Just before the presidential elections in March this year, Nigerians were almost sure that the doomsday prediction of total disintegration by 2015 was becoming a self-fulfilling reality. Thanks to well-meaning Nigerians and the international community whose timely intervention contributed to the loser conceding defeat even before the end of the elections, it would have been a different story today; needless to say that this remarkable step saved the nation’s boat from sinking beyond redemption.
But even in the face of the prevailing foggy scenario of the sharp division between those who were for President Muhammadu Buhari and those against him, the masses, from Otuoke to Daura, lined solidly behind him, united by the slogan “Sai Buhari”, meaning only Buhari can do it. But in saying so, they meant not only his proclamation to kill corruption before it killed Nigeria, but also that he would be courageous and decisive enough to confront other challenges, to step on toes, no matter whose ox was gored.
There were several justifications for their innocent optimism. This is the first time a candidate will win our presidency on the strength of his persistence and audacity of his ambition. The first time Nigeria will hand over power and mandate to a tenacious and dogged power seeker.
The late Bashorun MKO Abiola sought for it, worked hard for it, won the hearts of Nigerians and also won the elections adjudged the freest and fairest in our history, but sadly died fighting to claim his mandate. Buhari also fought and won the elections and could have been prevented from claiming the mandate. But he was lucky when his opponent threw in the towel when it appeared to all and sundry that the battle had just begun.
Therefore, the best that is expected from Buhari is to leave an enduring legacy in the sands of time. Doing so involves taking tough economic decisions rather than putting in place palliatives and playing to the gallery like most of his predecessors.
We admire Buhari’s strong aversion for impunity and resolve to make the nation unsafe for the corrupt. However, even if we achieve total success in this regard, the economy will still remain vulnerable unless other structural economic issues are properly and correctly addressed.
Mr. President, it is bad enough that despite our diverse natural endowments, this nation has remained a mono-cultural economy. That the budget of the federal, state and local governments relies absolutely on one product sourced largely from a few minority states not only raises critical issues of our development but also serious security concerns if not urgently and properly addressed.
The resource curse, which is associated with oil-rich mono cultural economies is organically connected with our infamous corruption profile. We must demystify the role of oil by courageously compelling every level of government to develop the capacity for self-reliance by improving on their internally generated revenue. Apart from the abundance of arable lands for agriculture, there is, hardly any local government or state that does not have natural endowments that can be harnessed for the benefit of the country.
The dependence of everyone, every local government, every state government and even the federal government on oil and gas is harmful to our strategic economic and political interests and dysfunctional to our national integration. It is against this background that we wish to restate our earlier call on Mr. President to strip the issue of all the sentiments, politics and pretensions and answer the clarion calls of all well-meaning Nigerians that the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil sector must be deregulated now.
The subsidy regime amounts to nothing short of declaration of economic war by the Nigerian political elite on the oil and gas sector in particular and the national economy in general. With trillions of dollars spent on the socalled subsidy over the years to support perpetual import, dependence on the sub-sector’s subsidy has surpassed corruption and money laundering as the main source of our economic instability.
We must deregulate the sector to stop the rot and provide the enabling environment for the 65 companies, which have just been licensed by this administration, including the previous ones, to begin work on privately-owned refineries. The greatest disincentive to this is the subsidy regime. For over three weeks now, the nation has relapsed into the horrific scenes of the sordid past, the pain of biting fuel scarcity. What a terrible reminder that the ugly past is still here with us.
This is happening when the National Assembly has just given the government the green light to release over N500 billion to settle the insatiable appetite of Mr. Subsidy. Government can no longer blame anybody for our present predicament. Not even when the President himself has been in the saddle, supervising the ministry. We therefore repeat our earlier demand that President Buhari must act now and stop the stinking mess.
God bless Nigeria