By Femi Aribisala
FABU” is a Yoruba slang denoting an exaggerated lie. It points to a tall tale; a gross distortion of the truth. “Fabu” is a shortened form of the English word “fabulate,” which refers to the composition of fables or stories featuring a strong element of fantasy and lies. Without a doubt, within the Nigerian political stratosphere, APC is a party that lives in “fabuland.”
Art of fabulation: The chief exponent of APC fabulation is Lai Mohammed. He was formerly the party’s National Publicity Secretary, a post in which he distinguished himself. This has now earned him promotion to the post of Minister of Information and Culture. In this new capacity, Mohammed has already begun to fine-tune his art of fabulation. No sooner had he become Minister than he went ahead to tell Nigerians that fuel scarcity would soon be a thing of the past.
These are his words delivered with characteristic aplomb at the Abuja office of Daily Trust newspapers on 2 December, 2015: “We can confidently announce here today that the (fuel) scarcity will end in a few days. The National Assembly has approved subsidy payment till the end of the year. As you know, we can’t spend money without approval. We can assure you that we won’t be caught in this kind of situation again.”
They call this kind of “fabu” “famous last words.” Anyone living in Nigeria this Christmas season can bear witness to the extent to which Mohammed’s words have originated from APC’s fantasy fabuland. In Lagos, for example, the roads are completely clogged like at no other time because they have been overtaken by cars queuing for fuel. More than ever before, it now takes literally hours on end to go from A to B.
Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum, has quickly come out with another pie-in-the-sky from APC’s “fabuland,” conveniently changing Mohammed’s fabulous goalpost without even batting an eyelid. Speaking to the party’s big-guns from Delta State, Kachikwu promises to bring about fundamental changes in Nigeria’s oil sector not before the end of 2015, but before the end of 2016.
Hear him: “The country’s oil sector will experience a turnaround such that the refineries will work effectively and products will be made available to the people at an affordable price within 365 days.”
You begin to wonder whether APC members even bother to coordinate their own fabulations. Would any right-thinking Nigerian buy a used car from any member of the APC today? I doubt it! Apparently, the government has determined that we should fill our tanks with “fabu” instead of petrol this holiday season. What does this mean for those planning to travel home for Christmas and the New Year?
Non-existent petrol subsidy
During the heated debate in 2012, when President Jonathan sought to remove the petroleum subsidy, the APC championed national revolt against the government. People occupied the streets and the government was forced to back down. General Buhari came out to tell Nigerians that the whole issue of petroleum subsidy was one big government scam.
He said: “I don’t understand what the Nigerian economists and the members of the government are calling subsidy. Who is subsidising who? If anybody says he is subsidising anything, it is a fraud. So all these people talking about subsidy; who is subsidising who?”
But now that Buhari is not only president, but also the unofficial Minister of Petroleum Resources; the subsidy is apparently no longer fraudulent. His position now is that this “fraud” is in the interest of Nigerians. Speaking at a briefing by the petroleum ministry on 13 July, 2015, the president said:
“I have received many literature on the need to remove subsidies, but much of it has no depth. When you touch the price of petroleum products; that has the effect of triggering price rises on transportation, food and rents. That is for those who earn salaries, but there are many who are jobless and will be affected by it.”
We may well ask why Mr. President is now trying to defend and retain something he claimed was fraudulent and even non-existent. “Who is now subsidising who?”
“Buhari tax”: Under Jonathan, Senator Bola Tinubu, the so-called National Leader of the APC, rallied Nigerians against the removal of the petroleum subsidy. He castigated the government’s attempt to remove the subsidy as a wicked tool designed to impoverish Nigerians. These were his words:
“As there is progressive politics, there is progressive economics. As there is elitist politics, there is elitist economics. It all depends on what and who in society government would rather favour. The Jonathan tax represents a new standard in elitism. Because he is slave to wrong-headed economics the people will become enslaved to greater misery.
Same petroleum subsidy
This crisis will bear his name and will be his legacy. The people now pay a steep tax for voting him into office. The removal of the subsidy is the ‘Jonathan tax.’”
