After over seventy-six days in office, what are Nigerians getting and how are they faring: unplanned and ill-thought removal of fuel subsidy and unification of exchange rates; uncoordinated and confusing policy announcements; exponential increase in the prices of all goods and services especially food and other basic consumables; decline in National Savings Rate and erosion of disposable incomes of Nigerians, increasing poverty and insecurity, unimaginable extravagance and exponential increase in the cost and waste of governance exemplified with interminable appointments of litany of ministers and aides, and then a most unexamined desire to go to a clearly avoidable war with our very close neighbor and brother, Republic of Niger.
The list is unending, confusing, most unfortunate, and lamentable! There is a clear lack of grasp of the undergirding ethos of good governance predicated on short, medium, and long-term stimulus strategies and policies. Nigeria can ill afford this experimental leadership approach and foray into governance by stealth with no imagination, deep thinking, substance, and concrete ameliorative policies.
In their own words, the APC-led government admitted their error of declaring subsidy removal and currency unification without adequate plans to mitigate the potentially huge consequences, as Nigerians are now witnessing in anguish.
For APC and their leaders, who claim to have long been prepared for the job of presiding over Nigeria’s administrative affairs, to commit such a blunder, at this critical troubling period of our nation’s history, is inexcusable. The magnitude of such mistake which has debased and threatens to wipe out businesses with unprecedented worsening of the living conditions of Nigerians cannot be wished away with mere promises without adequate plans.
Given their unrelenting lies and blame games, some clarifications are imperative. Do Nigerians deserve to have subsidies? Yes, they do as governments all over the world including in advanced countries offer subsidies to their citizens in various ways. Should the subsidy be removed in Nigeria? Yes, it should because it has been grossly mismanaged in an organized crime cartel manner with unparalleled corruption, official malfeasance, and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money.
In line with our belief and promise to create and lead a New Nigeria, That is Possible, the Labour Party campaigned for the removal of petrol subsidies principally to end the criminal appropriation of our national resources by a privileged few and their connected cronies. This was to be achieved through a gradual process including the effective repairs and functioning of our refineries and activation of compressed natural gas (CNG) opportunities to avoid dramatic increases in fuel prices, inflation, and pains for Nigerians.
Nigerians should recall that the genuine efforts to remove the subsidy and end the associated embezzlement of our common resources in 2012 by the then government of President Goodluck Jonathan were strategically thwarted and stopped by the current APC Chieftains in their characteristic deceit to endear themselves to Nigerians and attain power. Lamentably even after deceptively and most unfortunately taking power from PDP in 2015, the then APC government refused to remove the subsidy and even used it to sabotage the 2023 elections thus affirming their unwillingness to stop the looting of Nigeria as they are part of the looting cartel themselves.
Not only did they fail to stop the looting through the removal of the subsidy, but they also expanded it through all kinds of expenditures leading to our current debt crisis of over N77 trillion naira up from about N15 trillion when Buhari took over. As they were looting Nigeria dry in the guise of subsidy and other frauds, our dear Nation, Nigeria, acquired the dubious distinction of becoming the poverty capital of the world with over 135 million Nigerians now classified as multidimensionally poor, unemployment skyrocketed to over 35%, insecurity escalated to a frightening level never seen before in Nigeria and all other socio-economic development variables all negative and heading south!
Most unfortunately again, even after being rejected by the majority of Nigerians in the 2023 elections, they egregiously colluded with INEC and rigged themselves back to power being naturally unfit and unprepared for effective and good governance, they most recklessly and suddenly announced the removal of subsidy and unified the exchange rates, consequently causing Nigerians a most avoidable traumatic pain and misery with unprecedented resultant fuel price hike of over 300%, a dollar exchanging for almost a N1000 and exponential increase in the price all goods and services especially food.
If the APC gang had not been inordinate for power and had allowed the petrol subsidy to be removed in 2012, Nigeria would have saved over N50 trillion that would have been used as a safety net and cushion but also used to eradicate poverty, improve education, health and security, create jobs, build an efficient transport system and make Nigeria truly the giant of Africa through a shift from consumption to production. These are the real subsidies Nigerians truly and urgently need.
With their continued failures in providing the required leadership, the appropriate thing APC led government should do is to apologize to Nigerians particularly President Jonathan and members of his 2012 economic team as advised by many Nigerians. After apologizing, they should (in their temporary stay in power), at least seek to provide good leadership and governance by engaging the people, especially the workers, and fashioning out a clear strategy to manage their inconsistent, confusing, and annihilating policies. In addition, they should launch an investigation into NNPC management of the subsidy regime, the huge oil theft, and corruption that have caused Nigeria a serious financial crisis with a determination to effectively prosecute all those involved in the subsidy perfidy and fraud.
While we agree that ‘After Darkness Comes the Glorious Dawn’, what the APC government clearly reminded Nigerians is that the darkness was caused by the same APC in the last 8 years with the gang still the same and bigger now. Unfortunately, as APC cannot give what it does not have, the darkness is clearly getting darker and expanding with the largely cosmetic, uncoordinated, and confusing announcement of policies without proper thinking, planning, and execution strategies. The shallow announcements hardly address the shock and excruciating trauma and pains Nigerians are presently experiencing.
