In simple terms, “Head Fake” refers to a strategy whereby, in a given scenario, a participant suggests that he/she is moving in one direction, only to suddenly move in the opposite direction. I am afraid that is what has been played on Nigerians, by a supposedly elected government nonetheless. Like a thief in the night, Jonah sneaked subsidy removal on Nigerians, in a tactless manner, while they were still ‘debating’.
In order to setup the strategy, the government presented a group of its economic team members to the TV studios, who came prepared to inundate the masses with a lot of techno-bable and sprinkles of dizzying graphs, charts and suspicious numbers, all meant to convince and justify the need for subsidy removal. They even conveyed the message that this TV exercise was part of their attempt to respond to the concerns of the “stakeholders”. In fact, that one lMF/World Bank “mole”–Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (a member of the fifth columnist) even feign a plea with Nigerians to “give us a chance”. Evidently, in order to out-maneuver the normally flat-footed Labor Union (NLC) and other so-called “Civil Society Organizations” who have been threatening riots/protests, the government sent out a message that the subsidy removal has been pushed back to April 2012. Alas, all along, this anti-people, in fact, anti-human government that is full of deceit and ineptitude was sticking to its original date of January 1, 2012! That is Head Fake. This atrocious government fast-forwarded April fool’s day to January 1st.
What one has to wonder about is: When you see the representatives of IMF (Christine Lagarde) visiting your land, buttering you up, shouldn’t the people who love their country begin to worry? After all, we have been here before. Who can forget how that murderous neanderthal General Ibrahim Babangida, heaved IMFs recommendations on Nigeria in 1985? Ironically, even Labaran Maku (minister for Information) in this current administration recently tried to explain away the suffering of Nigerians by castigating Babangida for his IMF policy. Yet, this is exactly what the government that he (Maku) is a part of has unloaded on Nigerians, in a sneaky cowardly manner. Talk about speaking from both corners of your mouth.
Never has a government been this cowardly deceitful, with unbridled heartlessness, especially, in light of all the things that have been happening in the country. Imagine a president, who waited six days before visiting the site of the christmas day bombings, stood there, looked the families of the victims in the face, faking concern, then went home and said, whether they lost loved ones or not, they are going to have to pay more for petrol from now on. Wringing his hands like a dope addict, the callous Chief in Charge says let’s tag on a little ‘someth’n, ‘someth’n to their grieving hearts.
It never fails, every time a government takes its instructions from foreign actors, that government is by and large against its own people. As far as I can remember, other than the government of the first republic, which was then just getting its feet wet, Nigeria has had only two other governments that cared for Nigerians: (1) Murtala’s regime, out of national self respect and allegiance to the country, once told Henry Kissinger (the then U.S. Secretary of State) to “stay home” and don’t bother visiting Nigeria, especially since the country was still trying to sort things out; (2) Faced with similar financial crisis as now (after Shagari’s government had plunged Nigeria in debt), Buhari resisted IMF loan. Instead, he crafted what was euphemistically referred as “trading by batter”. This was an arrangement whereby Nigeria ‘sold’ its oil to some selected countries, in exchange for imports. This plan achieved two goals: (a) a workaround against IMF’s poison; (b) Nigeria’s ability to continue generating income, and reducing corruption. Note that this feat was accomplished without the benefit of several PhDs in Buhari’s cabinet. Aside from these two ‘recent’ examples, Nigeria has not had governments that served Nigerians, in the main.
If one follows the many angles from which subsidy has been debated, it will be easy to dismiss it as a phantom. Some credible personalities (Buhari, Tam David-West, Aluko) have told us that there never was anything called subsidy. So, what exactly is Jonah’s administration removing? Then there is the argument that, even if there ever was subsidy, the most it has ever cost the government was roughly 300-400 billion naira per year. So, where did the figure of 1.3 trillion naira (in 10-11 months) come from?
