There is this popular saying in Nigeria that nothing works, as a testament to failed promises, failed leadership and poor performance in governance for years immemorial.
References are easily made to the backwardness of Nigeria when it ought to have left its present primitive terminus to a more robust, developmentprone and growth economy given its abundant human and material resources.
Following the present realities that have made the Buhari presidency more of a capricious administration, with insufferable incompetence at the heart of the problem, Nigerians are once again roused to a season of lamentation and agonisation.
We have come face to face with untold hardship, suffering, deprivations and displacements because of policy summersaults that continuously put us in harm’s way.
We have oil, but just like George Soros would say, it has become a “resource curse” on a nation that only recently declared new price regime of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in the name of deregulation; such “fertile fallacy”.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Timipreye Sylva, woke up from a fantasy dream to gift Nigerians a new price regime, with the lame excuse that the oil sector has become deregulated and prices would now respond to market forces, whatever that means. He added that the presidency has no hand in the new price regime, forgetting that President Buhari is indeed, the substantive Minister of Petroleum.
Does it go to suggest that the Minister of Petroleum was unaware of such major decision that has instantly launched us into a new level of inflation? The presidency, in trying to justify its own stand, declared that previous government did not have the courage to remove subsidy, hence it decided to remove the subsidy regime, courageously, so to speak. But there is something amiss here.
The point must be made that whether previous or present government, the failure of leadership has continued to expose the rotten underbelly of the oil sector, reason why they have been unable to fix the refineries in the country. The meaning of subsidy is synonymous with failure, because were those four refineries in perfect working condition, the call for subsidy would not have arisen.
Subsidy is what the country pays to maintain some level of stability in the price regime, which is often anchored by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) over imported refined product. If the refineries were given Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), and made functional by the industry fat cats, we would not be talking about subsidy retention or removal.
We produce crude, and import refined products. When prices of crude go up, what we ought to enjoy, is taken away by the imported refined products, through foreign exchange. Why a Buhari presidency has not considered it worthwhile to fix the refineries, remains to me a worrisome development. If anything, the oil sector has remained our troubled economic spot for a long time.
Our budgets are predicated on the projections in crude oil production and sale. When international crude oil prices plummet, the nation gets caught up in panic mode. Despite promises of diversification of the economy by a regime that seems caught up in confusion, the nation still pegs its budgetary allocations on the performance of crude oil.
Year in, year out, we still remain burdened by crude oil, which churns out billionaires overnight from briefcase-carrying business men without any forwarding address. They move around the corridor of NNPC, and are patronised, not on the basis of competence and expertise, but on who is issuing the referral.
According to Brian Tracy, “leaders don’t react to problems (criticisms) with anger or frustrations, they look upon problems as the essential defining skill area of their work”.
What the Buhari presidency has done was to invoke its anger against a people that have been heavily dehydrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and rather than think outside the box, only ended up complicating an already worse situation. Rather than carry out research to find the real response to the subsidy regime, chief of which is fixing our refineries, the Buhari presidency has just transferred the burden of its own problem on hapless citizens who are still grappling with the dislocations of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of applying the Kaizan principle, which translates to incremental improvement in critical sectors of the economy, the Presidency has simply given up on fixing the refineries and waiting on Aliko Dangote’s refinery to kickstart.
Under Buhari’s five years in the saddle, it is a sacrilege to realise that not one refinery has been fixed to perform optimally, especially at a time when Buhari’s handlers would see him as a God-sent reformer. It is a huge shame that nothing tangible has been done in the oil sector, and the latest resort to punish Nigerians with a wave of new price regime smacks of wickedness, heartlessness and debauchery. I have often heard the phrase, “nothing works in Nigeria”, but I am persuaded to disagree with such footnote declaration.
Something works in Nigeria. Corruption works in Nigeria. Incompetence is elegantly active in Nigeria. Nepotism works in Nigeria. Religious bigotry and selective amnesia work courageously in Nigeria. Embezzlement and financial malfeasance work in Nigeria. Blackmail works in Nigeria. Hypocrisy flourishes in Nigeria.
Ethnicity and clannish sentiments are subject matter in our daily discourse. They occupy elegant pedestal in our scheme of things. Governance in Nigeria is not about thinking through a problem with the aim of solving it, setting a national goal and making effort at achieving it, but about offering skewed appointments to lackeys, issuing contracts to friends and surrogates, invoking quota system to appropriate what is available to preferred cronies.
Those who preside over our collective patrimony are individuals who have no cognate experience, but who dispense power to their friends and associates, in a turn-by-turn basis irrespective of the lamentations in the land. The president is held captive by incompetence, imprisoned by lack of capacity and held hostage by domestic aides who have utilised the obvious lapses to plunder the country dry.
Rather than respond to the debilitating economic conditions in a pandemic era, what it has done was to transfer its pains, frustrations and displacements on a famished citizenry; increase in taxes, increase in pump price of petroleum, increase in electricity tariffs and inflation.
While Nigerians are gnashing their teeth as a consequence of poverty and hunger, President Buhari is busy marrying out his daughters in lavish wedding and ostentatious display of affluence and naira rain.
At a time when the mood of the country is in reverse order, when pains and agonies are written on the faces of the citizens, when anger and frustrations are the visible signs and symbols in the air, the president and his lieutenants appear uninvolved.
All you hear are soundbites of a possible economic recession, due to dwindling revenue, weighed down by excruciating borrowings from all the latitudinal and longitudinal dimensions of the globe.
At every sneeze, loans are knocking, and when questions are being asked, you see loans defenders like Rotimi Amaechi, becoming combative, unruly and quarrelsome. Mortgaging our sovereignty in the name of loans where transparency suffers serious jeopardy is not a road to be travelled.
This Buhari presidency has become one catastrophic accident in history that Nigerians will never pray to have again. It is a government that has impoverished the citizens through objectionable policies managed by incompetent appointees and their inchoate collaborators masquerading about like marabouts in search of miracles. Finding solutions to our problems would only suffice if the government is able to connect with the aspirations of the citizenry.
This present approach presents the extreme of a government that is spineless, thoughtless, rudderless, tactless, and outrageously ridiculous in its priorities. Let our refineries work and see if there would be need for subsidy. Next week, I will dwell on Edo election: A monarchy that is under threat in the hands of Governor Obaseki. Keep a date.