LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT
By: Denja Yaqub
As the entire world cross into a new year, Nigerians are obviously crossing into yet another year of clear hopelessness. The year 2012 draws the country and peoples quite close to year 2020, the year everyone have been encouraged to look up to for Nigeria to be one of the 20 most industrialized countries in the whole world.
Mr. President, the year 2020 is just about eight years from 2012. We are ambitiously hoping not just to be industrialized, but to be one among twenty most industrialized in a world where we are about the only country without electricity; where we do have oil rigs but no refineries; where we have so many universities but of no global quality; where all factors of production, except market, is absent.
Mr. President, while every Nigerian, including you, wish we have our beloved country listed as one of the most developed in the year 2020, it is a pity that we will all be disappointed that the year 2020 won’t meet our collective aspirations, if in the year 2012, the entire country lack public electricity and your government is determined to up the pump price of petroleum products through the removal of subsidy.
The petroleum sector has deliberately been made by successive Nigerian governments as the only sector on which the national economy depends. The sector has not only been overburdened but has become a conduit for corrupt practices by key government officials and their cronies. All the 36 states of the so called federation do not even think workers salaries in their states can be paid without oil money, which is usually shared monthly among states by the central government in Abuja.
The revenues that have accrued to the federation account over the years have largely found their ways into private pockets of high level government officials, including presidents.
During the General Olusegun Obasanjo military regime, there were widespread allegations, which eventually led to a public probe, that over 2.8billion dollars from the petroleum fund were missing. There were similar allegations that several billions of dollars accruing to the country following a sudden rise in the price of crude oil in the international market could not be accounted for by the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. The Abacha regime was alleged to have stuffed trillions of oil money in his private Swiss accounts. The very short regime of General Abdusalami Abubakar was similarly accused of inability to account for oil funds. In fact, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha indicted General Abdusalami while giving testimonies in a Lagos High Court recently. The civilian regime of Olusegun Obasanjo ushered in a new dimension to corrupt practices in the oil sector. Contracts for Turn Around Maintenance of oil refineries were budgeted for but the funds would later disappear without trace.
You seemed to have presented Nigerians with so much hope that even traditional opposition strongholds voted for you during the April Presidential election in 2011. Mr. President, no one can yet explain why there was such a massive trust in a man not a few clamored for to be sworn in as the country’s Acting President when the absence of our elected President left the entire country on auto pilot. Perhaps your public mien confused not a few. Very many saw in you a man that understood our collective predicament, coming from a background of several lacks. At least you told all Nigerians during your campaigns that you had no shoes while in elementary school. We all thought you won’t do anything to remove the few tattered shoes we were left with by successive governments before yours. But now, it has become obvious that you and your government will do everything possible to ensure the rest of us give up the few shoes we have left.
Your economic policies, just like all other policies of your government, do not seem to have the generality of the Nigerian people as its central focus.
We are still bewildered why your government, a government we all thought will have new visions, new missions, and indeed give us new hopes by rebuilding our massively devastated economy through reindustrialization, is so much in haste to do nothing.
The electricity sector, which is key to industrial development, is yet to have a share of capital commitment from your regime. Education, being the factory of human resources, is still not of priority to your government. The health sector has finally collapsed so much that the rich fly out for the treatment of common stomach aches, while the poor majority queue up in what is left of our hospitals only to end up in mortuaries due to lack of affordable drugs, healthcare equipments, well trained medical personnel with access to contemporary technology and training.
Mr. President, all Nigerian roads have collapsed. Some states, not just communities, are no longer accessible. Even Abuja, the Federal Capital is not easily accessible by road without a risk to life as the only road connecting the south to the capital city has become deathtraps and it is taking decades to fix.
Contracts have been awarded and re-awarded without completion. Even in Abuja, where there are better roads within the main city, the quality of the roads is such that it is a mere temporary construction obviously with clandestine plans for refurbishment in less than a decade, to keep the corruption tap running.
Your government’s refusal to honour collective agreements is even more embarrassing. And this has further encouraged most Nigerians not to trust you or anyone in your government.
Even when a proposal for the negotiation of a new minimum wage was submitted, it took threats of a national strike for a team to be constituted for the negotiation. It took another threat of strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress for the agreement to be signed and sent to the National Assembly for enactment into law. But for another threat of a national strike, Mr. President wouldn’t have signed.
And now, Mr. President, while most states have complied with the new Minimum Wage Act, which you signed into law, your government is yet to implement same. It was a huge embarrassment that you claimed during your meeting with representatives of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUCN) that you were not aware the new wage act has not been implemented to federal workers. Nobody believed you and nobody will.
