President Goodluck Jonathan deserves all pity despite his unenviable position. Either way, he does not seem capable of winning. In his Christmas message, Jonathan pleaded for trust to enable him discharge his official obligation and that once he started, there was no looking back. Obviously, in the face of public criticisms of being weak on, and clueless to national problems, Jonathan might be conceded some point in trying to come out as some kind of macho.
But the bad news is that not only is he posturing the wrong way, all factors do not stimulate any confidence. Surely, it is a poor and unaccountable leadership that does not look back or change direction once rightly faulted. The real leadership reckons with and responds positively to public disquiet on very sensitive issues. A comparison of Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan to Briton’s David Cameron reveals the stark difference on accountability. A year ago, Jonathan spoilt the New Year for Nigerians by ignoring all criticism and increased rather disproportionately fuel prices.
Only in Nigeria could that happen without electoral repercussions. Indeed, everyday, the ruling gang continues to drum it into our ears provocatively and contemptuously that they will rule forever, even though they ignore the lesson of fatality that nobody and no group exists forever.
The arrogance of the ruling elite is due to the fact that whatever our voting preferences even against them, they can always concoct figures with a fraudulent opinion polls organisation and announce themselves winners to keep their gang in power. In Britain on the other hand, Prime Minister David Cameron, last year planned a three pence tax on a litre of petrol, a disguised increase.
The whole country stood as one against the government’s planned increase on fuel price. In-between came nationwide local government elections, usually offering an assessment of government’s performance mid-way through its tenure. Prime Minister Cameron’s party, the ruling Conservatives, was massacred and voted out of over one thousand local governments, an unprecedented victory for opposition Labour Party, which assumed control. Prime Minister Cameron’s ruling coalition partner, the Liberals, were virtually wiped out of control of any local government.
With such direct message from the British electorate, David Cameron’s instant response was not only to stop the proposed increase of fuel price, but to abandon it entirely. Yet, the government still has a life of about three years. In addition, the proposed three pence tax is equivalent of about eight kobo in Nigeria.
The people won. That was democracy and leadership response to public criticisms/response, a classical example for Jonathan to emulate. In Nigeria, instead of such local government election results giving Jonathan a feel of public reaction to his policies, his party (PDP) through the collaborative INEC, would have been credited with victory in all the local government councils to solidify the bogus claim of the biggest party in Africa. Hence, Jonathan’s arrogant defiance aided by finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that even if the heavens would fall, there was no going back on the fuel price increase.
Putting all these aside, what did Jonathan mean when he said Nigerians should trust him or his government? What is the basis for such trust? Jonathan, in his plea for trust could only be stirring the hornet’s nest. When last year, Jonathan and his collaborators, the state governors, imposed hardship on the country with the fuel price hike, Nigerians were deceived by these bad rulers that all accruals from the withdrawal of fuel subsidy would be spent on provision of infrastructure at federal and state levels.
Today, where is the infrastructure? Instead, Jonathan collaborated with National Assembly members to further indebt this and future generations of Nigerians to the tune of over seven billion American dollars (as) fresh loan purportedly to provide infrastructure. What then happened to the subsidy withdrawn from fuel prices last year?
Worse still, when, in this column, we exposed the fraud and the culprits in the fuel subsidy scandal (mainly Jonathan’s businessmen, contractor- friends, and PDP members, donors to their campaign funds) all in an effort to stop Jonathan from making innocent Nigerians carry the can for the criminals, facts emerged that over seven hundred billion naira was involved in the economic crime.
In short, the actual subsidy should not exceed far less than five hundred billion naira. First, how much of this stolen public fund has been recovered? A year later, who is the culprit that has been successfully prosecuted? Second, if the defrauded amount in subsidy is over seven hundred billion naira, the actual subsidy, consequently should not be more than six hundred billion naira at the most.
How then was it that for the year ended 2012, the supposedly trimmed subsidy is still over one trillion naira? The disgraced culprits could only have been replaced by or substituted with new economic saboteurs whose only qualification or merit could not be more than membership of donor to PDP or connection to Aso Rock.
Then while the financial year was only weeks to end, Aso Rock still spent one hundred and sixty billion naira as extra subsidy for duel supposed to be made available through the Christmas holidays. Yet, in most parts of the country especially vital points like Lagos and Abuja, there was fuel scarcity throughout. The more fraud discovered in the fuel subsidy, the higher the increase to make the loot available for the special ones. Nigerians are now expected to trust (this) government.
This was the same Goodluck Jonathan speaking almost a year ago to a weekly Nigerian magazine. A furious Jonathan lamented that almost one trillion naira was paid out as subsidy to criminals without the approval of National Assembly.
The same amount of almost one trillion naira (not extra) was paid without the knowledge of Federal Ministry of Finance or the knowledge of President Jonathan himself. The only reaction from Jonathan (since proved fruitless) was the threat to probe not the fraud of the subsidy but the loophole through which what is now emerging as one third of our annual national budget could be expended without the involvement of the president, the National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Did President Jonathan probe that scandal? Where is the report? How could it be possible that nobody or agency was liable despite the breaches of all regulations listed above. Nigerians cannot trust such a regime or we do so at our total peril. This situation cannot continue and must end someday. When and how nobody knows. But every beginning has an end. • Next week: It’s either the banquet hall or the billions would be stolen.