Aso Rock Villa connotes power. It remains a mystery to many Nigerians except the privileged few who have had access to its formidable walls. Yet this gargantuan and mysterious edifice has been nothing but a great albatross in our struggle for socio-economic emancipation and political righteousness. It has acted as a powerful superego which has persistently stirred the petulant Id of its occupants. It has served as a volcanic force in our national psyche, creating turbulence and making many men mad. Aso Rock is something of a paradox in our nation. Aso Rock should be kept holy in intent and purpose but has always been violated. It abhors pretensions, dishonesty and corruption. Yet these are the very attributes of its occupiers, hence the veritable and perpetual source of conflicts. Its persistent violation has not augured well for the nation.
There is a great spiritual battle going on in Aso Rock. The indignant force of good is up in arms against the imposed force of evil. It is thus no surprise that Aso Rock has been the waterloo of our imposed leaders. It has exposed the hypocrisy of its occupants and has devoured those who felt they could make it a permanent home. Of necessity, occupancy of Aso Rock must be time limited. It is a rock built for no one yet available to all. Ibrahim Babangida felt that he could manipulate and dribble the nation with falsehood to further grease his bloated ago. His was the era when some were not only in government but also in power. He left Aso Rock in disgrace. Sanni Abacha taught that he had everything to overcome the forces of good in Aso Rock. He unleashed an unsurpassed terror on the nation but ended up eating a poisoned apple while consorting with prostitutes. His cadaver was brought out of Aso Rock in the dead of the night on the back of a pick-up truck. Olusegun Obasanjo came in to Aso Rock with the bible in one hand and the hymnal book in the other. The discomfiture induced by the fiery forces of the villa ended up exposing him for what he is â€“ an animal called man. A murderous, corrupt, self-effacing hypocrite with antisocial sexual tastes almost bothering on the insane.
Then came the caricature era. Umaru Musa Yarâ€™adua exposed one of the numerous follies of men. Out of insatiable lust for power at the expense of other things, a seriously sick man accepted a post that would ordinarily challenge the best of health. All in trying to protect established oligarchy and satisfy the whimsical fantasies of a narcissistic predecessor. Yarâ€™adua thought he could enjoy the better of two worlds â€“ take care of his health and at the same time enjoy the allures of power. He lost both and went the way of the cookies. President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™adua crumbled in a bad way and with little honour benefitting someone who had ever occupied such a lofty position. Aso Rock persistently shrieks out its dire warning to those who care to listen. But the ears of men are hardened to the voice of truth. Yarâ€™aduaâ€™s death exposed the lies in our claim to nationhood. It brought out the many contradictions in our superficial conglomeration of a nation. The nation rose up in arms to challenge the perfidy of those who felt that leadership was their perpetual birth right upon the death of Yarâ€™adua. The end result was the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan. Another story and yet another chapter.
Something about this Aso Rock Villa remains a source of mystery. It would always remain the waterloo of our crop of leaders as long as they failed to rule in truth and honesty. Dodan Barracks was the era of coups and counter-coups but Aso Rock would always align with the peopleâ€™s will, no matter the ingenuity and deviousness of its occupants. It has always been something of a conflict arousal, creating a vibratory discomfort and exposing the hypocrisy of our rulers in full glory like the feathers of a porcupine.