Mr. President, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been on strike. Perhaps, you will say you are not aware. But, it is yet another monumental embarrassment that strike by these patriotic academics is on issues that both the Obasanjo regime and yours do not consider important. The issues are largely about the urgent need to revive our dying universities, which you obviously prefer dead. It is still unexplainable that your government chose to establish nine federal universities rather than inject more funds into the collapsing old universities.
During your campaigns, you promised Nigerians you will create more jobs; revive electricity; resuscitate the oil industry; etc. you said loud and clear in your slogans that you will transform Nigeria and her impoverished citizenry. We now know they were mere campaign slogans or gimmicks.
On assumption of office as President, in just few hours after you were sworn in, it became very clear that this President has an agenda that is obviously not his. Like every other thing, your agenda was obviously an imported one, supplied by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF did not only supply you the agenda, they also supplied you with the implementing personnel.
All those talk about you begging Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to join your cabinet are all balderdash. She was sent to you to deliver a policy that will quicken the extermination of already impoverished Nigerians. These policies have been rejected by the peoples and governments of several countries in Europe, Asia and even Africa, including the Nigerian people. These policies led to the collapse of several governments. And one is yet to understand why you are so much in haste to implement a policy you obviously don’t even understand.
The tell tale being bandied around by you and other IMF cronies like Ngozi, Sanusi, Dieziani etc are the same Nigerians have been told since 1978 when the General Olusegun Obasanjo military regime first increased fuel prices.
Not even the United States dare remove subsidy on any key sector in her national economy. Even when private firms were in crisis, the Obama administration intervened and saved them with public funds.
The cliques you claim to be benefitting from fuel subsidy are very well known to you. For the avoidance of doubts, we will assist you with their names here. The chairperson of the clique is the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); the Presidency; individuals and companies owned by your friends like Mr. Femi Otedola and his Conoil. The senate has mentioned and published their names. So, if they are the problem, what is expected of a patriotic government is to apprehend these people and organizations and get them to refund what they may have taken illegally.
It’s a shame really; that a country considered one of the major oil producing countries is now a leading oil importing countries. When President Obasanjo was in office, each time he raises the pump price of fuel, one of his numerous reasons is that he wants to repair refineries. Instead, what we now have are four completely dead refineries. The roads he claimed he would repair have all gotten deeper in craters. Industries have totally collapsed or relocated to neighbouring countries. And consequently, we have several thousands of people out of jobs. With the absence of public electricity, and your intention to increase the cost of fuel this year, the remaining industries will all go. Even the informal sector that has kept most hitherto unemployed people busy will disappear as well. And not even the almost one trillion naira security vote will contain the rate of crimes that will follow.
Mr. President, those who are encouraging you to ignore the general opposition to your determination to remove subsidy on petroleum will abandon you completely when you begin to pay the price, because there will be very massive protests across the country, the magnitude and characteristic will be such that you could never have imagined. You seem to be reading our people wrongly.
Even the pervasive menace being unleashed on Nigerians by Boko Haram will grow deeper, because what led to their advent is certainly much more than religion. It is socio economic. A group who have publicly declared lack of interest in formal education because majority of those with formal education are yet to find a place to use their certificates will certainly be ready to advance further than flying the banner of religion when the rest of Nigeria rise up in unison to demand for good governance. Nigerians are not as docile as you seem to assume.
In Nigeria today, there are bottled up anger of varying degrees and all everyone is waiting for is just a spark, and you will provide the spark when you remove fuel subsidy.
You do not need to remove fuel subsidy before getting us good roads; new refineries; good and accessible healthcare services; qualitative educational institutions; functional electricity etc. If you half the number of your special advisers/assistants, ministers and reduce the cost of maintaining your kitchen you can build refineries and light up the country with functional electricity. The issue of reducing the number of ministers is a constitutional matter and Nigerians will be ready to support an amendment to this effect, not your seven years single tenure plan. We don’t even need more than two or three people from each state in the National Assembly. Why should we continue with thirty six states, many of which are mere imaginations of what a state should be?
In countries where good governance thrives government and its officials sacrifice their allowances, in some cases reduce their salaries when they are hit with economic recession. No sensible government will impose further poverty inducing measures on the citizens during recession because economic recession itself is a major breeder of mass uprising.
We can’t accept to pay more for fuel when we can’t identify what you and your friends have sacrificed. We can’t pay more for anything when one of your key ministers has been publicly accused of buying a mansion in Europe for several millions of dollars. Why should anybody believe Nigeria is broke when your government had to hire two aircrafts to convey your delegation to Australia just because they wanted business class?
Mr. President, no one believe you or your government and everyone is just waiting for the spark when you finally ignore us and increase fuel prices through the removal of fuel subsidy. What will follow will make the year 2012 the year that the entire country will rise in unison for total liberation.
Mr. President, we need a happy new year.