YES TO REMOVE OIL SUBSIDY
By Christopher C Eke
I finally spent a little over 4hrs to watch and digest the YouTube debate video from the second town hall meeting on subsidy removal, moderated by Nduka, with government officials, labor and civil society represented. I also heard unverified rumor that organized labor was since paid off to call off their protest against subsidy removal. Before I saw this video, I saw quite a bit of news clips of many Nigerians from all works of life, across the globe, protesting the removal of fuel subsidy and using that as an opportunity to "occupy Nigeria," with additional demands to end all the ills of government, including corruption.
No doubt in my mind that I have all along stood for the subsidy removal, except for two misgivings. First, like most informed Nigerians, I think the Nigerian government should have drastically cut their cost of running government, put in place certain shock absorbers before it removes the subsidy, and as well as phase in the subsidy removal. Second, allay the fears of Nigerians regarding a general lack of confidence in their ability to truly reinvest the conceived savings from the subsidy removal. Only government's better performance can satisfy this second point.
In a true capitalists society the market forces must be allowed to work properly for the good of all. That means government cannot do everything for its people, except provide those things which the people cannot provide for themselves and entrench opportunities to aid the very poor to rise and join the middle or upper class without necessarily being socially connected and privileged. These are the areas where the government of Nigeria has repeatedly failed Nigerians.
In my opinion, capitalism is best described by citizens' acknowledgement of who is in possession of factors of production - hopefully in the hands of private individuals, in the right way. Thus, governments have no business running things, except to provide the climate within which things are run efficiently. I have always advanced the definition of leadership to be a movement. That is, a leader must have the ability to take people and things from one location to another, from where they are to where they want to be. This of course presupposes that the led have willingness to follow or are persuaded with superior arguments and accomplishments to follow, but not coerced to follow.
The two questions that most Nigerians ought to constantly ask are: who are our leaders? Why are they not efficient and effective most of the times? Hopefully as you/we ask these questions, you/we look at yourself/ourselves in the mirror and ask if you/we possess the same leadership deficiencies of our current or past leaders. The point is leadership comes from the "group." Logic suggests that the Nigerian society is corrupt, inefficient, among other things, and that is why it attracts leaders who are a reflection of its society at large. Our redeeming grace lies in someday having a courageous leader with impeccable character traits and heart unafraid to set the tone from the top downward and eventually remove corruption from the fabric of our society.
My unpopular position is that fuel subsidy does not provide poor class of Nigerians much needed incentive to freely navigate their common sense away farther from the viciousness of poverty. For instance, folks having too many kids because of their religious or customary or political beliefs should face the trickle down effects of transportation costs and the cost of all other things associated with energy as a way for society at large to be serious with family planning - a common sense issue in today's world. Why bite more than you can chew? Nigerian central government has a tough role here too, to be the chief advocate for family planning by providing contraceptives and counseling to those needing them.
However, the federal government may unlikely fulfill this role unless through voluntary states participation because of religious and political reasons. I think that the political need of certain regions of the country to always maintain the highest number of people to ensure exclusive control of Nigerian politics will trump any attempt for a meaningful future population control policy. Ideally, there should be strength in numbers but in Nigeria's experience, more numbers without proper and efficient allocation of resources is setting the country backward to fast becoming a failed nation. Invariably, the government's numerous chats to illustrate Nigeria's oil production and revenue per citizen compared to countries with oil wealth but with smaller population also prove our exploding population is a hot button issue no one wants to address.
According to Democritus, an ancient Greek philosopher and later confirmed by modern elementary physics, an atom is the smallest indivisible particle of matter difficult to see with the naked eye. Electrons and other subatomic particles are smaller than atoms and are even more difficult to discern with the naked eye except, I guess, by those with super eye sight. If Nigeria continues to divide its finite oil wealth among its exploding population, a time will fast approach when each citizen's share will be difficult to see with the naked eye, let alone benefit anyone in any meaningful way. Some will argue that right now most Nigerians don't even see their share of the oil wealth or benefit from whatever wealth Nigeria claims to possess. Frankly, because of Nigeria's endemic corruption, I couldn't agree more with that argument.
That brings me to this conclusion. To all you passionate "occupy" folks out there, fight the Nigerian government for corruption, its inability to provide safety of lives and property, lawlessness and its general inefficiencies, but don't stop it, without the benefit of doubt, from improving the structure of the country's economy.