By Paul Onomuakpokpo
What is more alarming in the midst of the current crisis of fuel price increase is not really its searing impact on the lives of the citizens . Of course, the increase throws into sharp relief the calamitous progression of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari from a disavowal of promises to a brazen affliction of the citizens with policies that would effectively plunge them to the nadir of despair. But what is clearly grimmer is the path of the lack of transparency that the Buhari administration has taken.
Remember, desperate to clinch the presidency in 2015, Buhari and his co-travellers in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the giddy days of the campaigns made several promises that apparently portrayed them as fully reconciled to the urgent need to rescue the citizens from the depredations of a ruthless political class. They promised to pay unemployed graduates N5,000, create jobs for the teeming population of the unemployed and through a magic wand known only to them transmute the severely decimated naira from trailing behind the dollar to a pedestal of parity of N1 to $1.
But since almost a year that Buhari became president these promises among others have either been blatantly denied or totally neglected. It is not only that the promised stipend has not been paid but that the rank of the unemployed has bourgeoned against the backdrop of failing companies due to the worsening economic crisis. And instead of the promised parity, the naira continues to crash, with heightened speculations that it would soon hit N500 to a dollar .
No doubt, while the citizens wait for the government to make the right policies to improve their condition, it is clear that they are currently beset with a cruel fate. Or how else do we explain a situation where while their economic power is becoming more vitiated, they are compelled by the government to pay more to live in the country? Since those first few days of the Buhari administration when it appeared as if electricity had improved in response to his so-called body language, the nation has been plunged deeper into darkness . Yet, the Buhari administration increased the tariff regime, contrary to his promise to improve electricity. The citizens protested, whined about the injustice in paying for a service that was not provided. Some went to court to seek judicial ramparts against this impunity. But the Buhari administration and the electricity companies have had their way.
In the guise of fighting corruption, the Buhari presidency has remorselessly violated the constitutional imperative of considering the accused innocent until proved otherwise . Yet, it is the same judicial intervention he has sought to prevent labour from embarking on strike. Those accused of corruption and the courts granted bail are still being detained. Those who dared protested against the skewed manner in which the anti-corruption campaign is being prosecuted have been branded as people who are enamoured of a defeated past that was marred by corruption and lawlessness.
It is obviously because the Buhari administration’s predilection for impunity has not been matched with strong opposition from the citizens that it has brazenly increased the price of fuel. If as the presidency wants us to believe, the fuel price increase is a bitter pill the citizens must swallow to revive the economy, they should have been told this before the announcement of the increase. Before and after Buhari became president, he gave the impression that there was no subsidy anywhere and that if at all it existed it was a scam. He promised that instead of making the citizens to pay so much for fuel, they would pay less. But now that he has realised that he was wrong, and since the purpose of his government is to improve the lot of the citizens, he should have consulted with the citizens. It is in this regard that the opposition of labour to the price increase is significant. The citizens under the aegis of labour must reject the price increase. How far labour would go in rejecting this new price would determine whether the Buhari presidency would still take the citizens for granted or not.
Buhari failed to consult with labour apparently because he is torn between his much-professed pre-occupation with the breaking of the jinx of the dominance of the unearned prosperity of a minority and equitably distributing the abundant wealth of the nation and his need to perfectly assume the place of a pawn in the soulless game of capitalist hegemonisation that he was assigned by the financiers of his quest for the presidency. Was the Buhari presidency hiding anything that it failed to convince the citizens that there is the need for a different price regime? Why did Buhari fail to convince the people that his regulated deregulation is the best way for the country to go? If Buhari chose to continue to run a byzantine government that is characterised by the exclusion of the citizens’ input in its policies, it should not expect the people to trust him no matter how genuine his intentions are. After all, successive administrations have betrayed the trust of the citizens and to regain the trust of the latter, the Buhari government must operate on an unambiguous template of transparency.
The two distinct instances of his arbitrary increase of electricity tariffs and fuel price have clearly further demystified Buhari. Despite his pretensions that he is one of the citizens who have been afflicted by poverty due to decades of misrule and that he could not even provide the funds he needed to buy his party form indicating his presidential ambition, Buhari apparently is only interested in pleasing those who have bankrolled his quest for the presidency. They are the ones who own the companies that benefit from the arbitrary charges for electricity. And this is why despite that the price of fuel has been capped at N145 per litre, marketers are busy selling the product at over N200 without any sanction. Who are the owners of these filling stations selling fuel at these exorbitant prices?
Since to some people Buhari’s unilateral increase of the fuel price is reflective of his uncommon courage, there is the need for him to channel such courage into making policies that would stop this perennial fuel crisis.fuel crisi He should direct his energies into engendering a more equitable society. The president should implement the 2014 national conference report that promises a more equitable federalism. There should be true federalism that would stop the country from depending on oil to sustain the economy.
A true federal system that the citizens have always asked for would enable the states to depend on their own resources to sustain themselves. He should have the courage to make the refineries work or privatise them and facilitate the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Until Buhari moves in this direction, labour is right in doubting his intentions and policies no matter how altruistic they seem.
The article above first appeared on The Guardian