Deji Agbeniyi: In the name of the cabal!

With the uncertain (in) actions of President Good luck Jonathan’s subsidy regime, Nigeria is again awash with the emergence of an existing cabal in its oil and gas industry.

During Britain’s restoration period between 1665-85, Charles II, who was King of Great Britain and Ireland, set up an administrative committee to help in the administration of government .The Council comprised of Thomas Clifford; Baron of Chudleigh and Lord Treasurer, Henry Bernnet the Earl of Arlington to serve as secretary of state, George Villiers who was second Duke of Buckingham, Anthony Ashley Cooper the Earl of Shaftesbury serving as Lord Chancellor and lastly John Maitland the Duke of Lauderdale as Charles’ Principal administrator in Scotland. In the course of time, some of the policies of the committee proved unpopular and they were labeled a cabal which was an acronym derived from the initial letters of their names; Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. Not only was the committee unpopular but was also seen as self centered and its members, perceived as men with mortal hatred for fellow council members who seek to be avenged upon each other at the expense of their master’s service.

Over the years the word Cabal has been given the literal meaning of “a secret group of people mostly manipulating events in a given environment to advance their personal interests”. In an attempt to reconcile time and events, Historians have contradicted the aforementioned account of the origin of the word Cabal, claiming its origin before the emergence of Charles II as king choosing to relate the word to medieval and Jewish mystical tradition. However, it is generally believed Britain’s legendary administrative committee popularized the emergence and use of the word.

Events of the recent past and passing present have thrown the word cabal in describing the forces and monopolies responsible for the politico-economic events in certain quarters. A specific case in hand is Nigeria. At the instance of President Yar’adua’s illness in 2009, Nigerians were filled with news of certain persons led by the wife of President Yar’adua, Turai Yar’adua being a cabal and holding the nation to ransom without constitutional leadership while manipulating events from the bedside of a sick president in a foreign land. The theory of this cabal during Yar‘adua illness has been put to jeopardy as Olusegun Adeniyi who served as President Yar’adua’s Media aid gave an account (excerpts bellow) of his interaction with some former senior government officials.

“…Balat, himself a former minister in the Obasanjo government, asked ‘Segun; this cabal thing were you really a member?’ Before I could respond, former Federal Capital Territory minister Mallam Nasir el-Rufia who played a prominent role in the campaign that eventually brought Jonathan to power interjected, ‘there was no cabal, we created the myth in the media to neutralize Turai.’” (Power, Politics and Death by Olusegun Adeniyi, Page 272) Mr. Adeniyi would later affirm in his book the nonexistence of this cabal; a belief he claimed aides in former President Yar’adua administration all shared. In aligning the thrust of this narrative is the need to examine the second and most important account of the cabal theories in present day Nigeria.

With the uncertain (in) actions of President Good luck Jonathan’s subsidy regime, Nigeria is again awash with the emergence of an existing cabal in its oil and gas industry. This cabal is alleged to have benefitted from years and possibly decades of fraudulent fuel subsidies paid by the country’s federal government to oil marketers to cushion the price effect of all fuels used in the country. The consistent Freudian slip by officials of government has not only unveiled the existence of an ‘oil cabal’ but also brought to question the actual existence of fuel subsidies. This means the federal Government may be paying rent to stooges in the name of oil subsidies but in the real sense there are no oil subsidies. Loud calls of anger from the populace against the government and the ‘cabal’ stirred protests that forced the government to act but not after the petroleum minister Deziani Allison Madueke in an interview told and demonstrated to the country that “the hands of the government are tied”. Following the pressure on government from thousands of demonstrators all over the country, committees were set up by the petroleum ministry to investigate the payment of subsidies and the actualization of the country’s Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is believed to be the catalyst in correcting the ills of Nigeria’s oil industry.

Nigeria’s parliament on its own hand has also begun an enquiry into the subsidy regime and payments to oil marketers. This enquiry in itself has been another revelation with oil marketers claiming ignorance to the existence of any cabal or even being part of a cabal. These marketers also claim they have received little or nothing in the name of oil subsidies compared to the figures and amounts being circulated in the media .To further complicate the job of the enquiry by parliament, senior government officials within and outside the country’s oil ministry have being speaking from both sides of the mouth with contradicting figures on the subsidies. The need to expose the supposed oil cabal, address the cavalier attitude of government on subsidies while reviewing the structure and processes in the industry all appear to be at the whims of this ‘oil Cabal’.

But this is the conclusion of the matter: Everything rises and falls on leadership and the failure to arrest the entrenched institutions and structures of discriminative monopolies is the sole fault of government. In fact the only cabal against the Nigerian people is the government. An arrangement that makes the Nigerian National Petroleum cooperation (NNPC) as the sole operator and regulator of the petroleum industry is counterproductive. That is why it is believed that the setting up of committees and parliament enquires may not be enough to correct errors that have proceeded from bad leadership. Nigerians must observe to see the right things done during and after the committee finishes its work and the parliament its enquiry. The attempt to now lay blame on a cabal and take postures of helplessness would not help us and the generations to come.

 The cabal theory under President Yar’adua as narrated by Segun Adeniyi and the questionable submission of oil marketers before parliament is an unconscious attempt to absolve ourselves in demanding that government should represent strong institutions and structures to aid the growth and development of the society .It is observed that the actions of an organized citizenry was a catalyst for the right things in these two scenarios. The occupy Nigeria protest that forced government to begin to “act” is an indication that power would forever belong to the people. There can be no cabal no matter how strong that can overcome the rightful demands of the Nigerian people. This is not to deny the existence certain selfish interests but rather than calling cabals at the instance of a national malaise or taking sides and splitting every discourse into Pro Jonathan and anti Jonathan camps let us take stands and continue to demand a government of the people by the people and for the people.

Deji writes from Abuja, Nigeria. You can join him on twitter via @DejiAgbeniyi

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