By Sunny Ikhioya
A RECENT news report quoted the new Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Alhaji Mele Kyari, as saying that selling petrol at N145 per litre was no longer sustainable. This again adds to the uncertainty surrounding the price of petrol in the country, and you begin to wonder why we keep going round in circles.
Why can’t we just keep things simple? Why must we be importing fuel, when we have crude oil in abundance? Why must we import fuel when we can produce it locally? Why are we discouraging the locals from fuel production? What are we afraid of? What is the big deal about producing fuel, something which the locals have been doing for long along the creeks of the Niger Delta?
It is not rocket science to set standards for the locals. Why are we not thinking in this direction? Why do we like to make simple things look complex? How is it possible to achieve technological breakthroughs without fixing power? We build houses with European taste without giving consideration to our weather and other environmental conditions; our leaders drive the latest and the most technically developed cars but cannot afford to pay workers’ salaries. In Nigeria, the more complex the solution, the more we like it, with a lot of repetitions and overlapping of functions and so much talk to confuse the people.
Even with INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), the situation is the same. How do you run a presidential election for over 90 political parties when you do not have the technology to back up such venture? It is mind-boggling the way we confuse things. When President Muhammadu Buhari was contesting for the presidency as an opposition candidate in year 2015, he said that he could not understand what the fuel subsidy was all about; he should know because he once held the position of petroleum minister under the military dispensation. After four years in power, the fuel subsidy has more than doubled, even after the pump price of fuel has been increased by almost one hundred percent, with the opposition and the people beaten to submission.
The President has been made to succumb to the overwhelming statistics presented to him by the ‘experts’; fuel subsidy is now okay, it is business as usual at the NNPC, no change. They are preparing our minds again for another round of fuel price increase, if the statement by the new GMD is to be taken seriously; and that will lead us to another cycle of wastefulness. Why have we found it difficult to break the behemoth that is keeping us down at NNPC? Why can’t we just break things down to simple indices for the people to understand? We are producing professors like pure water, google search their names in the internet to find out their research breakthroughs and you will draw a blank. That is our way.
Are the people running this country really thinking about the welfare of the people? Are they not trapped by the grandeur of power and enticement of their office, to the extent that the poor masses are so distant from them? They do not suffer transport, power and other common problems associated with the masses. So, how will they understand how the ordinary man exist? We must demand for simplicity in truth and in deed from our leaders, that is the only way forward. This has been proven in the lives of great men like Mahatma Ghandi of India, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Mao Zedong of China.
When shall we have a truly simple leader who will put the interest of the people first? Countries like India and China embraced the simple philosophy and made it a cultural thing with the people by shutting themselves from the world for some time. Today, China is taking millions out of poverty annually. Making things simple begins with the laying of proper foundation – education, frugality, affordable housing, food and youth engagement. Simple demands equal respect and treatment for all irrespective of tribe and religion; that way, things are seen transparently. Simple is when you allow merit to take its course, it does not weigh on your conscience. Simple is when we keep to our size and budget, you cannot be pursuing rocket science when you still cannot feed yourself. Simple is when all of your followers can easily interpret where you are going as a leader.
Somebody wrote a book, Keep it simple, stupid!, that is the philosophy that we should be adopting. Even in naming or marketing, simple sells better. I cannot resist the temptation of using the analogy of the game of football to describe the beauty of simplicity in our world today. In the world of football we have seen great teams like FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool and the rest. Amongst the most outstanding philosophies that drive football in these great teams is the one espoused by Pep Guardiola as seen in the style of play of Manchester City Football Club. It is simple – pass to the next man that is free and maintain possession, goal opportunity will come. Their dominance is so total in the game that you begin to wonder whether other coaches are sleeping; that is, except you are Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool.
Simple is clear, unambiguous and beautiful. If we can apply it in our daily lives and in the way we govern our country, we can get out of the mess in less than one government cycle of four years. We must begin with what we can do ourselves: it is simple SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis. By capitalising on our strengths and be conscious of our weaknesses, to suppress potential threats and maximising on the opportunities available to us. We are not taking advantage of the opportunities available to us; if not, we will not be in a situation where we have to be importing fuel into the country. If we are conscious of our strengths we will be powering our factories with our abundance of gas, water and sunshine. If we start from what we have and establish mastery in these areas, we will be laying foundation for progress to the next level; that is the way things are done.
We have cravings for everything foreign and we do not have goods that we can export in return. As a result, the foreign exchange business is traded to our disadvantage and everybody suffers for it. Making all our educational institutions to work perfectly is to keep it simple; this will curtail the huge losses we are experiencing on investment in foreign education. The same thing is applicable to our hospitals. We are depriving thousands of brilliant children from reading courses of their choice in the fields of medicine, engineering, science and technology and others, when we can easily create more spaces for more students to be admitted through the provision of improved infrastructure and equipment. How can a federal university of the first generation category be admitting less than 50 students to read medicine, when we have tens of thousands of them qualified to do so. And, we are saying that we do not have enough doctors to take care of patients.
We must find space for our students who are qualified to study in our universities, and in the process address the frequent migration of our youths abroad. There must be a way that is indigenous to us and that is the simple way, the way that is within our capacity, scope and ability.