Country Is a Banana Republic

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Nigeria

Nigeria

The Moment (London), Paul Omo Obadan, 15 October 2011

interview

What do you think of President Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership?

I do not have faith in the government of the Peoples Democratic Party because it does not have programmes that can take Nigeria out of the woods.

It also has engaged in systematic destruction of the country, through anti-people policies and programmes such as incessant increases in the prices of petroleum products, the removal of the so-called fuel subsidy, reckless devaluation of the national currency, infrastructural decay and collapse of values.

 

This is a regime that has exposed Nigeria to ridicule in the comity of democratic nations. Added to the crisis of relevance are insecurity of lives and property, mass unemployment, mass disenchantment and, of course, unprecedented looting of the treasury.

Just last week, the three ex-governors that were being arrested by the EFCC are influential members of the PDP, and they are being accused of looting the treasury to the tune of over N100 billion. How can one have confidence in such a government?

Government’s intention to remove oil subsidy by next year, is it timely, taking into consideration the hardship and calamitous circumstances the masses are confronted with, due to a weakening economy?

You should start by asking yourself, is there really fuel subsidy. How can a country that is the sixth largest producer of oil in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) engage in the wholesale importation of petroleum products? It is simply illogical. This regime has been in power for over 12 years now.

Why has it been impossible to fix the country’s refineries and build a new one so that the country can earn good money by exporting petroleum products apart from crude oil? In other words, apart from satisfying the domestic requirements, we should be exporting to earn good money and channel such funds to address socio-economic problems in the country.

But what are we told, anytime there is increase in the prizes of petroleum products in the international market, Nigerians must suffer. When the prizes are low, Nigerians must suffer. Who are the people benefitting from the so-called subsidy; some big boys and girls? They are in the good books of the regime. They import petroleum products after enjoying the so-called subsidy.

The bulk of the fuel is taken to neighbouring countries with the connivance of the government and sold at sky rocketing prices; not on behalf of Nigeria but on their own behalf. Nigerians must take advantage of this provocative announcement to find out what happens in other countries.

Over 10 years ago, I virtually suggested to the government to build refineries. Because, even if you remove the so-called subsidy tomorrow, and you don’t have your refineries in place, that will not be the end of the increase.

 

Because anytime there is problem in the international market, they will still increase the prices of petroleum products imported to the country. All they are simply saying is that government is going to deregulate, so that anybody can bring in what he likes and sell; including of course, toxic fuel which was the experience Nigerians had under the Sanni Abacha junta. This is not the answer to the problems in the country.

Can you proffer an alternative solution to fuel subsidy removal?

It is the irresponsibility of the government to look for lasting solution to the country’s problems that is the bane of our crisis. Venezuela is a developing and oil producing country like Nigeria, it has 18 refineries. Another alternative is for us to build refineries, but in the interim, go across the border to neighbouring countries and refine crude oil.

You don’t have to pay, give them crude, and use their refineries to produce petroleum products. Again, we suggested, ask your oil companies to build refineries, pay them, engage in trade by barter, give them crude so you don’t have to withdraw money from your foreign reserve to pay for imported petroleum products.

But they are not interested in these suggestions. It is the same problem you have with the devaluation of the currency. You are increasing wages with the right hand, and you are taking the benefits with the left hand by destroying your currency at the instigation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

Why are they not asking the United States government to devalue the dollar? Why are they not asking the British government to devalue the pounds? Are they not going through similar or worse economic conditions?

So, why are these people just insulting us and provoking the Nigerian people. What offence have we committed to be treated like slaves just because we have a gang of rulers who cannot discipline themselves, who cannot run the country?

Nigerians must not suffer. Why must Nigeria import toothpick, toothpaste, secondhand cloths, including pants and bra. That is what they are withdrawing foreign resources to buy and Nigerians must suffer.

If they want to deregulate the oil sector, deregulate the government. Put up the government for sale. Because what is the use of government, if you cannot guaranty security of lives and property. You cannot put kids in schools; you cannot get jobs for people. So, is there any basis for government?

Boko Haram has become a nightmarish phenomenon in Nigeria, Are you not worried that the country is degenerating into a terrorist nation as proclaimed by the United Nations?

Nigeria can still not be classified has a terrorist nation. There is no doubt that the failure of intelligence, that we have continued to witness in the country, has given a lot of room for extremist groups to take on the Nigerian state.

The lack of political will on the part of the government to challenge the culture of impunity has continued to promote mindless violence and terrorist attacks in the country.

In the last 12 years of the PDP-led government, over 20,000 Nigerians have been killed in ethno-religious and politically-motivated attacks, not one single person has been brought to book.

So, for the boys who have hijacked the monopoly of violence in the country, there is no government as far as they are concerned, because the basic duty of a modern government is to guaranty law and order and secure lives and property.

Once a government fails to meet that basic responsibility, you cannot talk of rule of law, or law and order or political stability. So, I would think, the terrorist groups are simply taking advantage of a weak or a failed state to unleash terror on the society.

But if you had a government that can address the root cause of violence in our country, Nigeria cannot be said to be a terrorist state.

Recently, the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East submitted its findings and made recommendations inter-alia that the Federal Government should consider the option of dialogue and negotiate with the sect. On government’s part, they have been dilly-dallying or at a loss on how to confront the sect. How do you think they should tackle the sect?

The government has already accepted to enter into dialogue with the group through the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but because of his own dubious role in the promotion of violence in the country, and the emergence of Boko Haram sect, he does not have the moral right to play the role that was assigned to him (Obasanjo) by the government.

You will recall that the man who had the misfortune of meeting him on behalf of the group was eliminated within 24 hours of holding a parley with the General and his entourage.

But the regime is simply looking for an opportunity to justify its own lack of vision and commitment to national ideals and goals. If you address the problems of mass poverty in the midst of plenty, youth unemployment, illiteracy in the society, you won’t have an army of young and able-bodied people engaging in violence against the Nigerian people.

A thousand and one panels of inquiry whose recommendations are going to decorate the shelf will not provide the solution that are required to restore law and order, justice and fair play, in our society.

And in any case, those who have inflicted violence in the country have not been brought to book. So, there is no way you are going to stop terrorism.

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