January 25, 2007
7 mins read

I travelled to Illorin over the weekend to attend the marriage ceremony of a cousin who has lived in England for over a decade. The problem with any type of trip in Nigeria today is getting the fuel for the vehicle.

It is like going to war, while the risks taken endanger life, just to get fuel to power a modern society. This problem emerged before Christmas and has been explained away as the typical crisis which we have come to expect at that time of the year, when all kinds of institutions heighten their extortion of money from the Nigerian people.

During the last festive period, I saw scores of people including my wife, spend many days on end at petrol stations or being forced to purchase fuel from the black market, often paying as high as N150 per litre. The bizarre explanations reeled out by the officials of the NNPC and the government did not factor in that Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producing country and if it were a regime which had respect for the people of the country, it would not preside over eight years of a fraudulent oil regime, which the president personally supervises but which unfortunately has not been able to bring back the nation’s refineries back to work (after expending over $800million), has refused every entreaty to build new refineries, because of a stubborn and unsustainable adherence to an unworkable economic policy that only the private sector shoukd be building refineries.

So in eight years Obasanjo has been sitting atop a fraudulent oil regime that has empowered a group of his cronies to become fabulously rich through the importation of refined petroleum products, instead of bringing the nation’s refining capacities to their fullest possible levels of functionality. Nigeria cuts the tragicomical picture of one of the largest exporters of crude but also a major importer of refined products, just because we have in place a regime whose sworn practice is to enrich a cabal of importers petroleum products. Even the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Jackson Gaius Obaseki last year told a media interview that he spent his tenure standing in-betweeen the selfishness of the oil importers and the Nigerian people.

It is however clear that refined petroleum products importation has been the cornerstone of Obasanjo’s oil policy, because  sweetheart deals can easily be cut and cut and given Obasanjo’s antecedent of exploiting every advantage of office to feather his own nest, it would not come as a surprise that he has stubbornly refused to explore other more sensible and patriotic options to run the nation’s most important resource base over the past eight years. Licenses were issued out to the almighty private sector operators to build refineries , but nobody is a fool, because it makes more sense and a faster buck, to be at the heart of the abracadabra of petroleum products importation which has Obasanjo as the lord and master. Thrown in for good measure are periods of induced scarcity as we have been experiencing since just before Christmas, in order to impose conditions for a new round of increase prices on the Nigerian people.

The Obasanjo cabal is truly ruthless, cynical, manipulative and uncaring lot. They induce a crisis which imposes tremendous hardship on the Nigerian people, with the wastage of several man hours in the search for fuel or lives put at risk as people purchase fuel from black market operators, store products in their homes or transport the highly inflammable products in their vehicles around the country. These are purchased at very exorbitant rates, while the importers lick their lips in anticipation of the achievement of their original plan of hiking the prices of  refined products, which they argue had been imported from the international market. Nigerians must therefore pay the international price rate. People have speculated that the reason for the present round of scarcity is provide justification for an increment of the prices of the product, through a manipulation of the suffering that Nigerians have been pulled through the past one month or so. It would be better to pay a hundred naira if fuel would be available at the pumps than continue to suffer;  the Obasanjo cabal of importers can triumph as their man has ensured they do through the different increases since Nigeria has been cursed with his anti-people regime in 1999.

The President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers(NUP-ENG), Comrade Peter Akpat-ason, surveying the present fuel crisis in the oil sector, in an interview given to SATURDAY VANGUARD of January 20, 2007, said that “we do not think it was out of place for Nigerians to anticipate(a) price increase”. He went further to state that “ in the 2006 budget, a provision was made for 12 months of price support for imported fuel. At the end of December it was expected that there would be price increase… in fact there was a proposal by some players in the industry to actually adjust price upwards… There is also the possibility that operators are creating a difficult situation for Nigerians to ask for the products at any price”.

