Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Malam Mele Kyari, said on November 23 that the Buhari regime will inflict yet another pain at the pump by jacking up petrol prices to N340 per liter in February 2022.
If this materializes, it would be the fourth time the regime has increased petrol prices in a five-year period. Every indication points to an irreversible resolve on the part of the regime to go through with the increase. The perennially predictable propaganda against “subsidy” has already started.
Whenever funds in the public trough that people in power steal from runs low, the default revenue-generation strategy they have is to increase the pump price of petrol and to justify it by rehashing the same old, trite, tired, banal emotional blackmail of the poor who will bear the brunt of their cruelty.
Since I came of age, governments have deployed the same pre-made rhetorical template to rationalize increases in fuel prices: subsidy is bad because it’s wasteful and benefit only fuel marketers; we need the money we save from removing fuel subsidy to invest in education and infrastructure for the greater good of everyone even when that never happens; Nigeria has the cheapest petrol price in Africa; because our petrol is the cheapest, it is smuggled to other parts of the continent, so we must increase petrol prices to stop this; we’ll come out with palliatives to ease the hurt that increases in fuel prices will exact on the poor.
These—and many other—rationalizations are, of course, bald-faced, self-contradictory, inane executive lies. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, fuel price increases are not and have never been about “deregulation,” “subsidy removal,” “liberalization,” or such other empty but fashionable neo-liberal mumbo jumbo whose meanings the utterers themselves obviously don’t even understand.
In perhaps the only time he ever told the truth in his entire lifetime, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in May 2016— in the aftermath of one of the steepest increases in fuel prices in Nigeria— that “The current problem is not really about subsidy removal. It is about the fact that Nigeria is broke. Pure and simple.”
When Nigerian political elites say Nigeria is “broke,” they often mean no more than that they don’t have enough to steal after paying measly salaries to workers.
The last time the Buhari regime increased fuel prices last year, it said it had completely done away with fuel subsidies and had left the price of petrol to the vagaries of demand and supply. Now, the regime’s honchos say again that the subsidy they said they’d completely removed, for which there was no allocation in the 2021 budget, must be removed again!
As compensation for removing a non-existent subsidy on petroleum, Finance Minister Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed said the government will pay a monthly transport bonus of 5,000 naira to 40 million Nigerians.
I am no mathematician, but even I can point out the mathematical absurdity of Mrs. Ahmed’s proposal. If the government actually fulfills its promise (you can’t trust this compulsively mendacious regime to live up to any promises it makes) to give 5,000 naira monthly to 40 million Nigerians, it will be picking up a N200 billion monthly bill. That will add up to N2.4 trillion naira a year.
Now, consider that, according to an April 18, 2020 press statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, Nigeria spent “N1.5trn spent on fuel subsidy in 2019.”
Again, on July 1, 2021, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, according to TheCable, said “subsidy gulps N150 billion every month.” N150 billion is still less than the N200 billion monthly transport bonus bill the regime will pay to 40 million Nigerians.
In other words, Nigeria will spend more money on transport bonus to an amorphous, unidentifiable, and probably cooked-up 40 million poor Nigerians than the subsidies it says it pays on petroleum subsidies, which it says are too expensive to be sustainable. That makes absolutely no sense.
Also note that thanks to Buhari’s infernal incompetence, Nigeria overtook India “as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty.” By many accounts, up to 100 million Nigerians live in abject poverty. By what logic did the regime decide that only 40 million people will need to be shielded from the consequences of the cruelty it will inflict on Nigerians in February 2022?
And, in the aftermath of the inflationary conflagration that a petrol price hike will ignite, how much help will N5,000 render to anyone in a month? N5,000 is currently useless in Nigeria. Imagine how much more useless it will be in 2022 after the prices of everything go through the roof.
In any case, the Senate revealed on Thursday that there is no provision for a N2.4 trillion-naira transport bonus in the 2022 budget. So, this is probably another scam.
Well, since the regime won’t stop its sterile propaganda to justify its asphyxiation of the poor through unjustified petrol price hikes, I won’t be tired of repeating what I’ve written in the past in response to their lies.
