?
If the truth be told, it was the OBJ regime in 1976, with Muhammadu Buhari as Petroleum Minister that led Nigeria into the ruinous state in which we are wallowing today. And it is a supreme irony of history, and the mysterious ways of God that he is now saddled with the responsibility, also in OBJ’s life-time, to see the full extent of the rot, swim in it, and attempt to clean it up! Our hoary sage said so much, that though GEJ is no good, MB is not a better choice either. He was right. It might seem, at the first instance that MB is the better of two evils, but the reality is that Nigeria is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea; between a rock and a hard place. If the perceptive reader of the previous write-ups has identified the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) policy as the incubus and vehicle for the continuous destruction of the Nigerian economy and consequently the Nigerian society, it was MB that started it during his tenure as the Commissioner (Minister) for Petroleum Resources in 1975, at the start of the OBJ regime. That policy signalled our descent to hell on earth, and the misguided plunge is still very much ongoing, and is in fact, accelerating the country’s doom. Since they started it so long ago, and it has continued to favour the north of the country, it is very doubtful that PMB has the political will to STOP it, especially as he also has primordial and electoral affection for this same North, as his primary constituency. But until this policy (always skewed and later turned fraudulent) is effectively stopped, and fair, economic, and equitable means are employed for the genuine marketing of petroleum products round the country, there can be no respite for the battering of the economy, and creation of inflation which has been ongoing for the past 41 years! These are the years of the locust.
It is very unfortunate that most of the educated Nigerians who should know about the PEF manipulative and deleterious implications for the economy are either abysmally ignorant of its operations or are conniving at it. Either way, it is unfortunate and perplexing or more poignantly, tragic! A sampler is the editorial opinion of The Sunday Punch Newspaper of July 12, 2015, which while it attempts to present an informed commentary on the Oil Subsidy scam that dominates the Nigerian economic landscape, completely evades ANY reference to the Petroleum Equalisation Fund in any shape or form. What display of ignorance from the very source that should inform the people! For ease of reference, the whole editorial is produced as an appendix to this book.
PMB, on his recent comment on the on-going fuel subsidy debate, was reported to have said that removal of subsidy would bring more hardship on Nigerians. He was reported to have said he would study the debate, and take a decision based on his experience. He said…
“Who is subsidising who? But people are gleefully talking “remove subsidy.” They want petrol to cost N500 per litre. If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control market women, the cost of food and the cost of transport…
If you are earning N20,000.00 per day and living in Lagos or Ibadan the cost of transport to work and back, the cost of food. You cannot control the market women because they have to pay what transporters charge them.
If there is need for removing subsidy, I will study it. With my experience, I will see what I can do. But I am thinking more than half of Nigerians cannot afford to live without subsidy. Where will they get the money to go to work? How will they feed their families? How will they pay their rent? If Nigeria were not an oil producing country, all well and good. Our refineries are not working. We have a lot of work to do.” (Pg 2 Punch Thursday 23^rd^ July 2015).
The scenario painted above is simply NOT true. It sounds a lot like beating around the bush, or drawing a red herring to implement a pre-conceived notion or agenda. Petrol will not cost N500 per litre, or even per gallon, unless government imposes a punitive tax on it. For the past four decades, Nigeria has been lopsidedly frittering away its resources to favour mainly the North through unjustifiable freight payment on fuels sent to that part of the country. Based on these weighty but false and ominous statements from Mr. President, it would appear that we are going to be further led down the garden path to ruin, which will be business as usual.
What sticks out like a sore thumb is that the payment for transportation of petroleum products round the country by the government in a pointless and ultimately fraudulent insistence to make the price of petrol the same all over Nigeria, through the operation of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), with its pricing template, and the payment of this money on all such transportation by PEF is really the SUBSIDY. Such payment is absolutely unjustifiable from a socio-economic point of view, but it has been ongoing from 1976 till date. All petroleum price increases over the years have mainly been done to continuously provide the money for this scheme. It has been a means of subjugating the contributing parts of the country (mainly the South) to the receiving parts (mainly the North), and rendering them vassals or subservient people. It has truly helped nobody to achieve economic progress, but merely lined the pockets of the few members of a cabal which includes many of the top-level operators in the oil industry, most especially independent marketers and government officials in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), PPPRA, PEF, etc.
