By Paul Odenyi
Abuja—Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday condemned the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government, saying the move was ill- timed.
He also wondered why the government had to rush into the policy when it had promised the people that consultation was still on-going with major political stakeholders, especially the National Assembly.
In a statement in Abuja and signed by his media aide, Prince Kassim Afegbua, the former president said sticking to April date earlier advertised by government officials would have given the administration enough time to consult and explain the considerations for its proposed action.
He reminded the government that a policy such as subsidy removal was more of a political issue than a pure economic matter which the government considered it to be.
The statement, titled State of the Nation, further said: “On the issue of fuel subsidy removal, it is my opinion that it is ill-timed.
The issue of subsidy should be seen more as politics and not economics, because the sole purpose of government is for the good of the people and not to create hardship. It is better to seek political solution to the subsidy discourse than invoking the sentiments of economics. Government should have kept its word till April by which time better explanation would have been given before implementation takes effect.
“The National Assembly should have been made to be part of the decision-making process since the 2012 budget is yet to be discussed and passed by the legislature. Every government should ordinarily take the interest of her people at heart so that the reason for its existence would be justified.
I will insist that a political solution be sought in resolving the issue so that a mutually agreeable position could be reached between the leaders and the people. This exclusive decision of the executive arm of government does not speak well of the tenets and principles of participatory and all-inclusive democracy.”
General Babangida also said he was confident of the ability of President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle all the issues and problems besseting the nation if only he distanced himself from those he described as “attention seeking public affairs analysts and advisers.”
He said all the President needed to do was to take time to reflect on issues and through that find solutions to them.
According to him, the divide between the ruled and the government is too wide for mutual trust.
In his words: “We must begin to consciously redirect our collective energies in entrenching a culture of strong and enduring moral super-structure as a platform for sustaining our once cherished value system. There is a potential breakdown of social contract between the leaders at all levels and the led. Leaders have failed in their responsibilities at meeting the expectations of the people.
These days, the gap between the rich and poor has further polarized the socio-economic and political discourse on the basis of winner-takes-all thus making public office unethically attractive. This is why there is so much desperation in the contest for public office.
The failure of governments and Leaders at various levels; Local Government, State Government and the Federal Government; religious leaders, Judiciary, political leaders, traditional leaders, Media at providing the much expected dividends of democracy, has further disconnected the people from their leaders; reason why there has been so much angst in the land.
“In order to arrest this ugly trend and refocus our country on the path of peaceful co-existence in spite of our manifest tribal configurations, we must begin to revit our value system and provoke platforms where this becomes the central theme of our collective discourse.
Rather than leaders competing on the basis of who owns the latest house, automobile or jet in town, they should compete in the faculty of ideas to drive good governance and accountability. Any government that is able to deliver the tangibles and intangibles to stimulate wider audience participation in governance will be on the positive reckoning of the people.