By Anthony A Kila
When it comes to utterances and conducts, Nigerian politicians have often displayed a level of audacity that verges on recklessness. The recent request, or is it suggestion, by Nigerian Governors asking the Federal Government to remove subsidies on petroleum products is one of those statements that one reads then asks, is it true? Did they actually say that? After which, one cannot but sadly observe that such utterance lacks normal political prudence, it is at odds with popular feelings, economically controversially and hence conclude that it is pure political folly.
Our first set of objections to the suggestion made by the Governors, through their forum, the Nigerian Governors Forum, are that of political jurisdiction and expectations. Dear Governors, to those voters that elected you, your duties are to mend and manage state roads, fix and supervise state schools, make sure state hospitals works and keep the streets clean. Those citizens also need reliable electric power but they are used to believing it is the duty of the Federal Government and they do not trouble you with it, so if you fix that you will be a hero, but if you don’t they won’t crucify you. Petroleum products are the same in their minds, the average Nigerian citizen assumes that it is the business of the Federal Government, through its ministry and agencies, to manage the sales, distribution and pricing of petroleum products. Each time they have to queue or spend more on diesel and kerosene they don’t think of let alone include their state Governor in the list of those to blame for energy related woes.
Some Nigerians living in states considered to have performing Governors even think their Governor will do better if only he had a say in the matter of petrol and electricity.
All that wishful thinking is now gone, with no constitutional obligation or mandate to dabble into the matter of petroleum management, our dear Governors have decided to make this unpopular request. As to the gods, someone needs to tell these governors that if they cannot aid their people they should at least leave them the way they found them.
Now that we are it, the forum from which this annoying request of their Excellencies came from is itself now subject to objections. Lest we forget, the Nigerian Governors Forum is neither recognized nor mandated by the constitution of Nigeria. It just a voluntary association of peers where we were told Governors will come together to share experiences, promote cooperation among States, serve as a mechanism for conflict resolution between states and as an agent for dispute resolution between states and the Federal Government. We thought and expected it to be a place where Governor Amechi will tell other Governors what inspired him to build good schools and how he intends to manage them, we thought and expected it to be a place where Governor Fashola will explain to other Governors how he managed to clear the chaos in Oshodi. Our expectations were that they will get together in this forum to discuss and do things that will benefit their residents. If the results of the meetings of the Nigerian Governors Forum will be to make requests that will make life harsher for Nigerians then each Governor should stay at home in its own state to supervise road mending and refuse dumping.
There are nobler and more useful battle to be fought, more democratic and people oriented request to be made when Governors get together. Rather than make national and international headlines for things that does not directly and urgently concerns them, Nigerian State Governors should focus on finding ways of making sure the revenue allocation is corrected in a way that will give them more resources to better provide for and manage the needs of the residents and indigenes of their states and local governments. The current revenue formula gives the state government only 28 percent and the local government only 20 percent of the total allocation. That is not true federalism and given the responsibility of the state and Local governments there is a strong case for review.
The next time a Governor, politician, public office holder and indeed pundit is called to talk about distribution and pricing of petroleum products in Nigeria, let him or her remember the symbolic importance and role of petrol to Nigerian citizens. Let them all learn to consider that in Nigeria, one of the very few things the average hence poor citizen, benefit from a state that struggles to guarantee stable electric supply, good education, efficient health care, good road and security is the subsidy on petroleum products. Your distinguished Excellencies, I have news for you: for very many millions of Nigerians, subsidy on petroleum products is the only national cake they can and will ever share from. I am referring to those Nigerians that have no access or interest in appointments into public offices, juicy contracts, zoning and power sharing but are forced to or just want to plan, work and reap the fruit of their honest labour.