Petrol is the engine of the Nigerian economy in ways it is not elsewhere. When the price of petrol goes up in Nigeria, everything else goes up—except the already measly salaries of everyday people. This is not the case in many countries. So, you can’t just arbitrarily jack up petrol prices and ignore its other unsettling effects on other facets of the society.
A way bigger waste than the “waste” of petrol subsidy is the humongous amounts we expend monthly to subsidize the obscene opulence that Nigeria’s political elite—from the president down to a councilor—luxuriate in. Nigerian political elites are some of the most remunerated elites in the world. They even earn more perks than their American counterparts. But no one is talking about this subsidy. Only the comparatively miserly “subsidy” that makes life just a little easier for the common people is subject to scrutiny.
The canard about why the fraud in the oil subsidy regime justifies its discontinuance is disingenuous. It’s the government’s responsibility to catch and stop the fraud. If it can’t fix something as basic as fuel subsidy fraud with all the powers and resources at its disposal, the government has no reason to exist. It has no business being in the business of governance.
It is conscienceless to transfer the burden of government’s incompetence to the masses who are already reeling under the weight of an unbearably crushing existential misery.
Every responsible government in the world subsidizes the products its citizens use to survive. State governments in America collectively spend $10 billion to subsidize the fuel consumption of their citizens. The Biden administration just ordered the release of emergency oil reserves in its bid to bring down the prices of petrol, which have gone up in the last few months.
The American government also spends $20 billion every year to subsidize agriculture in what is called “farm income stabilization.” That’s why food is dirt cheap in America. And we are talking of the world’s wealthiest country. If anyone tells you America doesn’t subsidize the fuel consumption of its citizens, stare him straight in the face and call him or her a fraud without blinking!
Subsidy isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s also an existential imperative. If people are left to grapple with the smoldering violence of unchecked capitalism, they will either die off (if they are stupid and docile) or revolt against the source of their misery (if they are smart and active). There is no middle ground.
Nigeria has one of the lowest and most stagnant wages on earth. A further increase in petrol prices, which will add more fuel to the inflationary fire that is already burning Nigeria to the ground, will only deepen the misery and torment that everyday Nigerians are going through.
What is the benefit in being an oil-producing country if the money that accrues to Nigeria from oil merely subsidizes the epicurean pleasures of the elite while the poor are metaphorically forced to hold cream on their hands while their faces are dry? I would be at peace if Nigerians pay high prices for petrol—like our neighbors— because we don’t have it.
If Nigerians choose to accept this with listless abandon, it’s their choice. In any case, labor, which used to fight price hikes, has been dead like a dodo since the Buhari regime came on board. Labor activists are now safely ensconced in the filthy pockets of the government.
I only worry for the millions of people who have no alternative, who live on less than $1 a day, who literally vegetate on the very edge of existence, who will be consumed by the hyperinflationary inferno that is sure to follow the impending cruelly insensate punishment of the masses.
Why Kaura May not Win Reelection By Aliyu Bashir Limanci
An adage has it that when a popular anger brought a new hand to effect changes, the expectation is high that any failure to depart from the old part taken by his predecessor could politically deal a hard if not a fatal blow to his political career. Looking at how the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Muhammad, has faired over the past two years, I have observed key factors that could spell doom to his reelection bid. I don’t think Kaura can survive the smouldering anger.
1. Nepotism: Kaura is notorious for creating an Aso Rock’s style of cabal in his government. Go to any nook and cranny of Bauchi and make enquiry. I guarantee you, the view will be the same: Kaura only enkindles nepotism so much that he awards contracts to family companies he partly owned. A lot of properties are massively being purchased in Bauchi by secret buyers linked to families of the governor. There is an embargo on recruitments, transfer of service or replacements in the state, but in a bizarre circumstance, his family members were secretly absolved into the state civil service in direct violation of the state protocols.
2. His roads construction projects are increasing hardships. Billions of naira were awarded in contracts for the construction of roads in the metropolis by companies who do not employ the jobless labourers inside Bauchi. Frittering away billions in contracts that cannot create multiplier effects is a bad policy that can only create more hardships. You may find my words hard to believe, but Bauchi is poorer than it was four years ago.