Goodluck Jonathan rode to power on a wave of passion akin to intoxicating liquor. Nigerians were so immersed in unbelievable folly and easily â€œseparatedâ€ him from his despicable political party. This behaviour earned us the tag â€œidiotsâ€ from Pastor Tunde Bakare. This expletive came out of pent-up frustration and indignation on the part of Pastor Bakare. Indeed our folly is astounding and unbelievable. Goodluck Jonathan is repaying Nigerians for their steadfastness and faithfulness towards him. He has deemed it fit that the only way to repay the stupidity of Nigerians is to make life more difficult such as being displayed in the latest pastime of his government â€“ deregulation of the prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
May I express concerns about the dark cloud that has been gathering over our dear nation for a long while? While still reeling under the insecurity, fear and hopelessness induced by the terror unleashed by Boko Haram, the government of Goodluck Jonathan has decided that this is the most auspicious time to implement a difficult policy. A stanza in our national anthem invokes action on the part of compatriots in Nigeriaâ€™s hour of need â€“ â€œArise O Compatriots, Nigeriaâ€™s call obeyâ€. As if in obedience to this patriotic injunction, Nigerians have arisen almost with one voice to an impromptu national challenge. It is thus sacrilegious for any well meaning citizen to keep quiet in this period and time.
The implications of the sudden, premature and senseless deregulation of the prices of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, is far reaching, perhaps deeper than the government of Goodluck Jonathan can comprehend. Reactions have been intense, widespread and sometimes violent. Lives have been lost. The general feeling is that Nigerians are totally against this calculated attempt by the government to further impoverish the citizens. With numerous pretences at being a listening head of state, it is an irony that Jonathan could succumb to unrealistic persuasions on the benefits of deregulation. It is even more baffling that with the enormity of expressed anger and attendant social discord, the pretentiously amiable Jonathan could still stubbornly stick to his guns.
I have been greatly touched by the oneness of reactions across many spheres in rejecting this surreptitiously imposed policy. The emotional lamentation of Femi Fani-Kayode (Who will deliver us from this Goodluck?) as published by many websites was a veritable source of information on the severity of our economic carcass under the dispensation of Goodluck Jonathan. The write-up by Fani-Kayode could provide a basis for projecting the outcome of the much touted gains of the deregulation policy and even the so-called palliative measures to be instituted.
I was particularly touched by Fani-Kayodeâ€™s deep sense of outrage at the high level of incompetence in the management of the countryâ€™s resources while discountenancing the political innuendoes contained in the write-up. His write-up threw up these disturbing facts:
– Extraordinary increase in the cost of PMS subsidy within one year under Goodluck Jonathan â€“ that is, 300 billion Naira was spent under the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo compared to 1.3 trillion Naira spent in the last year alone by Goodluck Jonathan.
– 30 billion dollars foreign debt met by Obasanjo was completely paid off before he left office. Under Jonathan, the debt profile is about 41 billion dollars and still rising.
– Foreign reserves when Obasanjo left power was 80 billion dollars but stand at 33 billion dollars today.
– Excess Crude account at the end of Obasanjoâ€™s tenure was 23 billion dollars but stands at zero today.
The statistics revealed by Femi Fani-Kayode made a somber reading as the wildest imagination would not touch on anything akin to this grand disaster. Femi is emphatic in asserting that the country is under a seemingly incompetent and rudderless leadership that seems to be completely insensitive and brutal.
â€œIf you can afford to smile in these times, perhaps you just do not understand the situationâ€
In explaining the necessity of this unpopular policy, Jonathan and his ministers painted a picture of a battle with some powerful cabals that had consistently defeated various governments in attempts to sanitize the oil industry. In fact, these cabals were publicly named. The Jonathan government tacitly admitted that it lacked the balls to confront these cabals and hence chose the weaker opponents to tackle â€“ the masses. Having found a solution to a rather knotty problem, all-knowing Goodluck Jonathan remained adamant that the reversal of the illogically removed subsidy was impossible. By its pronouncements and actions, the Jonathan administration has firmly positioned itself against the people.
There are pertinent questions begging for answers in this new climate of governance by indifference instituted by Jonathan. We have been told that the projected revenue to be derived from the deregulation process is estimated to be about N400 billion. Nevertheless, this regime has given itself the task of implementing projects running into trillions of Naira. A situation where expenditure practically exceeds expected revenue. Then, who is deceiving who?