But if Nigerians think that what has been happening to them is just a chance happening, THE PUNCH newspaper of Monday, January 22, 2007, carried a report which quoted the IMF’s second review of Nigeria’s Policy Support Instrument, confirming that there is a plan to increase the prices of petroleum products in early 2007. “Despite the political pressures associated with upcoming elections”, THE PUNCH quotes the IMF report,  “the government has decided to increase fuel prices in early 2007”. It is an interesting coincidence that a few weeks to the 2003 elections Obasanjo had announced that he was going to increase the prices of petroleum products; given the economic, political and social volatility of fuel prices, it is unusual for an elected government to choose to impose new rounds of price increases on the electorate in an election year, but as we know, the PDP and Obasanjo had perfected the plan to rig the 2003 elections. The people’s vote did not matter, the regime was not built on the basis of legitimacy sourced from the Nigerian people since it is a regime beholden to special interests of foreigners and the powerful crony of oil importers hanging around Obas-anjo and so could afford to impose the hardship of fuel increase on the Nigerian people.

It is another election year and the amount of suffering that has trailed the oil scarcity of the past one month should normally have been a reason for the PDP to lose the next election in April. However, there are indications that the PDP might be planning to employ their time-tested tactic of fraud again. THE SUN newspaper of Monday, January 22, 2007 carried a report that two Corps members and an official of INEC were arrested at the Ogbomosho residence of the Chief Saka Balogun, the Chief of Staff  during the 11 months of illegal governorship of Alao Akala in Oyo state. The three individuals had taken two Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines to the house in question to carry out illegal registration exercises, obviously to aid the party’s rigging of the next elections. The following day, Tuesday, THE SUN reported further that six of the same INEC machines were allegedly found in the residence of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibuin Ibadan. “ THE machines according to the INEC Resident Electoral Commisssioner (REC) in the state, Alhaji Ishyaku Maigoro, were taken to Aedibu’s house by adhoc staff of the commission, whereas there was no voters centre located within the house of the self-acclaimed strongman of Ibadan politics”.

If what has revealed with the Akala and Adedibu stories are extrapolated into the political space, it might in fact be an indication of the plan which is in store for the elections of April 2007. The false confidence which the Obasanjo clique has exhibited about the elections, their indifference to the suffering of the Nigerian people occasioned by the petrol crises and the worsening indices of daily existence can only be because they have perfected the plan to massively rig the elections again unless the Nigerian people become extra vigilant.

The INEC registration machines allegedly found at Adedibu and Akala’s aide’s residences can only be in aid of the PDP. If that is put side-by-side with an INEC that has shown a remarkable incompetence and an inability to disguise its bias in favour of the PDP, then we face a very strangely eerie, scary and ominous build up to the elections of April. We must just watch out for what PDP is up to because it is not likely to be for good.

In the past eight years Obasanjo has ruled our country ostensibly because he ‘won’ elections and should be ruling with the interest of the Nigerian people at heart.

However, what we have harvested is the flowering of the interests of a cabal of cronies in the oil importation lobby, in the cultivation of a handful of individuals that he has generously granted import waivers, have been given juicy oil blocks or to whom he has sold choice assets of the Nigerian people, some of which he owns directly, even when they are allegedly held in blind trust for him. What is certain is that the blind of Obasanjo’s trust will regain sight to begin to count the profit of his fraudulent acquisition of our national assets soon as he succeeded in rigging into power his hand picked successor in May 2007. This is the underlining wisdom of the discovery of registration machines in the residences of PDP stalwarts in Oyo State. It should interest Nigerians to know how many more of such PDP stalwarts have been “assisting” INEC in the registration exercise within the confines of their homes in order to facilitate the massive rigging of the next elections.

The opposition parties must be interested in these manipulative steps and they should constantly interrogate the actions of the PDP and the not too subtle manner that the electoral body, INEC, has often choreographed its actions with that of the ruling party. Obasanjo’s fuel scarcity regime of the past one month has generated so much frustration and angst while it has also cost the economy valuable man hours lost in the search for fuel, further underlining the absurdity of Africa’s largest oil producing country not having enough oil to power its economy. It is like the tale of the ancient mariner and the cry of water being everywhere, but not a drop to burn. It is truly instructive just what amount of pains an incompetent leader can inflict on the body of a country. But we can set things right if we are determined, at the April 2007 elections.

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