Everybody knows that Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) or diesel has been deregulated, i.e. the so-called subsidy removed, so it does not qualify for payment of transportation (bridging) claims from PEF. Hence it is being sold at differentiated prices in petrol stations around the country. Heaven has NOT fallen, and we can all see that the price of this product which peaked at N160 in 2014 has fallen to less than N100 per litre now in Lagos and coastal towns like Warri and Port Harcourt as a result of market forces. The same thing will happen to petrol because the same production process applies to it. As the cost of the raw material (crude oil) to the refineries falls in the international market, the direct benefit for consumers is lower petrol price. AGO was taken off the list in order to reduce the pressure on the PEF institution that gives out the country’s money to the favoured individuals, it is high time the scheme was stopped altogether to get Nigerians back to reality and equity. Time for freebies should be over by now, and this huge loophole should be plugged once and for all. The primary purpose of any responsible government all over the world is to plug loopholes, NOT create them.
If the above dictum holds true, one would specifically like to know what the following Nigerians think about carrying petrol primarily to the north of the country under the Petroleum Equalisation Fund arrangement, which has been going on for over forty years: Prof Itse Sagay, Prof Femi Odekunle and their team, Rev Father Matthew Kukah, Prof Pat Utomi, Prof Charles Soludo, Mallam Shehu Sanni, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, Prof Wole Soyinka, Dr Peter Ozo-eson of the National Labour Congress (NLC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, Prof Attahiru Jega, former INEC Chairman, Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, Senators Bukola Saraki, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Ben Murray-Bruce, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Rochas Okorocha, Igwe Achese, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who formerly held sway at the CBN, and Dr Tunji Braithwaite. All these personalities and many more cerebral Nigerians should weigh in on this, and debate on the socio-economic ramifications of subsidy and the ‘subsidy’ being practised in our Nigeria! The reality is that the PEF regime has been operated in Nigeria as a programmed fraud, and the situation is getting worse by the day.
How is PEF a programmed fraud? Northern-based petroleum marketers come to southern depots and refineries, and load products to their stations freely when there is abundance of supply, or under allocation when there is scarcity. For all these deliveries, they get paid the transportation cost to their different locations. For example, a delivery of 40,000 litres from Lagos to Abuja costs the country (you and I) N450, 000.00, and to Kano, costs N605, 000.00. This does NOT even guarantee adequate and sustained supply of petrol to the north of the country. It is truly a drainpipe on the country’s resources, and unnecessary spoon-feeding. Also, it is a wasteful meddling and fiddling with normal forces of demand and supply, in what should be a vibrant economy. Trillions of naira have been spent to destroy the Nigerian economy in this way over the last 41 years, much like pouring water into desert sand.
The reality is that during abundance of supply, the northern marketers duly collect and push much of these products into petrol stations in Lagos and environs at some discount, and go and collect their transportation claims. During scarcity, they bribe with much money to obtain products, which are then sold at high profit to Lagos and environs, while still proceeding to collect the PEF transport subsidy. So on all fronts, the southern marketers are holding the short end of the stick. They are being fully short changed while consumers are none-the-wiser because they always get the fuel to buy anyway. The people put in charge of monitoring deliveries to the northern depots and petrol stations, being human beings with overwhelming needs of their own, are all involved in sharing the booty, at the expense of the economic development of the country. PEF initiated many supposedly fool proof means of checking defaulters and fraudulent claims; but why create loopholes in the first instance? Shit deodorised is still shit!
