We hear ‘’strong man’’, and the visage of a rotund, bumbling African dictator in Khaki and jackboots comes to brain. But permit me to appropriate the word and re-contextualise it for the purpose of this column. In my context, a ‘’strong man’’ embodies discipline, audacity, courage, and character. Nigeria needs a ‘’strong man’’ as president in 2023 – one who is not afraid to be unpopular by taking critical reformist decisions and actions.
The times are perilous. Nigeria needs a sanitiser, a vacuumer; one who is not afraid to dare the undared.
Some people say: “We demand strong institutions not strong men”. I hold. In Nigeria’s instance, we demand strong men to build strong institutions. Whatever dauntless leader willing to reform Nigeria must be ready to be unpopular because the status quo will combat dorsum — and will do so ruthlessly.
Nigeria needs a leader who can take bold decisions similar removing subsidies on crude oil and electricity for instance; vacuum the taxation system and create heads roll. The statement for subsidy retention is an emotional one that discounts the filth in the system. Nigeria is a quasi-socialist country; a highly subsidised country. Corruption thrives partly because of the regime of subsidies.
Virtually every fundamental commodity or service is subsidised and does not reverberate true value. The subsidy regime is clearly unsustainable. Kerosene, which is the common free energy of the poor, was de-subsidised; diesel as good, yet petrol which sells for in relation to N600 per litre in Republic of Ghana – an oil-producing country — is scandalously buffered. Who does this advatage?
The NNPC said it spent N541.65 billion within 6 months in 2021 on crude oil subsidy. Betwixt 2017 and 2020, the corporation is projected to have spent over N1.53 trillion on crude oil subsidy. The reality is that the current terms of petrol in Nigeria does not reverberate its actual value vis-a-vis the prevailing global market place value.
But whether the poor can afford a basic commodity similar kerosene which sells for N400 per litre without subsidy, why should petrol mostly utilised by the middle and the upper form be N165 per litre? Who does the subsidy regime serve? The masses or some industry leviathans and wolves?
Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano (2014-2020) and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), rightly described the subsidy regime as a scam. He said: “The first of all job is by assuming that we are an oil-rich country. This has been a large joke for me. I call up in 2011 when we were talking in relation to the subsidy debate when President Jonathan rightfully wanted to take away fuel subsidy. I said to people, you are producing 2 million barrels for 160 million Nigerians. That is one barrel for 80 people. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia produces one barrel for 3 citizens. These people demand education, healthcare, infrastructure, electricity, telecommunication and agriculture from that one barrel that 80 people portion. So, you make up one’s mind that what they demand to a greater extent than anything else is inexpensive fuel. That doesn’t create sense. It only made sense because there are many people who command the levers of powerfulness and are making millions and billions of dollars from the scam that is called fuel subsidy.”
The Jonathan administration tinkered with the thought of removing crude oil subsidy but quaked under an avalanche of protests – perchance sponsored. The Buhari administration is dilly-dallying on the subject at present, and perhaps to preclude some other circular of insurrection, it has pigeonholed de-subsidising crude oil. But for how long must we tread on this primrose path? Nigeria needs a president who will defy all odds and take activity for the common good fifty-fifty whether that enterprise will final result in short-term discomfort.
Also, the federal regime spends N30 billion monthly on electricity subsidy. Some analysts say this is one of the reasons the industry players are reluctant to scale upwards their services — because of ‘’loose money’’. We have to de-subsidise to endure.
Really, whatever serious Nigerian president will have to enforce discipline at all levels and spectrum of the social and national life. Lee Kuan Yew did it in Singapore as prime government minister. He was trigger-happy, daring and unafraid to take tough decisions.
The children of the status quo will yell, “tyranny and oppression”. But it must be done. We cannot create progress this way. Nigerians are intolerably undisciplined. Notwithstanding discipline will have to start from the top. The ‘’strong man’’ who wants to take Nigeria must himself be disciplined. He must take by personal illustration. Discipline must be seen in his cabinet, approach to governance and fifty-fifty in his personal life. We cannot compromise on discipline.
It is that poor. I returned from a trip to the country in relation to a week agone, and right from the nostril of the airport I was pestered for money by nearly all airport staff, including the cleaners. It is tragic. Nigerians are inveterately undisciplined. We want the best of services, but we do not want to pay taxation; we shell traffic stops, discard reject on the route, and demand and give bribes. We are just ungovernable.
In 2023, Nigeria needs a ‘’strong man’’ as president to discipline the undisciplined, and to take bold decisions for the common good.
By Fredrick Nwabufo; Nwabufo (Mr OneNigeria) is a author and journalist.
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