Most of all I will write or say here has been written by Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde. I am only re-echoing his treatise with a few redactions for emphasis. When I read his words which I am adopting verbatim I felt he took the thunder out of my pen. Before reproducing the treatise of Dr Tilde on the removal of fuel subsidy, permit me to warn those still being deceived by their prophets, pastors and babalawos that the presidential election has been won and lost. They must embrace the reality of a President Bola Tinubu.
Our duty now is not to work against him but to constantly put him in our prayers so that God in His mercy and grace will make him lead well. Those that are always using his age and ill health to deride him should rather pray to God to restore his health. We have no business loving or hating him but should focus on his policies and help make Nigeria work for the good of all. Listening to his inaugural speech, I wasn’t disappointed because I know he is the most prepared to be president.
He is Nigeria’s first willing President and he bided his time to plot his way to power. I don’t know of any other President in the history of Nigeria that said it is his turn and indeed it became his turn despite all the hurdles placed against him at every turn. I may not have voted for or against him but deep down I knew it was ex-President Muhammadu Buhari and his CPC wing of APC that ruled and ruined Nigeria for eight solid years. That wing of the party failed Nigerians and failed the party.
Tinubu is of the ACN wing. We can testify to the revolutionary achievements of that wing of the party in Lagos and the South West hence my soft spot for President Tinubu. It’s my patriotic duty to pray for him and support his leadership. Where he fumbles, I will point it out constructively with love for the country first. I will do this from time to time because I want the new government to succeed. Why did I say, ‘his is a fumbling start?’ The subsidy removal could have been better handled to mitigate the current hard- ship. The bobby trap was a landmine that could have been carefully navigated. It’s a good thing being done the wrong way.
In modern times, I liken it to US Joe Biden’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan that ended in chaos. The withdrawal was the right thing to do as the US cannot en- gage in a never ending war that is bleed- ing not just her soldiers but the economy. However, it made no sense pulling out the soldiers before pulling out US citizens and traumatised Afghans that would be bru- talised by the Taliban. We know that fuel subsidy removal has been a thorny issue. We know the powerful cabals behind it and that they will not let us be without a fight. We should have ex- pected the market reaction. The Tinubu that I know is street smart, well connected to the grassroots, deliberate, calculative and very strate- gic. I didn’t see these sterling qualities that I admire of him demonstrated on the subsidy issue.
I am nevertheless still hopeful that he will pull this through to the admiration of the suffering masses. The oil thieves and sub- sidy cabal are a powerful group but they cannot be more powerful than a determined government and a supportive people. President Tinubu is no longer chasing money, wealth or fame. He said it is his turn and now that he has his turn, he has an obligation to lead Nigeria to Eldorado. Dr Tilde in his advice wrote: “My President, you have surely, as expected, hit the ground running with an audacity that is unmatched in the Presidency for over a decade. The public is left in no doubt that the driver on the wheel is a ‘Bawa Driver’ of the 1940s who never decelerated in deference to sharp bends or even collapsed bridges. Excising the tumour of fuel subsidy was an operation which the past three presidents avoided.
Few minutes after your swearing in, you announced your intention to carry out the operation instantly. The previous administration was defiant to calls by experts for a unified dol- lar exchange rate. You answered the call instantly. On the third day, the DSS barricaded EFCC personnel from entering their Lagos office. If it were during the previous administration, the situation would be left to degenerate into fatal fra- cas which no one at the top would intervene to stop. But by the end of the day, you told the DSS to back off. The following day, you called the service chiefs and read the riot act to them.These are signs of a responsive and responsible leadership which if blended with accountability and wisdom will make you stand out among your peers. The first two characteristics seem to be your default setting, so I will not discuss them.
Today, I will discuss the wisdom as- pect as it relates to fuel subsidy removal and leave the account- ability part for another day. The dust of the fuel subsidy removal has not settled. La- bour, this time with political underline pretending it’s for the masses has threatened to shut down the country. There are 27 days before the provision of the budget on the subsidy elapses. I feel the time is suffi- cient to review the issue of the subsidy withdrawal such that a common ground is found between the agitated citizenry and your government. The review is necessitated by the need to probe the half-truths that experts peddle about the subsidy and suggest ways by which actual statistics of our consumption can guide us to arriving at a new rate that is palatable to both government and the citizens. Yesterday, Engr. Mele Kyari, the NNPCL boss, was on BBC Hausa programme where he explained that subsidy means the government paying for the difference between the cost of buying, storing and distributing refined fuel that the NNPCL buys from the international market and what the citizen pays as pump price. Every time the NNPCL goes back to buy the same quantity of fuel for us, the government must top up with billions of dollars. In the programme, Mr. Kyari agreed that every government subsidies life for its citizens, sometimes even on items as basic as bread. The problem, he said, is that the ‘top up’ money has become so colossal that the half-empty coffers of our govern- ment can no longer afford it.
Therefore, Nigerians, he pleaded, should be patient with the new rate, for now, until the government can afford to pay; then subsidy can be reintroduced and the price can be reviewed downward. Here, we have the first half-truth de- bunked by the NNPCL magnate himself: that subsidy is evil to the economy. How can a global practice be deemed as an un- necessary evil in Nigeria? Why must Nigeria be the only country to buy the false testament of zero subsidies? Why can’t it be like the advanced countries that we are eager to copy and listen to? Another big lie peddled by experts is that subsidy is for the rich. In the past three days, this lie has been debunked by the reality of subsidy removal.
The poor are the ones suffering. Parents cannot afford to send their children to school in other towns, villages or neighbourhoods. The number of out of school children will skyrocket. Workers cannot go to work five days a week. All sectors of the economy and society will be affected once move- ment is impeded by high cost. It is not enough for a body to have blood. The blood must circulate, otherwise there will be an instant death. That death is what N600/ litre pretends. My President, please agree with me now—the simple way—that subsidy is for everybody, but more especially the poor who form 99% of your voters and whom you must keep at all cost against 2027. I agree that there is in its administration a scam perpetrated by a cartel and whose activity I will expose. All experts tell us that the government cannot afford the subsidy. And they eagerly roll out intimidating figures to convince us. Listening to them, what they quote falls between the ranges of N12 billion to N18 billion per day with a petrol consump- tion rate of up to 66.8 million litres per day. But how true are these figures? Do we ac- cept them because they are coming from NNPCL? How do we trust the testimony of the culprit so easily? My President must not rush to accept these figures at their face value. Even ex- perts like the former CBN governor, now Muhammadu Sanusi II, have on several occasions questioned the authenticity of such claims. In one of his interviews, he out rightly rejected the idea that there is enough storage capacity for the volume of imports claimed by marketers back then. Many others say we just do not have the capacity to consume up to 50 million litres of fuel per day.