Friday, July 25, 2008

Lessons from Cote d'Ivoire

"IF they try it, I will personally carry a placard and march from Lagos to Abuja. What is the matter with these people?"

"Calm down. You get angry too easily. You are not getting any younger you know. Don't go and burst a vein, or raise your blood pressure unnecessarily".

"It is not possible to live in this country and not get infuriated. You can't plan. You can't look forward to tomorrow."

"But what is it this time?"

"Have you not heard that the Federal Government is planning to increase the price of petroleum products?"

"Oh, if that is what is making you angry, then let it be on record that I am on your side. When I read the story about the Federal Government's plan to remove petroleum subsidy, I was angry. These people are insensitive".

"I don't want to hear that old wives' tale being put together by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Odein Ajumogobia. We heard those same arguments in the past, in fact former Ministers and PPPRA officials were even more persuasive, but their lies were exposed so many times. It is so strange that anyone will allow himself to be used to say the same things all over again."

"The Minister says the Federal Government is spending about N1.5 trillion annually. Almost twice its entire capital budget, to subsidise petrol and diesel."

"Oh. Oh. Ho. He can tell that to the Marines."

"Petrol is now N70 per litre. If they remove subsidy, how much would it now cost?"

"Diesel is already N155 per litre."

"Aviation fuel has also gone up. Do you know that a Lagos-Abuja air ticket is now between N19,000 and N21,000?"

"The other day, the President and his men came to Lagos to commission an AP terminal and announced a N50 per litre kerosene initiative. I have tried to double-check that and go round, I can't find any station where kerosene is sold at N50 per litre. A government that lies to its own people runs the risk of not being taken seriously."

"Actually, I am convinced that this Federal Government is on vacation. This is the only explanation I can come up with for all the flip-flops from Abuja."

"But to be fair, Ajumogobia says with the removal of petroleum subsidy, the Federal Government will be able to embark on some projects."

" The Obasanjo government said precisely the same thing. But today, there are no roads to the East, no roads to the oil-producing areas of the country. So what projects?"

"I recall he also said something about building more refineries and getting the refineries to work efficiently at optimum capacity."

"Old story. Let them say something else, please. Why do these people like to sound like a broken record?"

"The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) wants to go on strike.."

"I will join them."

"Are you now a member of NUPENG?"

"We are all involved. The Federal Government must be told that it cannot push the people to the wall."

"It has done so already and it has been doing so since 1999."

"That is why we should fight back, before they push us into the bricks."

"The Minister of State says what they are now proposing to do has been done in Ghana and Indonesia."

"He doesn't know what he is talking about. Has he heard of Cote d'Ivoire and what Ivoirien leaders are doing about the cost of fuel?'

"Tell them."

"You didn't read the story? It was even reported by the BBC. While the Nigerian government is screaming that subsidy is evil, the Ivoirien Government has decided to cut the pump price of fuel by 10 per cent. But government officials will now pay for this by taking a salary cut. Overseas trips by government officials will also be reduced to a "bare minimum." The government of Cote d'Ivoire says it has chosen to do this in response to the people's cry for help. The cost of running government will also be cut. All of these measures will cost the Ivoirien state about $484 million."

"You don't need to say more. The Nigerian government should take a cue from the Ivoiriens. Instead of raising fuel prices, let the Federal Government reduce the cost of running government. I'll like to see our government officials cut down on their wasteful overseas trips. Let them reduce the number of cars they put on the roads on a daily basis."

"Ah, you want them to lose the estacodes they receive when they go on foreign trips?"

"That was how the Women Affairs Minister went to the United Nations last week, with the largest delegation ever that anyone has seen at the UN Headquarters. The Nigerian women were there to attend a one-day conference, and they occupied almost every available seat. Algeria's Merien Belmihoub had to point out that the Nigerians were too many."

"There were 73 of them, attending a one-day conference! But the more interesting thing is that the experts at that conference ridiculed Mrs. Ufot Ekaette's "Nudity Bill" which she chose to present before an international audience."