3. Failure to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes. Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar was voted out over his total disrespect to traditional institutions, pomposity, Buhari’s effects with many people blaming him for hardships instead of blaming Buhari. For Kaura, the brutal mistreatment of civil servants in the state, meddling in the affairs of traditional institutions as evidence by the suspension and subsequent reinstatement of Emir of Misau for allegedly aiding and abetting herdsmen, but to many an observer, the emir was just being persecuted for not supporting the governor in the electioneering. The governor’s stressed relation with Yakubu Abdullahi, Wakilin Birni and the latter’s suspension from a traditional title for indiscipline, has raised eyebrows at the way the governor is steadily pushing the non-partisan traditional institutions beyond its limited capacities.
4. House Divided. The Bauchi State Government can be summed up as “marriage of inconvenience.” His cabinet consists of his political allies who helped him win election, with fewer technocrats to actually implement life-changing policies. Political ambitions in his cabinet created a stealth struggle for scheming, opposition research and blackmailing. His aides soon divided so are their loyalists. Social media in Bauchi is always staturient with attacks and counterattacks among loyalists of the governor’s aides. They are too divided to save PDP. A Hausa adage has it that “You need an insider to conquer a town,” luckily there are many insiders among the governor’s trusted aides.
5. Buhari’s Factor. Bauchi State has never disappointed Buhari. They have always massively voted for him. Don’t mind this populist anger at Buhari in his base, he is still popular and people are willing to massively vote for his interests. Bauchi is an asset like Kano, APC cannot afford to lose in 2023. The loss of the state to PDP’s surprised win would have forced the party’s strategists to learn from the defeat and work to retake the state, and looking at the strong candidates in the APC, looking to dislodge Kaura, and given the troubles that deluge him in and outside his political base, we can deduce from all this that Bauchi is up for grabs, and the power of incumbent may not help Kaura save his seat.
By Aliyu Bashir Limanci
Politics in Nigeria as elites’ consensus, by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah
Politics is just the affair of the elites. The voting population (‘the people’) are mere instrument for the realization of elites’ interest. Politics in Nigeria has been in this direction for many decades. It is the elites that determine who becomes who when and how or even get what when and how. Reading some fascinating books on Nigerian politics and governance will not only mesmerises you or leaves you standing akimbo on the way politics is played here but pushes you into high tensed political oblivion. Decisions and indecisions on who to or not to lead, rule or govern are taken solely by the elites with little or zero inputs from the ‘people’ and this is done for the protection of the people’s interest as elites would always say. In reality, a man who is not consulted can not be represented and a man who is not represented can never be given what he needed and he who is missing in these dots or circle (apology to Preisident Muhammadu Buhari) is just a mere follower.
The people are mere followers in the comity of national affair for many decades. After his emergence, the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, the NPN, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari was determined to choose his running mate from the Igbo extraction. Shagari sought to place the name of the wife of a diplomat from Onitsha but elites from Southeast within the circle of NPN rejected her nomination. Shagari had to constitute a “search committee” which later came up with the name of another woman Mrs. Abigail Ukpabi, a lecturer from the Alvan Ikoku College of Education. As if Mrs. Upkabia was not from the Southeast, elites again demanded her nomination to be withdrawn citing today’s most controversial issue. Her gender! Mr. K. O. Mbadiwe, a party stalwart from the region met with President Shagari and told him without any equivocation that if the Vice Presidential slot belongs to the region, then it shouldn’t be “woman”. Because according to him in Igboland “It is the woman that goes to man not the other way round.” (Read Bolaji Abdullahi, 2017 On a Platter of Gold. How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria) if anyone were to doubt Mr. Mbadiwe’s claim one need to read or be reminded how Prof. Chinua Achebe presented Igbo woman in his book the “Things Fall Apart” as a subservient gender during the precolonial society. I can’t imagine what would happen if Dr. Christ Ngige stalled the nomination of a woman as Vice President from that region today. I believe another Aba women riot would have unfolded itself. The decision by the elites from the region gave birth to the emergence of Dr. Chief Alex Ekwueme as running mate to Shehu Shagari’s presidency. I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Ekwueme when he attended the inaugural lecture by Prof. Ifeoma M. Onyemelukwe of the French Department, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on the 14th October, 2015. Dr. Ikwueme jokingly said he regretted not becoming professor in his life. Now the rest is history.
