In the face of the officially induced scourge afflicting Nigerians, taking potshots at President Muhammadu Buhari, other political leaders and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have become a fair game and a past time. But Nigerians who indulge in such past time cannot in truth be accused of unfairness and insensitivity. The present administration brought the situation on itself on the basis of what has now turned out to be incredibly bogus (read false) promises it made to the electorate ahead of the March/April 2015 elections. The party and its presidential candidate were desperate for office and they promised, in local parlance, ‘heaven on earth’ to Nigerians. One year down the road Nigerians are reaping miseries in place of good life, clenched teeth for broad smiles, despair and despondency instead of optimism and hope. It is possible that the Buhari/APC haters did not in their wildest imagination expect that things will turn out so bad in the space of just one year. The man who stood out in his inability to see any redeeming feature in Buhari as president even before it became a reality is the Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose.
But for the many, but now obviously diminishing tribe of Buhari supporters, it is yet ‘morning on creation day’. The argument, which is increasingly sounding like a consolation, is that we still have all of three years for this government to turn things around and shame the doubters. However, in the nature of politics in our country, and indeed elsewhere, Buhari and APC do not have three full years left in their first term. The regime will be lucky to enjoy one more full year of governance without the distractions of subtle and obvious campaigns by politicians seeking to replace them. In fact, the administration has advertently or inadvertently rolled the dice when party chieftains declared about two months ago that there will not be any vacancy in Aso Rock Villa, the official residence of Nigeria’s president, even by 2019. The understanding when this statement was made was that President Buhari was primed to exercise his constitutional right to run for second term. A further deeper reading of that statement of ‘no vacancy’ was an admission that some other APC stalwarts were readying themselves for the office of the president.
In the past two weeks the Buhari administration and the ruling APC are beginning to unravel. And they are unraveling rather too rapidly. On May 11 the government made a 360 degrees shameless u-turn on its abiding stand on the price of petrol. It jerked up the price from N86.50 to N145 per litre. Candidate Buhari and opposition party APC [including the legacy parties] had insisted since 2012 when former President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt at deregulating the downstream sector of the petroleum industry was aborted, that there were no subsidies on petrol. They said that the so-called payment of subsidy was a scam foisted on Nigerians by a corrupt government. Even Pastor Tunde Bakare who was the presidential running mate to Buhari in 2011 built and published a mathematical scenario which he claimed demonstrated that the imported petrol sold in Nigeria had no need for subsidy. People of goodwill should encourage the pastor to create another scenario using extant realities to determine at what point the subsidy crept in.
It’s interesting that not many Nigerians understood Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, when in March he said fuel queues will disappear in May. He was taken to the cleaners by the self styled national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for being insensitive. We did not know that Kachikwu with the connivance of Buhari had an ace up their sleeves – the almost 70 per cent fuel price hike. Haven’t the queues disappeared? Was there no touch of magic (the very art Kachikwu claimed he had no training in) the way the queues vanished overnight. Sadly, the disappearance of petrol queues and/or the N145/litre will not hold for too long. One will have to give: either price goes up again or the queues will return. The promise that the only way to go for the price of petrol is downwards is a lie. Of course this government has the gift of deceiving the people. In spite of the recent petrol price hike this administration has not cured the underlying malaise of the downstream sector of the oil industry. What it did was to impose additional energy tax on hapless Nigerians after the 45 per cent tax on electricity. As we write only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the International Oil Companies [IOCs] which have petroleum products marketing subsidiaries have the capacity to source foreign exchange to import fuels. The other marketers, whether major or independent, are reportedly heavily indebted to their offshore suppliers and so have no viable credit lines. Is it not curious that three weeks after the tax on petrol was effected many fuel stations do not have products to dispense. Well, some will argue that they are in a period of transition. Okay, we will see!
Sooner than later the government will abandon yet another futile attempt to hide behind one finger. This will be in the area of formal devaluation of the Naira. Like petrol price, President Buhari will abandon his insistence not to allow the devaluation of the currency. Unofficially the Naira has since been devalued anyway. You want to find out; go to the market. A few days ago, and that was after months of foolish resistance, the Central Bank (CBN) succumbed to the inevitability of allowing a flexible exchange rate regime. In the emerging dispensation, the CBN hopes for rate convergence which will be driven by market forces of demand and supply. Like in the half-hearted deregulation of the petroleum sector, the government is about to make another mistake. The CBN said in the expected flexible foreign exchange [FOREX] regime that it will maintain a small window to supply forex at concessionary rate to designated agencies for critical investments. The devil will be in the detail when published. But there is no need for that window even if it will only be accessed by government.
The window will be another source of subsidy which will be open to abuse. The CBN that secretly and illegally issued midnight appointment letters to the relations of the high and mighty in this administration cannot be trusted to transparently manage that small window of subsidized forex. In addition pilgrims to various holy lands will stake their claim on that window and the government will oblige them especially as we head towards the 2019 elections. I hope my vicar, Funso Awe, in St. Augustine’s Anglican Church in Anthony Village, will not read this post concerning subsidizing pilgrims given stories he has regaled us with about leading groups of pilgrims to Israel and elsewhere. In addition any critical infrastructure which cannot yield sufficient returns in this era of mindless imposition of taxes on impoverished Nigerians is not worth the name and so should not be funded through subsidized forex.