I grew up in a home where my parents gave me so much freedom to express myself. I recall that in my instances, over our meals, we would argue on several subject matters. I remember a friend who often noted that we argued too much with our parents; it was like we were challenging their authority. My late father was a man who never restricted his children within limits; he believed there was nothing too much to give to his children. He was a man with a very large heart. My late mother was also a woman who lived for her children and, in many instances, demonstrated that her life meant nothing to her if her children were not well cared for and happy. I learned from them that there is no sacrifice too much to make for my children, and God has helped me thus far. We do disagree among ourselves, but it never changed anything between us. Sometimes, they were vehement against some of my views, but still, they loved me and demonstrated it. They often went out of their way to give me what I needed and never left any stone unturned to bring me to a good place. They expended enormous spiritual and physical resources to help me succeed. This earned my trust, love, and loyalty, for which I was prepared to pay any price. They could almost get anything from me because they had paid their due. My dream for Nigeria is that our leaders will be like my parents one day!
Fuel Subsidy removal in Nigeria is long overdue. The best time to have removed it was during President Obasanjo’s first term in office when the economy in recent times was arguably most buoyant. However, the problem with the subsidy in Nigeria is beyond the subsidy itself. The subsidy regime is costing us too much more than we can afford. Nigeria indeed needs a reprieve as its revenue coffers are anything but full. The country needs its citizens to come to the table and reason, as there is no way out. The question, however, is whether Nigerians trust their leaders and whether the leaders are sincere with the citizenry. Does the average Nigerian feel committed to the Nation? Do they feel the need to make a sacrifice? Is there a feeling that we owe our country anything? Does the man or woman on the street feel indebted to the country? Is there any significant IOU that Nigeria has invested in its citizens that it can now call for at this time when “all hands of unity” should be on the deck?
Why should politicians who earn obscene pensions, collect massive security votes, constituency allowances, and other office perks ask the people to sacrifice for the country? Why should lawmakers who earn a stupendous remuneration expect citizens who earn a pittance to welcome a 250% increase in petrol? Why should an outgoing governor who requested N2.75b to buy cars for himself, his deputy and their wives expect his people to pay the market price for petrol? Why should politicians who bribe their way to office recommend sacrificial living for their citizens? Why should the government expect petroleum product retailers to sell at old prices when their replacement cost has increased due to the new price regime? Why should a government which failed to arrest crude oil thieves expect people with low incomes to accept the financial hardship from new fuel prices? Why should the government expect the people to make sacrifices when its public servants have been unable to wash their hands clean from the accusation of budget padding? Why should Nigerians sacrifice when the incident of corruption by public officers continues to increase unabated? Why should the government take away the citizens’ only perceived benefit? Why should Nigerians pay for the government’s failure to maintain its refineries? Why should a father who spends heavily on himself now ask his wife and children to manage only a meal daily?
In a recent Arise TV news interview, Matthew Hassan Kukah, the highly respected Catholic Bishop of Sokoto diocese, said this about Nigeria. “We have been running a very fraudulent state. Governance in Nigeria has been and still is a criminal enterprise. Those who have designed policies have no clarity of where they want the country to go”. Juxtapose with the recent claim by former governor, minister and Senator Ibrahim Shekarau that Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 federal representatives draining our hard-earned national wealth. Why should a government that allows miscreants to collect tolls for the use of a select few now expect its citizens to pay so much for fuel? How can a government that sees nothing wrong in owing its law enforcement officers for long periods now expect the people to rally around a painful policy? How can a government that gives immunity (which leads to impunity) to those who serve us expect loyalty and willingness to sacrifice at a time like this? How can we wake up one day and ask Nigerians to adjust to such an enormous fuel cost increase? What kind and size of palliative will cushion the impact, and how long before the people feel it?
Late last year, one of my nieces had a medical emergency in the United Kingdom. Though I was at my wits end as her older cousin made efforts to get help for her; nevertheless, everything took less than 15 minutes, with two paramedics coming to her aid with an ambulance – “delay” was because they needed a lot of background information from the patient who just came into the country 24 hours before the incident. The second time the paramedics were called, it took only about 5 minutes! Citizens of Nigeria can only watch this happen in movies, yet we want them to pay the market price for petrol!
I am not saying we should keep subsidies, nor am I pro-Labour strike. All I am saying is that “Daddy, you cannot do that” when the situation in the family called Nigeria is such as it is now! We must restructure the Nation’s life and bring equity and fairness into the Nigerian family. Until we do that, my position on fuel subsidy remains, Daddy; you cannot do that to your children – the Nigerian citizens!
Daddy President Tinubu, you cannot do that to the Nigerian citizens when everything good is so heavily skewed toward the elites and political leadership in the country, and the masses, seeing it, are so bitter. Take it or leave it; you can’t do that unless you don’t care about us!
The Bible teaches us to honour our parents, but the same bible also tells parents not to provoke their children. Therefore since God gave both laws, all must obey them. We will honour our president, but he must never provoke us.
I count on Mr President to do the right thing. I hope he will do the right thing. Nigeria’s means of saving money is not only through removing fuel subsidies; as an accountant, our dear President knows that very well! So many things are wrong with Nigeria, and if Mr President is going to be sincere with himself and us, He must address them all.
Adeoye Oyewo wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria.