Well, since you and I are neophytes in this perennial itch of â€œderegulationâ€, I believe it is high time someone competent stepped out to scratch deep into the issue which is uppermost in our minds, to wit, the price of fuel nationwide.
Not many of us are overly concerned about the precise meaning of terms like â€œupstreamâ€, â€œdownstreamâ€, and the like, but we all know the exact impact of pump price on our wallets. We are not talking here just about petrol but about kerosene as well.
Those who own private vehicles are, of course, usually the most vocal about social issues, and their concerns always tend to overshadow the affairs of poorer people like you and me. That must be why kerosene now costs so much without the Nigeria Labour Congress raising a finger in protest, and Governor Adams Oshiomhole, mercifully enough, did not have to revert again to his old role of instituting â€œdialogueâ€ as he graciously did in the matter of the university teachers and the government â€“ the Federal Government, that is.
Now consider the plethora of problems that any stateÂ governor has to contend with in his normal duties, and yet he had to bear the distraction of grappling with a national crisis that seemed to have fazed his successors in the labour organization in this country. That is the stuff for which national honours are awarded â€“ or should be awarded. Pardon my digression.
But to return to base, I did not realize that there was so much â€œsubsidyâ€ involved in the price of kerosene as to almost double the price with its removal â€“Â which is why I suppose the cost of the commodity suddenly went through the roof. But not even a loud murmur, but only a stifled whimper, went out of the common people who are forced to use the fuel like I am.
The obvious alternative is gas, but who can afford that? And as for firewood, did you ask for the price of even that one lately?
So, when we took in the hike in the price of kerosene quietly like we did, what were we expecting would happen to its â€œbig brotherâ€, petrol? I could sense that the hike was like a kite flying in the sky and that the petrol price would soon rise to meet it in due proportion.
Didnâ€™t you? So why is anyone making all this fuss about what should we do, or would do, or whatever?
The government authorities used to glibly talk in millions years ago, when they discussed the excessive sacrifice of subsidy. Not very many people were convinced; not many people even understood it all. Several, who claimed they did, opposed it and debunked it, but with minuscule success.
The baton of increase was handed over from administration to administration. The rhetoric rose higher as the claim of the cost of subsidy soared to billions. Now they are talking in trillions.
And how can you argue successfully without articulating your point with one voice? A crowd without a leader characterizes a rabble. And where is the leadership here? Who can lead us away from the impoverishment that lurks behind the stiff upward jerk of fuel cost that deregulation portends? Our labour leaders? Of course, I mean no disrespect; they are all honourable men and women but they inspire little respect from their achievements.
And it is not as though they do not know what to do – or do they? They declare an opposition to the very idea of â€œderegulationâ€, and identify it as a measure â€œto inflict more hardship and suffering on Nigerians.â€
Great! They argue rightly that it is nothing more or less than â€œprice increaseâ€, and describe the idea of subsidy as â€œbogusâ€. Beautiful! But what they should be doing now is holding rallies and public lectures to inform the people in order to strengthen the resolve of the populace against a measure they themselves see as obnoxious.
The air should be filled with the articulation of their protests on behalf of the people. Instead of which the government appears to be even more vocal than those who should be speaking on our behalf.
The authorities are denying the news of imminent increase in fuel price – as usual. The supply of the commodity has become spasmodic and is tending towards being scarce.
The petrol station operators have taken up the same song with government about the increase of petroleum products because they claim they are now paying more to obtain the commodities themselves. Meanwhile, crude is being sold at a very good price in the upper seventies per barrel in dollars.
But I know that we are soon going to be buying motor fuel at over the upper nineties in naira…. unless someone gets up from his â€œsit-uponâ€ and does something.
How do I know? Because government knows how to get us.
They always have the game in hand. All they have to do is starve us a bit more with fuel supply, and we would all be groveling at their feet. I wonder why they do not just do what they want to do since we are so helpless.
*immunity for all
I still find it difficult to believe that Nigerian legislators could propose a law that would grant them immunity from prosecution while in office. But so it would appear be. Several eminent citizens have decried the very idea, but it is indicative of how far along the road we have traveled on the way to abject decadence.
I find that the self-indulgent legislators have, this time, neglected to quote from what happens in other parts of the world, which is their favourite ploy for self-justification. They imagine that Nigerians are now woolly-headed enough to simply gulp down any mess they present as â€œhonourableâ€ members.
The remuneration ofÂ the members of our law-making bodies is determined without any reference to the people who elected them; they enjoy outrageous allowances that put the total earnings of some CEOâ€™s in reputable firms in the shade.
They live in official palatial residences as befit monarchs. Now they want to go scot-free even if they commit a crime? And so you ask yourself, what next will they be asking for?
The most galling aspect of the situation is that these people have the nerve to stretch their hands out for this additional extravagance in the wake of an outcry against those who enjoy it already, that is, the President of the nation and his vice, and also each State Governor and his Deputy.
And see what trouble that has got us into already! But just imagine the chaos, apart from the danger which would develop, if the legislators should have their way with us, as the ministers would promptly fall in line, followed by the state legislators and commissioners, and down the scale probably to the Sergeant-at-Arms et al!
The commotion would ensue actually in the struggle for election into office could be worse than it is now, in the rush for everyone to become â€œhonourableâ€.
The most disturbing element in this execrable situation is that the legislators really think they
could even swingÂ it.
There is said to be a gathering recently, which has no name but was attended by three men of name, which has no stated purpose except the enthronement of a new order, and which presents itself like a triumvirate for a coordinated effort. They have chosen to be known by a title evocative of global economic groups.
They are frustrated politicians who have lost a bid for high office individually, and who strike me as seeking for some people on which to foist their disappointment. They appear like flotsam on the seashore of political misadventure and can only create more muddle in the political tide sweeping across the nation now.
The main purpose appears as one of destabilization rather than institution, or dethronement as distinct from â€œenthronementâ€ as they claim. The ogre to be unseated is the PDP, made up of Nigerians like themselves, and to which some of them had belonged.
That political party is now spread all around like an insufferable octopus whose tentacles have reached into every nook and cranny of the country to preserve unprecedented influence for itself as a political party. It is not the first time that the ideas of ganging up to displace the perceived menace of the party, as perceived by its opponents, have been mooted.
The proponents of such a move are usually strange bedfellows who hardly find it comfortable to face one another. And so, like a group founded on negative instincts, they naturally stand on slippery grounds.
Granted that the PDP, as a political party, is yet to truly claim any aspect of a bewitching beauty that it has bestowed on this land in the past decade, just short of which it has been in power all over the nation. And we would further admit that even a change at the helm of its affairs has evinced no change so far.
But a desire to topple it from the seat of power does not by itself assure us of a better succession. There has to be something by way of record, or attestation, or even a declared promise or avowal to stimulate our belief in the sincerity ofÂ their purpose.
Our problem in politics is often compounded by the assumption that Nigerians are easily led by the nose. Maybe sometimes, but not always easily. That is what is wrong with the legislators who wish to live above the law simply because they are legislators – and Nigerians are dumb, anyway.
That is what is also the matter with the PDP itself, which thinks it is top of the heap and so it is swathed from head to toe in an unspeakable cloak ofÂ hubris. And so you have a trio of disillusioned losers who are blind to the low level of their credibility even within the body politic.
But permit me to add that everyone has the right, as a citizen, to free association – for a lawful and good purpose, that is. We have been talking about a lawful organization. I doubt how good it is.