A New Society-A New Nigeria
1/6/2012 8:49:55 PM -
Nigeria is going through a dilemma. Government is torn between whether to please the masses who over the years have grown inordinately dependent on subsidised fuel to operate and avoid hardship arising from Subsidy withdrawal or to open up the lope sided economy to the globalized environment and reap mass protests arising from harsh adjustments imposed by poverty and soaring price of essential goods. Faced with no choice at all because government was already on the verge of shutting down as at September 2011 when it became clear that the only capital project government could achieve by new year was recurrent expenses payment of salaries and subsidies on petroleum which could amount to half of the budget. Unfortunately much money must be voted into infrastructure as the roads amongst other things yearn for an urgent facelift. With the introduction of the medium term framework of financial budgeting, which requires unbroken budgetary provision for three years running all inefficiency would be a cog in the wheel of progress,so fuel subsidy had to go! As you know already, the President decided to take the second option,a politically unsavoury step and as we speak threats of strikes abound. On the other hand the cartel behind oil subsidy deals have been exposed. Now we know how they short changed the people enriching themselves with fuel sub subsidy because no one cared. Their undoing was to allow the former World Bank boss Okonjo Iweala to be appointed Minister in Nigeria for it meant that these hidden loopholes would come to a harsh scrutiny. Now with subsidy withdrawal the people are unsure where the country was headed. Already our Ignorance appear to have lost the battle in terms of policy options as the people are now yearning to know more. They want to know what the future portend. Owing to the blanket of ignorance woven into governance for so long by military and pseudo military regimes it is difficult for the people to trust the government over the most glaring policy in their interest as we see with the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria. Now people want to know precisely how this policy will affect their life in long and short run. It will take a realistic scenario as the one to be woven below to convince cynics to make the sacrifice needed at this time. But in truth this situation needed not arise for any perceptive observer would see the light at the end of our tunnel of suffering.
It is June 1st 2012. A new governor of Bayelsa state has just been inaugurated as in few other States in Nigeria where the April Election was truncated for tenure uncertainties endorsed by the courts. It is one of those slow moving days in the calender. The President is meeting with the G8 over trade regulations and the situation in the far East. I am out driving around town in Port Harcourt. There are no go slow. I can't see any provocatively dressed or rather undressed girl standing by the road side lazing around. Every one seems to be occupied with something important. It is my own break time and I have to get back to see a waiting client but I snatched the time to drink in to the magic that deregulation of the oil industry has brought to this oil city amongst other cities in Nigeria ever since in January subsidies were withdrawn from Petroleum products. I cannot believe it was just six months but it seems like eternity. I remember the strikes and insecurity of january and how it all feazled out as people settled down to making a living. The was high inflation and cries but suddenly the Naira rose against the dollar and many companies abroad began to relocate here. I work with one of such companies and competition is high. This time Is not my own really for the rents are high and everyone must sit up or ship out. We didn't know we could survive the squeeze but it turned out there was nothing like that. The only thing I miss is traffic wardens and police who jump into your car without provocation. Should I really miss their tragi-comic displays? I am wondering where all the cars that block the roads have gone to. The traffic lights are working,I don't know last when the light went out. It is amazing! No more egunje on the road. We now pay toll on travel an it is smooth ride! Those who have Big cars are giving them away but I doubt if any wants them. The other day I saw some Jeeps serving as taxi but people were reluctant to enter because the painted taxis can now come to pick you at home. For me I drive only at very important occasions for it cheaper to join the fleet of Federal busses out there and you get to work in time here! I tried to wipe my eyes to see if I am here truly or was it a dream. It is truly real. Yesterday we heard that Macdonald s has opened gigantic stores which you can access on credit card and they deliver in the hour what ever you want. My friend insists things are so cheap there that he wondered if things were subsidised. I dismissed it as a gimmick to get into the market. Later on I heard that you can now import anything as long as you pay your vat on them. Trans Amadi has been transformed and even Michaelin is back! Waoo!
As I hit the office,my overall boss was waiting.He is a Niger Deltan. He wants good explanation on his desk as to why I switched of my phone between 1.00pm to 1.30pm. Even when you are out for launch you could be called upon for overtime advice. This one I couldn't take because I was reminiscing and driving around. I didn't want any one to disturb my thought process. Yes we lost the prospective client. Yes I have lost extra funds to my account. I am sorry for this breach of contract. In line for my job are two fierce competitors who continues to point out how my free style was costing the company much revenue the last 3 months but to my credit another 3 openings becon on me were I to decide to leave the job. I love this place and I had thought I would retire here but things change and I am not so sure anymore. Nigeria has gone upgrade since President Goodluck Jonathan did the unthinkable removing subsidy on Petroleum products back in January thereby opening Nigeria to be cushioned by the world!
*Mr Nworisara is a policy analyst.