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Dear President Tinubu, please keep the subsidy on blood!

Our collective gratitude should go to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Not because he keeps telling us to calm down and that things would get better.…

Our collective gratitude should go to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Not because he keeps telling us to calm down and that things would get better. Rather, it is because it has taken his administration’s glasnost for us to discover that Nigeria is actually a welfare state. No schools have taught us this very important information. My good friend, Lanre Isa Onilu, must improve on the curriculum of the National Orientation Agency to include things that government is subsidising without our knowledge.

I could have sworn on the grave of my patriotic parents that Nigeria is a careless rogue state that robs its citizens of their due while never failing in seeking an occasion to tax them even in death. Don’t blame me. Until I left my village at the age of 18, the only government presence in Okeagi were three open wells, the last of which was dug when I was six years old. Yet, the only treasures that the late Pa Mark Balogun Asaju left for us were his tax receipts as bulky as my first physics textbook.

Those were the days when it was dangerous to travel without one’s tax receipt. Yet, the only primary school in my village was built by the community. About a decade or so ago, the community taxed itself and built a secondary school for its children. As I write, they tax the citizens to pay the teachers and youth corps members that manage to keep the school from being overtaken by rats and rodents. With such a background, it is pardonable that one grows to believe that government is a scam.

You could imagine the shock to learn one early morning that petrol that sits silently under the bed of the creeks of Niger-Delta and refined on license by multinational corporations is heavily subsidised by government. Such revelation leaves one with a deep sense of patriotism especially considering that the perennial withdrawal of this subsidy has sent inflation above the skies. Notwithstanding, every time the people protested, they were reminded that the Tokunbo they have been driving or riding in had been running courtesy of government’s generous social security system. Only an ingrate would not be beholden to such generosity.

When after inauguration, Muhammadu Buhari discovered he could make himself petroleum minister; Nigerians tolerated the misnomer believing that the prices of petroleum products would drop. Why? Buhari had been petroleum minister under the military in addition to being a head of state, surely, he must have a number on how petroleum works. There was even a time when Buhari led protests against the fuel-increase-induced-suffering.

They were wrong. Every time Buhari woke up on the wrong side of his praying mat, the pump price of petroleum products leapt. Curiously, organised labour was injected with laughing gas in the years of Buhari, preventing the protests that jolted lethargic regimes from its misanthropic policies. As Buhari parked out of Aso Rock, Nigerians believed that he had squeezed every ounce of subsidy from petroleum products.

Again, they were wrong. From the podium at Evil Square, like a man of his words, Tinubu has kept his promise calming nerves with a promise to tackle rising inflation. It is too early to expect him to deliver on the inflation thing. Nigerians have an unbreakable tenacity to withstand terror, ask those who have paid ransom more than once to kidnappers.

Just while we were pondering how many more unknown subsidies are still out there, government threw a bombshell. It was still subsidizing power, aka electricity. Before this announcement, Nigerians had lost count of how much government had sunk in the power agency. Conservative estimates put it at $50 billion. The last we heard was that government had sold our common shares to miracle-working capitalists who would play God with our switches if we were not lazy enough to flip them. Nigerians forgot the age-old tradition of putting a chunk of meat in the mouth only to announce that it had been pulled by an unseen magnet in the throat.

Rather than improve the generation and distribution of power, it has declined. Excuses moved from low water pressure from Kainji, coiled snakes rupturing transmission lines to how old the equipment were and later how the supply of natural gas had been disrupted with the unrest in the Niger-Delta.  A constant remained, the shady deals in meter distribution and the phenomenon known as crazy bills where people are taxed and forced to pay on the point of death for the power not supplied. Nigerians stopped looking to Kainji for power. They shifted their gaze to Guangzhou where polluting generating sets and later solar panels, inverters and their appurtenances were sourced leaving the public power grid as a probable standby power source. Nigerians are used to playing government at all levels.

Who could have told us that government was subsidising national darkness to the tune of 3 trillion or 67 per cent of its unpadded budget even when it had divested our shares? Only Femi Falana, who apparently has a spy camera installed in the budget office. The rest of us lately understood that government works in mysterious ways in a way that it could eat our cake and still have it.

Here is the clear and present danger, people. At this rate, we might wake up one moonlight to hear that government has been subsidising oxygen for all.

Currently, only asthmatics and those suffering from respiratory ailments know that a substantial chunk of the subsidy on their oxygen has been removed by government. They have been shouting that the prices of inhalers have been unaffordable since Tinubu removed the subsidy on petrol.

Stupid people! One of these days, they would be shocked to find a carbon dioxide tax that they currently think is useless. It is then that they would join my gratitude train to our people-loving president as we supplicate that no more life-sustaining subsidies are removed.

For now, only the rich, dubbed Band ‘A’ that hitherto silently enjoyed 20-hour electricity are crying. The rest of us must pray for the government not to remove the subsidy on the electricity meters that we paid for, but which boldly declares itself as – property of the Federal Government of Nigeria, just like our passport booklets. Here is hoping that government does not wake us up one sweet morning to reveal that they have been subsidising our blood and that the IMF has asked them to stop.

 

 Citizen Fisayo Versus NCS

In the past couple of weeks, Fisayo Soyombo, one of Nigeria’s best investigative journalists has made it a routine to wake his followers with the latest sleaze in the Nigeria Customs Service. After a series of sting operations at private deprivations to various bleeding points, Soyombo has revealed the dark underbelly of the rot in the NCS and the identities of the smugglers and their Customs’ backers. True to expectations, nothing has happened to change the shameful status quo. Instead of dealing with them, the EFCC caught a big fish – crossdresser Bobrisky and quickly sent him to trial. Our country wants to be seen as custodians of morality, not one that’s serious in fighting crimes. God dey!

 

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