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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Labour Party, Obidients lack moral ground to oppose Tinubu’s subsidy removal – Kperogi

Labour Party, Obidients lack moral ground to oppose Tinubu’s subsidy removal – Kperogi

US-based Nigerian journalism scholar and social critic, Professor Farooq Kperogi, has opposed President Bola Tinubu’s petrol subsidy removal, but said the country’s labour union lacks the moral ground to also oppose it.

Kperogi equally said followers of a foremost presidential candidate, Peter Obi, who have been lamenting the subsidy removal, are only being two-faced.

He wrote in his Saturday column, Notes from Atlanta:

“Even if Tinubu hadn’t been president, the two other alternatives to him said they would “remove subsidies” on “day one,” as Tinubu did. So, Atiku and Obi supporters lamenting Tinubu’s action are being two-faced.

“The Nigerian Labour Congress that’s threatening to go on strike to protest the removal of “subsidies” is even more duplicitous. It never opposed Peter Obi, the candidate that ran on its platform, when he espoused extreme neoliberal policies, including saying “fuel subsidy is an organized crime” that he will remove “immediately, if I am elected president.” Had Obi won and removed petrol subsidies, what would NLC have done since it didn’t oppose his manifesto?”

Meanwhile, Kperogi wrote that the subsidy removal done without giving a thought to the well being of the citizens.

“I know that there is now an artfully manufactured consent, particularly among the gilded classes in Nigeria, about the undesirability of ‘fuel subsidy.’ I don’t care what it’s called, but any policy (call it deregulation, subsidy removal, appropriate pricing, etc.) that results in an arbitrary and unbearable hike in the price of petrol without a corresponding increase in the salaries of workers and an improvement in the living conditions of everyday people will sink Tinubu.

“Resuscitating existing refineries and creating conditions for robust private sector investment in building new ones are obvious, well-worn solutions to the existing order, which have been floating around for years. Any serious government would make this happen.

“No responsible government shies away from subsidizing the production and consumption of essential commodities for its people. I have lived in the United States, the belly of the capitalist beast, for nearly two decades, and I can tell you that governments at both federal and state levels heavily subsidize petrol consumption—in addition to agriculture.

“When gas prices increased dramatically a few months ago here, both Joe Biden and state governors granted tax holidays to oil companies so they could lower the cost of petrol. Biden tweeted daily about the reduction in gas prices that his policies enabled. Americans call high petrol prices ‘pain at the pump’ for a reason.

“The surest way for a government to lose legitimacy here is to allow petrol prices to go up without doing anything about it. That’s why America’s 50 states collectively spend $10 billion a year to subsidize petrol consumption.

“I know Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, and Peter Obi said they would ‘remove fuel subsidy’—a code for they’ll increase petrol prices— if they’re elected president, but I can assure Tinubu that if petrol price hikes deepen people’s misery, he’ll have a tough time governing.”

Arguing in support of subsidy, he wrote:

“Of course, subsidies are the soul of poor, struggling people, not just in Nigeria but all over the world. Every government in the world, especially in the West, subsidizes basic goods, including petrol and agricultural products.

“One of the sneaky ways Nigerian political elites hoodwink people into thinking that subsidies are bad for them is to associate subsidies with corruption. But that’s a false association. There is nothing in subsidies in and of themselves that makes them corrupt. Corruption is incidental to subsidies and can be eliminated if there’s a will to do so.

Jettisoning subsidies because it is riddled with corruption is similar to the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Any government that can’t eliminate corruption and ensure that people who need subsidies get them has no reason to exist. But, apparently, many Nigerians think otherwise. So, let’s see how, to quote J.M Keynes, “the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.”

 

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