But now that the APC is in power, Tinubu is calling for the removal of the same petroleum subsidy he lampooned Jonathan for trying to remove. Speaking at the memorial anniversary of the passing of the late Bala Usman on 18 December, 2015, Tinubu said:
“I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for that hell to be turned into heaven. It is better that we remove it, not for the austere purpose of saving money but to use the money more wisely that we might better save the people. Let us begin a process of a thoughtful, but decisive subsidy phase-out.”
What are we to make of this hypocrisy? According to Tinubu, the removal of the petroleum subsidy under the PDP would amount to a Jonathan tax designed to enslave the people to greater misery. But under the APC, the removal of the subsidy would be a Buhari tax that would save the people. Which of these “fabu” are we supposed to believe? I repeat, can any right-thinking Nigerian buy a used car from any APC member today?
The end of Boko Haram: In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Buhari boasted he would defeat Boko Haram within two months if elected president. This was how the “fabu” was expressed at the time: “We know how they started and where they are now and we will rapidly give attention to security in the country. And I believe we will effectively deal with them in two months when we get into office.”But once elected, the president insisted this “fabu” was the creation of his opponents. He said: “I think I am too experienced in internal security to give two months deadline on Boko Haram. I don’t think I would have made that statement. I didn’t.”
Nevertheless, the president could not resist coming up with another “fabu” to replace the earlier one. At a meeting in October 2015 with General Rodriguez, Commander of the United States’ Africa Command, the same President Buhari who said he could not have declared it would take only two months to defeat Boko Haram, now said the insurgency would be defeated in three months.
Hear him: “Structured attacks by the insurgents have reduced and by the end of the year, we should see the final routing of Boko Haram as an organised fighting force.” He again reiterated this “fabu” on Al Jazeera’s Up Front magazine: “As soon as the rainy season comes (to an end), which is by the end of the year, Boko Haram will virtually be out of their main stronghold and that will be the end of it.”
Only God knows why the president finds it necessary to come out with this kind of “fabu.” It is the kind of thing even the president of superpower United States would not dare to make. However, our very own APC members live permanently in fabuland. Their “fabus” are on never-ending auto-pilot. They come one after the other and are never impeded by reason, logic or even outright contradictions.
The government spends a lot of time coming up with “fabus,” denying them, defending them and varnishing them. The president has even found it necessary to reassure his teeming supporters that he will not resign because a “fabu” is discovered incontrovertibly to be a “fabu.” He told Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan that if Boko Haram is not defeated by December: “I will not resign.”
But why declare the “fabu” in the first place if it can later be ignored? The “fabu” is simply a hyperbole to be fed periodically to the public, in lieu of concrete public policy.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, “fabu” of this APC government is that it is fighting corruption when, in actual fact, anti-corruption is merely an instrument for decimating the PDP and establishing a one-party APC state. Today, APC carefully ignores its own corrupt members while going after the PDP exclusively.
In order not to scare off dodgy members of his party with his anti-corruption “fabu,” Buhari promised to let corrupt sleeping dogs lie if elected: “A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue,” he said.
He further elaborated on this at the APC campaign rally in Kaduna: “Whoever that is indicted of corruption between 1999 to the time of swearing-in, would be pardoned. I am going to draw a line, anybody who involved himself in corruption after I assume office, will face the music.”
But now that that “fabu” has fulfilled its purpose, it has been conveniently jettisoned. Of course, APC members remain untouchable; Buhari’s anti-corruption is now only applicable to the PDP. However, it might not be so cut and dry as the president would like. Buhari himself is implicated in the “fabu” of Dasukigate, which would have Nigerians believe that while PDP used public funds illegally for party-political purposes, the APC did not.
In July 2014, Buhari’s SUV was attacked and damaged. Two SUVs were given to him to replace the damaged one. The two-for-one replacement contravenes section 3(1) of the Remuneration of Former Presidents and Heads of State Act of 2004. According to that Act, Buhari is not entitled to any new vehicles until 2016; and certainly not from the office of the NSA. We can expect to hear more “fabus” on this issue as the case continues to go out of control.
Would any right-thinking Nigerian buy a used car from any member of the APC today? Only Buharimaniacs still seem inclined to do so.