Elites have been the alpha and omega in the politics and policy decisions in Nigeria, in 1998 when the military administration of General Abdussalami Abubakar (Rtd) determined to hand power to the civilian rule another power tussle within the elites circle unfolded. Northern elites, the ‘Kaduna Mafias’ a most powerful elites in the history of politics in the country had the latitude to select who will replace the military administration. The formation of political party has since paved way for the selection of candidates that will participate in the country’s 1999 general election. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP having being the favourite by most of the First Republic bureaucrats and politicians on one hand, and retired senior military officers in the region on the other hand begun permutations and combination on which of the faction would have his candidate in the ballot paper. The Generals’ favourite was their fellow General in struggle while the retired First Republic bureaucrats such as Malam Adamu Ciroma and Ahmad Joda had Dr. Ikwueme as their candidate. Where is the ‘people’ the over hundred million Nigerians whom the civilian administration, the “democracy” seeks to served? The elites have taken everything and living everything to themselves. The Chiromas’ faction had since forgotten their fellow Comrade after noticing his show during the 1999 Jos Convention. It was reported that Igbo community appeared in their traditional regalia dancing and singing ‘kwenu’ which systematically or logically sent a message that the country’s leadership is leaving a united Nigeria to a particular community that neither forgive nor forget the incident of civil war that took place with its people. The deep seated animosity that characterises the community was quite open to notice. And this is how President Olusegun Obasanjo got the ticket on a platter of gold. Although, Gen. Obasanjo was not the favourite of his community, the support he received from Northern elites gave him a reason to win the 1999 Presidential election leaving Olu Falae, a fellow Yoruba from the Southwest complaining of election malpractices.
Prior to this, the 1993 power tussle which saw the Chief MKO Abiola on the ballot paper was purely elites consensus. Although Abiola was known to be a most acceptable candidate in his time largely due to his philanthropic activities, it was the consensus of the elites that paved him way to emerge winner of the presidential ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Jos Convention of the 1993 returned him the leading contestant with a 3, 617 votes while the second and third contestants scored 3, 255 and 2, 066 respectively. This meant that a run off election would have to be conducted if consensus was not reached. A consensus was reached under the supreme guidance of another Northern elite General Shehu Yar’adua who forced his political godson Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to step down to MKO Abiola but to be given a running mate slot. Unfortunately, Atiku couldn’t make it to the ballot box in 1993 until six years later when the same elites that scuttled his first Vice Presidency felt the need to compensate him. Although, Abiola emerged ‘winner’ of the country’s 1993 Presidential election, elites consensus saw his coming as unwise decision. So he never came and the rest is history now. But the question to ask here is where is the ‘people’? Where is the so called mandate of the people? Elites have agreed within themselves to consume it. But, even the recent posthumous recognition of his victory was a consensus reached by the elites for the realization of their political interest.
The power tussle that saw Late Umaru Musa Yar’adu, a younger brother to one of the Nothern elite, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, the former Second in command under the military administration of General Obasanjo was entirely elites consensus. The emergence of the former Katsina State Governor, an alleged ‘sickler’ as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 general election was largely due to the connection he enjoyed with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an elite in his own right. Although it was apparent to Nigerians, Obasanjo hand picked Umaru despite many contenders, elites within the circle of the party reached a consensus before his emergence. General Buhari defeats were not without the interest of the elites. Although his inability to belongs to a national party or a party that had a national outlook had been a contributory factor for his earlier predicaments, his 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections defeats were largely a consensus reached by the elites.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan emerged President after a consensus had been reached by the country’s elites. Jonathan rode to power as Vice President when the Presidential candidate of the PDP felt impossible to work with Obasanjo’s annointed candidate Peter Odili. Odili was the choice of the outgoing President Obasanjo as per as VP slot is concerned, but Umaru feared Odili will not be loyal to him looking at his exposure and age. Umaru could not tell his godfather this but had people around him to guide him on how to approach the matter. Former EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu was quite handier in this fight. Ribadu used his office to remind President Obasanjo Odili’s case with the EFCC. Obasanjo could not do better than to stand on his preferred choice but Ribadu maintained that Peter Odili’s case reached alarming proportions to the extent that the United Kindom and United States of America became aware of it. At this juncture, President Obasanjo had nothing to do but to allow for the choice of different person to work with Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Jonathan came into being when Ribadu identified him as a humble guy who neither interfered nor intervened in the processes of investigating his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Jonathan sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State when the State Assembly impeached his boss. GEJ was invited to the Villa for the purpose. He was intimated of the purpose for the invitation but rejected the nomination as it was presented to him. A well acknowledged humble man said, he was satisfied with his governorship position. After given it a second thought, GEJ accepted to work with Umaru as running mate. The long term health issue and the subsequent transition on to glory of President Yar’adua created room for elites to converge again for consensus. The persistent calls by the elites from different circle of power in the country to relinquish the office of the president to GEJ on acting capacity created a lot of political commotion in the country.
