Back in May 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria was being sworn in as president of Nigeria there was a palpable sense of anticipation that the Nigerian nation was back on the track of its much truncated quest for greatness, at least those who swore by the divine mandate of the president saw it thus.
Now, six months after that momentous day, the feeling of euphoria and hope for a new dawn has been replaced by something more ominous; the feeling of coming doom and failure to once again keep to the right track. This feeling is shared by both those who happily bought into the yarn about GEJ’s (as President Jonathan is referred to in Nigeria growing online media) heaven sent mandate and those who always believed the man is either too weak to lead a complex country like Nigeria, or too beholden to the corrupt puppet masters to do any good.
Much of the lack of confidence for the President and his team on the streets, homes and offices across Nigeria steams not from ill will over the election that brought the president to power or the usual ethnic and regional ill feelings that is synonymous with West Africa’s biggest economy, but as a direct result of what the President say is geared to advance the country, his economic blueprint.
Starting from January 2011, Nigerians have been told by the President and his economic team, led by World Bank top shot Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, that the all important subsidy on petroleum products would be removed, the toll gates across the nation’s highways – removed a few years ago during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo – will return, electricity tariffs will be increased and the Naira devalued (that has already happened, at least to an extent).
Aside from a bill to extend the presidential term by an additional 3 years, the foregoing is the sum of GEJ’s policy so far.
Looking at the main thrust of the economic team’s policy, which many Nigerians see as anti people, it is clear GEJ has fallen out of favour. Aside from the call for a single tenure of seven years, much of the policy statements by the GEJ administration are geared more towards reducing government spending and increasing inputs from the masses. While this is not in itself a bad thing, especially as Nigerian government spending is astronomically bloated by corrupt politicians and civil servants looking to enrich themselves, Nigerians say GEJ’s economic team is putting the cart before the horse.
Endless removal of oil subsidy
This is not the first time the issue of oil subsidy and its removal has brimmed at the surface of Nigerian national discuss and, like before, many Nigerians expect it to follow the path trod by its previous incarnations – into the “could have been” bag of politicians. The grouse is not with the oil subsidy removal, but with the lack of willingness by the government to tackle the issues that make removing it very controversial: the descript, non functional nature of much of the indigenous refineries that consigns Nigeria, Africa biggest petroleum exporter, to importing petroleum products, and the activities of the much vaunted cabal, with government connections, that inflate the subsidy and divert the massive overflow into their pockets and Swiss banks.
Reintroducing toll gates and the questions therein
“Why was the toll gates removed in the first place?” Nigerians ask.
The government reply, “Because the money being generated from them was not finding its way into government coffers and from there back to the roads where they would facilitate repairs and maintenance, but into the pockets of individuals.”
“But why not repair the roads first before tolling them?” Nigerians again ask. This time, they get no response, or as still waiting for response.
Paying more for even less electricity
The issue of power has for long been a key demand by the citizens to successive Nigerian governments; however, despite several promises and mega-millions sunk into making the industry viable, Nigerians still have to make do with power outages and blackouts. They are used to it, so much so that most households have generating sets that are the difference between staying in the dark or not, a situation that caused a Nigerian social commentator to quip “we have 160 million independent power producers”, a not so funny play at the country’s 160 million people.
The government says the increased tariff will encourage private entrepreneurs to invest in the sector; Nigerians say, improve the power supply before increasing tariffs.
In all, Nigerians say the government is missing the point, and that is, everything is tied together in Nigeria.
“If you increase the price of petroleum products, the price of every other goods and service will follow suit. Same thing goes for the increase in electricity tariff,” a Nigerian woman lamented.While the government is insisting that the increments would be beneficial to Nigerians on the long run, the men on the street dread them, especially the hard times that they would usher in. The government is insisting on going forward, and if it gets its way, as many are predicting it will this time, Nigerians are sure to face serious tough times ahead.