The Petroleum Equalisation Fund has probably been the most disingenuous scheme, turned scam, forced on any human society to destroy its fabric in a surreptitious manner. The intention could have been laudable even if ignorantly done initially. But from the deliberate systematic execution, ploys and cover-ups over the years, even when the objectives were not being realised, one is left with no option but to conclude that it was deviously planned, scrupulously operated, and maintained to give unfair advantage to one group over others, not minding if the whole society is eventually destroyed in the process. Little acorns grow into mighty oak trees, and in Nigeria, PEF has spawned the cancerous tumour that is the society’s affliction, such that our dire unemployment situation, grinding poverty, and general hopelessness leading to terrible criminality and insecurity, are the offshoot of how we turned our oil boom into doom, via PEF.
The scam that is the PEF deliberately ignores the basic economic principle of recognising locational advantage; that everyone makes the best of what obtains in his area, and life evens out through increased productivity and efficiency all round. PEF has over the years, destroyed productivity in the north of Nigeria. The multiplier effects of this grand deception include for example, the total disappearance of the groundnut pyramids of Kano, the discouragement of industrial growth, high unemployment figures, and grinding poverty juxtaposed with hitherto unexplained stupendous wealth of a few. Obviously, it is when the situation is corrected that the statistics of actual fuel consumed in this country will be known, based on genuine economic (and not ‘subsidised’) supplies to all locations in the land. Proper economic planning can then commence, in contrast to the current subjugation of sound economic principles to politricks.
Needed reform is not really about revamping the refineries, crude oil swap deals, or pipeline protection. All these are cosmetic improvements in the supply process. Also, it has nothing much to do with sacking of the NNPC Board and other personnel, all who may just be guilty of exploiting existing loopholes. All these will NOT bring back efficiencies in running a market-driven economy. It is about policy changes that will start to put Nigerians back to work. For too long, we have depended on just distributing the nation’s resources through spurious subsidy schemes. In the process, we have destroyed the economy, ruined our lives, and created a dysfunctional society, a veritable hell on earth. It is a looong long way back from the precipice, but it is a road we must take. There must be no pussyfooting, as there is no shortcut or any other alternative.
Prof Wole Soyinka, the hoary sage, took the pains to point out some obnoxious and reprehensible past actions of MB, our current civilian president, which can be excused because of his military past. These are promulgation and backdating of obnoxious decrees indicating disdain for equity, justice and fair play, and lopsidedness in the way justice was meted out to state governors during the post-NPN misrule in Nigeria. All Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) governors got jailed! All National Party of Nigeria (NPN) governors escaped jail! There was also the saga of the 53 suitcases which people speculated may have contained naira notes being illegally shipped back to Nigeria, and surreptitiously allowed in, with the highest level connivance. Fela, the maverick music maestro and legend, was railroaded into jail for five years via Decree 2, for failing to declare $1,200.00 which was his legitimate cash, as he tried to travel abroad for a concert. Enough said, as all these may now have been forgiven, especially by erstwhile journalists like Tunde Thompson and his colleague who were also clamped into jail. But when we recall that some Nigerians were executed through the use of these backdated decrees, the harm in that respect could never be undone.
In recent memory, Dr Fredrick Fasheun, a factional Odua People’s Congress (OPC) leader, was not much complimentary in Saturday Punch of 21st March 2015, while commenting on PMB’s utterances after losing his third presidential election contest in 2011. Fasheun said he did not believe in the anti-corruption mantra being broadcast by the opposition party. He said “I am not carried away by the fact that somebody is not corrupt… People are turning history upside down. Who is not corrupt? Have we forgotten the $2.8 billion lost? Have we forgotten the 52 suitcases filled with new currencies? Have we forgotten the chairmanship of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF)? Have we forgotten that somebody recently said that if he doesn’t win the election or if the election does not go in his favour, the blood of baboon will mix with the blood of dogs?”
