By Kunle Oyatomi
If in 10 years of democracy (since 1999) we cannot put a solid finger on any positive, life-enhancing benefit that the hopeless refrain of deregulation has brought to Nigeria, (Except the massive rip-off called GSM), why should anybody want to persuade us that deregulation – especially in the oil sector – would make any difference to our lives in this tragic country?
Practical experience has taught us the bitter lesson that whenever government talked about deregulation, they sold us a whole garbage of lies; and in the over two decade that the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry caught the fancy of both military and civilian politicians, virtually all the promises made by governments had gone unfulfilled.
There was only one unusual exception during the cruel dictatorship of Sani Abacha, who appointed rtd. General Mohammadu Buhari to administer the gains made from deregulation as structural and other direct development projects, through Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, which Nigerians could see and experience.
That was an ironic situation but it was true that only.Â Abacha regime lived up to its words to do anything reasonable with the fund. Since then till now, all so-called gains of deregulation, (which has become similar with price increase), have not only disappeared into mysterious hands, nothing whatsoever has been done by government that had promised to use the gains of â€œsubsidyâ€ removal for social and infrastructural development.
From 1999 since the civilians took over governance under a democratic arrangement, we have suffered progressive deterioration of not only the countryâ€™s infrastructural network, practically all our institutions critical to socio-political and democratic advancement have collapsed. Even governance itself is grinding to a halt.
What is evident beyond any dispute is that most politicians, especially of the ruling elite have no positive idea what democracy is about, and it is debatable whether they have any clear cut plan for moving the nation forward.
If our experience thus far is the benchmark, then we wonâ€™t be wrong to say that for the current breed of politicians in power, democracy is a government of the privileged few for the benefit of themselves, their families and their friends.
The democracy we practise here at this point in time is one that fosters the most despicable level of corruption ever known in Nigeria since independence. It is choking the life out of majority of Nigerians.
As we are made to understand it by those who developed the idea here on earth, and have given us examples of its best practices, democracy is a people-centered form of government designed to make life liveable and comfortable for the greatest number of people. Which is why it is â€œa government of the people, by the people for the people.â€
But our painful experience of democracy in the last decade is among the worst form of manâ€™s inhumanity to man, as this concept has been turned on its head, and a few greedy and callous set of people have hijacked the system for their personal benefit, with little if any thought at all for the people.
So what is this â€œderegulationâ€ supposed to do for the people in the last 10 years. According to government, gains from the exercise was targeted to develop roads, provide medi-care, provide electricity, make portable water available to the masses, update and upgrade our educational system and its dilapidating infrastructures, etc, etc. But what have we experienced?
Not one, not a single promise made has been kept. We have been fed with lies, lies, lies all the way, and these people in government think they can continue to pull the wool over our faces? When Nigerians scream in protest against the inhuman level of official deceit, then government award contracts to do the roads, but what we get is patches. Hardly any of the road patched with billions of naira in these circumstances lasted six months. It is true and similar in all the aspects identified above.
The year 2009 will be gone in a couple of days, and we are still counting our misery in the hands of government. And the tragedy of it all is that the ruling elite regales in arrogant disregard of the peopleâ€™s sufferings much less talk about their feelings.
They are milking the Nigerian cow with relentless ferocity, without thought or consideration for its life. But after 2009, are these people in power really sure that they can continue their deficient business of governance as usual?
Look at the hopeless security situation in the country: imagine the high profile assassinations of Chief Bola Ige, Engr. Funso Williams, Dr. Ayo Daramola and Kehinde Fasugba in Ekiti, Dele Giwa in Lagos, Harry Marshal, PDP national vice chairman to mention a few. Look at the ease with which kidnapping has flourished in a relatively short time, then think of the extra-judicial killings all over the place by members of the security forces – all of them, practically all of them unresolved professionally.
Now what is the basis for confidence in the ability of this government to provide security in the country. The situation has been deteriorating in the last decade, and there is no good reason to believe that the current arrangement could be trusted to provide security in the â€œhomeland.â€
The only security there is may have been reserved for the rich and powerful, and the ruling elite. And these people think that we are not already with our backs on the wall, where the people will have no choice but to fight back?
As this year is being made to slip away, one can only caution that the years ahead may not promise peace if governance does not address the suffering of the masses.
Those who hide under the shadow of democracy to make life miserable for Nigerians may have a good chance to think again-in 2010. We have had enough of the lies, we have taken enough of the blistering consequences of corruption in the land, we have borne enough of the burden of insecurity; we have had enough of mysterious killings and senseless assassinations. We want peace. Nigerians deserve to have it under a situation of development and change.
The problem is, peaceful change is currently being made impossible by the rich and powerful, including those incharge of governance. Whether these people learn from history or not, the clock of history continues to tick, and it is inexorably so.
There is nothing of importance to cheer about 2009. We can only hope that 2010 will be different. Happy new year in advance.