Our society is riddled with enormous contradictions: we have a population of over 160 million people and yet we still invite expatriates to handle jobs that well educated OND holders would do; our industries fold and people still depend on kerosene lamps due to inadequate power supply and yet we flare gas in a freelance manner like a farmer who throws away a part of his harvest and later goes around to beg for food; about 70% of our people are farmers and yet we are one of the largest importers of food compared to the United States with just 3% of her population as farmers and still exports food to other countries.
We run a democratic government dominated by a monstrous cabal responsible for the pillage of our collective patrimony while the hungry masses look on in despair.
I have always advocated that a government is never truly democratic unless it is a masses government and a masses government will look out for the interests of the vast majority of her citizens and not be at the whims and caprices of a parasitic oligarchy.
Although, Nigeria gained her independence over half a century ago, events have revealed that we are still tied to the apron strings of our colonial master. Unfortunately for our socioeconomic development, our former slaveholders still have a part of their exploitative feet in our country via a subtle form of neocolonialism. Our rich cultural heritage is continuously being bastardized by western influence and our once rich moral values that placed a lot emphasis on diligence and honesty has sunk into the abyss.
Towards the end of the last century, the military government of General Ibrahim Babaginda following the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which proved to be a poisonous pill damaging the fabrics of our economy and sending many families tottering in poverty and hunger. Several industries and businesses folded consequent upon the prohibitively high cost of imported raw materials due to the naira devaluation that accompanied the programme. Analysts say we have still not fully recovered from that economic maladjustment
Today, following the recommendation of western imperialists as represented by our finance minister and coordinating minister of the economy, the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan is poised to deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and remove oil subsidy. This will cause petrol (Premium Motor Spirit) to sell at N130 compared to the current price of N65. Organized labour including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), religious organizations, civil society groups and a host of others have all kicked against the move as anti-people. Government however has continued to insist on the removal of subsidy claiming she needs to free up funds for infrastructural development while employing all forms of blackmail and deceit in the media to convince the people of this demonic policy. Government has also promised to introduce economic palliatives to cushion the effects of subsidy removal but a father who has rarely fulfilled his words should not expect the trust of his children.
Considering the recent devaluation of the naira to about N160/$ and the prevailing double digit inflation rate, we can only guess that the effect of such obnoxious policy will be nightmarish and cause the further impoverishment of the already belated masses of this country. The combined effect of these policies including the planned re-introduction of toll-gates will only further deepen poverty in the land as more industries will be forced to shut down and the cost of foodstuffs and household goods increase making them go beyond the rich of majority of the citizens. The new minimum wage will pale into insignificance when juxtaposed with these dim economic realities. This will result in further frustration and despair in the land fueling conflict, crime and insecurity. Indeed, President Jonathan never based his electoral campaign on the removal of fuel subsidy. Instead of pursuing the positive transformation of our country, this tragic government has only continued to manage failures and lead the country from one disaster to the next. The seemingly inability of government to combat the terrorist attacks that have continued to rattle us and the open admittance of helplessness against the cabal that have continued to ruin our petroleum sector attests to this fact.
On behalf of the students of the great University of Ibadan and the layers and layers of students of Nigerian Universities, the Students’ Union of the University of Ibadan rejects the proposed plan to remove fuel subsidy as it will only further sink our people further into the morass of debilitating poverty.
We believe in the obvious need to shore up funds for infrastructural development but instead of removing the only economic cushion available to the masses of hapless Nigerians and asking Nigerians to make sacrifices, government can lead the way by reducing the salaries and emoluments of public office holders which presently gulps about 70% of our national budget. As is well known, example is the hallmark of leadership. Government should also be more steadfast in the fight against graft and recover the billions of our stolen funds stashed away in foreign banks.
We cannot continue to allow our domestic prices of petroleum products to be determined by the price of crude oil in the international market. That will result in a lot of volatility and instability. In Venezuela, the price of PMS is stabilized at around N12. Even an illiterate farmer in the village will save part of his harvest in the family barn. He will only sell the excess. It will be voodoo economics and inverted wisdom for government to sell our crude oil and turn back to import fuel at high prices claiming subsidy. Such is a subsidy of corruption, wastage and inefficiency.
Government should immediately stop the national embarrassment of importing refined petroleum especially when our engineering graduates are languishing in the streets with no jobs and fix our refineries while building new ones. We should be self-sufficient in refined petroleum products.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said that what matters is not life but the courage in it. Government should summon the courage to fix our economy, confront the thieving cabal and provide succor to our suffering masses.
The Students’ Union of the premier University of Ibadan shall not hesitate to mobilize the layers of students, youths, artisans, grocers and market-women for massive demonstrations, boycotts and sit-ins should government proceed with this plan because we believe that, “In a society where there is injustice, silence is a crime.”
Franklyn Nnakwue is the Public Relations Officer of The Students’ Union, University of Ibadan.