Administrative structure, fuel subsidy, corruption and the rest of us

(By Francis O. Nmeribe)

Do we even think? Since the oil boom days to date, every government in this country has been in battle to either increase the pump price of fuel or to remove subsidy. In more than thirty years, this issue has come up every year and yet we are not learning. Now, we have labour leaders being accused of subsidy bribery and corruption and this is at the lower end of the quagmire. At the upper end we have trillions of Naira paid out to thieves and scam artists and their government cohorts in the name of fuel subsidy.

WHEN you observe and contemplate Nigeria today, what you see, what you feel and what would touch your body and heart is a failed state.  How on earth could a country like Nigeria fail when it has all it takes to surpass the American dream project success?  How could Nigeria fail when it has more than potential to do for Africa what Japan, China and Singapore are doing for Asia and the rest of the world today? O! You that are best with much, how could you have missed your pathway to triumph and now have to fight for survival, rather helplessly?

Pure federalism is the key

The unitary government structure of Nigeria is a major problem.  A real fiscal, cultural, political and geographical federalism is what is required to move forward. The January 15, 1966 revolution was our chance to improve upon our federal system.

General Johnson Thomas Aguyi Ironsi destroyed it and introduced unitary system, which was further worsened by Gowon and those who followed after them.

Nigeria’s ethnic diversity is an obvious situation designed to stick out.  There is nothing anybody could do about it.  We are different in many ways.  We are also complementary in many ways.  All of us in a mutually acceptable functional structure could produce the best of the good life any people on earth could ever have.  We have examples before us.  The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union) and United States of America are good examples of what has marred us and could have made us great.  For those who may not have a clear picture, please notice that the Soviet Union is a union of many republics ran as a unitary state.  What happened to it?  It crashed.  The United States of America is a union of many independent states who chose to unite in a federal system of government.  The mind of many Americans at first was a loose confederacy but after the civil war, a pure federal system of administration was adopted.  They succeeded and have been a democratic federation for two hundred and thirty four years now.  They are still going strong and have even been able to diversify its leadership with the election of Barack Hussein Obama as President.

True fiscal, cultural, social, geographical, policing and developmental federalism is what would ensure that Nigeria survives.  We can read the handwriting on the wall.  Gideon Orkar’s military coup excised some portions of Nigeria when they announced their failed coup.  Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group don’t want to be ruled by non-Muslims.   Nigeria is at the brink of disintegration when it should be talking about triumph and being the key black democracy.

Fuel subsidy is unsustainable

Outside all of that old history, our chance for redress included the total removal of oil subsidy. Subsidy makes the rest of us Nigerians thieves just like our political leaders. We are enjoying money we have not earned and that means stealing. The removal fuel subsidy would have prepared us for the social, political, economic and fiscal revolution required to make Nigeria useful, viable and sustainable. Nigeria as it is presently constituted is not sustainable and all the U.S. or Chinese military cannot sustain it even if they are deployed today.

Those who oppose fuel subsidy removal are doing so for their own selfish interest. They want an albatross to hang over the administration President Goodluck Jonathan so that they would use it as spring board to collect bribe if they are labour leaders and to ensure that the administration does not succeed if they are political opposition so that they have a good reason to ask to be elected in the pretence of being better.

Do we even think? Since the oil boom days to date, every government in this country has been in battle to either increase the pump price of fuel or to remove subsidy. In more than thirty years, this issue has come up every year and yet we are not learning.

Now, we have labour leaders being accused of subsidy bribery and corruption and this is at the lower end of the quagmire. At the upper end we have trillions of Naira paid out to thieves and scam artists and their government cohorts in the name of fuel subsidy. Many a business leader in Nigeria and politician is enmeshed in the murky waters of stealing trillions of Naira under the guise of fuel subsidy every year.

Nigeria and Nigerians are not cursed. What is happening is that we have imbeciles and crass fools as leaders and citizenry who have chosen the profession of thieves and robbers as an estate.

Previously I lost faith in President Goodluck Jonathan for his inability to use his first one year in office as acting president to complete the reconstruction of the East-West Road. Then, when I think about him in the light of lost opportunities, the only person I remember is Aguiyi Ironsi as the personification of a loser. However, the policy of total removal of subsidy on fuel and a total deregulation of the industry thereof, gave me hope that he might be up to something good at the end of the day.  What do we have instead of supporting this laudable policy – opposition here and there? Hmmm!