"We ridicule ourselves at home. We embarrass ourselves abroad. Why are we so blest?"

"Cursed, you mean?"

"But back to the Ivoirien situation, I think the point of it all is that the government chose to listen to the people. The people had gone on strike and on rampage over the rising cost of fuel. The Ivoirien government had increased fuel prices a few weeks ago by 44 per cent to 785 CFA ($1.90) per litre but when the people took to the streets, it had to retrace its steps. The initial excuse was that the cost of fuel in the world market had risen."

"But Nigeria produces oil. If this were a better organised country, we should be less dependent on imported refined petroleum products. Government must realise that it owes the people a duty to ensure their welfare, security and happiness."

"But don't worry. I think the Federal Government will soon change its mind on the proposed removal of petroleum suhsidy."

"Stop saying that. They are not removing any subsidy. They just want to punish people. It is the Obasanjo legacy."

"As I said, this government has a reputation for changing its mind all the time. It is so unsure of itself."

"The same government has not changed its mind on ASUU and the UNILORIN 49. It has not changed its mind on the prolonged national teachers' strike. It has also not changed its mind on the medical workers' protest."


"That's just the way it is."

"But it has changed its mind on the Niger Delta Summit. The Federal Government says it no longer wants a Summit, it will now organize dialogue sessions with interest groups, and try to harmonise previous positions articulated at conferences, workshops, seminars etc on the Niger Delta since 1958."

"I don't think they are ready to do anything on the Niger Delta. They are just buying time. What the Niger Delta requires is a pro-active development response. Let them recreate two or three cities in the Niger Delta, make them look like the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja. When the people see an attempt to act, then they may be interested in dialogue. You can't fool the people all the time."

"You are pouring petrol into this matter."

"The petrol belongs to the people of the Delta."

"But candidly, the manner in which the Federal Government continues to ridicule itself is embarrassing. The so-called Niger Delta Summit proposal was badly managed. If they had done their home-work before announcing the initiative, they would have secured the buy-in of various stakeholders, and there would have been no furore over the matter. Now, they are going back to conduct research. Now, they want to go back and think."

"I am sure somebody just brought a proposal about a Niger Delta Summit and they just jumped at it, without examining the content carefully."

"You know the recent Africa Peer Review Mechanism report on Nigeria condemned President Yar'Adua's seven-point agenda for being too loose and vague. The Niger Delta Summit case clearly vindicates the African Union APRM assessors."

"These are too many things that no longer make sense in this environment."


"The insecurity in the land. It is getting worse. Look at the attack on the convoy of the Abia State Governor. If a Governor, a Chief Security Officer of a State with his retinue of security men is no longer safe?..."

"Who is?"


"The Governor's bullet-proof Jeep was snatched."

"It is bullet-proof, not snatch-proof."

"He was lucky he was not in the vehicle, by now, we would have been writing about the Governor who was kidnapped in broad daylight."

"That may well still happen. Our public officials do not understand the concept of security. Security in their understanding means the advertisement of position and status. They are too loud and so they attract undue attention."

"Governor Theodore Orji said the attack on his convoy was an assassination attempt. He had added that there had been security reports that assassins were planning to attack him."

"So what did he do, if he knew? Did he lodge any report with the police?"

"Which police? I beg, leave matter.

"No wonder the Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff says the Gubernatorial race is not for the poor."

"Don't misrepresent the fellow. He said the 2011 Gubernatorial race in Borno State is not for poor aspirants."

"I know what I am saying. And his friend, Governor Mamman Ali of Yobe State urged him to hand over to his wife, Hajiya Fatima Ali Sheriff in appreciation of her performance in the past eight years!"

"And Sheriff himself told the elected officers in the state and the National Assembly that nobody amongst them is rich enough to be Governor after him in 2011, and so they should all wait for him to anoint a candidate at the appropriate time."

"His wife, of course."

"This country is just a fat comedy. I am angry but I get a chance to laugh all the time..."

"You should be shedding tears."