Rivers And Politics Of Fuel Subsidy
It's written that deceit is in haste, but honesty can wait a fair leisure.
During crisis, few people who are on top take advantage of the situation against the majority. Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, who also doubles as the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), belongs to the former. His call on 10th January that the state has reduced the price of fuel from N141 to N137 per litre buttresses this point. He admonished the labourous-residents to team up and work with government to change the economy. Amaechi said that President Goodluck Jonathan's (un-researched) decision on the removal of subsidy is to rescue the economy of the country. His words: “The President is on a rescue mission. We know that there are challenges in the society, but Nigeria cannot continue to go the way Nigeria is going now. I will plead with Labour to please bear with the President. We don't have two countries, we have just one country. The challenge of this country today is the sectarian killings in the country and Labour should not be part of it by doing what they are doing now because we will confuse the sectarian killings to be oil subsidy crisis and we will run into trouble.”
Amaechi further boasted that he owed an obligation to guarantee the security of (y)our resources under every circumstance. “This is why as a government we cannot stand by and watch while a tiny cabal appropriates your resources to feather their already cushioned nests. I have agreed with them (NURTW) that no transport fare should be above N70 apart from fares for Choba and Rumuokoro. We have agreed that the fare from Mile three to Education bus stop should be N50; from Education Bus Stop to Rumuola N50, from Garrison to Park, N50”, he said. He also said that his government would provide mass transit buses which would be managed by the NURTW. Did you hear that? Then you may ask what happened to the sustenance of the partnered Sky Bank buses that were on our roads in the state.
What Amaechi has done about the fare, in his thinking, is right. But the question is if it were in the days he said that he lived in the public yard as a wretched boy at Diobu, Port Harcourt, where he said that they defecated in bucket, if he can afford to pay the N70 he mentioned. The way he mentioned the amount, it was as if it is no money. He believed that everybody in the state can afford it, because he is growing fat on taxpayers' money at the Bricks House. So, he came out, busy-bodying, to make the announcement to attract the pity of the people knowing full well that his government has gone oblivion in the minds of people.
Before Amaechi should come out to talk about fuel subsidy, there are important issues in his Rivers State one thinks he was supposed to first address. It takes absolute morality to expose absolute immorality. Today, because the rains are no more, Amaechi has come out to behave as if his state is free because the harmattan has restrained people from complaining about bad roads and flood covering everywhere when it rained. We are still keeping our fingers crossed till when the government will repair the roads in Oyigbo, Ada George which he sent caterpillars to, for the past four months. What the residents are gaining today instead of tarred roads is dust. The residents, like in Oyigbo, wear nose-covers even in sleep, because dust is too much.
Like Amaechi has pleaded to the Unionists to dialogue with Jonathan, this is the same way he has been pleading with the residents of Rivers State since October 27, 2007 he came to power to exercise patience on the horror roads and sundry matters in his government that reprieve will soon come, but the residents are yet to experience any impact. Like he has hastily reduced the fuel from the Federal Government's (FG) price of N141 to N137 in Rivers State to score cheap political point, so he has been bringing out caterpillars and other road constructing equipments on the roads in the state to mollify the people when the people complained so much that the government is not helping them. After these equipments were seen, the roads still remained un-worked.
No matter how Amaechi is using the issue of the subsidy indirectly to reach out to the people to appeal to their hearts about his government, Rivers State without doubt, has lost its glory to bad leadership. The rented government apologists might tell Nigerians different thing by tommorrow. But the reality is that people have been suffering in Rivers State before the advent of fuel subsidy mess. This is due to that Amaechi has focused much on political agenda instead of leadership agenda that has a human face.
Now the fuel subsidy is making him to lose focus as if all are well in the state and have been reconciled. Rivers State is rough and not development-driven. Bad roads have held people down. Businesses have been ruined. But Amaechi would say that what campaigned for him were his projects. Projects indeed!
While we are talking about fuel subsidy, the state's coffer was announced last year by a report to be empty. Is Amaechi who announced that he has reduced the price of fuel in the state not the one borrowing from the stock market? He is expecting the residents to pay huge fare in the city whereas he had told the people that: “I don't know how many people in my cabinet that must have passed through poverty the way I passed through it. I grew up at No. 18 Chibu Street, I moved from there to Nnamdi Azikwe; then began to live with one of my friends in one of the creek villages near Port Harcourt. And I knew that my parents suffered a lot. With tears, they were looking for money to pay school fees, buy me uniforms, bags and all that. When I was in the University, I used to tell the girls that 'none of you looked at my face because I was wearing one shirt, one trouser almost every day with a sandal.' On Fridays, we wash it and we don't move out at all on Saturday to enable it dry.”
No one chases the rat while his house is on fire. Amaechi once said that he wondered where the money that is pumped into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to, year in year out. He said this on December 6, 2011, when the NDDC board visited him at the Government House, Port Harcourt, while the state is not better off. He once promised the residents that he would not share the “compulsory N1 billion” he boasted that he was saving for the state every month, but where is the money? Just cheap political publicity, by Amaechi. What about the phantom Greater Port Harcourt that he boasted would touch Obio/Akpor, Ogubolo, Okirika, Oyigbo, Emoha, Ikwerre, Eleme? Over four years today, the idea has gone with the newspapers that published it. He also promised the residents of Peninsular City that was planned for Kalabariland near Bakana, but this has become a tall dream. What about the Monorail? Wow!
Amaechi we knew is a politician and has rarely done he promisesd he rendered to Rivers residents on assumption of office. He used long-queue of projects to hoodwink unsuspecting residents who did not know that their eyes saw what they didn't meet. The mega-secondary school project in each of the 23 LGA was/is news. You may call it subsidy as well! He has not helped us to stop the financial trappings in the offices. Amaechi should leave self-serving point of view like his action on the fuel subsidy. He should rather inject a healthy dose of realism into governance rather than (self-serving) convincing us that there is serious change he can do. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” - Jeremiah 17:9.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]