Partial defence of president Goodluck Jonathan: We are all involved
By Adisa Adeleye
It has been observed that no single day has passed without reference being made to the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan either in one critical form or the other.
The President has expressed his embarrassment about the constant criticism of himself as a person and that of his government by the media which should understand him and support his progressive policies. At any special occasion, the President would like to express his disappointment with those who have doubted his ability to transform Nigeria.
The prevalent critical attitude of many Nigerians and the ambivalence of others towards governance seem to underscore the level of political development in the country.
This has, perhaps, prompted a popular columnist to ask the question, “who is going to mediate between President Goodluck Jonathan and his critics?” Over the decades, political leaders (civilian or military) have come under public scrutiny and many have been severely structured over what many people perceive as
unprogressive policies. With respect to the past political leaders, my hero is President Shehu Shagari for his patience and understanding of events in his days inspite of, at times, unjustified criticisms. A commentator once rebuked him for his inability to read as many English literature books as necessary for an ideal President of Nigeria. But that was the politics of those days.
As much as one would like to assure President Goodluck Jonathan that critical analysis of the personality and actions by the ruling political leaders is a process of deepening democracy, it is, however fair to reassess the level of criticism leveled against the present President.
The name of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan first appeared in the political scene when he was elected Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State and later became Governor when his boss was impeached.
He was elected Governor of Bayelsa State and then Vice President of Nigeria under the late Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua. When the boss died, Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria, the position he enjoys today after his election in 2011.
There is no doubt in the minds of many Nigerians that he won the election handsomely, and he was seen as the ideal leader.
It could be said that President Jonathan was elected with our eyes wide open, and conscious of his limitation as a human being and as a political leader with little but guided political experience.
Some still believe that inspite of the new elections, nothing has changed to suggest the birth of a new revolution. It is like yesterday an exhibition of mediocrity, howbeit, seemingly conscientious.
It is true that the President‘s reaction and understanding and mastering of events might be influenced by some of his selfish advisers. It is believed that President Jonathan himself might not be prepared to tread beyond his political experience even when exemplary courage is demanded.
It is assumed that with the presence of domestic insurgency (characterized by Boko Haram bombings) and economic uncertainties (represented by CBN‘s unfriendly monetary stance with regards to rising unemployment), the complete control of events might perhaps be difficult.
It is a pity that President Jonathan in some respect, has failed to show clear understanding of some issues and the ways of mastering them.
For instance, on the question of the removal of oil subsidy, and the subsequent mob reaction in many places, especially in Lagos, the statement credited to President Jonathan that the mob action (riots) was sponsored, was rather unfortunate.
The sudden New Year gift of moving the pump price of gasoline from N65 to N97 under the guise of removing oil subsidy without any explanation was itself a provocation and an invitation to untoward reaction by the already suffering public who was fed up with the slogan of deregulation of thedownstream sector of the oil industry.
It is not a question of whether the increase in pump price of gasoline from N65 to N97 was justified or not at that particular time.
Rather, it was a point of confusion brought by the government officials saddled with the responsibility of removing oil subsidy. If the local refinery could not meet the increasing consumption of gasoline at home, (as it has been proved), it would be necessary to import additional volume. If the landed cost of imported products was about N140 and the domestic pump price was N65, the difference would amount to a subsidy.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of a good government to reduce or ensure that no subsidy arises. The present price of N97 still carries an element of subsidy and that is why a sum of N888 billion was put into the 2012 budget.
However, the problem of subsidy raises the question of whether it is reasonable for any government to continue to import a product which it produces abundantly at home. The NNPC (which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the flow of gasoline products at home) could not justify the use of the allocation of 475,000 barrels of crude oil per day for the domestic use.
What appeared on the scene is the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulation Agency (PPPRA) which scandalized the issue of import licenses to about 125 companies (of diverse origins). Those involved in the shame of oil importations are Nigerians.
It is understood that the number of companies authorized to import has been reduced to about 39 and these companies are assumed to be behind the looming scarcity of petroleum products in the country unless they are paid what was owed to them in the past.
One would certainly sympathize with a country with the possibility of being ripped-off at every stage of the transaction. The import of a single product by so many importers is a stupid policy of economic waste, since a single barrel of crude oil would yield gasoline and many associated products whose sale would help to bring the cost of a single product down.
The high exchange rate did not help the situation. The lasting solution to the problem of oil subsidy lies in a policy of complete deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry which the present government is unwilling to pursue even through the PIB Bill (now before the National Assembly).
There should be no need now for any agency to cater for importation of petroleum products. What the country needs is an agency to promote the export of refined petroleum products from the domestic crude oil.