History teaches us about the past, to enable us understand the present, and be able to make intelligent predictions about the future. If proper lessons are learnt from our historical antecedents, we could influence the direction of societal growth in a positive way. We should therefore highlight the history of PMB’s earlier handling of Nigeria so that he will realise the effects of his previous policies, and create opportunities to correct his mistakes, and reshape the future. If this honest critical, albeit benign analysis is not made, the chance for a policy review and reversal will be slim indeed, and PMB might destroy the country further. In truth, he started us on the path to economic decline and ruin; the governments of Ibrahim Babangida, General Sani Abacha, and OBJ as civilian president deepened it, while the last government of GEJ frankly accelerated it.
The Nigerian society has been witnessing fuel scarcity and its rupture effect on our socio-economic life for almost forty years now. If a country cannot PERMANENTLY solve a critical problem like petroleum products supply and distribution for such a long duration, then that country does not really deserve the respect of the rest of the civilised world. It must be doing something fundamentally wrong, and the leaders, i.e. the people who constitute the government, should take the full flak for such a glaring failure. The supply of fuel to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria ought not to be handled as a social service and done on the basis of subsidies and allocations, which invariably leads to manipulations, favouritism, and fraud. It is such a vital aspect of daily life that must not be politicised or left to the leprous hands of venal government officials, which has unfortunately been the case for Nigeria in the last 40-odd years. A lot of effort is usually deployed through outright lies and government propaganda machinery to hide the truth and defend the patently indefensible. In all these years, money from southern Nigeria petroleum consumers, marketers and later, from the federation account is being used to carry petrol around to far flung areas just to ensure equal price. This is wrong and unjust. Why is cow not sold at equal price in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Benin, Onitsha, and Kano?
Some of these attempts to hide the truth range from the usage of jargons to deceive the people, drawing a red herring to divert attention such as alleging sabotage by NLC, Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), or Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), to the purely ludicrous actions by government functionaries. Government spin doctors confuse the issues by making reference to poor operation of the refineries, hoarding by dealers, smuggling across the borders, lack of patriotism, product diversion, etc. They ignore the fact that if the product was in full steady supply without the spurious subsidy regime, as it should be in a competitive market-oriented economy, all these scenarios will simply vanish. For example, no dealer will then have any basis to hoard products. We would not descend to a pathetic charade of a Petroleum Minister who has the responsibility to oversee the filling of depots and terminals with petrol country-wide, leaving the depots dry, and going to petrol stations to look for dealers who are imaginary hoarders of fuel not supplied by the government in the first instance. The product should have been adequately supplied and distributed through private enterprise, which promotes efficiency.
Why should the federal government take interest in sending petrol to Akwa Ibom, Ife, Lokoja or Daura, paid for from state and local government allocations in addition to price already hiked by PPPRA template? This is an economic activity which should only be for product quality, not for price and quantity. For example, residents of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri who are paying more for food, housing, and security by reason of location should not bear the burden of reducing the economic price of petrol in Kano, Jos, Yola, Daura and all the other far-flung places, through the activities of PEF and PPPRA. It is unjustifiable, it is economic slavery. What are the southern politicians, governors, and legislators doing? Adams Oshiomhole, Abiola Ajimobi and co. know these things, but their acquiescence and endorsement through obvious inaction is really a betrayal of the sacred trust reposed in them by their electorate. Those who know should educate others because equity, justice, and fair play ought to be the basis of any democracy, and not the sharing of posts, perks and security votes. Our democracy should not be different. What of the people and institutions who are supposed to pursue the cause of justice in the society? Are they ignorant, lazy, or complicit? The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)? Babatunde Fashola? Kayode Fayemi? Prof Yemi Oshinbajo?
