As The Deregulation Blues Resonates Again

by Peter Claver Oparah

The hounds are unleashed on this god-forsaken and raped country again. They are laundered in their legion to prey on hapless and battered Nigerians. They have dusted their cannibalistic writs and are spewing utter balderdash that supports the renewal of their strength against the sagging life line of Nigerians. They have been ever present in the strings of ruinous enterprises that have been passed as governance in the unfortunate country called Nigeria. Their looming presence in our collective and individual lives obtain in the torture our lives have been turned into in forty nine years of ceaseless marauding by those that pretend to govern us but who are actually after our lives.

The sing-song in the air presently is deregulation and from all seeming indication, the present government that sleeps its way through a dubious mandate is bent on unleashing another round of persecution on Nigerians. It is following on the sordid ways of its infamous predecessors, the Babangida and Obasanjo governments to levy war on a citizenry that was merely unfortunate to be saddled with cretins and brain dead nit wits as leaders since independence. The buzz word around the stale corridors of power in Nigeria today is deregulation. Having smelt the sweet aroma of this attractive nectar, they are not letting go until the blood of Nigerians is completely drained.

The Babangida junta unlatched the potentates of hades on us when it conned its subsidy argument to justify its decision to exploit Nigerians for the narrow interests of its members. It came out with the idea that some ancestors somewhere were paying some subsidy for the oil Nigerians consume in the country and as such, that Nigerians must pay to him and the sybaritic buccaneers that live on fanning his over-sized ego. The Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar juntas played around the issue but never introduced the audacious and heaven-can-care attitude of Babangida to the issue of unceasingly subjecting Nigerians to paroxysms of pain and torture via constant increment in the prices of petroleum products.

The Obasanjo regime, with its full battery of self-canonized do-gooders, was to elevate the art of impudently scamming Nigerians in the name of fuel subsidy removal to a dizzying height when he anchored his government on regularly approving higher pump prices for petroleum. Working in cahoots with a cartel of idlers he leased the importation of refined petroleum products to, that regime never even cared of the feelings of the people in decreeing higher prices for fuel products. It got so bad that many opined that the regime was stuck on that dumb and very crude extortion. At the height of its infamous reign, that regime waxed lyrical of how constant increment of prices of petroleum products has become the panacea to all the problems Nigeria was facing; from smuggling to delivering the greatly abused but fleeing democracy dividends. Even as the source of government revenue quadrupled and the international price of oil raced geometrically higher, the Obasanjo regime poked ceaseless fun from visiting Nigerians with fuel price increment at the drop of a hat. It was at this time that the word, ‘subsidy’ was stretched to limits we never knew existed just because Obasanjo and company felt they must have enough to finance their elephantine greed.

Obasanjo, finding the subsidy argument too worn out, was to veer into ‘deregulation’ and here; all manners of presumed palliatives were attached to convince Nigerians to willingly submit to the uncensored exploitation of that regime. It never mattered that subsidy and deregulation are one and the same policy only that this time around, it was couched in very fine apparel that did little to hide the noxious intents of this recycled art of mass exploitation. We were told that with deregulation, not only would our roads become practical Eldorado, we would have state of the art health and educational facilities, jobs would be created in excess of the teeming population of jobless Nigerians. We were told that petroleum products would be so available that the envisaged competition between the cartel of fuel importers that regime hewed unto itself, will drive the prices down. We were told that there would be potable water, food and regenerative infrastructure that we would willingly propitiate at the feet of the god of exploitation for such a smart and creative idea.

Thus, Obasanjo and his men did everything in the book to con Nigerians of their last kobo and inflicted such mass pain and suffering under the guise of deregulating the downstream sector of the oil industry. Curiously, none of the promised positive fruits of deregulation or subsidy removal has dawned and Nigerians have continued to stew in their endless suffering. Our roads have become impassable; our hospitals have become enlarged mortuaries while our schools have become wastelands where rats and rodents compete for space. Joblessness has assumed an intractable dimension while preventable poverty, hunger and disease have combined to reduce life in Nigeria to that in the dark ages. No real work was done to repair our refineries nor put new ones in place. Like in the power, road and virtually every other sector, we were rather made to believe that repairing refineries and building new ones have become rocket sciences that defy the capacity of man!

Having been frightened from adopting the callous fuel price increment mischievously done by the departing Obasanjo regime and being held down by the illegal mandate he was wielding, the Yar’Adua government had threaded with caution on the combustible fuel price politics. The supply of fuel since he came had been fairly stable but at a very high unit price. Supply and price of diesel and kerosene have fared worse and today, have become unreachable and are still climbing. But in the midst of this, has been a persistent unleashing of the gospel of unending price manipulation of petroleum products.

Deregulation, as is being mouthed by the mealy mouths of those that have monopolized power in Nigeria and employed same to dehumanize and rape all of us, is premised on the flagpole that Nigeria cannot run a refinery. It is structured on the profound failure of the government, which monopolizes the resources of the nation, to even sustain the refineries put in place before now. The refineries were running at reduced capacity when this paradoxical democratic order came in place. Obasanjo danced and made feast around the issue and by the time his deceitful regime came to an end, the nation’s refineries were already on the slabs to be disposed as scraps to the friends, lackeys and hirelings of that regime. Although, so much was appropriated in the guise of repairing these refineries, they progressively deteriorated to a situation where Nigerians are now being told to forget local refining of petroleum products and the entire argument about deregulation, which the officials of this regime mouth so freely is premised on the belief that Nigerians should never ever dream of having petroleum products refined here in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the thrust of the entire deregulation policy as espoused in Nigeria is to create a new cartel of fuel importers and give them the license to visit their greed on Nigerians who cannot protest just because they have been beaten to a state of stupor by their leaders. These fuel-importing pimps, in return, oil and grease the huge financial appetite of government officials and make hair raising contributions to the personal and political interests of these political benefactors. They remain eternally grateful to the font of corruption that gives them such free license over Nigerians and the vicious circle of exploitation widens. This remains the reason why these characters and other contractors fall over themselves to donate generously to the election fund and other personal contrivances of the PDP and the high officials of government. But it is the poor and bemused Nigerians that pay at the end of the day. It is this vicious!

In the midst of this

self-serving case for deregulation, Nigerians are drained through crass and acute poverty, which our leaders employ as weapons of control. The state has completely lost relevance among the people. Rather, the perception, which generality of Nigerians have of government is just a borderless thieving center and the proceeds from the so-called deregulation are meant to add to the growing needs of the parasitic class that has seized the country by the jugular these past ten years. Nothing thrives in Nigeria presently and while the rulers don’t care, there is no prospect that things can get better. Rather, through means that stand out for their crudity and foulness, our so called leaders are foraging land and space to devise means and ways of hanging to power and exploiting Nigerians.

As the Yar’Adua government prepares for what promises to be a mother of all battles with Nigerians on the planned fuel price increment christened deregulation, one believes that Nigeria has reached a breaking point. One has a feeling that in a situation like this, something must necessarily give and Nigeria will be better for it. One has his fears that the so-called deregulation, which the members of Yar’Adua’s government are pursuing with such fervent candour will certainly signal that great rebound of a people pushed to the wall as Nigerians have been.

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