OIL SUBSIDY: A TRIUMPH OF DEMOCRACY
Tick-tock, said the clock. How time flies for Nigeria! What an irony of time! Barely a year ago, there was one man whose name was glued to the lips of every Nigerian in the heat of last presidential campaigns. He is no one than Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. 'That was in those days of political scramble for the heart and ballot papers of the electorate. That was the era of 'government of the people, by the people and for the people'. It's now government of cabalocracy in the name of oil subsidy removal.
The news about the sudden removal of the petroleum subsidy came with a bang. It came at a time when Nigerians were still grappling with the challenging problems of hunger, blighting penury, disease, insecurity, wanton destruction of lives and property of helpless innocent Nigerians in the hands of the Boko Haram sect. Nigerians took to the streets. History will vindicate them.
They did not necessarily take to the streets in sheer protest against the deregulation policy, but against the impromptu and deceitful manner in which the decision was taken by the federal government in spite of Jonathan's promise to kick-start the new oil subsidy regime in April, when the implementation of the 2012 budget would have become effective. The decision came like a bolt in the blue especially at the inauspicious time when millions of job seekers were just pouring into the labour market; when parents go cap in hand to pay their children's school fees; when workers pay their expired rents, go on transfer to new stations and brace up for the socio-economic vagaries of the new year.
To many Nigerians, there is nothing bad about doing away with oil subsidy given its inherent negative economic implications on the development of the country. A right- thinking leader with populist policies would have been expected by his people not only to be consultative but also responsive in taking a sensitive policy decision or action at the auspicious time when the current decimation of human lives and property across the North would have been nipped in the bud, . But the president did not do that. He rather called the people's bluff and dared them to go to hell.
However, there is no denying the fact that subsidy removal is not without its inherent benefits both to the masses and the nation's economy, as seen in the telecommunications sector. In a normal society, Jonathan and his administration would have been expected by the people to extend the same level of recalcitrance and iron-will with which they pursued the deregulation agenda, to the more compelling problems of Boko Haram insurgency, endemic corruption, high cost of governance.
However, in spite of the bitter experience of Nigerians in the past few days following the oil subsidy crisis, tribute should be paid to President Goodluck Jonathan for being magnanimous enough in making concessions that are utterly at variance with his earlier policy pronouncement regarding the removal of oil subsidy. All civil society groups, non-governmental organizations as well as all lovers of democracy should also be commended for their resilience, commitment and sacrifice in standing up for the cause of justice throughout the period of protest..
Jonathan, on his part, should be more circumspect, consultative and open in dealing with future people-oriented problems in Nigeria. It is only by so doing that he can escape the wrath of the people; so that when the great people of Nigeria and indeed lovers of democracy start combing the archives of our political history, Jonathan would stand tall to be counted as one of the greatest patriots and statesmen of our time. Therefore, as we celebrate the triumph of democracy, no victor, no vanquished.
Okafor writes from Lagos.