Having completed the remainder period of his boss, GEJ indicated interest to contest for the first time the office of the president which he was occupying. His decision to contest had caused serious lamentations from the ‘people’ specifically from the Northern extraction. Elites within the Peoples Democratic Party gathered yet again and reached consensus within themselves that President Jonathan should contest the office. He contested and won by the power of elites’ consensus. Before consensus that paved him way to contest was reached, elites had agreed within themselves that power should move to the Northern part of the country. Upon the fulfilment of his six years in office, GEJ was reminded of the agreement he entered with party’s elites before he was accepted to go for the highest national position. Having surrounded by a faction of the party’s elites from across the country, he was advised not to listen to the callers, they are merely power mongers whose ‘born to rule’ mentality will never corrode. Jonathan heeded to the ‘assurance’ given to him and contested for the second time but elites consensus was against his ‘selfish’ ambition. Jonathan paid for not fulfilling the promise he took during the elites’ consensus and he had his name tarnished as the most corrupt and clueless president to preside over the national affairs. Moreover, GEJ lost his power to the opposition candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd).
But even the emergence of President Buhari in 2015 was not without elites intervention or in the real sense of the matter it was purely elites’ consensus itself. Post election antecedents would remind us how he became a periodical customer of election tribunal. From 2003 to 2011 Muhammadu Buhari registered his grievances on election malpractices that saw him a loser of those elections. After series of disappointment, elites from different circles and parties across the country reached consensus to support their arch rival this time round, to at least ‘save’ the country from the incompetency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration. Elites agreed within themselves to support Buhari in order to defeat Jonathan and he was defeated handsomely.
Elites consensus has been the definitive term or a determination factor of winning or losing political seat in Nigeria. At all levels of government, elites’ consensus determines who wins or loses in every contest. The over 200,000,000 population are more of noisemakers whose voices are hardly heard or at most heard in disguise because even the recent ‘direct primaries’ by the APC was acknowledged to favour the interest of the elites. Politics in Nigeria is indeed a consensus reached by the elites for reaching their selfish interest.
Written by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah
25 June, 2021.
Palestine and the Quest for Justice, by Dr. Aliyu Tilde
In the 1970s, Patrick Wilmot, Bala Usman and other progressive scholars instilled in their students the quest for justice. With that Nigeria supported anti-apartheid movement and the independence of nations like Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. No one ever asked whether they were Muslims or Christians.
Today, so many youths are taught to support injustice based on sentiments. On the one hand, many clap at the massacre of members of other sect as we saw in the Zaria massacre. On the other, many relish to see homes seized from and towers are collapsed on their Palestinian residents. Both are fed the toxins of sectarian politics by clerics and politicians.
A youth who does not hate injustice has lost the sweetest ingredient of life. He matures with a barren and dark heart. He grows to be like that blind dog that barks south of the Niger when blood is spilled and thousands are rendered homeless elsewhere.
There is no difference between Zionism and apartheid as Prof. P. Wilmot repeated said in the 1970s. I support Israel whenever it seeks peace with its neighbours. I even hope to visit it one day. But I condemn it strongly—and will continue to do so—on its Zionist agenda of apartheid and other forms of injustice to Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Be on the same page with me.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
16 May 2021