President Goodluck Jonathan, on March 19, had announced categorically at the Nigerian Summit 2013, organised by The Economist Conferences in Lagos that his government would certainly remove fuel subsidy eventually. His argument was that subsidy constituted a waste of resources that should be channeled elsewhere. The presidential announcement, expectedly, triggered off spontaneous reactions across the land, with organized labour all riled up.
The Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, advised the federal government not to heat up be the polity and did warn of dire consequences. “We all saw what the nation witnessed in January 2012 when the FG first took this step. The loss of lives and property was enough to teach any reasonable government a lesson that Nigerians would resist any hike in the price of petrol vehemently…” The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) also warned the FG not to play with fire. Apparently thinking that the Federal Government may remove the subsidy today, the NLC and the TUC have scheduled a protest for April 10.
The flurry of angry condemnations forced the presidency to make a u-turn last week. It said the government was not contemplating any removal of the subsidy. Presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in a statement, said the administration had no plans to remove fuel subsidy because sufficient allocation for fuel subsidy has already been made in the 2013 budget. “We wish to state categorically that the removal of oil subsidy is not on the table of the Transformation Agenda of the President…this administration is not considering the removal of fuel subsidy in the nearest future and certainly will not embark on any such programme without extensive consultations and engagements across the various segments, interests and stakeholders in the Nigerian polity.”
This official contradiction certainly has dealt a huge blow on the government’s own integrity. Who are we to believe, the President or his spokesman? We know that Okupe’s statement was an afterthought intended to manage the President’s gaffe. Two things flow from this scenario. It is either that the president was not properly advised, or that the quality of advice at his disposal was suspect. The bottom line, however, is that the reputation of the presidency is being destroyed by eating its cake and trying to have it.
Similarly, the PDP national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the national women leader, Ambassador Kema Chikwe, had at different times said President Jonathan would certainly re-contest his office in 2015. Curiously, Tukur, in what was a volte face, recanted last week, saying the President was undecided on the matter. Clearly, the body language of the PDP, the President and party members tells us otherwise – that the President, definitely, will run.
Our stand is that the president and his party should not be seen to be deceiving Nigerians on matters of life and death such as oil subsidy. If they are not sure of what to say in public, they had better shut up.