We must cooperate with Tinubu to deal with shylock marketers on subsidy removal, says Kokori
Chief Frank Kokori, a former secretary-general of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), told SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief), that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, must address the issue of restructuring if Nigeria must move forward. He also appealed to Nigerians on why they have to bear the pains of subsidy removal to address the greed of Shylock marketers once and for all.
What’s your impression of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s comment on removal of fuel subsidies in his inaugural speech?
Obviously all the three major presidential candidates, that is, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), promised to remove the fuel subsidy because we have been groaning and drowning under this subsidy for years and it has gotten to a stage where it is no longer tenable to pay N6.3 trillion for subsidy under six months or there about. The question is where is that money going to? The money is just going into private pockets and that’s all. There are some cabals who have been bleeding the country dry from subsidies.
Obviously, all three major candidates promised to remove the subsidy but just for the greed of the marketers, who are the greatest sadists in this country. Nobody is dealing with them. If I have my way, or I am the president, I will deal ruthlessly with these Shylock marketers. They are thieves, otherwise, how can the president just announced the removal of subsidy from fuel and the marketers immediately increased the pump price whereas they (marketers) are still buying at the Depot price for less than N140, so how can they come and sell for N500 per litre? They are common exploiters.My appeal to Nigerians is that the pains will go with time; it was just that the way Mr. President announced the removal was a wrong strategy. He ought not to have done it by fiat in his inaugural speech.
Since the issue of subsidy has been lingering, how else would he have done it?
He has taken the bold step and I don’t think he should reverse it. The only approach now is for the government to manage the situation, otherwise there would be no way out of this subsidy crisis again. I repeat, there is no way the country can continue to subsidise fuel at the expense of the masses to the benefit of few Shylock marketers.
If we have to buy fuel for N400 or N500 for now, let’s endure. For instance, kerosene is now selling for close to N1000, which is the cheapest for the poor Nigerians and they have been buying it. The question of making so much noise about the removal of fuel subsidy is because the marketers are the ones behind it and that’s all.
It is a thing we have to do and it has started. The government has no choice than to manage it and come to an equilibrium. Nigerians should better accept the decision now so that we can deal with the Shylocks among us. Many people have been made billionaires in dollars for doing nothing because of this subsidy. They are just exploiting the people and most of these people are not even from the Niger Delta. That thing must be done and I believe that Tinubu is a person who understands the issue and who can as well do it. To me, it is a decision that must be taken and it has been done.
His predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, promised something similar but after eight years, nothing happened. Why do you see Tinubu as the person who can do it?
Since the struggle for democracy in this country started, Tinubu is the only person who understands how Nigeria attained democracy among all the presidents we have had since 1999. He was part of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) movement. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not understand how we got democracy because he didn’t participate in the struggle to remove the military from power. The late former President Umaru Yar’Adua didn’t fight for democracy and I didn’t even hear the name of former President Goodluck Jonathan at all in the struggle for democracy. We know of Atiku, who was a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).
But immediately the former military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) annulled the June 12 1993 Presidential election, Atiku went under; he didn’t participate in the struggle for democracy. Buhari too didn’t show much enthusiasm. It is only Tinubu that was in the trenches with us and he was even a major funder of NADECO.
I was the symbol of the struggle, so I know those who fought with us. I am the only Nigerian on earth who was just locked up by the military regime in a desert prison for four years without appearance in court, without charges and without anything. I was just abandoned in prison. Most of the people who were active in the struggle have died, some are very old now but many of them never benefited in the largesse of democracy.
So, Tinubu, who is part of the struggle, should understand better what to do. He was in the struggle and suffered until he ran to exile to organise the international aspect of the struggle abroad. Tinubu knows what it took Nigerians to gain this democracy; other leaders we have had did not really know this.
But do you think the removal of subsidy from fuel will solve the fundamental challenges facing the nation?
No. And that is where we are watching Tinubu and closely monitoring how he will handle the fundamental challenges facing Nigeria. This country has a major problem, which is what led to the demand by Afenifere, NADECO, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Leadership Forum and other ethnic socio-political and cultural groups, who are persistently asking for restructuring. Nigeria needs true federalism, I mean total decentralisation of the country.
It is so painful former President Obasanjo swept the issue of restructuring under the carpet for eight years, Jonathan, who is from the minority area, also swept it under the carpet while Buhari didn’t even want to hear about it at all. But Tinubu knows that the Afenifere and NADECO people are eager to see him restructure this country, without which Nigeria cannot move anywhere. If he jokes with it, well I wish him well but I know he will not joke with it. If he does not re-confederate Nigeria and ensure true federalism, where the states will work to survive and not just act like parasites, removal of subsidy from fuel will not end our challenges.
For instance, everybody blames the president for what the state governor or local council chairman ought to do because of over-centralisation of power.Tinubu also needs to fight corruption, not a selected war against corruption. Thank God his wife, Oluremi, has told us that her family didn’t need to steal Nigeria’s money, therefore I will expect him to face the task without fear or favour. As a friend, I wish him well but he should rule Nigeria with all sincerity and determination to take it out of the woods.
Tinubu is in the last stage of his life, the twilight of his life. All he needs now is to leave his name in gold by doing what is right for Nigeria. I want to appeal to Nigerians to bear the pains for a little period and allow us to deal once and for all with the Shylock marketers.
Despite your perception of Mr. President, why did the voting pattern go the way it did on February 25?
It went that way because most Nigerian youth were too young or were not born in the early 1990s when the struggle took place. They don’t really know who Tinubu is and how we got to where we are today. I don’t blame them but Tinubu, to me, is the best for now to rearrange Nigeria and he will do it.
What would be your advice to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over the subsidy removal, in view of their plans to embark on strike?
They (unions) understand perfectly and even their presidential candidate, Peter Obi told them point blank that he would remove subsidies from fuel. People in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and NUPENG, which controls the labour in all struggles, understand. So, they won’t be so stupid this time around to engage in any meaningless strike or protests. These two critical bodies won’t just jump into unreasonable strike because they know the damage subsidy is causing to this nation. But if NLC and TUC want to play to the gallery, that’s their own cup of tea. I will only urge that the government to negotiate properly with the unions.
That’s what Tinubu should have done, he should have organised a real stakeholder meeting before taking the decision. The marketers are enjoying their last free launch because the subsidy has to go and it has gone.