Trying to trust Jonathan and his men
By Sammy Etuk jr
Friday January 27, 2012
The Nigerian economy will cave in if oil subsidy is not removed, that is the way the common man on the street understands the present situation, true or false? Or that is the way our President Goodluck Jonathan and his lieutenants want us to see the present decision taken to abrogate oil subsidy or deregulate the oil sector. Few days ago at a women’s village meeting, a heated debate ensued when they suggested ways of ameliorating the suffering among their members during the deregulatory period.
The chairman, in her introductory speech, started with a swipe at the government: “But the economy will not collapse if we continue to award contracts for building of the orchestrated infrastructure at exorbitant rates, far above the real contract value, increase allowances of legislators, political appointees and others, who enjoy free supply of petrol or Premium Motor Spirit, PMS. Each of them has more than five cars and we continue to buy them more, build quarters for them. We still believe in that colonial mentality which is hinged on exploitation. They use gas, while the man on the street uses kerosene, a Premium Motor Spirit product also affected by subsidy removal.”
One woman shouted “this is the best time for street talk not the high flying economic jargons, tainted by jaw breaking grammar from economic professors and bumptious politicians. They should understand street talk because they don’t seem to hear our cries.” Probably, the government is yet to fathom the plight of the masses or really know the true state of Nigeria’s economy. Methinks, they do not know anything, let’s do street talk. The convener, a 67-year old in my village, Etinan, in Akwa Ibom State, wanted to know if the Minister of Finance ever visited her village to enquire about the standard of living and cost of commodities. The import of her question did not sink in immediately until she started explaining.
Let’s call her, Mama Peter (the son will not forgive me for using his name): “My son, I learnt you have been assisting young people to start business, why don’t you teach us subsidy. This is why we invited you because this subsidy debate has broken my backbone. Yes, my backbone is old and there is no spare part for its replacement. This is my point. Instead of allowing poor people like us to suffer, they should study Nigeria economy forward not backward. Come to think of it, my son told me that in the USA, if such a decision is taken, farmers would have been given subsidy to alleviate the expected suffering: that the prices of foodstuff and groceries would have been reduced in the market, thus reducing pains and agony. In Nigeria, everything hangs on petrol. Increase in its price affects every sector of the economy adversely.
“Do you think they had figured out that removal of subsidy will skyrocket prices of commodities and other items that even a shoe shiner, who pays more for transport will increase his tariff from 50 naira to 150 naira per shoe shinned. I’m talking about common economics of Nigeria, my son. The leaders in government are always taking us for a ride. Yes, they’re masters just like in China including the Ministers. One of them, a lady said fuel or petrol is cheaper in Nigeria than elsewhere. Fine. If this is true, did she consider other variables in these countries, that there is no VAT on foodstuff or groceries in those countries? There is subsidy for farmers and producers of such products to make them affordable to consumers. We always come up with this evaluation without looking at those things like unbroken electricity supply. They don’t use generator, the only fuel consumed by an individual is for his or her car, this is common street economics.
“They just woke up from slumber to propose palliative measures, soothing indeed. With my experience in recent times, the vehicles will end up in politicians’ backyard for sure. The sovereign funds will be stolen by one man one day, the committee set up to manage the trillions of naira from subsidy surplus actually consists of men of integrity, but they will not award contracts for the proposed infrastructure development. Government agencies with corrupt minds will do. The projects will not be completed in record time. Look at the railway reconstruction, go there and see the trumpeted success, it’s twaddle. Today, people in good countries are talking about modern rail tracks and fast trains. I saw one in Asia when I went for my medical check up last December. We are rehabilitating 1915 rails.
“Our leaders are either moribund or blind. I have never seen such a confused people before. In other countries they are using as sample, palliative would have come before the removal of subsidy. To show that their intention was bad, they are now looking for solutions to ease themselves out of the wrath of the people, it is mere afterthought.”
This conversation is true, captured in her own language. Mama is a London-trained retired nursing officer.