Quizzing President Jonathan: Beyond Fuel Subsidy By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe
Columnist: 
Okey Ndibe

Those who last April hailed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as a consummate democrat and people’s man must now solve the puzzle of how their man shed his tame demeanor for the armor of violence. It is remarkable that, despite the provocations of a failed, inept and corrupt state, Nigerians exhibited extreme restraint during their protests against raised fuel prices. By contrast, Jonathan – who has accumulated no funds of trust since finding himself the president – decided to unleash soldiers on largely peaceful protesters.

Significantly, Mr. Jonathan, who fancies himself a transformational leader, is staunchly against lifting a finger against the cabal of fuel importers that defrauded Nigerians of hundreds of billions of naira in the name of fuel subsidy. If our president ever sends a soldier to the doorstep of some member of the cabal, it would be to protect the scam artist. But when dehumanized Nigerians, their backs against the wall for decades, demand accountability and a curtailment of corruption, Mr. Jonathan suddenly remembers he’s commander-in-chief. He deploys his well-armed forces on a mission to maim and kill the victims of his (and past) government’s contemptible, self-serving policies.

Even if the protests cease, Mr. Jonathan – who seems obsessed with looking strong and decisive in dealing with impoverished Nigerians – would be mistaken to gloat. Nigeria has entered a different phase in its history, a phase in which anything can happen. A president who has depleted his goodwill, as Jonathan has done, will find himself utterly alone – and sorry – if (or when) he faces a serious test.

Transformational leader – indeed! We have on our hands a president with a knack for prescribing the wrong antidote. The major ideas of his short presidency have been uniformly off the transformational mark.

His first significant political proposal was to change the constitution in order to allow a single term of seven years for the president and governor. He sought to sell that non-starter as the panacea for the sundry maladies that plague our political space, from violent, rigged elections to corruption.

Then, faced with the scourge of terrorism that’s had a chilling effect on Nigerians in several northern cities and towns, including Abuja, and now threatens to plunge Nigeria into a sectarian war, Mr. Jonathan proposed that we pray and then patiently resign ourselves until such a time as the terrorists in our midst reach saturation point and choose to abandon their gory pastime! It was only belatedly that the president came up with the idea of targeted declaration of a state of emergency in selected local government areas. Nobody can quite say what purpose that measure is serving; nobody knows how it curtails terror.

And now, in a country roiled by the gruesome killings of worshipers leaving a Catholic Church on Christmas Day, Mr. Jonathan decided that it was a priority to remove so-called fuel subsidy on New Year’s. That singular action – thank God! – has opened Nigerians’ eyes to the essential scam and organized fraud that pass for governance in our would-be nation.

President Jonathan has entrusted the defense of his unpopular policy to the tag team of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

The threesome has done a wretched job of justifying the removal of subsidy. At best, their argument – made most eloquently by the CBN’s Sanusi – is that licensed fuel marketers have made a sport of defrauding Nigerians of hundreds of billions of naira in fuel subsidy. That conclusion is so impeccable that Nigerians, I conjecture, would unanimously accept its truism.

Most Nigerians part ways with Jonathan and his team only with regard to their bizarre insistence that the logical – indeed only – answer is to remove fuel subsidy. More than anything, that solution signifies a government that’s so ineffectual as to be non-existent.

So here are a few questions for Mr. Jonathan and his troika of advocates.

You have the police, the SSS, the Ministry of Justice and other law enforcement and security apparati at your disposal. How many fuel marketing fraudsters have they ever interrogated, arraigned, and prosecuted? Does it make sense to presume to run a government that permits alleged criminals to walk? Where’s the justice of imposing a burden of higher fuel prices on Nigerians instead of going after the cabal – or mafia – that gobbles up the subsidy?

Your government has accused unscrupulous Nigerian officials (NNPC, the Customs, and PPPRA) of colluding with fraudulent fuel marketers to falsify fuel import data in order to fleece the country. Again, with all the agencies at your disposal, how many of the conniving officials have you ever unmasked, fired or tried? How many have you forced to refund their ill-received gain? Why can’t your government check apparently fraudulent claims of fuel shipments against the records of the foreign refineries (that sold the fuel) and the shipping companies (that reportedly freighted them to our shores)?

Your government provides “security vote” for all the ministers. What’s the security vote? Why does any minister need such a vote? Are your ministers – say of information or agriculture – now in the (side) business of combating terrorists as well? If not, why then hand them free cash that’s deceptively couched as “security vote”? Why, in addition, do your ministers have access to as many as ten SUVs each?

To stay with this security vote matter: Do you know of any other country in the world where the president, governors, ministers and local government councilors are given cash that they need not account for – in the nebulous name of handling security? If you were dragged before a tribunal of the people and asked to explain the expenditure of your monthly security votes, would you be up to the task?

Nigerian legislators hold the world record in the salaries and allowances they collect. Every quarter, your government calmly deposits the equivalent of $1.4 million in the account of each member of the House of Representatives, and $1.7 million for senators. These payments are called constituency allowance. Please tell Nigerians how these payments advance the interests of the various constituencies, or foster the ends of development and democracy.

For that matter – yes, let’s make things a bit personal – please detail for Nigerians the impact you have made in their lives since becoming president. What are the achievements of your presidency? If you were asked to set out the achievements of each member of your cabinet, are you confident of making a case that they have served Nigeria creditably? And can you justify what they have received in compensation?

You, Mr. Jonathan, have often made the point that, given its huge population, Nigeria is not really a wealthy nation. Why then do you not realize the oddity of the presidency boasting a fleet of eight (or more) airplanes? Are you aware that many leaders of wealthier nations don’t own one jet, but must travel by commercial airlines?

Nigerian politicians are enamored of pompous titles. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo called himself the “founder of modern Nigeria.” Our senators are “distinguished,” even if they don’t know how to spell the word bill. Our ministers are “honorable,” even when they’re solely adept at dishonorable conduct. Our “excellent” governors are “icons” and boast of “totally reinventing the art of governance.” Every Nigerian political office holder trumpets her/his delivery of the “dividends of democracy” and claims to be moving the nation/state/local government area “forward.” You’ve styled yourself a transformational leader. And so it goes.

Then this: Nigerian elections are marked by corruption and violence. Do you believe, for a moment, that the politicians who perpetrate all that bribing of electoral officials and all that violence are desperate to have the opportunity to serve us?

On a routine basis, you and other officials fly abroad for medical checkups, treatments – or even to die. Why are you unwilling to enjoy the “wonderful” healthcare system that you and your cohorts have bequeathed to the rest of Nigerians? Why do you and other top government officials expend huge costs on foreign trips to seek medical treatment? If you, your ministers and governors are paying attention to bettering our nation, why are you and your ilk in a haste to send your children and wards to foreign countries for their education?

We’ve touched on Nigeria’s lawmakers, but we must return to them yet again. As arguably the world’s most expensive legislature, what exactly are their members’ achievements? What concrete contributions have they made in close to thirteen years to Nigerians’ well being? If you fit the transformational bill, why aren’t you out proposing that Nigeria change to a part time legislature – with each legislator earning allowances based on the number of sessions that she/he sits?

The immunity clause in the Nigerian constitution shields the president and his deputy as well as governors and their deputies from prosecution even when they commit crimes. Do you agree with this expansive principle of immunity? Why not champion a constitution amendment to ensure that those who commit crimes whilst in office – whether as president or governor – can be docked immediately? Remember that former President Bill Clinton of the US was tried for lying on oath about his relationship with a young intern, Monica Lewinsky. More recently, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to fourteen years in jail for seeking to auction off President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.

In sum, why should Nigerians trust you and your government to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates and improve the country’s infrastructure when you can’t handle the simple task of identifying a handful of leeches who’ve been stealing from fuel subsidy funds? Why should the rest of us endure inhuman, serf-worthy privations while you and your inept team live like emperors and unconscionable conquerors?

Please follow me on twitter @ OkeyNdibe
(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

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Good info

Hello! eegagea interesting eegagea site! I'm really like it! Very, very eegagea good!

It's safe to say that

It's safe to say that president Goodluck Jonathan disappointed the Nigerians who hung on to his promise of positive transformation. In his inaugural speech, he declared, “The leadership we have pledged is decidedly transformative. The transformation will be achieved in all the critical sectors, by harnessing the creative energies of our people." but even if he would have took his degree in leadership online, the results of his actions should have shown by now.

I agree, better late than

I agree, better late than never indeed but i think that president Johanatan has some general goals that are taken from here and there and they are not created especially for the nigerian people. For example donate car USA is a program that, for now at least, wouldn't work in Nigeria although in other countries it's been widely successful.

So, Better late than never.

So, Better late than never.

President Jonathan

The Nigeria situation is more that what people think, if it is just one day or two days prayer, it will be okay, but we have a very big and complex problem in our hands, that even our politicians with their masters in leadership diplomas can't figure out. It is very deep, all we need to do is to continue in our prayers, although many believed we do not need prayer but force, well, history is in the best position to answer that question. God bless Nigeria.

fuel price

The fuel price is a problem in all the countries over the Globe. Think about that. Maybe the citizens of Nigeria should think about asking for a subsidy for auto parts. That could be handled much easier.

Beyond Fuel subsidy by Okey Ndibe

It is great to read peoples comments but can you not please write in English sited of the stupid abbreviations and street writing/talk? Is it too much to ask? The author Okey Ndibe's text was clear and easy to understand. Since the days of blackberry, Nigerian's now think it's chick to write as though they are sending a text to their buddy who understand the abbreviation they use. I live in the UK and people here say nigerians speak better English than the english. What happened people? Let's not follow, follow and forget the good things we have. Please write your comments in English so those of us who are not so street wise /savvy can understand.

Good Questions for Ijaw Nation President

Good posers sir!

I guess Mr. President would go and procure "black market" answers for you from the same place he has been procuring black market injunctions and punishing the masses as a "solution" to his friends that have been fleecing the nation.

When you finally get an answer from the Ijaw Nation President, if you ever get one, please check for the NAFDAC number!

He is a black market specialist.

Nigerians are [paying for false elections

Thank God, i saw the handwriting on the wall and refused to vote GEJ in the April polls simply because i never understood why he had to make incorrect statements about PDP zoning arrangement to favor himself.. In my area in the East, votes were manipulated to 98% turn out whereas only about 40% came out to vote.Many were nonchalant just like in the days of the the last fuel strike.Nigerians you are paying for your blindness. good luck to you all.This is just the beginning of your sorrows.

Unrepentant Liars!!

A country that spent bilions on ID card without anything to show for it. The truth is that even their so called leaders at all levels of government do not believe in the Nigerian project.

@Deri and co

It is rather unfortunate that while most country are living in d 21st century, nigeria indeed nigerian are living in d medieval time, imagine the minister of petroleum telling the panel probing the administration of fuel subsidy that d #1.3tr were indeed monies paid on subsidizing kerosine in 2009, 2010, 2011 and petrol in d yr ending 2011 rather than what they made us to believe that d money was 4 petrol alone. With dis revelation i believe deri and co will stop their cut and paste stupidity and fight dis gov b4 they send us all to our early grave and 4 our brother in d southsouth and southeast that desided to sit on d fence believing that it's their turn to chop, i 'ill say heaven is going to fall, it 'ill nt do so on one person.

@Deri and co.

Am very suprised that deri and his army of supporter of d president have stop posting that neausating cut and paste comment of his about d cabals and i dont know whether he listen to his sister 4rm bayelsa yesterday(minister of petroleum) wen she was defending d #1.3tr subsidy money, she said and i quote 'the #1.3tr was the money paid in subsidising petro in 2011 and the arears on kerosine in 2009 and 2010' but they made us to believe that d money was spent on petrol alone. It's a shame that some ppl 'ill still come out to defend such a gov and 4 our brothers in d southeast and southsouth who thought that d yorubas are out there to distabilised the gov and so therefore did not join d struggle, i 'ill say heaven is going to fall, it will nt be only on one person.

Jonathan's Presidency and fuel Subsidy

This is a well written write up.

Just few days back the Britih Govt cut the number of aides and vehicles allocated to Ministers. More than 75 percent of the ministers have no official cars as we speak and this was in line with cutting govt spending and we are in Nigeria crying for nothing. Surely it is time clobber and publicly lynch all these vermins masquerading as Ministers.

Jonathan Runs Amock

Now that Goodluck Jonathan has deployed soldiers and tanks to the streets of Lagos, I hope he will also send soldiers, tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, frigates, destroyers and bazookas to the following:
1. Boko Haram.
2. The members of the National Assembly for collecting such outlandish salaries and allowances and thereby contributing to making Nigeria insolvent.
3. The presidency for being so inept and incompetent. For Jonathan to have said that Boko Haram has penetrated his executive, the legislature, the judiciary and even the armed forces, is an unbelievable admission of his inability to cope. That statement is impeachable.
4. The members of the so-called cabal that steals money from the so-called subsidy.
5. Any other group of leeches, rats, cockroaches, locusts and termites that are destroying our unfortunate country.
Please join us on facebook at 'Take Nigeria back (from the locusts and termites)

Our country is facing

Our country is facing problems that need to be addressed. The questions is, if they are nor the President's making, what effort is he making to solve them? From all indications, the people are yearning for help, having suffered much through the past administrations, in the midst of plenty. The simple fact is Nigeria has not done well in its 50 years. At a time of global financial crises, why can't our leaders manage our resources wisely? At a time when Nigeria's image is in tatters, why can't our leaders work to redeem it? At a time that the masses are suffering, why can't the government cut costs, abandon whatever corrupt legacies they inherited? Why can't the money spent on foreign travel be used to improve our healthcare system, education, and infrastructure? Why are some individuals allocated oil blocks? Why can't our leaders learn from emerging economics that share similar history as Nigeria-India, China, Venezuela, Brazil, Quatar, etc?

NIGERIA ON THE BRINK

Consider these eerie similarities:
Between 1962 and 1966, a state of emergency was declared in the Western Region. In 2011, a state of emergency was declared in some states of the North.
Between 1962 and 1966, people of Southern extraction (mainly Igbos) were slaughtered in the North. In 2011, people of Southeren extraction have been slaughtered in the North.
Between 1962 and 1966, the federal government used goons in form of mobile policemen to try to curtail demonstrations in the West. In 2012, the federal government again used goons in form of soldiers in tanks to stymie demonstrators in Lagos.
Do we all know that Hitler made EXACTLY the same mistkes that Napoleon made about a hundred years earlier : he invaded the Soviet Union and lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the Russian winter.
If only Jonathan will learn from the lessons of history!!!

What a Nation!

It is not surprising to read through a thoughtful and well articulated piece from Dr Ndibe. He has asked salient questions dat Gej and his cohorts need to respond to. We have truely pray for 9ja, but i guess it it now time for action, for Faith and work go paripasu. Nigerians, its now time to send all this evil men and women who does mean well out of Governance. I strongly align myself with d thought of Dr Tunji Abayomi and Prof Pat Utomi, dat it is now a matter of NATIONAL demostration to send all d devils away.

Lesson For Nigeria Politicians

Senior ministers in UK including William Hague have lost their right to a full-time ministerial car and driver, it emerged yesterday.

In a written statement, the Department of Transport said it had cut the bill for ministerial cars from £6.7m to £3.8m. The cuts have left seven government departments including the Foreign Office, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Climate Change with no official car. In total, the number of ministers with an allocated car and driver has fallen from 78 to 13.

Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to crack down on ministerial car costs as part of the Government's efforts to tackle the deficit.

Ministers without their own car now have access to a car pool rather than a dedicated vehicles and drivers. They can use the service for official business and travelling from home to the office "within reasonable distance of London".

All government members are encouraged to use public transport where possible.

It is enough to make a grown

It is enough to make a grown man cry...

It is enough to make a grown

It is enough to make a grown man cry...

Robbing The Poor

Nigeria is a haven of corruption where the poor are robbed to pay the rich.

Well said, Okey! Let us keep

Well said, Okey! Let us keep talking truth to power. History and right are on our side. We are tired of bad governance, corruption and abuse of power.

Good Write up!!!

Good write up!!!,let GEJ & his co gov.etc agent answer to all the question.why can't GEJ order the soldiers to go after the so call cabal, the Boko-Arams & let the peaceful protesters be!Our eyes are widely opened now,corruption must STOP!!! Aluta conutinu...

Questions and jsut on more

Where do you go and what do you do and what do you say about a President that says :

1) Terrorism is a burden we have to carry

2) Terrorism is not peculiar to Nigeria

3) Boko Haram is in the three tiers of government

4) Subsidy was benfiting people that own 10 to 15 cars whose children drive the cars all over the place, after all that was said and published during the protest !!

Not only does GEJ not seem to understand salient issues of these times in Nigeria , he does not seem to listen to what many Nigerians are saying !!. So, is there hope that things will really change ?

Quizz Time for President Jonathan

Questions, questions, questions....and we do not expect any concrete responses. True, Nigerians are now wiser, and thanks to the President. Good read and quite insightful.

every disappointment is a blessing

Every disappointment is a blessing in disguise because since Jonathan came to power a lot of the clandestine activities by the cabals have come to the open.Okey,thank u for this powerful write up. They(those in power past and present)can not answer them. I've said it times without number,no one can stop CHANGE.Nigeria of the '70s is not the same as '20s.We are getting more enlightened and we have asked a lot of questions like the ones OKEY have just published and we have no answers. What we demand is CHANGE and it will surely happen for we have suffered enough in the mist of plenty. THE CHANGE HAVE STARTED and no one can stop it with ARMED SOLDIERS,POLICE,THUGS etc for a better Nigeria.

Okey Okey You are the Journalist of the Year 2012

Big Man Thank you for all the Questions that are in consonance with what are on my mind during the Fuel Deregulation Uprising that the so called Harvard Students dodged to analyse, the suffering and Stealing from the masses for their own Greed.

"Pinch yourself before you pinch the masses and know how painful it is" That should be the President and the Legislatures line of sight.

DIOKA, I FEEL UR SENSE OF EMOTION

What the likes of Deri don't know is that, the world has changed. Past leaders may have gotten away with corrupt practices, but not this time. We are ready to lay our lives for good governance and corrupt free soceity. Whether u are Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Ibibio, etc, does not matter any longer. All we need is for Nigeria to move forward and let her citizens be counted in the committee of good living standard nations. Deri and co, for your information, your kinsman, president Jonathan, is an embarrasment to ur tribe, an embarrasment to the office of the presidency, an embarrasment to literate and educated class, an embarrasment to leadership. We must for sure have the Nigeria of our dream in no distant time.

Take a horse to water, but can't make him drink

Okey Ndibe you paraphrase the nigerian nightmare very well, however as witnessed by the ongoing issues nigerians are just too corrupt and cowardly to fight and die for change. president GEJ, his cabinet, senators, reps, security services, civil servants, the unions, sng and others, and finally the nigerian masses have been bedeviled and bewitched by a system that says corruption and inefficiency is the mode of life. The entity called nigeria only needs a nationalistic but benevolent dictator who is willing to exterminate and purge the system of all its vices. After the rebirth of nigeria, then talk of some form of democracy.

@ eddy omo

what a stupid analogy! Which party is actually the problem? CPC, ACN OR PDP? I guess your line of thought just went a wire, you need to check your comment to see if it makes sense.

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