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By on January 5, 2012

There is hardly any new viewpoint that can be added to the fuel subsidy controversy currently playing out in Nigeria. I have heard taxi drivers, market women even secondary school children giving their expert opinions on whether or not the Federal Government should remove the fuel subsidy and how it should be done. Everybody has had a say and everyone is affected in one way or another.

This article is therefore not going to tell you anything you have not heard before.  I will just like to examine the scenario from a subjective viewpoint then give my very personal opinions on what should be done for us to get ourselves out of this quagmire.

First and foremost, I think most Nigerians agree that removing the subsidy in itself is not a bad thing. We have all listened to the arguments of Goodluck and his band of merry men (and women). The arguments make sense. We are being asked to suffer for a short time so that we and our children can reap the benefits in the future. I have not yet heard any sensible person claim that this is not a good thing to do. So where did Goodluck go wrong? Perception! I think the present Government is suffering from its lack of creativity in its attempt to present itself as a Government that cares for the masses. They seemed to have done this well during the campaign but after that Mr. President is finding it difficult to present a positive image to the Nigerian public.

It is true that Nigerians will suffer grievously if the subsidy is removed. Yet, many Governments have had to take harsh decisions which negatively affect the well being of their citizens. Obama in the US, Cameron in the UK, Rajoy recently elected in Spain, Berlusconi in Italy, the Governments of Greece, Portugal and some other eastern European countries. So many countries are taking some tough decisions which will affect everyone. Some of these leaders have had to sacrifice their positions because the people feel that someone must pay for the suffering being inflicted on them. That is where Jonathan is headed if he is not careful. He has to work harder to show Nigerians that he is not out to make people suffer just for the fun of it. What we need to see is that he is really working to improve the lives of the poor then he can push his fuel subsidy removal campaign all the way.

Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state is an example of what a leader should be. He also had some difficult agenda to push down the throats of Lagosians. However, he spent his first few months in office transforming the face of the state. It was obvious that this Governor was different from those that occupied that seat before. In the middle of all the accolades he was getting, he started pushing his agenda that Lagosians had to pay for the benefits they were enjoying. The Lekki toll gate issue was his toughest test yet he always had people who supported him because they felt he was generally doing a good job.

Jonathan has been promising us that he can use the money made from removing the fuel subsidy to make life better for Nigerians. I think he should have shown us what he could do before removing the subsidy. Imagine that today almost all of Nigeria was enjoying constant electric power supply. Some of these capital projects they intend to implement should have been well underway by now. Some corrupt Nigerians should have been locked up amidst lots of fanfare. The President should have cut down costs of maintaining the luxurious lifestyle of our brothers and sisters in the senate and House of Representatives.

Such positive moves would have greatly endeared Mr. President to the hearts of Nigerians and he would have much more support than he is enjoying now. Nigerians are reasonable people. If we see progress we identify with it. As I said, it is all about perception. We see money being wasted on so many things and yet we are told that the Government cannot afford to take care of us. It’s a contradiction that needs to be sorted out before people can accept that there is need for the subsidy to be stopped.

The current perception is that we have a Government that doesn’t know what its people are going through. Mallam Sanusi claimed that there inflation will not be a problem because petroleum products form less than 1% of the CPI. Yesterday, my vulcanizer doubled the price of pumping tires. I tried to explain the CPI issue to him using the CBN governors’ words. He simply told me that the cost of petrol has increased by 100% so his charges also increased by 100%. What could I say? Whither all the economic theories, graphs, projections etc? This was plain common sense.

Overall, I am in support of removing the subsidy so that some fat cats don’t keep enjoying what everyone is working for. However for it to work, Mr. President and his team need to let Nigerians see and feel that their lives are improving. If not, the country will slowly grind to a halt and all his good intentions will come to naught.