by Chude Jideonwo
It is the Nigeria that we have now. Any attempt at balance is viewed with vicious suspicion – “you have been bought!” It is understandable – we are angry, we’ve been taken for a ride too long and we probably can’t afford room for error. So it is that at this moment of the deeply unpopular fuel subsidy removal policy, even some of the people who endorsed and produced songs for Goodluck Jonathan find it necessary to express public regret.
There are some of us who did no such thing, even going as far as to stay neutral during the elections,and some of this set do not think Goodluck Jonathan is “evil” and “clueless”, just because he is now, all of a sudden, unpopular.
So here, a flag towards balance.
This is good policy badly executed, not because of timing necessarily as because of trust. The trust deficit is one Dr. Jonathan inherited, one that he has sadly increased, and one he has to deal with. When I have been asked for my opinion on policy, I have often ventured in public and private that the subsidy needs to be removed, and when it is, it should make it without the usual prevarication – in a single step.
But then the process leading to that decision is Public Policy 101. Build trust, create a frame of understanding; deepen goodwill. Win the public over – how about cutting the cost of governance even just a little and using that as a communication tool to show sincerity of purpose? Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. How do you ask people to tighten their belts when you run an obese system? It isn’t right. In fact, it is so wrong, it cries to the high heavens.
It is offensive.
And then someone somewhere obviously decided that a surprise move will work best?! That’s what the anger is most about – people feel taken for granted; people feel the government has treated them with blatant disregard. And the real tragedy is that the government has by this action united ordinary and moderate Nigerians with those whose agendas are questionable.
The removal of subsidy as a policy is sound economics as far as my untrained eyes can see (and I regard the “there is no such thing as subsidy” a tenuous argument), but the how is as important as the what. Let the government revert to the old price – and let the communication begin.
I have said it before in a NEXT column about a year ago and I will say it again: there are people who want to trust Dr. Jonathan and want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is making it hard.