This Yuletide is not the first fuel-less Yuletide I’ll be experiencing in recent memory. In fact, it was only in the last two or so years that I can remember ever going into Christmas without fuel queues.
So, I won’t join ‘haters’ and fellow ‘wailers’ to hang President Muhammadu Buhari over the current crisis.
But I won’t go and make this case at any feeling station today. Why? Well, let’s just say, we’re not suicidal in my family.
So, in the my High Court of Conscience, PMB stands discharged, though not acquitted.
In fact, if PMB is guilty of anything in this crisis, it is for the same cluelessness for which we hounded Jonathan out of office in 2015. If Buhari is guilty of anything, it is for deceptively leading us into believing that he had the solution to this perennial problem, when, clearly, he understands the problem a lot less than Jonathan did. If PMB is guilty of anything, it is that, unlike Jonathan, who, having accepted his own lack of competence on petroleum matters, handed over all the levers to Diezani Allison-Madueke, PMB insists on remaining the petroleum minister. So, all the flaks are thrown directly at him, even when, clearly, he is no longer in touch with the dynamics of contemporary crude business.
I have been around in this country long enough to know that Yuletide, oil workers’ strike and general election have a rather fetish bond. I can’t vouch that it is deliberate, but the coincidence has become rather too frequent.
In the run-up to the last presidential election, the fuel crisis came to a head. Even though it kept denying it, the hand of the then opposition APC was so clearly written on the crisis that it took the effort of pro-Jonathan Ifeanyi Ubah, using the strength of his Capital Oil, to break the contrived strike of the oil workers’ unions and flood the market with petroleum products. But Ubah would pay dearly for that intervention when Jonathan eventually lost the election. I can’t vouch that Ubah and his businesses are not still paying for that seeming political miscalculation till this very day.
Today, even though one is not enamoured by the alleged ‘sterling’ performance of the Buhari government, one cannot but notice the rather familiar pattern of the crisis: our refineries are not producing enough, the cost of importing refined products is alleged to have skyrocketed, importers cannot afford to sell at a fixed pump price, which is lower than their landing cost, strikes are contrived out of practically nothing. The filling stations dry up (real or contrived). It is usually the prelude to new (higher) pump prices. There’s general angst, elections creep up on us. We soon begin to talk of politics and political solution to a purely economic problem. It is the same, whether PDP or APC is in power.
Meanwhile, if fuel is really scarce, where did the black marketers get their stock from? Did the ruffian who sold us five litres of petrol, for N1,500, along the Lekki/Ajah expressway last week, for instance, import the 25 litres of fuel he decanted from? Isn’t it possible the nearby filling station, which claimed to have run out of stock and whose gates were shut to motorists during the day, was in the racket with him? Could the station owners have preferred to sell to the ruffians at, say N200 per litre (as against the official N145), and then leave the black marketers to sell at whatever price they wished?
Unfortunately, I want to continue to steer away from politics this week, and allow PDP and APC cancel themselves out – especially now that Atiku Abubakar has opened new vistas and two of my friends are now speaking for the respective parties.
Kola Ologbondiyan resumed with his guns blazing, but Bolaji Abdullahi is more than a match for him. My only happiness is that I now have somebody I can report Lai Mohammed to – and that somebody’s reply would be just as caustic (acid for acid).
I also won’t delve into the Excess Crude Account and the $1 billion recently approved to be taken from it to fight insurgency. I don’t want to know whether it’s for insurgency war or electoral war. Rather, I’d want to believe that, having won the Boko Haram propaganda war (remember ‘degraded’ capacity?), the APC government is now genuinely set to fight the real war.
I, therefore, won’t join Gov. Fayose in questioning the how and why of the withdrawal – especially as it has the potential of spoiling the pervading birthday mood.
And for you haters and wailers, it’s his 75th birthday – not 78th or 80th! Nobody asked you to go find out if Buhari was the youngest in his Middle School Class or whether he was older than IBB at any point in time.
Whoever is in doubt can go jump off the Third Mainland Bridge – and get a direct visa to heaven and ask PMB’s mom (God grant her soul peace) when she had her son. Case closed!
But now that I mentioned the Third Mainland Bridge, it just occurred to me that the place may no longer be a good choice for intending suicides. The way it is policed these days is ‘worrisome.’ I fear those nosey SARS patrol teams, and the LASEMA people might not even let anybody who wants to die to die in peace anymore. Mtcheeew!
That is why I’m more interested in these our recurrent nationwide strikes: ASUU, NASU, JUSON, IPMAN, PENGASSAN, NUPENG, etc.
Now, irrespective of whatever titles that are appendaged to one’s name, let me begin by restating that I am still an employee. I have been, all my working life. And I belong to both the trade and professional unions of my profession.
However, I’ll not fail to identify what seems to me an emerging tyranny of the employee. An example would suffice here.
During the last Ramadan, two senior colleagues and I broke fast with the family of a Muslim friend, who happens to be the vice chancellor of one of the state universities in the North Central zone. Interestingly, all three of us guests of the VC were Christians.
While we ate, we naturally discussed the country, the education sector, the media, youths and several other issues. But, out of the several issues we talked about, the one that kept coming to my mind, long after that itfah was the threat the VC said an official of one of the unions in the university made to him. “I will deal with you, if you don’t promote me,” the union leader had told the VC to his face.
The said union leader had scored a very poor in the job performance assessment carried out by his head of department. He was hardly ever at work. And for the few times he showed up, he did a very shoddy work. He abandoned his primary duty to the department, concentrating more on unionism and ‘aluta’ issues.
Incidentally, when he discovered the VC was now aware of his below-par performance, the union leader did not hide his face in shame and buckle up. Instead, he chose to confront the VC – not to appeal for understanding and more time to sit up, but to actually threaten to make the school ungovernable for the VC, if he failed to promote him in the next batch of promotions.
I’m sure the VC would have a major labour crisis in his hands (and could ultimately lose his job), if he fails to yield to the demand (threat) of the union leader. And by the time the rest of us outside the system would be brought into the drama, we’d be fed a dish of incredulous infractions committed by the VC, garnished with all the salacious details that would exist probably only in the imaginations of the manipulative unionists. But the unsuspecting public would gobble it all, and by the time we realise we’ve been fed pure garbage, the VC would have been history – sacrificed by the Visitor and the Governing Council for political expediencies.
That is why so many VCs have to tread with caution, even when they see things clearly going south. Of course a few of them have opted to bite the bullet – while a handful of them have gotten away with it, several others have paid the price, with their careers.
It was this dilemma of my VC friend that came to my mind as PENGASSAN spoiled for war last week, partly as a result of the sacking of some of its members at NECONDE, an indigenous oil company. I remembered that NUPENG has gone on strike for even more ridiculous reasons, and that IPMAN, tanker drivers and all manner of unions had, at various times, threatened to shut down the country for even more laughable causes.
In fact, the joke out there for several years now is that if a tanker driver’s wife refuses to ‘co-operate’ with her husband in ‘ze oza room’, we could wake up to a nationwide strike, which is usually ‘total and indefinite’.
Even when some marketers brought in product, the PTD men stopped their drivers from loading. And we’re in a country with laws, and a government.
Well, like other Nigerians, let me join our President in hoping (and praying) that next year will be better. Yes, we’re in the habit of outsourcing everything to God – including even those things the almighty has given us capacity to handle. We are hoping and praying that the situation would, somehow, take care of itself. Of course, it never will, until the person who should do something does something.
Here’s wishing all of us a prosperous New Year.