Whether we go with Jonathan to totally deregulate the oil industry or not, in 10 to 20 years, we would hail Goodluck Jonathan as a man who saw tomorrow. From what I see, the continuing payment of subsidy on petroleum products is not sustainable and would be the destroyer of the Nigerian ‘nation’ or Nigerian mistake as the venerable Ahmadu Bello saw many years ago.

Without full and total deregulation and immediate stoppage of subsidy payments, we would produce more thieves as politicians and businessmen and women. Without total deregulation, the Nigerian economy would continue to shrink until there would not be enough room for the thieving political leaders how much more the teeming unemployed youths. I expect that we know the result of a struggle between the political thieves and unemployed youths.  General Olusegun Obasanjo lectured us about the implication in faraway Senegal some months ago – Revolution. The Asaba woman would say whatever a man desires that he would get.

Without fear of possible attacks from unschooled minds, I would like to reiterate that controlling the price we sell products that are manufactured and distributed under the influence of uncontrollable market forces is the height of idiocy. I would like to restate that subsidy is not sustainable.  It is corruption personified.   Either its supporters are those who in one way or the other are benefiting from the corruption of the system or they are dangerously ignorant.

Total removal of subsidy from the oil industry would enable the Nigerian public demand equity from those in government whether peacefully or violently if it gets to that as we must be afraid of today if we are wise.

The problem of corruption

What we need is efficiency and effectiveness in leadership. Corruption is against efficiency and effectiveness. Nigeria is tottering like a drunken man or an imbecilic woman today because of corruption induced inefficiency. I have always said that anywhere you go and see that there is inefficiency, bend down and look and you would see that someone has stolen the money meant for work.

Each time we talk about subsidy, it is like boarding a ship that would berth at the harbour of corruption. Think about all the big Nigerian names and families of political leaders who are mired in subsidy stealing.

Political interest – an element of corruption is what is making the opposition to mislead Nigerians. In my opinion, the only good policy I can credit to President Goodluck Jonathan to-date is the proposal to remove subsidy completely from the system. But it seems that Nigerians are bowing to the corrupt intention of the opposition to make sure that Jonathan fails which failure can only serve the opposition. Disclaimer – I am not a Jonathan supporter in any sense. I do not own a tank farm. My closest association to fuel is for my car and generator.

How to deal with corruption in Nigeria

Our mismanaged ethnic diversity is the nursing mother of corruption in Nigeria.  If we keep Nigeria the way it is, then there would be no end to corruption.  In fact, we would continue to grow in corruption.

One fact that is emerging in Nigeria today is that if an Igbo man is accused of corruption, he would run home and accuse the Hausa or Yoruba men who are his deputies as those plotting his downfall.  If you accuse a Hausa man, you get the same result to the point that Boko Haram would make a statement on his behalf threatening the rest of the country with bombs and gunfire.  And they would go further to blow up one or two churches to make their point.  If you accuse a Yoruba man of corruption, he would point accusing fingers at his Igbo or Hausa subordinates as detractors and would engage the OPC to burn down some people’s houses in Lagos or Ibadan to ensure that you dare not accuse him again.

So, corruption in Nigeria is something that is exacerbated by the fact that we are not really Nigerians but members of our ethnic groups.

There is a reason why Nigerians are not able to identify with Nigeria.  It is because; the structure of the Nigerian state does not guarantee social, physical, survival and development security for any citizen.  If it does, it is on paper.  It is not in the hearts of the people.  It is not a sign that the Nigerians do not know what is good.  It is in fact, because they know what is good for them.

It would take a federal structure of reasonable independence in fiscal, social, cultural, educational, developmental and even sporting spheres to produce that guarantee.

To this end, I hereby advocate for pure federalism urgently.

What would save the job of our current crop of politicians is that they come together – executive and legislature – and design through consultation and referendum an appropriate federal structure that is well canvassed to the point of having even small federating city states.  There should be no hindrance to small ethnic groups who wish to stand on their own.  If the present politicians are not capable of delivering this project, they should resign or wait to be blown away by the coming revolution. The convocation of sovereign national conference (SNC) would be a sweet repose for these politicians if they fail to restructure the country into a well-canvassed federal system.

• Nmeribe is an industrial security practitioner, author and personal transformation coach in Lagos.

(Nmeribe wrote in from lagos)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”