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Fuel subsidy removal: Meat pie without meat – 2

By Dele Sobowale
“Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed”. I.F. Stone  US Journalist  1929.

“It’s government policy – you have to carry on as though you were on stage: talk a little louder and put on a bit of make-up. Otherwise the audience won’t get the point”.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian Novelist, in THE FIRST CIRCLE.

Last Sunday, January 1, 2012, the first part of this series of articles ended as follows: “SUBSIDY IS GONE. Hardship begins!!!!” The next day Nigerians woke up to discover that, while they slept, the government they elected in April 2011, had stabbed them in the back.

Fuel price went up from N67 to N141 per litre. A caller woke me up at 6.00 a.m to call me a prophet/wizard for being the first journalist to predict the event. He naturally wanted to know how I could have been so prescient. The answer is simple.

At Unijankara our motto has always been: NEVER BELIEVE WHAT GOVERNMENT SAYS. In this particular instance, the Town Hall Meeting organized by the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, on December 22, 2011, in Lagos supplied the final piece of the puzzle regarding when the increase will occur.

Three government representatives were on the stage – the Ministers for Finance and Petroleum as well as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The two Ministers, both female, in the manner of officials in Stalinist Russia, certainly, talked a little louder, and they indeed put on a lot of make-up considering the ages.

All three government representatives did carry on as if they were on stage. And they were – like propagandists in the worst years of Communist Soviet Union. They were there to sell a dummy to Nigerians about fuel subsidy and the first thing they did was to ask Nigerians to be less cynical and “give us a chance”.

Then came question time and someone asked pointedly: “When will the policy take effect?” The answer was provided by one of the heavily made up women — carrying on as if on stage. “The government has not yet decided when”.

But, like all actresses, the lips said one thing the body language said something else. It was the correct reading of the body language that separates the Unijankara faculty and students from the rest of Nigerians. We knew somebody was lying; we knew that the subsidy had been removed and the painted lips asking for our trust were not telling the truth.

Two days after, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, who was not on stage, exposed the lie when he announced that as far as the NNPC, the sole importer of fuel, was concerned, subsidy had been removed. That should have been the end of the story.

Still, my fellow Nigerians, ever gullible, still clung to the hope that the “death sentence” passed on their welfare will not be executed. Again, Unijankara people, ever realistic, knew that there would be no reprieve.

The end of under N100 per litre fuel had come and the “actresses”, talking a little louder, and heavily made-up, had performed well on stage – they provided diversion while the final plans were being put in place to make life more of a living hell for Nigerians. You asked for it; you voted for Jonathan.

Let us have a round of applause for Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs Alison-Maduaeke !!! before we continue with the serious business of analyzing what the impact will be on Nigerians. Less than an hour after the early morning bombshell, people arrived motor parks and bus stops to discover that the fare had gone up.

At Iwo Road, Ibadan, nothing less than 65% of those intending to travel went back —raining curses and maledictions on the Federal government and its officials. The next day was the first working day of the year, January 3, 2012. Wait for the report.

If Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs Alison-Madueke deserve applause, the award winner on the stage on that memorable day was none other than our own beloved Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State who was acting the role of the CHAMELEON.

For a long time, the former head of the Nigerian Labour Congress had been fooling some of the people some of all the time. He had also managed to fool all the people some of the time. But, as the late President Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, had reminded people playing such roles in public life, Oshiomole, just before the NPAN Town Hall meeting, discovered that he couldn’t fool all the people all the time. We now know Oshimole for what he is.

It is not clear to me the criteria used by the organizers of that event when selecting the governors to represent all the 36 governors, who, incidentally, are all in support of subsidy removal. So, from that standpoint, there is no distinction between so called progressives and those modest enough not to lay claim to any pretensions about being for “the masses”.

But, I can imagine that Oshiomole was chosen because he rose to fame on the backs of the “masses” during those years when as the NLC President he fought every attempt to “remove subsidy” – each time disputing that it does not exist.

He and Comrade Issa Aremu were among four members of a panel established by Obasanjo is 2004 to study deregulation, who signed a minority report disagreeing with the rationale for subsidy removal at the time. The rationale has not changed in 2011, but Oshiomole’s status has changed. He is now one of the oppressors. He is now a governor. More than that, he was probably the first governor to agree to subsidy removal.

With a former Comrade, who had betrayed the “masses” on their side, the Federal government had an easier time persuading others to join the bandwagon. Thus when asked for his closing remarks, our formerly dear Oshiomhole, rapidly agreed to subsidy removal, then proceeded to “talk a little louder” asking government to “arrest members of the cabal and send them to jail” – or words to that effect.

The fact is, in that role of the Chameleon, Oshiomhole sold the masses down the river for nothing knowing that the “cabal members” will never be arrested because they are all prominent PDP members and financiers.

If anybody was fooled by Oshimhole’s acting on stage at the Muson Centre, none of the faculty and students of Unijankara was among them. Admittedly, we too had been hoodwinked by the man in the past. The media, including us, had created a personality quite different from the real Adams and because we have always been guided by indisputable facts, rather than sentiments, we at one point started to take a second look at the former NLC President.

And what we discovered was totally at variance with the popular view. We were still putting the pieces together when Oshimole himself confirmed what we had regarded as a wicked rumour passed around by his detractors to soil his image. He did it at a book launch where, after getting carried away he let the cat’s head out of the bag about his duplicity….

LAST LINE: The Senate in 2011 faults BPE. No Wikileaks. Read Chapter 8 of “Deleleaks” and find out how one parastatal was robbed under Obasanjo’s nose.


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