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 Published November 29th, 2011

While it is not criminal for a magistrate or judge to err in law, same cannot be said of a president when he or she errs in democracy. In law, an appellate court will simply correct the error which is also seen as “mistake of law.” In a presidential democracy, the electorates will correct an erring president by voting him out of office if he or she is seeking re-election. On the other hand, the electorates are easily persuaded to embrace the opposition if the erring president is not seeking re-election. This has happened several times in American presidential democracy.

There is an emerging line of reasoning that sound political leaders can never be misled by their lieutenants in a democracy. This is not true. It must be noted that different people are in government for diverse reasons. While some are for service, others for personal gains. There are still some who seek power just to protect the interests or agendas of third party organizations. Of greater worry are those who stay in government to deliberately give counsels that will pitch the people against government. In most cases, those who prime themselves to deliberately mislead political leaders wear honourable personalities and also parade very attractive credentials that can flatter anybody. They are the ones I term “false patriots.” This is what Jesus Christ said of such people in Matthew 24:24-25, “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” There are very many “false patriots” in the corridors of power in Abuja. The only way to survive this minority but influential clan of “false patriots” is for the president to stand with the masses.  

One question that readily comes to mind at this point is: why are political leaders easily misled by “false patriots” even in the light of all the deliberate designs put in place to protect the culture of democracy and promote good governance? Specifically, political leaders are misled due to the peculiar template of democratic bureaucracy, where internal independence is usually granted some specialized sectors such as military, economy, agriculture, science and technology. For instance, current and past global economic crisis are products of internal independence granted some specialised agencies of governments in the West. To be more specific, former president George Bush of the United States was misled into ordering the invasion of Iraq in 2003 owing to false intelligence. It has now become clear that internal independence gives too much room for administration officials to mislead political leaders and heads of national government.

As part of efforts to effectively tackle this problem, most legislatures in the developed climes have responded by showing deeper interests in critical national issues that are traditionally left in the hands of the executive arm of government. The aim is to safeguard national security and economy. In almost all advanced democracies today, national security has been elaborated to consciously identify causes of dissent arising from unpopular government policies. Members of the legislature and the media play a major role in this regard.        

It is in realization of this important fact that the fanatical anti-subsidy apostles in Nigeria have now shifted their battle to the sacred floors of the National Assembly in Abuja. The aim is to lure lawmakers to endorse plans by the federal government to remove fuel subsidy next year after stiff opposition from NLC, TUC, NUPENG, NBA, and other pro-masses organizations. Nigerian masses have come to the conclusion that the promised palliative measures cannot adequately compensate for their already feeble purchasing power that will be further weakened by the increase in the prices of goods and services that have direct and indirect link with petrol. This writer does not know of any product or service that does not have direct or indirect attachment to petrol.

One basic fact need to be highlighted here. The nation’s economic advisers and fiscal policy formulators are lazy and non-creative. They are merely “copying and pasting” foreign fiscal policies. An economic strategy that works in country A may not necessarily do well in country B. This is because population, literacy level, culture, religion, science and technology determines which policy works where and when. The IMF and World Bank have all accepted this fact. Sadly however, both the IMF and World Bank are quick in advising developing economies to devalue their currencies and abandon subsidy regimes. But unknown to many, the United States, Canada, and members of the European Union subsidize critical sectors of their economies in order to protect their citizens cum national security. High unemployment, poverty, and hunger pose great threats to the national security of a country.  

In 2010, the European Union spent €57 billion on agricultural development programme. Of this amount, €39 billion was spent on direct subsidies. Who is fooling who? The West is indeed fooling Africans. They are however using some of our willing intellectuals to do so. It is the duty of every government to identify the critical sector in its economy to intervene. Frankly, it would be wide of the mark for Nigeria to remove fuel subsidy because Britain or the United did so. It is so sad that our fiscal policy formulators and economic advisers have become so lethargic that they have relegated themselves to merely copying and pasting foreign fiscal policies that do not fit with our peculiar circumstances.

