by Linus Okorie
It has been over 5 days now since the removal of the fuel subsidy and I have been disturbed by the happenings in our nation. Having followed dutifully the arguments for and against the removal of the fuel subsidy, I have reverted to my thoughts and teachings. For over 14years of my life, I have dedicatedly raised the issue of the deficit of quality leadership capital in both public and private domains. I have consistently called for the grooming of a new generation of leaders and the need for us as Nigerians to vote for men and women of integrity during elections. I have called for mobilization to protect those votes and see to the transformation of our dear country. It is better to work so hard to elect quality and passionate leaders, than reacting to their policy pronouncements afterwards.
Coming back to the national discourse of the moment, the federal government has removed fuel subsidy, announced palliatives and the people of Nigeria as led by Nigeria Labour Congress are calling for strike to begin on Monday the 9th of January, urging the people of Nigeria to storm the streets in protest of the removal of oil subsidy. In as much as I totally support deregulation because it means, provision of huge employment opportunities from refineries, highly reduced cost of production and competition that will boost the economy as well as ensuring that only competent players get licenses and not business as usual (friends of government) do so; I am not sure if this is the right time to remove the subsidy.
I had argued that certain conditions should have been in place before the removal of oil subsidy. One thing that is certain is that the timing of this announcement, especially when consultations were still on-going has further provoked my sensibilities, my friends’ and that of the Nigerian people. Despite the fact that I am heavily pained by the sufferings that has so far been inflicted, I do not support the looming strike action and the call for protest on our streets across the country.
I have studied the Nigerian security condition at the moment and I see only chaos. We must save our nation from the disaster that is looming. We must not be gullible to believe that even the pro-government protesters and some anti-subsidy removal protesters are interested in the good of our nation. We must arise and stop the mayhem and face our collective challenges with an intelligent vigour. Every peaceful protest that has ever succeeded all over the world and solved problems had certain elements such as direction, clarity, set agenda, non-violent culture and bonding with the people. We must have a clear cut objective on what we want to achieve. The truth of the matter today is that if this strike and angry protest goes on, apart from the economic loss, opportunities would be created for looting, violent expressions of anger, further killings of innocent citizens, and destructions of properties. I fear that it might assume dangerous dimensions that will threaten the unity and stability of this country. My expectation would be that the NLC should engage with government on our behalf to address core issues like:
1. Trust: They must address the issue of lack of trust by Nigerian citizens due to several years of inconsistency and promise failure on the part of government with a view to getting government to act in certain prescribed ways in order to earn trust again.
2. Current price of fuel: They should dialogue with government to implement the subsidy removal in phases. This will be better and not this over 100% increase without any cushioning effect in place yet.
3. Issues of government palliative – NLC must ensure that every item listed on the SUBSIDY REINVESTMENT AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME are carried out judiciously.
4. Quality of people granted licenses to build refineries must be investigated to make sure that they are professionals and not unproductive people or friends of government who would take the projects as business as usual.
5. Cutting cost of government: NLC must identify areas where costs can be cut in government expenditure, fish out hidden budgets and lifestyles that are detrimental to the economy and cut costs from such quarters. They must make government see that we all must make sacrifices as Nigerians not just the poor masses.
6. Budget Implementation and Timeliness: NLC must negotiate to make sure that the 2012 budget is implemented 100% and on time. To this we must monitor government projects and ensure compliance and prompt execution.
7. Provision of Power supply: NLC must take this time to get government to handle the issue of steady supply of power and achieve it using the proceeds from the subsidy funds.
8. If NLC on behalf of Nigerians can follow these lines of thought and more, it is possible that this process will further provide the much needed opportunity to ensuring that even our votes come 2015 (in liaison with INEC) will count. We must ensure that only men and women of integrity will emerge as leaders come 2015.
At this time, when even the government is under intense pressure, we must ‘think’ for government, help them make sound decisions. We must proffer our suggestions in a dialogue while we wait and work with them to implement the plans to the latter with realistic timelines.
The truth of the matter is that, we have suffered enough and must as young people Stop and Think, before we Act. Young people from all parts of the country must resolve to make Nigeria work. Let us save this country from collapse.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!