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31.10.2011 Feature Article


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Two weeks ago, the Information Minister requested Nigerians to make more sacrifice so that the country can become one of the economic hubs in the world sooner than later. What he didn't tell us was which group of Nigerian he referred to, knowing that we the led have given more than our fair share in sacrifice to our father land. Again, I wished he categorically referred the people to his clan. I mean his group, because it is his tribe – the leaders who are yet to lift a pin in any way to better the lot of the people instead they daily bleed us black and blue.

Almost all Journalists are today prophets of doom going by the spate of publications against the current drive by the government on various issues. Not because they have just graduated from certain Bible College and are therefore intoxicated with or by new learning, after all, religion is known to be the opium of the masses. Or that they are from the school of Satan which sees nothing good in any man. No. All they see and write are issues living with us daily. Most of those in authority today were once part and parcel of these complaining public which are regular victims of in the system. God help us.

Nigeria has had most frequent fuel price increase since 1976, and remains the only country with more than ten price increase in the world yet while each of the occasions ushered in stout resistances and outcry by the governed, the government promises endless palliation templates which to date it never honoured.

When the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce informed us that 834 industries closed shops in Nigeria within five years, I was shocked that organized labour was not alarmed. Yet that was a tip of the iceberg. The actual fact was that more than two million persons lost their jobs within the period reviewed. And that did not include the small scale industries which are not members of the Chamber! Some of the employees died of shock, BP, and many others are a shadow of themselves today. Worse still, high cost of running business in Nigeria through high and unpredictable cost of fuel is one of the major causes of these closures! Nigerian Association of Small Scale industrialists (NASSI) and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) members are on the brink of extinction as they are not helped by high production cost which has continue to push their products off the market despite the location and localization of their industries. NAPEP, a poverty alleviation program meant to help the common man is gradually being phased out in some states. Better LIFE for rural women promoted heavily by late Mariam Babangida, a pet project meant to help the less privileged women has been under funded since IBB stepped aside. We have had acronym to virtually everything and have about the best proposals for all yet are the least performer everywhere. Now the chicken has come to roast! No more room for lip service. Unfortunately, everything now rest on the laps of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who seem overwhelmed forgetting that it is not by might but by spirited determination that answers to our problems would come.

Due to the chop and forget culture in Nigeria, Governors who did subscribe to N18,000.00 minimum wage ate their words just after election and want the people now to negotiate their ways out. Today they quarrel about Sovereign Wealth Fund which Governor Adams Oshomole admitted that the Minister of Finance Dr. Okonji Iweala informed them as governors of the need to save for tomorrow.

Now Fuel Subsidy. One of the tenets late Chief MKO Abiola ran the 1993 presidential election was based on the futility of NNPC to disclose the cost of producing one litre of Crude Oil. It became a big question then as it still is now, because the indices used by the proponents were only imaginary then as it is now. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, then General (as he preferred to be called then), before it went out of fashion argued that it was wrong for a litre of Coca-Cola to cost more than a liter of Crude Oil. So how much is the cost of production of the Crude? Professor Tam David West has challenged the minister of Finance or anyone for that matter for a debate on issues bothering on removal of subsidy. He has been there as Petroleum Minister and is available as consultant on the issue. But the truth is that his knowledge will never be tapped because the idea is to better the lots of the people. It is unimaginable that a former Petroleum Minister can choose to remain Ivory Tower when his counterparts are in Vienna Austria or elsewhere like Jubril and Lukman as consultants or forever senators.

Government must come clear to show with documentary evidence what was done with the earlier subsidy removals or close the matter in earnest. The chicken has come to roast and unfortunately, it is now on the door step of poor GEJ! That is the obvious truth. Do we desire more truth? Ok! Take this.

Prof Akunyli as Information Minister in this same country was taught ideals of leadership by the Venezuelan Ambassador when she called the Ambassador on familiarization visit. She was told that his country produces Oil like Nigeria; that in his country, Doctors visit the sick and not wait in the hospitals; that they enjoy full scholarship from nursery to university and so have reason to defend the territorial integrity of their country worse still for poor Akunyili, the petrol which fills his car in Nigeria at N65/ltr is about N3500/tank; Whilst same cost him equivalent of N850.00 in his home country. He opined that whereas corruption is everywhere, it is not of the magnitude we experience in Nigeria. Summarily, cost of doing business is very high in Nigeria compared with other OPEC countries. But our leaders would easily rush to provide price index as if they are 25% near other nations.

The shift in industrial development to Ghana is not for any reason than the fact that we have consistently refused to provide the enabling environment for meaningful industrial development. What do we get in return? Unemployment, less than desirable, yet unpaid salaries for the working class and untimely death either on queues by retirees for their meager stipend called benefit, or visited on other persons as ill health of indescribable nature and finally pauperized for life. Do we as a people merit this?

Libyans did not go to war because they were hungry. No. They did not what the system anymore! Hunger is not one of the most urgent issues NATO contended with in that country today. Libyans were and are still well fed. And I dare say that hunger is not on their card. Nor was the issues that bad roads, hospitals, salary, tap water, telephone network, poor education, infrastructure etc. all the roads through which they fought and won the war were laid clean, devoid of potholes. And all other amenities functioned effectively before, during and now, after the war ebbed.

The time bombs called knowledge base of unemployed graduates among Libyan, Tunisian, and Egyptians and elsewhere lead to the ouster of their leaders.

Our leaders are still smiling but they know that we are having grave yard silence in Nigeria. We are very near Golgotha, should we get there the story will not be the same.

In all indices by which you measure a state, Nigeria cannot score pass mark in any area. Human life value is very low. Men, women, boys and girls are killed with impunity by law enforcement agencies and the go on till today without compensating families. Most Governors are still lining their pockets despite the colleagues being prosecuted in our law courts. If you like, let's keep deceiving ourselves here that things are well.

The Nigerian ruling class has created a clear divide already, now they are eager to ignite the fire through the back door called removal of fuel subsidy. The other day I asked the leadership in one of my articles if they can control anarchy. Boko Haram members have infiltrated all the nooks and corners of this country as gate men, and in guise. Militants on the other hand are not relenting the infiltration is already noticeable in places, in South East and in those volatile areas we have the problem of tribal divide. The youths, almost 75 or 80 per cent of the country, are unemployed or unemployable, impoverished and disenfranchised yet they have no inheritance. The people who stole their inheritance, their great grand fathers are still alive-all the generals who are arguing against each other.

It is high time government accepted that rather than govern, they are creating unemployment and indusing tension in every sense of the word. The writings are on the walls. A stitch in time usually saves nine.

Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt.

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Mike O. Akpati
Mike O. Akpati, © 2011

The author has 56 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: MikeOAkpati

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