No nation allows its currency to float freely without solid backing; nor set a floating forex regime determined solely by market forces and not backed by ample reserve. Moreover, the policies of this regime are collectively ad-hoc measures not directly linked to the government’s much-touted campaign manifesto, but in the main, various policy options plagiarised from the political opposition’s governance and economic planks, without the benefit of the underpinning implementation modalities. This approach is fraught with gross missteps and expected failures which Nigerians are sadly, currently experiencing.
As birds of the same feather flock together in poor governance, throwing money with no clear thinking, plans, and execution options on key challenges just as the last APC government did will only exacerbate the looting of our common resources resulting in more poverty, insecurity, unemployment as Nigerians painfully have been experiencing. Just as the last APC government wasted trillions of Naira on Agriculture and other sectors, it will be under the present one due to poor formulation and execution of policies.
Like many Nigerians, we are not intrigued as much as we are bemused by the resort to fuzzy maths figures running into billions, which still pales against the huge amounts allotted to the judiciary, legislators, and the initial febrile palliative allowances, since withdrawn. Constructive as it may seem, the allotment of N75 billion to fund 75 manufacturing enterprises falls critically short of what is required to revamp the numerous moribund textile, food processing, and agricultural and other manufacturing and finished goods industries across Nigeria. In the same vein, salutary as it may seem to recognize the importance of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises as the drivers of growth, the proposals to spend N50 billion on Conditional Grants and give N50,000 each to 1,300 nano business owners each of the 774 local governments across the country, is dismal and drastically unrealistic.
How did the APC-led government arrive at the proposed paltry 3,000 CNG-fired mass transit buses for a country tagged as the poverty capital of the world, with over 135 million multi-dimensionally poor? Assuming 3,000 buses would adequately take care of the mass transit needs of Nigeria’s poor populace, how does the government intend to within twelve months, source the buses? Where are the local vehicle assembly plants and their respective annual production capacities? What are the proposed delivery timelines?
What plans are in place to support CNG and LPG Autogas retail filling stations’ aggressive rollout, bearing in mind the huge setup cost and critical factors involved in determining the situation of such facilities, including urban & physical planning, regulatory requirements, and safety amongst other considerations? What plans are in place for the fast-tracked processing of permits and approvals for the establishment of Autogas filling stations? What are the mitigating plans to address safety issues associated with fast-tracking permits and approvals processing?
What are government plans to ward off the menacing nuisance of illegal levies imposed by agents of all tiers of governments, associations, and touts, who would swoop in on Autogas businesses, and eventually add to the price build-up and retail pump price of the Autogas?
What measures are in place to educate emergency first responders, including Fire Service, medical aid, etc, to prepare them for the coming massive proliferation of static and mobile gas infrastructure to be deployed across Nigeria, the associated logistics with attendant safety concerns? What awareness sensitization plans are in place to educate Nigerians on matters and issues arising from the massive switch from petrol to Autogas and related safety concerns?
Is it not insensitive to the highest level, that when Nigerians are passing through excruciating hardships, those who claim that they are leading us are living in uncontrollable opulence and extravagance with no interest to cut the waste and cost of governance? How do you explain the litany of aides currently being announced by the Speaker, Senate President, and the Presidency? While Nigerians are demanding a drastic reduction in the size and cost of governance, what will APC be doing with 48 ministers and other numerous aides?
With some of them under criminal investigations and indictments, others with proven cases of forgery, and no adequate qualifications or experience, all clearly affirm the unpreparedness and unseriousness of the current APC gang. The only justifiable reason for the unending list of ministers and other senior aides is the expansion and continued looting of the resources of our dear country, Nigeria. With three tiers of government (federal, state, and local government), any committed and patriotic leader can effectively govern and lead Nigeria with 36 ministers as stated in the constitution. If possible, it should be reduced further.
As if our internal problems are not enough, they (the APC government) are eager to take Nigeria to an unnecessary war with our neighbor and brother, the Republic of Niger. While we condemn the overthrow of democracy by the military in Niger, we urge and implore all parties to explore dialogue to resolve the governance crisis in Niger. Nigeria is too interconnected socially, culturally, and religiously with Niger to contemplate a military attack or war irrespective of the current situation. While democracy remains a better governance system, it is also important that governance and leadership are based on the rule of law and other conditions of good and accountable governance.
With many more flaws in the policy announcements that are not by any means germane to true development, economic growth, and the revamping of our badly ailing economy, the speech and policy announcements can be aptly described as a gallivant into the dark deeper recesses of economic quagmire, debt peonage, and intractable multidimensional poverty.
While the continuing inability of APC-led governments to think patriotically and strategically to offer transformative leadership is deeply troubling and affirms their unpreparedness to lead robustly and with entrenched vision, we implore Nigerians and the international community to keep faith in Nigeria as we remain focused on our belief that a New Nigeria is Possible. We will transform Nigeria from consumption to production, and entrench inclusive, sustainable, and beneficial growth to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, location, status, or gender. A New Nigeria is Indeed Possible and Forthcoming!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Balogun Akin Osuntokun
Obi-Datti Campaign Organization