For months now, our nation’s “false patriots” have been fighting dirty to win the subsidy removal battle. It is extremely absurd for anyone to remind Nigerian masses of the pump price of petrol in the United States, Canada, or Europe all in a bid to buttress their campaign for the removal of fuel subsidy.  Apart from the fact that unemployment figures are low in those climes, they also have cheap and efficient mass transportation systems, discounted housing and health care programs. These are just a few of the safety nets put in place by governments in developed democracies to protect the welfare of their citizens. These safety nets were not deployed in four or eight years. For instance, it would take up to a decade to build an effective national transportation infrastructure. That is one reason why those who are in a position to appreciate what it would take government to put in place safety nets to cushion the effects of withdrawal of fuel subsidy suspect government’s sincerity. For the avoidance of doubt, it would cost government more than what it spends on fuel subsidy to deploy effective safety nets to cushion the effects of increase in the price of petrol. Government should not make the mistake of tying the deployment of new and the rehabilitation of existing national public infrastructure to the removal of fuel subsidy. It is something government owes the citizenry.

It will also be necessary to remind the minority clan of anti-subsidy campaigners that Nigerians would be too willing to buy a liter of petrol for even N150 if public and private sector workers earn as much as their contemporaries do in America and Europe. Instead of being creative, the nation’s fiscal policy formulators and economic experts in government have chosen to take the short-cut to national transformation by merely copying and pasting World Bank and IMF prescriptions. It is longer secret that both the World Bank and IMF are tools used by the West to pursue their hidden economic agendas against developing countries especially in Africa. Most of the fiscal prescriptions that come out of the World Bank and IMF are usually anti-people and specifically designed to pitch the masses in developing countries against their governments so as to brew economic crisis and consequent social dissent. With this, they would be able to discreetly sabotage rapid economic growth in Africa and protect the export-based economies of Western democracies. Some of such fiscal prescriptions are Structural Adjustment Program, Currency Devaluation, and Anti-Subsidy policy.

The time has come for President Jonathan to hear the truth. There are too many “false patriots” in his administration. No doubt, they are honourable in appearance and eloquent during debates. The truth is that they do not mean well for him and Nigeria. Like it is in every developed country, the people are the centerpiece of democracy. For this singular reason, any policy that will injure the welfare of the people must be jettisoned. Call for the removal of fuel subsidy is one of them.

It has been very clear right from the onset that the federal government’s fiscal plan of withdrawing fuel subsidy next year is not the idea of President Goodluck Jonathan. Nevertheless, he will bear whatever consequences that may arise from it. This is the major reason why the president must ignore the minority clan of well-heeled elites and stand with the Nigerian masses like he promised during the campaign season. To do this, President Jonathan would have to quickly separate reality from cheap logic as being postulated by some of his lieutenants in the corridors of power.

For the avoidance doubt, it is the fundamental responsibility of government to see that the welfare of the citizens is protected through deliberate policies with human face. The planned removal of fuel subsidy would not have human face as far as the poor and hapless Nigerian masses are concerned. Government should rather look for other means of raising money to fund the nation’s socio-economic framework. In the last five decades, it has been the low and middle class that have shouldered the burden of national transformation, leaving the wealthy few to swim in their typically questionable affluence. Government can raise up to N1 trillion by imposing 2% annual tax (for 5 years from date of purchase) on every private car above N3 million, 2% tax on every private residential house costing more than N7 million, 1% on each local flight ticket, 2% on each international flight ticket, 2% tax on accommodation in luxury hotels, and 50% reduction in the salaries and allowances of elected and appointed government officials.

Furthermore, government should build more refineries and also ensure that the four existing ones operate at optimum capacities. With this, the pump price of petrol will fall in line with what is obtainable in other OPEC countries, where a liter of petrol sells between N9 and N45. The masses should not be punished for the deliberate ineptitude of some government officials that sabotaged our local refineries in order to promote the fuel import business.









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