T HE Nigerian political elite has a way of diverting people’s attention from serious developmental defects to mundane matters that sometimes border on the personal interest of a few people, but which are given patriotic colouration. Some of these overlooked issues affect our reputation as a nation but are taken for granted by those in the position of authority, making Nigeria the butt of jokes all over the world.
Recently, I was on a trip to Dubai enroute to Birmingham, United Kingdom. It was supposed to be a six-hour journey from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, but I ended up spending almost 20 hours.
The choice of Emirates Airline to connect through to Birmingham was informed by the outrageous amount I could not afford to pay for a direct trip, so I chose the long, unwieldy route. Unfortunately, a seven-hour plus journey to Dubai became nine hours because the aircraft had to go to Accra, Ghana to get aviation fuel.
It is an irony that the world’s sixth producer of oil could not make aviation fuel available for visiting airlines. It was scandalous in the least and a huge embarrassment to the Nigerian passengers in the aircraft that their oil-rich country, in an era of change failed again to measure up to a global standard. I later learnt from co-passengers that the same aviation fuel problem led to the cancellation of the Lagos to Dubai flight, with passengers directed to Abuja for the combined flight.
Closely strung with aviation fuel scarcity is the skyrocketing cost of kerosene. If you ask me, the government should have continued to subsidise kerosene. Here is one product that is closest to the ordinary voting public who cannot afford gas.
Kerosene currently sells between N200 and N220 per litre, as against NNPC’s fixed price of N150. For years now, the government has been preaching against tree felling and the need to preserve the environment. The absence of funds to buy cooking gas (where food is even available) has led the masses of this country to resort to cooking with firewood.
While the government cannot subsidise kerosene to put the basic need of man (food) on the table for the family, the same government has made another costly mistake of making forex available at a fixed rate to intending pilgrims by way of ‘subsidy’. The naira is almost N400 to a dollar, but intending pilgrims will get it at the fixed rate of N197.
In a circular said to have emanated from the CBN, the FG would spend N11.92bn to subsidise 65,197 pilgrims at the fixed rate. Yet the government is said to have stopped the sponsorship of pilgrimages in another classic case of policy somersault. Apart from sending a bad signal, pilgrimage is the least worry of a hungry man and largely a private affair. It is true what they say that ‘religion is the opium of the masses’ and you can never win any argument concerning religion in this country. Politicians use religion to manipulate the people sometimes but definitely not all the time.
The naira is in a free fall, inflation is rising, taxes are being raised without commensurate improvement in people’s lives; kidnapping is on the increase, robbery has not abated, wanton and indiscriminate killings are on the rise, and Fulani herdsmen are on rampage, yet the populace is only inundated with mundane and insignificant issues.
Nigerians should stop fighting proxy wars; instead, they should demand for good governance, and why such a promising government is falling apart like a pack of cards.
- Zainab Suleiman Okino,