The minimum irreducible step towards the sanitization of the Nigerian economy is the scrapping of the PEF, PPPRA and their price manipulation activities. It is non-negotiable. It is being economical with the truth to say that it will cause any upheaval on the socio-economic landscape. It will NOT. What will happen is that we will sell petrol at basically graduated incremental prices as you move further away from the supply source; be it the depots or the ports, and efficiency in running the oil industry and ultimately the whole economy will be restored. Prices will fall below N80.00 per litre at the initial stage, especially in Lagos and the other coastal cities, and will be higher by no more than N30.00 in the farthest parts of the country. But later, these prices will fall further as economic considerations of competition, efficiency, and economies of scale come into play. Subsidy thieves, rent seekers, jobbers, and corrupt technocrats who have been blocking needed reforms will lose out. This is the burden for PMB and his team of broom-swishing change agents. Everyone knows that the three main things this government should do are as follows: (1) Fight corruption (2) fight corruption (3) fight corruption. The start-off point and continuing source of corruption in Nigeria is the PEF policy of equal price of petrol everywhere, and most of the other malfeasance in the oil industry derived from it.
The first place to start the fight against corruption is to dismantle the fraud and deception that has been the policy employed to move petrol round the country, for the past 41 years! Proper running of the economy demands that we dismantle the charade of allocating petroleum products in any shape, shade, or form. We would have permanently solved the problem of pervasive perennial and endemic embarrassing fuel scarcity the day fuel is freely available at every petrol station in the country, without having to look up to the government. Governance is not about sharing petrol to depots, towns, and states. There are far more compelling issues to tackle, and may God give PMB the sagacity, statesmanship, love of ALL Nigerians, and guts to do that which is right. Nobody benefits from saying “but I told you so…” if or when the right road is not taken. We should not be hoodwinked and led into a deeper hole and eventual oblivion.
All this has been written not as an indictment, but as a contribution towards nation-building, where we are all stakeholders. Anybody who knows anything beneficial has the duty to bring his knowledge, insight, and recommendations to the table, in the overall interest of the development of our fatherland. For too long, Nigeria has been a blight on the rest of the civilised world. We all have responsibilities for and towards one another, and finally, finally, finally… in the fullness of time, we all have accounts to render.
Written 16th July 2015.
“We talk generally and glibly about corruption and the ‘Nigerian factor’ as if corruption has a decidedly Nigerian hue or parentage. But all this should NOT have been so.” – O. O. Oyegbami
“You cannot solve a problem from the same mindset that created it. You have to learn to see the world anew.” – Albert Einstein
Everyone now knows that Nigeria is a hell-hole, and that on the indices of everything that is progressive, predictable, productive, and positive, we are steadily slipping down the abyss. We are so full of analytical self-pity and sometimes, deprecating humour, so much that a thriving humour industry made up of successful professional comedians has grown there from. Our comedians, products of the self-same decaying society, concoct jokes that portray Nigerians as being congenitally corrupt, and we all guffaw, cackle, shriek, and slap our thighs with gleeful abandonment.
It seems we all know WHAT we have become – the butt of jokes about decency and our lack of it in everyday life, but we are very thin on the WHY and HOW we arrived at this sorry state of affairs. We talk generally and glibly about corruption and the ‘Nigerian factor’ as if corruption has a decidedly Nigerian hue or parentage. But all this should NOT have been so.
The religious sect is not left behind. They have seized the moment to pontificate, prophesy, and proffer their prayerful insights, adducing the certitude of generational curses and demonic forces in our airspace, and with the same breath declaring that God loves Nigerians in spite of our sins, or else we would all have been incinerated already. Even a former head of state who left high office to acquire higher education in political science has now become a veritable prayer warrior to salvage the homeland! The mantra is “If not for the power of our fervent prayers…”
We do have problems, and that is putting it mildly, but the stark unvarnished truth is that Nigeria has really become a glitch, blight on the face of the expected smooth-sailing ship of correctness and properly ordered life. At best, we are being tolerated most probably because of our crude oil, while in situations where strict judgments are applied, we are detested and ostracised because simply put, we DO NOT MEASURE UP! Such instances include aviation safety standards, and recently in the potentiality for terrorism.
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“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” - Franz Fanon