One of the most economically sound argument the government presented for this subsidy removal was that the country’s foreign reserve is quickly entering the red territory, and that will affect the ratings of the country in the International Finance market. But, the salient question to ask is: How did that happen? Both Obasanjo and Yar’Adua left several billions (with a “B”) of US dollars in the foreign account. Some even put the figure at $80 billion by the time Obasanjo left office, and now it has nose-dived to about $33 billion. Therefore, who stole, embezzled, or otherwise utilized this money, and on what, within a space of 20 months or so? If we begin to re-trace our steps, we would recall that before and around the presidential ‘s’election, Jonah was spending like a drunken sailor, or is it a drunken fisherman, as one ‘rascal’ put it. Perhaps, that is one account of where the money went.
Then there was the argument, somewhat convincing, that Nigeria cannot continue to subsidize ‘consumption’, while other countries, if they subsidize anything at all, those things are means of production. In other words it is okay to subsidize production in order to grow an economy, but a bad idea to subsidize consumptive behavior. We get that. Trouble is, in Nigeria, the most consumptive, and highly subsidize groups are the members of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Developed economies do not provide exorbitant food, clothing and shelter to these groups. Even the U.S. president pays for his own food, safe for state dinners. Yet, in Nigeria, we have a president who plans to spend half a billion naira on food alone in one year; we have the most be-jeweled president since independence—Jonah wears more gold jewelry than an average Nigerian woman.
We have a legislature that bears the odd distinction of being the most highly paid and the least productive in any country, this, inspite of the fact that most of its members can hardly be considered ‘educated’ and/or ‘intelligent’. Wouldn’t it have been more convincing for a well-intentioned government to start its belt-tightening from where it matters the most—eliminate and/or reduce the economic burden of subsidizing an already unjustifiably filthy rich group in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government?
Furthermore, there is the hardly debated issue regarding locally refined petroleum. Depending on who you want to believe, it is possible that Nigeria locally refines some crude oil, perhaps anywhere from 10% to 30% of daily production. If that is the case, where does this locally refined product fall in the subsidy debate? If the cost of producing petrol abroad is 141 naira per liter, is that also the cost in Nigeria? If it is not, then how much is locally refined petrol? If the locally refined is cheaper, can someone specifically seek out and purchase locally refined petrol at an affordable price?
As I see it, only a person in deep denial will now start screaming on top of his/her lung about the removal of subsidy. When Jonah gave the Northern members of PDP the “finger” (that is, telling them go to hell) during the zoning brouhaha, a lot of people (mostly Southerners and ruthless thieving Northerners) cheered him on. They conveniently ignored the fact that his conduct then, whether one agrees with zoning or not, was tantamount to betrayal, because, after all, he did sign on to that arrangement. In fact, he was signatory number 32, and he was brought onboard as Vice President exactly on the strength of the PDP zoning arrangement. Nevertheless, Jonah went on to establish this ‘tacit’ agreement with the gullible ones that he will be a kind and thoughtful president. Well, true to form, he has now turned around and given the entire country the “finger”, saying: DEAL WITH IT SUCKERS!
One has to wonder, what is the legitimacy of a government that can flat out lie to its own people? If this government can be deceitful about when a policy will go into effect, can it be trusted about anything else, including the stated plan for the so-called sovereign wealth fund? This is the savings from subsidy removal that Ngozi has already earmarked to hand off to Goldman Sachs, after which we will find out from Wikileak that another $50 million or more has been kicked back to that brother of hers or other members of the family.
For a man who tries to thrive on his name–Goodluck, this president sure seems to be trailed by a lot of bad luck, if not for him, at least for the collective that is Nigeria. One only has to ask the question, ever since Jonah came aboard the Nigerian ship, what good has come of it? How can a government claim that subsidy money is what it needs in order to finance development projects? If subsidy is an expense, isn’t the sale of crude oil the country’s revenue? What happens to all or some of that revenue? Certainly, the revenue figures have to be larger than subsidy expenses. Oh, let me guess the revenues have been sunk into that 72% of the budget earmarked for recurrent expenditure.
When a person has revealed his hands, but due to unmitigated orgy of pent up ethno-religious bias, whereby, even college-educated Nigerians could not see the forest for the trees, is it any wonder that the country is in the hands of ruthless actors?
Several organizations, as well as a number of e-warriors on the internet have threatened a revolt should subsidy removal be implemented, it would appear that the ball is now in their court, as Jonah has called their bluff. My advice? Please don’ t go out there and sing ‘Kumbaya’, Jonah has no qualm seeing some Nigerians die.