Fuel Price Rise, Gbadamosi And The Rest Of Us

by Peter Claver Oparah

I am managing to go through an interview by Rasheed Gbadamosi, the chairman of the ubiquitous Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), in Sunday Sun, December 9, 2007. The interview titled “Fuel’s Too Cheap! Nigerians Must Pay More”, was typical of a man that has cut the image of a bearer of bad news; a sour grape among Nigerians that desire a letting down of their woes, which has consistently piled up since this nation came to be and which peaked with the disastrous Obasanjo years. The eight years of the Obasanjo government remains the most bountiful in the annals of our history but paradoxically, they were the most harrowing as the bountiful accruals the country made from rising oil prices was employed as the tool for the most inhuman, mindless and sadistic exploitation of the victims of the hemorrhage governance has become in Nigeria. For the eight years Obasanjo ran his woe-ridden government, the country made so much money that disappeared into perhaps the most duplicitous maze that will take centuries to unravel. On the other hand, as price of crude, Nigeria’s most dominant export, appreciated, the citizenry were subjected to the excruciating binge of extortion and mindless excoriation in the name of fuel price increment.

The logic that informed the idea of constant fuel price increment is as absurd as it is fallacious. The history of this same logic defeats reason itself. When Obasanjo came, Nigerian refineries were wobbling from inattention and corruption. By then, the Babangida government had invented the idea that somewhere, it was subsidizing the crude meant for local consumption. This pervert idea flows from the difference between the international price of crude and the price of about 450,000 barrels that were refined locally for our consumption. Even as this idea of subsidy was a veritable mantra a government that excels in dubiety employed to shortchange Nigerians that have been permanently placed in the limbo of endless deprivation, the Babangida government latched unto this cranky reasoning to rave up prices of petroleum prices at will and smiling to the altars of the god of corruption which that regime worshipped.

This was the case with the succeeding regimes of Shonekan, Abacha and Abdulsalami but the degree and instances of fuel price increment, which was often incendiary, was manageable as what we used to consider the reigns of locusts lasted. These were before the Obasanjo disaster dawned and the country was taken down its lowest ever-possible depth with the most blistering governance ever to happen on this unfortunate country. When he came flaunting a self-commissioned messianic commitment, many Nigerians felt that the worst days were over for Nigerians. This was before the casings of the hap-hazardly packaged fraud fell apart to reveal the real mission of a government that to all intents and discernable actions, set out to visit wholesome ruination on a well-endowed country. The facts of the Obasanjo regime’s decrementing feel on Nigerian governance is still unfurling and is a story that should be continued another day but the employment of the oil sector as a precursor to all the mindless vice and plunder that were perpetrated in its eight sad years is well known to Nigerians.

Because Nigeria is almost totally dependent on oil, Obasanjo and his men knew that the control of the badly organized, non-accounting and poorly audited oil industry remains key to the control of all other facets of life in Nigeria. He therefore decided that no other person was fit to control the oil ministry than him, which introduced a quaint model for corruption as his regime lasted. It was this that financed the hair-raising corruption charges against Obasanjo as well as some of the nefarious projects that evil regime employed to perpetuate itself and its interests. It was at this period that the oil industry hit newer heights in untidiness and lack of accountability and mind-bogging instances of high profile theft of both cash and crude were hushed and the bizarre bazaar sustained.

The highlight of his running the oil ministry could be brought under his much-trumpeted oil sector reforms whose results include; the complete interment of the wobbly refineries after several hundreds of billions of Naira have been misappropriated in phantom turn-around maintenance projects that prepared them for take over by Obasanjo and his cronies. This bore great fruits in the insistence of that government that Nigerians, dried, famished and made lifeless by uncaring and unfit buccaneers that dominate the Obasanjo government, must continue to pay more for fuel even as the country reaps bountifully from increase in crude prices. This was a sickening paradox that attracted the fancy of the vacuous ramparts that bestrode that regime and became so attractive that during the eight years of Obasanjo, Nigerians suffered more fuel price increments than during the period; 1960 to 1999! To the goons that made life so unlivable during that period, this is the reform process the government said would make Nigeria a heaven on earth. They were packaged under a fraudulent deregulation policy that excelled in liberalizing mass poverty and enriching some gluttonous parasites that live on the lifeblood of the citizenry.

Suffice it to say that the central canon of the Obasanjo oil sector reform is that our refineries must cease to exist so that Nigeria is made totally dependent on imported finished fuel products-talk of the paradox of a country that delights in importing what we have in abundance. This, to Obasanjo and his goons, tantamount to a reform of the oil sector and here, his hirelings and fronts are rightly positioned for the lucrative business of fuel importation. That is why in eight years, the end result of the dubious reform process was the complete annihilation of the refineries, which were disposed as scraps to his cronies while this country was led to believe that our refineries can never work! It bred a rash of cahoots in people like Funsho Kupolokun, Rasheed Gbadamosi and so many other leeches that played the undertaker to the industry while stealing so much from the nation in the process.

It was this strange economic regime brought to bear on a terribly managed petroleum industry that spewed forth the corruption basin known as the NNPC, which at this period, became a slush fund for the mandarins of the Obasanjo government and their cronies. It was this awkward regime that spawned such agencies as PPPRA and such strange characters like Gbadamosi, who seem to see the resolution of the eternal crisis that was launched on the oil industry by Obasanjo and his predecessors in the constant infliction of mass pain and suffering through constant fuel price increments. Gbadamosi, whom the charismatic former NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole, yabbed during one of the regular sessions of pain occasioned by the fiddling of fuel prices, as unfit to run any department in the oil ministry because he could not run his pure water business, pokes hilarious fun from constantly terrorizing Nigerians with his awful monotonous message that fuel prices must continue rising for his principals to maximize their gluttony. To him and people that do nothing but profit and trade in Nigerians’ misery through fiddling with fuel prices, one highway to progress is for the poor, hapless and utterly persecuted Nigerians to continue minting their blood to meet the multiplier demands of mindless fuel price increment. We know where this led this country as the bug of mindless extortion has bitten the present Yar’Adua government and this is giving a new lease of life to parasites like Gbadamosi to continue their assault on Nigerians who, saddled with a permanent rapacious order, cannot fight back nor be allowed to vend their side in a fight with a cabal that have tasted the sweet allure of oil wealth and have been stuck to its aroma.

Truth is that Gbadamosi, like the profligate cabal that mishandle the oil industry in Nigeria and has rendered it an unworkable haven for corruption, is a sordid reminder that nothing has changed in Nigeria and nothing will change so long as the vestiges of selfish aggrandizement and wicked extortion recruited by Obasanjo, continue reigning in the oil industry, with a sleeping president in charge.

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