By Gani Fawehinmi
(From The Guardian, May 30 2007)
JUST as President Olusegun Obasanjo was asking for forgiveness in the Church on Sunday, May 27, 2007, he was inflicting a parting pain on the masses of our people by increasing the pump price of a litre of petrol to N75. Why should Obasanjo do this heinous act? The reasons which are legion include:
(a) He wants to stand out in history as the Nigerian leader who has punished the people of Nigeria most by increasing the petrol pump price eight times as a democratically elected leader from 1999 to 2007 from N20 which he inherited in 1999 to N75 forty-eight hours before his departure from power. As a Head of State from 1976 to October 1979, he was the first to introduce an astronomical increase from 8k to 15k on October 1, 1978, giving as one of the reasons that Nigerians were enjoying too much of stable oil price. He left office on the October 1, 1979 with the petrol pump price at 15.30k per litre.
(b) He undoubtedly wanted to put more money into the already saturated purse of his friends in the down stream oil business, many of whom contributed to his N8.5 billion at the launch of his private library on May 14, 2005 at Abeokuta.
(c) Even Transcorp in which Obasanjo has a substantial share holding will benefit from this mad increase.
But why should Obasanjo do this despite the fact that his government is making so much money from the sale of crude oil estimated at $200 million Federal Government revenue per day from the sales of crude oil in the international market which today hovers around $60 per barrel as against $40 per barrel on which the 2007 Budget was predicated? In any event what have we been doing with the oil money since the past eight years when Obasanjo came into the saddle of governance of Nigeria?
1. Obasanjo has retrenched more Federal workers than all other previous Heads of State put together.
2. Most of our infrastructures are in a state of decay.
3. Most of our roads particularly in the South-East, South-South, South-West, North-Central, North-East are death traps.
4. Our public institutions of higher learning are starved of funds and to a large extent comatose. As at today the government cannot even meet the minimal demands of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who are on strike.
5. Only few of our hospitals have been refurbished in a rush whilst most are in a state of neglect.
6. The security and welfare of Nigerians which under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 shall be the primary purpose of government are critically ignored by a self-serving, selfish and a bullying President with poverty wide spread all over the country.
It is inhuman and ungodly for the President to increase the fuel pump price to N75 per litre at a time he was pretending to be penitent in the Church. As long as General Obasanjo remains the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party even after May 29, 2007, so will he have the strangle hold on the affairs of this country. There is only one option for Labour and the Civil Society – let us call the people out on a long strike: (a) To reverse the increase of the fuel pump price; and (b) To cut off the stranglehold of the former president, General Olusegun Obasanjo, by ensuring he does not continue as a leader of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
- Chief Fawehinmi is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria