A miracle happened earlier this week in Lekki, and it brought four presidents from across the African continent to Nigeria, who came to watch and cheer. Fela would call it Government Magic but don't mind that pant-wearing weed-smoking legend and prophet. He is always right! I have been hearing about this fuel subsidy and fuel price increment since I was born. Who knew that all of the fuel subsidy woes could be solved miraculously all of a sudden by loaning money to some Nigerians that are already 'stinkingly' wealthy? Such innovation! It can only be our brilliant Buhari.
In a grand display of opulence and power, Africa's very own capitalist czar, Aliko Dangote, alongside a horde of Nigerian politicians, orchestrated a spectacle that can only be described as a magical illusion. 'Idan-gote', Nigeria's most notorious monopolist, surrounded himself with politicians of all shades, from APC to PDP to LP and across all tribes, to perform this government magic with Buhari. Given the tribal tension we saw during the recently concluded elections, it seems the only thing these politicians are capable of uniting on is their insatiable desire for money. It seems their class interests have united them. While some categories of the masses are busy licking their tribal wounds and lashing out angrily at anyone who did not support their capitalist candidate and their election tribunals, the capitalists came together to sneak in their grand scam. It's a classic case of misdirection, reminiscent of a magician who distracts the audience with elaborate hand gestures while skillfully concealing the truth up his sleeve. While we were busy with tribunals and mandates, they sealed the fuel price increment policy.
While I watched the commissioning of the Dangote Lekki Refinery, I saw economists and political analysts engaging in economic acrobatics on TV to justify the breathtaking feat of financial magic that was just performed to the silent amazement of Nigerians. I was literally saying "This is baffling" under my breath. While we watched TV, it seemed like the economists on TV were in a different world of their own because they made no sense to our 'illiterate' minds, and I don't think they know what they are doing if they can't explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old. According to our Bayelsa economist and former PDP Senator, Ben Murray Bruce who was interviewed at the commissioning, Nigerians will buy "Market value PMS and... Prices will go up" and those filling their tank with 8 thousand Naira will now fill up their tank with 30 thousand Naira. That's a price increment of over 200%. He just announce that petrol prices will triple on behalf of the rich and ruling class. This price increment policy is what our 'economists' have always hidden under the fuel subsidy removal policy.
My issue with these economists is simple; This same government failed to find money to address the pressing issues of building and/or repairing our publicly-owned refineries in Nigeria to resolve the ever-elusive dream of ending fuel subsidies in a way that does not hurt Nigerians, yet they found the money to loan to Africa's richest billionaire, Aliko Dangote, to construct the Dangote Lekki Refinery. Please explain it to me like I'm five years old.
While I wait for answers, let me say what I was expecting to happen. Since we have been burdened with the infamous fuel subsidy (a system that promised to alleviate the cost of fuel but, in reality, only served as a breeding ground for corruption and inefficiency), I had hoped that President Buhari, with his pledges of eradicating this burden while campaigning for President, would lead the charge in revamping the dilapidated state-owned refineries and build new ones while trying to explore alternative energy solutions. But it seems that Buhari decided to round up his administration which lacked sound economic policies all through with the dodgiest financial deal ever. The decision to loan money to one of the wealthiest individuals in the country to build a refinery raises some perplexing questions. Shouldn't the government's responsibility be to prioritize the interests of the masses over those of the elites? Can't that money go directly into a publicly controlled refinery project that can employ millions of unemployed Nigerian youths as direct labor? I can work on that site once per week for free!
Economic reports from 2018 have claimed that Dangote is responsible for over 10 percent of Nigeria's GDP. In less economic terms, Dangote owned and controlled over 10 percent of our economy. Even God only collects 10%! God knows how much he controls now! A funny Google search query about "Who owns Nigeria?" returns Dangote's name. It's almost as if this state called Nigeria suffers from a peculiar case of Stockholm syndrome, where the government willingly embraces tightly the capitalist captors of the economy rather than pursuing the liberation of the people from such unbridled capitalism. Even in other capitalist countries, capitalist politicians and capitalists business leaders are mostly always seen in a caricature combat over policy issues, and the business leaders have to go through the stress of lobbying politicians with future campaign contributions or personal gains, and then struggle to maintain control over the politicians they've bought. Even though it's the same rotten capitalism, Nigeria's brand definitely has more maggots because it is a puzzling scenario where the wealthy are handed the keys to the kingdom by politicians without any stress, while the majority working poor are left to fend for themselves. Under the guise of economic progress and national development, and benefits of job creation and energy independence that will never come, Dangote will amass unimaginable wealth at the expense of the common people of Nigeria as he has done in many other sectors.
What about the incoming president? "Now matter how long you protest, we are going to remove fuel subsidy... And I'm going to win this election" Bola Tinubu lurking and looming like a danger (giving off Hitler vibes), ready to exploit the situation to his advantage. He has threatened to increase fuel prices even further no matter how much we protest, casting a dark cloud over the already precarious survival of the ordinary people of Nigeria. The only solution to this is to demonstrate the power of protest that Tinubu is already afraid of. Tinubu might have already imagined it to be a protest as usual but what we need is to gather in numbers beyond Tinubu's wildest imagination, united in our determination to protect our basic survival with a revolution. Let us protest, not merely within the bounds of their expectations, but in ways that defy their comprehension. A revolutionary protest that is not meant to just pressure or change the mind of the government on a certain policy, but that brings down not just Tinubu's dictatorship, but also the exploitative system of capitalism and the Oligarchs like Dangote representing it in Nigeria.
The resistance that will bring down Tinubu's regime will not come from the pro-Obi election protests where Obidients are busy singing romantic political songs by Timi Dakolo on the streets of Abuja. It won't come from supporting a candidate like Obi of the Labour Party who was at the Dangote Refinery to show solidarity with his fellow capitalist exploiter. It won't come from giving continued support to a candidate who supported Buhari on the cash scarcity policy. It won't come giving continued support to an Obi who recently claimed he would have supported APC if only they had presented Osinbajo as a presidential candidate. It won't come from supporting a candidate who admitted that he is no different ideologically from Atiku or Tinubu. Someone who was being fed Agbado money through Pat Utomi while running his Presidential campaign. The capitalists are united and they demonstrated it at that Dangote Lekki refinery commissioning. This is not to undermine the protest of those Obidients but to show them that it's time to unite under their working-class interests, as Obi has gone to back defend his rich-class interests. Such protests will not be led by influencers or celebrities like Timaya, whose song became the anthem of the pro-Obi pseudo-resistance, but was singing the same song at the Tinubu Inauguration song yesterday to mock the Obidients.
Let us see through their enchantments, break free from their spell, and embrace a future where the well-being of the people is not a bargaining chip for political games. Together, we can dismantle the oppressive systems that bind us and build a society where our survival is not dependent on the whims and caprices of these self-serving magicians. We must not be fooled by this grand illusion. The Dangote Lekki Refinery is nothing more than a symbol of the unholy alliance between capital and politics, a testament to the cunning artistry of those who exploit the masses for personal gain. It is something the masses should celebrate. It is time for us to see through the smoke and mirrors, to question the narratives that are spun to deceive us. True progress and liberation can only be achieved by dismantling the systems of power that perpetuate inequality and exploitation.
Let us look away from the politicians and focus on our needs as a people, and we will be able to catch their magic tricks. The solution to our fuel subsidy troubles does not lie in the pockets of billionaires but in our collective effort to build a better society. Let us remember that true magic lies not in the illusions of the ruling class, but in the collective power of the people to shape their own destiny. Let us use that superpower that Tinubu did not know to send back an equal message of threat - PMS PRICE GOES UP, TINUBU GOES DOWN!
Omole Ibukun writes from Abuja, Nigeria and he can be contacted on 09167636201