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President Jonathan, fuel subsidy and 2015 By: Abubakar Alkali Sokoto

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Nigerians woke up on 1st January 2012 to receive a highly obnoxious new year present from their president. That present is the unilateral removal of the subsidy on fuel, which brought with it, about 100% increase in the prices of goods and service. Based on his unilateral removal of the fuel subsidy, the president has lost the legitimacy and all moral grounds to contest the 2015 presidency under any party.

Despite the groundswell of opinion against the removal as expressed by all Nigerians, the president went ahead to remove the subsidy. Moreover, the last statement made by the president before the removal was that 'he will consult with all stakeholders' before removal of the subsidy.

During his meeting with the NLC, the president even promised that he will get back to them after his consultations; however, he never did that and instead went ahead to remove the subsidy. So why should the president make such a promise to revert back to NLC before going ahead to remove the subsidy if indeed he knew he was not going to stand by his words?

The late president Umaru Yar'Adua (May Allah (s.w.t) grant him eternal rest) though experiencing serious medical challenges during his short stint as president, was strong and humane enough to down the price of fuel by N5 (from N70 to N65) while a supposedly medically fit Goodluck Jonathan unilaterally increased the pump price by more than 100% (from N65 to N142).

The president has also applied medicine after death by setting up '2 committees' one chaired by Justice Alfa Belgore to 'discuss the removal of fuel subsidy' when indeed he has already removed it!.

This is executive deceit and an attempt to divert our attention and while away time. For the avoidance of doubt, the fuel subsidy issue can never be swept under the carpet by any number of committees because the prices of Gari which the removal has pushed up will never come down unless the subsidy is restored. No number of committees can bring down the price of a mudu of rice. At best, the members of such committees will only enjoy their sitting allowances while ordinary Nigerians continue to feel the pinch of fuel subsidy removal in their stomach.

A youth corp member who came to Jabi garage in Abuja on 1st January to board a bus to katsina had to return home because he met a 100% increase in the transport fare which he couldn't afford! These are the issues and not any rhetoric like 'transfer of jobs to another country' as Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi would want us to believe OR 'the Nigerian economy will collapse' as Dr Okonjo-Iweala attempted to scare us stiff OR even 'the oil cartel have hijacked the fuel subsidy' gimmick as was insinuated by the petroleum minister Mrs Diezani Allison - Madueke.

The information minister Mr Labaran Maku even had the audacity to tell a bewildered nation that since Ghana has removed fuel subsidy, then the removal must also be good for Nigeria. What an outrage! Are our circumstances and that of Ghana one and same? Mr Maku should please tell us the answer.

The president steered the 'mobilisation train' on fuel subsidy by finally telling us that the savings from the subsidy will be used to improve infrastructure. But Nigerians are very much used to this story of 'improvement of infrastructure from spending cuts' which has been recycled over and over again by successive governments since the second republic.

The reality is that NO INFRASTRUCTURE EVER GETS IMPROVED but the savings end up in the private pockets of government officials. The president even tried to assuage our feelings by telling us that we will start seeing the benefit of the removal of fuel subsidy by  June 2012, without giving any figures OR economic indicators to back his claim, as usual.

However, we all know that nothing will change even beyond June 2012. Instead, things are almost certainly going to get worse. The rise in inflation and other economic indicators are there to prove this. These theories as advanced by the president and his team do not make any impact to the ordinary Nigerians. What does is the price of goods and services, Rice, Wake, Gari, which once up, never come down.

The president has proved to us that he is not the man and as such, he should prepare to leave Aso rock in 2015 to pave way for another president who will listen to Nigerians and not the IMF and World Bank.

The removal of the subsidy is indeed an act of terrorism committed against the Nigerian state by our own leaders whom we voted into office to protect us. The 1999 constitution which the president swore to protect was clear in section 14 (2) (a) and (b) that sovereignty belong to the people of Nigeria and power belongs to the people and that the security and welfare of the good people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of government.

The constitution was also explicit in section 16 (1) (b) that the control of the national economy should be done in such a manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice.

The removal of fuel subsidy is a gross violation of this provision as it has led to an astronomical increase in the prices of goods and services and by so doing, impacted negatively on the welfare, freedom and happiness of Nigerian citizens. In the last line of his oath of office, the president swore to devote himself to the service and well being of the people of Nigeria. The removal of the subsidy on fuel doesn't respect this oath.

