by Tunde Temionu
The January 1, 2012 oil subsidy removal threw the ordinary man into trepidation. Despite public opinion against the removal, the Presidency was hellbent on carrying it out. The Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made the people to understand that the economy would collapse if the phantom subsidy was not removed, though Nigerians insisted that the fuel they used was not subsidised.
The National Assembly, which was supposed to take sides with the people, remained taciturn, leaving the people to their fate; forgetting that in the eyes of our creator, the masses are like tailless cattle and God will always swat the flies for them.
Eventually, the poor masses embarked on protest and a nationwide strike against the implementation of the unpopular policy.
In their prayers, they asked God to expose and punish those who were using the opaque oil subsidy removal to place more hardship on the poor. The oil marketers did not utter a word because the government was protecting their fraudulent interest.
God answered the prayers of the poor masses and today, the oil subsidy imbroglio is taking a different dimension. The elite who compromised the socio-economic interest of the masses are now at loggerheads with one another over the same subsidy issue. So, with this level of public betrayal, it is anti-public for anybody to have even a shred of sympathy for Farouk Lawan, his alleged co-offenders and those that are reportedly involved in the oil subsidy scam.
Lawan has been in the system since 1999. Society has a lot of influence on human beings. Human beings are also the most imitative animals. Based on the antecedents of the lower chamber of the National Assembly as it affects corruption, it will be a wrong judgment to see Farouk Lawan as a saint.
We cannot also quickly forget that Lawan was a very active and vocal legislator during the Obasanjo third term agenda. The public knew the volume of water that went under the bridge from the pro- and anti-third term campaigners.
There was no record that any of the legislators returned the Ghana-must-go bags to the sender. In a feudal and corrupt society, corruption scarcely spares anybody. So, the legislators are also a part of our wonderful society.
Our ruling elite are practising plutocracy and feudalism in politics. These are systems whereby the richest people in the country rule. They also maintain personal and private political clinics. The poor grass-roots politicians attend these clinics for solution to their true and untrue social and economic problems whenever their political masters are around. To the grass-roots, that is one of the ways in which they, too, can partake of the national cake. Although their problems are never completely solved in these clinics, the systems keep the grass- roots followers in a permanent position of anticipation and loyalty.
Notwithstanding, it is quite an expensive clinic to run, because the clinic must be seen as functioning. No amount of salary would be enough for an individual to run this type of clinic. So, it is difficult for Nigerian politicians who hold public offices and also maintain political clinics not to compromise their integrity (should there be any), particularly in a corrupt milieu where billions of naira and dollars are changing hands regularly.
Unguarded and inordinate removal of an oil subsidy that does not exist has exacerbated the spread of poverty and corruption in this country. In a society such as ours, where corruption, feudalism and plutocracy have influenced the wide gap between the rich and the poor, the ruling elite must arrest the impoverishment before push comes to shove. Otherwise, it will come to a stage where the people will dare the soldiers and fight for their rights.
Democracy is about civilisation. A civilised society is identified by its democratic profile and policies. No society can boast these values without leadership by example. So, it is becoming too late for the leadership of this country to set the pace of healthy democracy.
The ruling elite spend billions of dollars to attend seminars and workshops in civilised societies. Yet the impact of their training does not reflect on them and their country. Are seminars and workshops not meant for the development of the human person? Instead, our rulers return home with the best designer shoes, fabric and latest American specification wonders-on-wheels.
The oil wealth mines and the subsidy fraud perpetrators have helped corruption to fester in this country. Many public office holders flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. Immoral and unethical conduct by the ruling elite has deprived our great country of its pride of place in the comity of nations. Nigeria can be a better place only if our ruling elite have sincerity of purpose.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
This piece was first published in The Punch