The other questions include the reasoning behind isolating subsidy removal as the only sane task in economic restoration. Corruption is thriving like maggots on a festering sore in Nigeria. Dimeji Bankole stole over N400 billion in his years as the nationâ€™s speaker. Also, the moribund National Assembly spends colossal amounts yearly. The presidency is not even immune in this orgy of wastage. The presidential fleet contains about eleven aircrafts – one of the most expansive and expensive in the world. Over N1 billion had been budgeted this year alone for entertainment by Jonathan and his vice. David Mark is growing fatter every day and still maintains a luxurious golf course in Ireland, even in the throes of economic anguish Nigerians are going through. Multi-billion naira houses are daily being completed in Abuja by various government officials past or present. The yearly budget of the national assembly is astronomical almost to a comical dimension, being one of the most unproductive legislative assemblies in the world. The list is endless and would fill pages. There are just too may wastages in the act of governance in Nigeria.
It is perhaps apt to emphatically state that Goodluck Jonathan would have done better to have removed the subsidy that the Nigerian state actively gives to corruption. Corruption has been the root cause of our unending problems in Nigeria and Jonathanâ€™s government has not been immune from this shameful malaise as demonstrated by Fani-Kayodeâ€™s gripping revelations. Corruption is the sole reason why we are where we are today. It is the reason why our four refineries have failed to function. And it is the reason why we are perhaps the only oil producing country that lacks the capacity to refine oil even for local consumption. And corruption would be the nemesis of the so-called palliative plans to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal. It might do Jonathan a world of good to hearken to the wise counsel of Muhammadu Buhari. The respected General insisted that corruption should have been the first battle that Jonathan should have faced.
It is almost pertinent to state that a responsible government would be more focused on poverty alleviation rather than poverty generation as the recent policy on subsidy removal can only achieve. As in the words of Adebola Adejumo (This Day Newspaper, 29th December 2011): â€œWhen we reduce everything to how much the country â€œloosesâ€ without thinking of the flip side of things, we reduce our ability to lift as many people out of poverty as possible. Reducing poverty levels should be the aim of all policies of government as against leaving a delicate society as ours to unfair vagaries of oil prices that the country does not controlâ€. This might perhaps be something that Goodluck Jonathan and his cohort of ministers and extra-special advisers might want to ponder on.
A shame if Nigeria is allowed to break into pieces
It is appropriate to end this piece by restating that, if anything, the present situation has only served to increase our collective insight as a people and sensitize the citizenry to the folly of their political decision in voting for Goodluck Jonathan. It has opened our eyes to the prevalent socio-economic injustices and lower our threshold for reactive violence to the perceived social anomalies. The present agitation and protests might not eventually be the desired Nigerian Spring uprising. Nevertheless, with each policy miscalculation on the part of the moribund leadership, we gradually draw closer to the Promised Land. Nigeria is not yet a lost case, of this I am convinced despite the frustrations and mental anguish of our seemingly hopeless situation. However, the determinant factor for indeed raising a nation worth its salt out of the present contraption is our ability to faithfully accept the urgent need to dialogue. We can still yet be a great country, one based on fairness and justice that equally offers to all. The task is in our grips to ensure that this dream is realised.
Back to Aso Rock Villa. Jonathan may be its fifth occupant (I really do not know where to place Ernest Shonekan) but may and may not be its last. The choice is his and that of his clique to decide. Jonathan has ample opportunity to stand on the right side of history but seemed not eager to embrace opportunities. He is sworn to maintaining the status quo and typically, like those before him, has failed to heed the warning emanating from Aso Rock. He has failed to tread carefully where even those bolder had acted with caution. Aso Rock has made those before him mad and they reaped the consequences. Jonathan has failed to learn that the obsessive aura of Aso Rock can be brutal and just in dispensing justice. It has meted out appropriate responses to his predecessors and only keeps his (Jonathanâ€™s) in the pockets of its underwear.
Aso Rock may yet turn out to be the doom of Jonathan.
A word is enough for the wise.