The glaring insensitivity expressed by the Jonathan administration regarding the removal of fuel subsidy has raised several questions. One of the questions that I am tempted to ask is 'Is it a crime for a government to subsidise fuel and make it affordable for its citizens? After all, it was the leaders that destroyed our refineries which led to the importation of fuel that brought about the subsidy in the first place.

The constitution states in section 17 (2) (c) that government's action shall be humane. Removal of fuel subsidy is inhuman and a clear violation of this section as it will lead to not only untold economic hardship on ordinary Nigerians but also a possible collapse of several families.

With his handling of the Boko haram problem and his removal of the subsidy on fuel, President Jonathan has clearly demonstrated his inability to promote and safeguard the security and welfare of Nigerians as required by the constitution. Before Mr President sends his foot soldiers to start asking Nigerians to give him another term to 'implement' his programmes, almost all Nigerians are telling the president that they do not want him in 2015. The president was reported to have said that the first term is for learning while the second term involves 'serious business'. We are already FED UP.

Nigerians are yearning and indeed hungry for a new direction, President Jonathan is simply not the kind of president that could take Nigeria to that new direction of economic prosperity and social justice, thus he should not contest the 2015 presidential elections. The fuel subsidy riots presently going on all over Nigeria and the impending total and comprehensive strike by the Nigerian labour congress in the wake of the subsidy removal are clear testimonies that Nigerians are indeed already tired of Jonathan's journey to nowhere. 

Barely 7 months into his tenure, the president has doubled the price of fuel and by implication, the prices of all commodities in Nigeria. If he could do this in 7 months, what he will do in 4 years is better imagined. Through the fuel subsidy riots, Nigerians are sending a message loud and clear that they are disappointed.  

The constitution stipulates that the president derives his powers through the people of Nigeria and not the other way round. So if all Nigerians clearly state their opposition to the removal of fuel subsidy, why should the president move ahead to remove it? If indeed the president swore to preserve and protect the constitution, why should he go against the wishes of the people? Or has democracy acquired a new meaning? Nigerians don't need a president who doesn't listen to them.

The removal of fuel subsidy is indeed an impeachable offence and several Nigerians feel that the national assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the president on its return from recess. 

At their last meeting on the fuel subsidy issue before the end of the year, the president made a proposal to the national assembly for the removal of the subsidy. The national assembly also made clear to the president of their vehement opposition to the removal of the fuel subsidy.

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed by both parties that the president will stay action on the fuel subsidy pending a formal presentation by the national assembly on the matter. However, the president decided to 'jump the gun' by removing the subsidy without recourse to the national assembly and other stakeholders. This is a glaring display of executive fiat and an attempt to play with the collective intelligence of 167 million Nigerians.

This is an impeachable offence as the binding 1999 constitution does not guarantee unilateral powers to the president on such critical state matters as the removal of fuel subsidy without recourse to the national assembly. Section 32 (a) and (b), Part 1 of the third schedule of the 1999 constitution stipulate that only the revenue mobilisation allocation and fiscal commission (RMAFC) backed by an ACT OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, can monitor the accruals and disbursement of revenue into the federation account and from time to time review this disbursement to ensure conformity with changing realities.

Quite expectedly, President Jonathan is gradually but surely stepping into the shoes of his coroner-in-chief, Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled Nigeria as if the national assembly doesn't exist during his discredited and failed government between 1999-2007. Olusegun Obasanjo whom many Nigerians believe is actually a lunatic who still rigged his way to Aso rock because 'this is Nigeria', has taught president Jonathan not to respect the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution.

Obasanjo got into Aso rock courtesy of the evil genius Ibrahim Babangida who was using him (Obasanjo) to make up for his criminal annulment of the acclaimed June 12 1993 presidential elections thereby subverting the mandate freely given to Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola  (MKO) of blessed memory.

By removing the fuel subsidy in recourse to IMF, world bank, our state governors and without recourse to Nigerians and the national assembly, the president has usurped the powers of the RMAFC and NASS. The principle of separation of powers is grossly violated. 

This is the single biggest opportunity that I can remember since our most recent democratic adventure which started in 1999 for our senators and representatives to write their names in GOLD by putting the fuel subsidy back into the 2012 budget. The constitution was clear on the powers of the national assembly in Part 11 section 4 (2) which stipulate that the NASS should make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation.

