Fuel Subsidy Removal Will Be Good If Tinubu-Shettima Buy Their Fuel

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
fuel subsidy

One of the very first things Obama did when he became president of the United States was walk into the White House Kitchen. He requested for food, and before the food came, he had already reached in his pockets to pay for the food. We are not that sure if the Secret Service allowed him to do that but it is also on record that on many occasions, he would take a stroll to an eatery nearby to buy a burger or hotdog. Whilst at it, he would be seen picking up the bill for the snacks of anyone close by. There were several videos of Obama doing this, and for most of my friends who gushed to no end at such magnanimity, I was often to remind them that seeing him at that eatery was no happenstance, and that the Secret Service may have vetted that joint the night before Obama would have gone there for a burger.

But that is not the point though. The point is that there are several lessons one can pick up from the Obama demeanour. One of them is that he would often walk to the eatery often a stone throw from the White House. You would not see him with an army. He would walk. In contradistinction, I remember many years ago that I worked very close to the Central Mosque in Abuja. Every Friday for the length of time he was Vice President, Namadi Sambo would come to the Central Mosque in very long convoys. At a time, I decided to count the vehicles, and by God, I counted as much as 25 of them. My calculation was that every one of those vehicles would run on a full tank of fuel at the expense of Nigerians. There would be members of the armed forces in full battle gear in tow.  I know the security implications of a vice president leaving the sanctum of the Aso Villa to the Central mosque to pray, but must he have to come to the Central Mosque with those outrageously long convoys to pray every Friday for five years?

The second lesson that Obama’s attempt to pay for his food at the White House, and taking a simple walk to the eatery to buy a snack is a lesson in leadership.  You don’t go there to get rich or to be served. You go there to serve your people, and sometimes at personal expense. There are the perennial issues in our Nigeria where our people go there to serve but end up richer than they were.  As a matter of fact, while the incentive for service in most civilized countries of the world is the betterment of society, our people ‘serve’ for what they would get, and more. When we mean ‘more’, we mean that whilst in office, the state takes care of their needs and that of their family members. They do not pay for food, water, fuel, house rent and they fly abroad for medical attention.   In most cases, 90% of the governors who may have ‘served’ a two-term usually arrange to have pensions for life with outrageous perks and benefits.

What is even more worrying is that under the current political calculus of Nigeria, it is the people who serve those who ought to serve Nigerians. We build our own boreholes, send our children to private schools, activate our own power supply and I have participated in a self-help programme in Benin City where we fixed our own road. During the Covid era, politicians hid palliatives in warehouses. During the cash swap nightmare, Nigerians cursed the day they were born Nigerians. Most slept at banks and ATMs. They bore the brunt of ill-conceived and irrational policies, often made for the benefit of the political class, and more to the detriment of the mass of Nigerians.

After eight very painful years where Nigerians went to sleep hungry; where most committed suicide because of their inability to further endure the hardship inflicted by the Buhari regime, a harder future beckons. In less than 24 hours after Bola Tinubu took office as president, he has suspended fuel subsidy payments, and the suffering in the land has quadrupled. The rationale is that the subsidy on fuel takes a toll on our finances and therefore it must be removed. The arithmetic makes sense but the application thereof is the shoddiest I have ever seen – there is no plan whatsoever to cushion the effect of the incapacitating effects of this hurried decision.

The current Nigerian president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his assistant, Kashim Shettima, are stupendously rich individuals. Both men served two-terms as governors of Lagos and Borno states respectively. While the one is touted the defacto governor of one of the richest states in Nigeria, Lagos state, and forfeited as much as $460,000 to the United States government many years ago, the other is also very rich.  In spite of their stupendous wealth, they will still want the state to pay for their food, water, accommodation, electricity and etcetera. This does not make any sense. Both men are no more Nigerian than the rest of us. Let them, and all the people that will serve in their administration buy their own fuel and live by example like Obama.

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