Written by Prince Joshua Oyeniyi
Once, a roman general brought peace to a rebellious province; by killing all its citizens. Even his fellow Romans were shocked, one of them wrote, “Scer atulunum fasciet, pescent apellant”, which means, “they create desolation and call it peace.” I do not want to tread the path of this general but rather unmuzzle the buccal cavity of truth and permit reality to transmit the lights of freedom. Please, do not have me misconstrued for a sadistic writer simply because I chose to say it as it is. Events unfolding towards the eve of this year’s Christmas leave me with no choice but that of profound objectivity, nay, sharp prognosis of the myriads of maladies and malaise bedeviling this country, Nigeria, unbecoming of such a time as this, indeed of such a time as this Christmas. Does it, therefore, call me to banqueting, wining and dining? Or to take a bold step out of the norm to quieten the thrills and frills of such
a pleasurable season so that true peace can be ours and not a masqueraded desolation that, with effrontery, stares us in the face?
As the Christmas eve rushes in with its characteristic throng of people who, like children, scamper for hampers, gift boxes and their likes, I had embarked on a mini – travel to honour an appointment with a high profile clergyman on the outskirts of Lagos, a metropolis in Nigeria. As I shuttled to the densely populated town of Ipaja. I decided to have a detour, hopefully, to ease the stress of such a tortuous journey. As if to add salt to injury, the threadlike organisms responsible for filtering eaten food in the human sac of food relentlessly bit me with reckless acrimony for depriving them of their breakfast allocation. Little did I know that awaiting me was a gory event with its gargantuan propensity to cause me to forget my personal misery and much more than that, wane the anticipated joys of a Christmas which was just four days away. Pandemonium had broken out, but my fragile heart was pacing with lightening speed like a jackal that had spotted a ready prey atop a far away mountain. Had the worst happened? I could not tell as I witnessed a mammoth crowd of on – lookers with many having both hands on their heads; a sign that a great ill had befallen another son of Adam. I summoned courage to approach the scene of the tragedy but guess my greatest undoing for the day was the elongating of my neck to catch a glance. No sooner had I taken this peep than a series of vibrations and shivers of immeasurable magnitude went down my spine; shaking the entirety of my homo – sapienic being. No! I could not have made a good medical doctor as was advised just before I sat for the university matriculation examinations and consequently admitted into a first choice university. My principal had muttered, “You have it, Josh. Go for medicine" but I had stood my ground like the biblical rock of Gibraltar to study anything but medicine because of my aversion for hospitals and their operations. Back to the tragic drama! Sprouting from the left leg of a middle aged man was the naked length of his femur bone, completely broken from the knee and exposed for all to see! He was a commercial motorcycle rider who had been caught in both his recklessness and that of another commercial bus driver. To put it mildly, he would automatically join the number of amputees if he survives the loss of blood till he gets medical attention. Handicapped for the rest of life just four days from this Christmas! Over the years, this time of the year has consistently witnessed an increased rate of deaths and severe casualties on Nigerian roads, as families travel home en-masse to spend the festive period with loved ones, owing to the poor, dilapidated state of our roads and the confirmed inaction of the government. Motorists and other road users have also contributed immensely to the abrupt termination of lives with their utter recklessness and over speeding. Superstitious as many Nigerians are, we believe these events are machinations of evil spirits who crave human blood for their celebrations but with the killings and bombings in the northern part of the country orchestrated by members of the dreaded Boko – Haram sect, this Christmas is definitely an odd one in recent times. This compels one to muse over the rhetoric, what does ‘this Christmas’ portend?.
I am obliged to take responsibility for describing our federal government as being almost irredeemably destitute of human milk and sympathy. You may quiz me over this assertion but have you heard of the phrase “conscienceless consciencelessness” or “directionless directionlessness”? You do not require a lexicon to decode these phrases as they are the words of a former member of the Nigeria House of Representatives used in describing the exhibition of gross high handedness by our politicians, no, I prefer to say, 'politricksters'. But terribly appalling is the fact that like a noiseless putrid fart that lingers on, the current nation – wide strike of the academic staff union of universities has crept into ‘this Christmas’ period.