The fuel subsidy imbroglio is not a struggle based on party affiliation or that of the legislature altercating with the executive. Rather it is a fight for Nigeria and Nigerians. We expect the NASS to stand for us even if only this time! The NASS putting the fuel subsidy back into the budget will ignite a new era of love, cooperation, friendship and mutual understanding between all Nigerians and our honourable legislators to check executive lawlessness.

It is a well known fact that there is a common belief that our legislators are only there to grab their share and not to represent us (This is not a true assessment of some of them, though). This belief might not be acceptable to our legislators but it is a sore point which should be discountenance with actions by our senators and representatives.

Putting the fuel subsidy back into the budget represents the best opportunity to heal this wound and strengthen our democracy and the rule of law. This is the best opportunity for our senators and representatives to prove the sceptics and doubting thomases wrong that indeed they know why they are in these hallowed chambers. There may not be another opportunity.

On our own part as ordinary Nigerians, the unilateral removal of the subsidy of fuel by the president should provide yet another opportunity for stoke taking not only about the kind of leaders that we have but also about the yardstick that we use to vote these leaders into office.  

We must eschew sectional, ethnic and religious sentiments in voting our leaders.

We must do away with the present notion of voting for a president along sectional, ethnic or religious lines if we are to attain the Nigeria that we all yearn for. Voting for our presidents must be purely based on merit and not tribal or ethnic colouration because if you go to the market to buy Gari, the seller doesn't look at your first to identify your tribal marks before telling you the price. The seller also doesn't ask you from which part of Nigeria do you come from before telling you his/her 'benchmark' price.

Several Nigerians during the last presidential elections said they voted for Jonathan not PDP. Now Jonathan has paid them back by removing the subsidy on fuel which today, is the only benefit that ordinary Nigerians derive from their government. Jonathan is implementing the agenda of his party, the PDP which is to first destroy Nigeria's economy before disintegrating the country. The PDP started as a respectable party formed on democratic tenets but Olusegun Obasanjo destroyed the PDP and made it a party of force rather than a party of choice.

Even PDP national leaders have always admitted that the PDP lacks internal democracy, how then could such a party bequeath a democratic culture to Nigeria? Obasanjo scripted, planned and executed all the crimes against humanity that the PDP is committing today. If you see a PDP governor or any PDP politician performing, then he is not using the PDP programme. For anybody to perform in PDP, then he/she must stand up against Obasanjo who has a wish of destroying Nigeria. 

Obasanjo's modus operandi is to set tribes against tribes and create a state of intertribal and ethnic distastes and war. Despite Obasanjo's temporary success in installing Jonathan as president through the 'back door', he will never achieve his wish of destroying Nigeria because Nigeria has come through a very, very long way by the grace of God.  For good measure, does anybody think that there is any IMF, World Bank or any individual or institution under the sun that could intimidate Gen. Buhari into removing the subsidy on fuel? My guess is as good as yours.   

What we need in 2015 is a president who can stand for us and not someone who is against us, weak, indecisive and doesn't even understand our problems. A president who places the interest of IMF and other primordial powers over and above that of Nigerians is not the president we need.

In 2015, we need to have a president who cannot be intellectually intimidated by the Okonjo-Iweala's who push him into taking decisions that are inimical to the survival of ordinary Nigerians and a danger to the corporate existence of our dear country Nigeria which is the only country we have and the only one we can call our own.

In the next presidential elections, we need a president who will rescue the enormous wealth of Nigeria from the hands of a select few and redistribute it to all Nigerians in accordance with section 16 (2) C of the 1999 constitution.

A president who can fight poverty and will not be intimidated by the Boko Haram renegades. A president who can fix our epileptic power supply, our roads and hospitals to bring down the high infant and maternal mortality rates. A president who can stimulate the economy and promote small and medium scale enterprises to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths that have been turned into beggars.

A president that would implement a social security system that will usher in a new era whereby monthly (cash) stipends are paid to the disabled, old aged persons and unemployed youths because they also DESERVE TO LIVE. That president is DEFINITELY NOT Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.

Now that he has found shoes, the president should get these shoes ready to slip into for his certain journey out of Aso rock in 2015.