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Nigeria’s broke! take it or leave it

By Alabi Williams
22 May 2016   |   1:04 am
Nigeria is broke. Pure and simple. That is all the brusque explanation this government owes the people. And Nigerians must try and understand this hard fact, so that next time there...
Alabi Williams

Alabi Williams

Nigeria is broke. Pure and simple. That is all the brusque explanation this government owes the people. And Nigerians must try and understand this hard fact, so that next time there is reason to impose another levy, government will not be forced to apply the same brute tactics to force it down our parched throats. Or don’t we get it? That the era of fake and grandiose promises are over; and we need to get real? Political campaigns are over and this government must get down to serious business. Serious business means looking for money from whatever source, including China to massage age-long and self inflicted ailments. It is also government’s prerogative to borrow from poor and average Nigerians to finance the 2016 budget. After all, government is not Father Christmas.

We need to drum this, in case some people still have difficulty in reading the signs of the times we are in. Since the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board on May 29 last year, it has been one candid explanation or the other, just to make citizens understand that there is huge difference between being in government and playing idly outside as an opposition. Outside government, everything is possible, including promises to give free food to school children, free fuel and free education. Inside government, it is a different reality, because you now have insider knowledge, which citizens, some times, plain mischief makers, can never have. So when things don’t go as planned, citizens dare not complain, because it is of no use.

The first year of the contract between this government and the people will run out by next Sunday, May 29, 2016. Those who may feel shortchanged that the promises (contract) of four years have been reduced to three years cannot invoke Chapter 11 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic to hold government accountable. Legal eggheads say that Chapter is not justiciable. My advice to fellow citizens, therefore, is to pray for this government to do well in the remaining three years, so that some of the lofty promises will be realised. I fear however, that if by May 29, 2017 we are still at this level of explanation and excuses, 2019 could become a major distraction for serious delivery of dividends of democracy. As you know, some restless politicians are too eager to commence another round of politicking, they are just waiting for another year to come and go.

Seriously, we need to pray; and also to be good and patriotic citizens, by paying all taxes and levies this government comes up with, including this new fuel price increase. We are told government will soon increase VAT from five to 10 per cent, so that there will be more money to fulfill both campaign promises and the items listed in Budget 2016. A major component of patriotism is to obey first before complaining. Citizens should obey and pay their electricity charges first, even when they have not been supplied with metres, pre or post-paid. Rome, after all, was not built in a day. Very soon all highways will be reconstructed, with good drainages, lightings and off course, tollgates.

If anyone was misled by former opposition elements, to think that government is run by magic, now we know the truth. Government is not run on magic or voodoo. Government is participatory and citizens must play their part to assist politicians to run budgets, so that there are no more delays or abandoned projects. Being in government offers omniscient knowledge of all things and that’s not magic.

And that was the brilliant thing the minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu confessed, when he told Nigerians during an April meet with leaders of oil workers that he does not practice magic. He told Nigerians that fuel crisis will not be over until sometime in May, but how did we react to him? Citizens berated him for telling the truth and blamed him severely for the panic that ensued. Leader of the party in government, Ahmed Bola Tinubu took the minister to the cleaners and told him to shut up. Kachikwu got the baptism of fire and learned fast not to tell the whole truth. In between that April meeting and when the new pump price was announced, he told citizens many sweet things, including a reduction in the pump price. He told of how the refineries had been transformed and everything was doing well.

The government also embarked on town hall meetings to explain the good things that have been lined up. They were in Lagos, where they assembled members of their own party and a few traditional rulers, who are not members of the APC, but members of Any Government In Power (AGIP), to nod and clap repeatedly. They went to Kaduna, where they managed to expand the attendance, to include some clergy, who are also not members of the APC, but belong to the supporters club of any government.

When we heard there were going to be town hall meetings, for which scarce monies are going to be spent, this column tried to communicate the implication of going to meet the people when there was nothing tangible yet on ground. Genuinely, we thought government should save itself the hassle and cost, because we thought we understood how difficult it could be to market government in a season of drought. But they did not listen. I wouldn’t know as of today if government has done the rounds of town hall meetings in all the geopolitical zones, but sincerely, what better town hall can we have than this meeting of government and Labour on the streets of Lagos, Abuja and in the major cities?

What is more fraudulent than for a government to claim it has no alternative to survival, than to increase pump price of a product that is so crucial to the survival of the people? Sure government needs money, but there are thousand and one alternatives to get out of this difficult situation. First, the financial mess government has found itself is self-inflicted. And this has little to do with stolen funds in the last administration, because all the funds stolen since 1979 cannot bail government out of the hole it is grounded. It has everything to do with a system of government that is rental, oppressive and wasteful. Who said we must continue to run a presidential system that is so costly and opaque, whose budgets since 1999 are used to service the political class and personnel in the bureaucracy? Who said this is not the best time to review this system and quickly get out of a looming immobility? Who said we must run two large and wasteful chambers of the National Assembly; and who said 36 parasitic states must run 36 quack legislatures that only serve their greedy interests and governors’? Who said the Federal Government must continue to micro-manage NNPC and the oil and gas industry, just to perpetuate hegemonic control of resources and political power? Nigeria as it is remains an affliction and it is dubious for intelligent people to argue that government has no alternative than to afflict ordinary people with more pains.

One alternative I am very sure of is that an increase in pump price of fuel or any product in a budget template that is heavily tilted in favour of recurrent expenditure is a good proposition for the political class. Governors are gloating already, because now they will have more money to spend on their frivolities. State governors that had drawn blank are hoping that monies stolen from citizens will swell their allocations.

As for Labour, they say what you see is what you get. Labour appears prostrate today, but it is our collective loss to have a divided and lame Labour, at a time when what ought to be the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in tatters.

Labour and the civil society helped to install this government. Yet, government, more or less, last week told Labour to go to hell when discussions on the pms pump price, electricity tariff, as well as possible wage increase for workers were ongoing. The same government, gradually perfecting its wiles, ran to court to procure some order to frustrate a nation-wide uprising.
For the last time! Nigeria is broke; take it or leave it. Or, don’t you get it?

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