As I write on this sweltering afternoon, from home, after a disappointed hope of a call – off two weeks into the industrial action, I can not decipher the hand-writing on the wall about the future of my country, but it sure depicts catastrophe. According to the popular maxim, "when two elephants fight, the grass suffers", our undergraduates are the ones caught in this cross fire as the indignant ASUU engages the non – challant federal government in a fight to finish over elongation of active service time of senior academics, improved welfare and standardization of our institutions. This total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action has successfully paralyzed all forms of learning and research in all our tertiary institutions, further allowing the nation’s future to wallow in the mire of uncertainty, dimming, or worse still, putting off the lights of advancement. This quagmire of national shamelessness leaves me wondering what hope is left for the entire black race if the world’s largest black nation suffers intermittent crippling of learning processes in its ivory towers. This thought is sickening enough to erode any bliss associated with 'this Christmas'.
If you are reading this and you are a citizen of this potentially great country being daily dehumanized by leaders that hate us, I want you to realise that our collective destiny is a function of our present decisions. My objective here is to confute the confusion created by a government that is hell – bent on the removal of oil subsidy without due regards for the feelings and sufferings of a people being pushed to the wall. Permit me to start my discourse from a definitive standpoint and the move on to shed light and bring illumination to this manufactured foggy issue which still generates tons of contentions even as this Christmas dawns. To subsidize is to sell a product below cost of production. Up until now neither the Federal Government nor the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has told us the cost of producing a litre of oil in our Warri, Port – Harcourt and Kaduna refineries, so the nation is not in a position to take an informed stand on whether or not oil is being subsidized. However, according to statistics from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the National Bureau of Statistics, getting petrol to Nigerian ports cost N117.74 per litre. And because of deliberated gross inefficiency and ineptitude at the Nigerian ports, an additional cost of N6.25 per litre is incurred. The petrol, which is usually stored at the ports, is not directly transferred from the ships to the trucks and so, the ports charge N3.00 for storage and an administrative cost of N15.00. Other costs include a bridging fund of N3. 95 and then the dealers add their own margin of N1.75 per litre. The transporters add their own margin of N4.60. So the cost of fuel at petrol stations comes to us at N138.19 per litre or approximately N140.00 per litre and because it is sold for N65 per liter, the federal government pays the shortfall of N75.00 or thereabout on every litre of petrol. This extra N75. 00 called subsidy is what the government says will bankrupt the nation if it not stopped forthwith.
If you have followed my line of argument so far, it will be crystal clear to you that the government is not subsidizing the cost of production of refined oil in the nation. What the government is subsidizing is the alternative cost of importation. Our leaders have allowed their indolence to engulf the entire nation so that we have corporately become a lazy nation. Simply put, due to laziness and lack of diligence, our leaders can not refine enough crude oil for our consumption. Today, the four refineries in Nigerian currently operate at 21% capacity, providing 93, 450 litres daily, while, on average, Nigerians use 294, 000 litres of fuel per day which implies that an additional 200, 550 litres is imported to meet the domestic need. If you multiply that figure of 200, 550 litres by the N75.00 absurdity called subsidy, Nigeria spends N15 million daily to pay for our leadership failure and pathological indolence. The Federal Government has been dangling the carrot of what enormous savings it will make from the withdrawal of the subsidy which it intends to invest in infrastructure development, health care delivery, education, and minimum wage. These half – truths and easy answers are nothing but craftily devised weapons of mass deception as the government cannot save the entirety of the sum being touted for the simple reason that 40% of total fuel consumption is by the government itself. We cannot be made to pay for the kleptomania of government by allowing the removal of subsidy to happen. Like other nations, some less endowed, we have the opportunity to set up our own refineries, refine our products, sell and export refined products and make money. Instead, both the NNPC and the government “explore sleaze, refine roguery and market sharp practices”. The president, in an inflammatory statement, has said the government is ready for mass revolt and well, mass revolt is what he will get even if it means marching out in wild protest on Christmas day itself. This is the least of Christmas packages a government can present to its people: a bag of poverty. We must compel this government to look inwards and not force on us more penury caused by its grossly untamed profligacy.
After all said and done, this legion of problems that has besieged us, like a malignant cancer which defies the best efforts of chemo-therapists, shall be subdued and I shall sit round the family table to enjoy the thrilling moment and merriment of 'this Christmas' season. I, hereby, exercise these innate gifts of creative ingenuity and intellectual ascendancy, almost bereft of the average undergraduate, like I am, to correct the anomalies that plague our nation with its tendency to depriving us of the true joys and experience of Christmas – the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Saviour of the world. I, hereby, rest my case.