For the first time in this Republic, power is in the hands of career politicians. And we all know politicians and their wily ways: they say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say. They greet you good morning at 4.p.m and if you protest, they ask when last you did take your watch to the repairer. Going forward, press statements will have great poetic quality and drip with empathy but the masses’ cranium will host cracked coconuts.
Right on the inauguration grounds, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu told Nigerians that fuel subsidy was gone with the wind. Muhammadu Buhari, he advised, had made no provision for subsidy in the Appropriation Bill, though Buhari himself had averred that there would be respite till the end of June and had even borrowed $800m that he would have no authority to disburse. Yes, Bola Ahmed Tinubu actually looked Nigerians in the face and declared subsidy an anathema, daring naysayers to do with history what they will, to wash it away with the wine of wishes.
We have travelled this road before. When Buhari raised PMS price from the N87 per litre to N145 per litre in 2016, he gave the impression that he had removed subsidy, saying “my advisers and I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.” Indeed, the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachicku, said there was no provision for subsidy in the 2016 budget. The fuel price of ₦86.50, he argued, translated to an estimated subsidy claim of ₦13.7 per litre, which amounted to ₦16.4 billion monthly.
Of course, Tinubu has not deregulated PMS: he only needed quick money that could be shared at FAAC. You see, the NNPC has not remitted a dime to the Federation Account for months, hence the increment in PMS price. If Tinubu is truly deregulating the sector, how then can the NNPC be the sole importer of PMS? How do you deregulate and still fix prices at the same time? How do you “remove subsidy” but are silent on the four refineries still gulping billions monthly?
Well, it’s not yet a week into the new dispensation, but wailing is already in the air, countermanded by a deluge of essays by the same rogues who plunged the nation into war in 2012, railing at subsidy removal. The leader, they warn, must not fall into the pit Goodluck Jonathan, “a man who lacked the courage of his convictions,” fell into; he is, and must show he is a man of courage. Courage, we are being told with a bold face, is to deliberately plunge the nation into crisis in 2012 spinning a lie, then seek to walk back the years and the lies in 2023 now that you have the power that caused you to rival Lucifer in his finery of falsehood. The essayists do not seem to care how biliously irritating they sound in their bolekaja pieces. The squirrel has climbed the Iroko tree; the hunter now wears a frown. Well, it is people’s heads that helped them source suffering. Tanure Ojaide, inimitable as ever: “The owl wakes us/ from a nightmare/and we greet our savior with songs.”
In 2012 when President Jonathan removed subsidy, Tinubu declared open war. The title of his treatise: ‘Removal of oil subsidy – President Jonathan breaks social contract with the people. His words: “Because he (Jonathan) is slave to wrong-headed economics, the people will become enslaved to greater misery. This crisis will bear his name and will be his legacy. The people now pay a steep tax for voting him into office. The removal of the subsidy is the Jonathan tax.” Tinubu and his men were not content with mere words; they literally set the nation on fire. Like Black Lives Matter anarchists razing towns, they lit bonfires, grounded the nation, and danced to their hearts’ content as they rode a gullible populace to its doom. With the Occupy Nigeria protests, they set the country back by many decades.
At the time they descended on Jonathan, a Bajaj motorcycle cost just N70,000. A bag of rice, later 7,500 in 2015, was just about N5,000. The nation exchanged a man of peace for a man of war. Tinubu told Nigerians that Jonathan was the devil and that he had brought Buhari to save the nation. And Buhari was asking sickeningly arrogant questions: “Who is subsidizing Nigerians? Who is subsidizing who?” Of course, Tinubu was not in love with Buhari: he only pushed Buhari forward in order to use him as a prop to power. He is a first class alagbari (the brainy one) who is master of mugu (the foolish one). In the world of Waka queen Salawa Abeni, the alagbari uses Mugu’s money “to eat aroso, to eat ofada, and to do albarka.” This is the explanation for 2023.
Tinubu wrote back page pieces but it was all artifice; his real interests was to mugunize people and use their money to eat ofada. Well, is he not comfortably nestled in the president’s seat now, catching cruise? He will have choice wine and eat fresh fish surrounded by gold and silver and fawning aides. You will argue and bicker in the market over poor quality Titus fish (number two) and fufu that is half done. Presidential aides will release press statements saying that the president feels your pain and is working on it. You see, the presidency is a retirement home. It is the way of the world. Buhari caused Femi Adesina to release a statement saying that Nigerians would only suffer for three months and that things would be better after that. Now, Tinubu is promising better life after subsidy removal.
The Buhari government made hunger our companion. A young fella who argued with me about Buhari made himself a laughing stock when I urged him to list the possessions in his abode. And then he began: “Mattress, colour TV, fan, radio and my clothes.” Then I asked him: “Which of those things in your room did you buy during this Buhari era?” A pause, then he replied innocently: “I bought all before the Buhari era. But wait o, it was only this slippers that I am wearing that I bought under Buhari.” I then told him that I would take any further defence of Buhari as an affront.
If you have not read T.M Aluko’s One man, one machete, I suggest you do right away. It will save you a lot of trouble as we negotiate the next four years