RE: My President, Review Subsidy Removal Policy, Please By Jesutega Onokpasa


There is an article of the above referenced title presently circulating by Dr Aliyu U Tilde in which Dr Tilde makes a lot of good arguments, except that they are good arguments in support of a very, very bad idea.

I actually agree with most of the perspectives therein set out by Tilde but find his recommendation for reinstatement of some degree of fuel subsidy, as well as his lumping of the Nigerian people together with the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, as if both necessarily have one and the same interest(s), totally without basis.

Indeed, and with respect, it is quite naive to call for any form or degree of subsidy reinstatement with the assurance that there are some “saints” President Bola Tinubu might find to manage it with lasting probity.

Let His Holiness, The Pope, send his most trusted men, indeed a team of the most pious, prayerful and ascetic monks, to come and manage a SUBSIDIZED regime of fuel importation in Nigeria and there will be those Nigerians who will succeed in making them look totally inept and woefully incompetent with the proclivity for sharp practices of some of our countrymen and women.

In short, any restoration of subsidy will most assuredly be abused and quickly converted into a cash cow by and for a few corrupt individuals.

Such reinstatement will quickly decompose into another conduit pipe for massive corruption as has always been the case with subsidy payments in this country.

This is, of course, quite apart from the fact that payment of subsidy is unlawful and it is untenable to require a President to break the law.

Thus, while I fully support probing the NNPCL and all subsidy payments through the years, the present state of total subsidy removal in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act is the one and only way forward.

Indeed, as a nation, our one and only solution to the subsidy demon is fierce exorcism and complete deliverance by way of total removal, which the law already stipulates and which President Tinubu cannot reinstate without breaking the law and undermining his oath of office.

Moreover, and again, with respect, Dr. Tilde is also wrong regarding Labour.

He refers to the Nigerian people and Labour as if the latter is necessarily representative of the former, when, in actual fact, only a small minority of Nigerians are affiliated to any trade union, quite apart from the fact that the interests of Nigerian labour leaders do not really coincide even with those of the workers they lead, much less with what is ultimately best for the general citizenry.

Many Nigerian unionists understand the real issues and know precisely what needs to be done for the good of the nation but mostly for purposes of gaining cheap popularity and leveraging that to play politics when they retire, they are enticed into most irresponsibly opposing policies that are indispensable if we are to make progress, both as an economy and a society.

If Adams Oshiomole had not kept pointlessly opposing subsidy removal during his tenure as labour leader, Olusegun Obasanjo might had summoned the courage to entirely remove the subsidy and completely deregulated the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry with tremendous benefits for all Nigerians today.

Oshiomole did very well for himself, went on to become a Governor, is now a Senator, and, decades later, we are still borrowing 6 trillion naira per annum to pay for some utter crap he could have helped us avoid.

It is bad enough how irresponsibly and hypocritically Nigerian labour leaders have conducted themselves through the years, leading Nigerians by the nose and pretending to be working for their welfare while only personally benefitting themselves in the end.

At that same end spot at which we clearly find the labour leaders having done tremendously well for themselves, the average Nigerian remains mired in dire straits with nothing to show for all the bluster, rhetoric, showmanship and grandstanding of labour.

It is even much worse with a labour leader like Joe Ajaero who has now added an ethnic and religious dimension to trade unionism and is presently scarifying the NLC into a shamefully ethnic and dangerously sectionalist monster.

Under Mr. Ajaero, the NLC is now little better than a street gang of mere tribalists, rabidly playing ethnic politics and plotting religious war alongside Peter Obi and his cohorts.

Indeed, I can assure Dr Tilde that the Nigerian labour movement, as led by the NLC and its Trade Union Congress, TUC, counterpart, does not even represent Nigerian workers, much less the Nigerian people.

The strike Joe Ajaero and his TUC collaborators are calling is illegal, unethical, immoral and hypocritical, as well as ethnically, religiously and politically motivated.

It will fail spectacularly.

Joe Ajaero endorsed and campaigned for Peter Obi who promised to remove subsidy even more forcefully than President Tinubu did.

Mr. Obi repeatedly promised to remove it completely and immediately, and
Mr. Ajaero never once distanced himself and the labour movement from Mr. Obi’s position.

If Obi, the one who never gives “shishi”, had won and removed the subsidy, Ajaero would presently be singing a very different tune to the rest of us.

Indeed, if we are to tell ourselves the bitter truth, it is only because it is a Yoruba man called Asiwaju Tinubu and not his tribesman, Peter Obi, that won and is now President, that Ajaero and co are now suddenly up in arms against what they were comfortable with coming from Obi, quite apart from what the law clearly compels.

Ajaero and the clowns with him are not at all genuinely opposed to subsidy removal.

They cannot be such pathetic dullards as not to realize that it is simply no longer possible for government to borrow humongous sums to keep paying subsidy.

What is therefore really going on is twofold.

Joe Ajaero is angling to make himself popular in his native South-east geopolitical zone and hoping to cash in on that to run for Governorship of his home state when he retires as NLC President.

We know the script very well and it will not work this time, for no one will be allowed to destabilize our country in furtherance of what is really just a self-centered personal agenda.

His TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, is most probably merely also looking to do the same.

Sadly, that is the tragedy of where personal ambition has deposited Nigerian trade unionism, today.

Ajaero, of course, is also clearly motivated by ethnicist considerations and had just been waiting for any excuse to assist his tribesman, Peter Obi, in his shameful and pathetic quest to steal Bola Tinubu’s mandate while pretending he is merely trying to reclaim his own.

Ajaero and his cohorts don’t give two tosses about Nigerians and are only on a most despicable frolic of their own.

Unfortunately for them, they are messing with the wrong customer, this time around and they will be put to shame.

The subsidy is gone and gone for good, indeed for the ultimate good of the Nigerian people.

Any recommendation to reinstate it in any guise or to any degree is a recommendation for business as usual, quite apart from constituting an exhortation for the government to break the law.

According to the law, there is no longer subsidy and that’s how it must stay because that’s what is ultimately best for the greatest number of Nigerians.

Unfortunately, Dr Tilde’s offering amounts to requesting the unavailable while requiring the impossible.

We have been borrowing insanely, irresponsibly and illegally to fund subsidy and it is simply diabolical to continue along that path.

Reality is what it is and you must face it or pay dearly if you are foolish enough to turn your back to it.

You cannot have your cake in your hand when it is already digesting in your stomach.

It is the same for a nation as it is for any human being.

Onokpasa, a lawyer, was a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC Presidential Campaign Council and writes from Abuja.

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