We All Are Now Wailing Wailers

Politicians will say and do anything and everything to win elections. Just see how President Donald Trump is willfully distorting facts, inventing fictions to strengthen the narratives that suit him and creating an alternative reality of the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economy that has tanked.

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Trump is desperate to get re-elected on November 3. And he’s prepared to demolish the United States constitution and democratic processes to get what he wants. So desperate he has become that he’s asking his supporters to vote by mail (which he’s continued to attack as fraudulent) early and then do in-person voting on Election Day. That will amount to double voting, which is clearly illegal.

But he doesn’t care. The end, which is winning, will justify whatever crooked, illegal means he can muster to get there. Trump is a very fine exemplar of the desperation and shameless mendacity of politicians of whatever stripes and colours.

Remember Candidate Muhammadu Buhari before the 2015 presidential election. He and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, made lots of promises that provided great sound bites but were outrightly outlandish.

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Among the ones that stand out is his claim that subsidy on petroleum products was a fraud. He said there was absolutely no justification for the government paying subsidy. That the whole subsidy ‘hoax’ was designed to feed the corruption of public officials and their partners-in-crimes in the private sector.

His claim was backed by Professor Tam David-West, his friend and supporter, who said the pump price of petrol shouldn’t be more than N45. Then the price was N87 after the Goodluck Jonathan administration had chopped N10 off of the pump price.

Until just recently, subsidy payment was still on. The government approved NNPC’s disingenuous re-invention of the payment as “cost under-recovery.” That meant the payment was deducted at source before revenues accruable to the federation account were sent.

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Before the retirement of the subsidy regime, it’s estimated that between $15 billion and $20 billion was expended on it between 2015’and 2020. Except the top echelon of NNPC’s executive management, nobody knows the real amount that went into the payment under the present administration. That’s because the whole subsidy-payment regime was so opaque and fraught with corruption.

Last week, the petrol pump price was increased from N148 to N161. The public wasn’t given any prior notification of the increase. The justification for it is that crude oil prices have gone up, and so the cost of imported petroleum products. And since the government has weaned itself from the burdensome subsidy payment, we have to live with the new price. “It’s what it is,” as Trump said of America’s embarrassing and indefensible COVID-19 death toll now racing towards the 200,000 mark.

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Subsidy payment was a dumb policy to start with. And only dumb governments adopt such policy whose cost-benefits was at best dubious. The cost to the national treasury since its adoption over four decades ago has been horrendous and the economic losses incalculable. But whether its termination is permanent remains to be seen.

Another stand-out promise was that he would create parity between America’s almighty green back and the naira. He declared rather magisterially that, “I will make one naira equal to one dollar.”

He got away with it then so easily because nobody seriously questioned him about how he planned to do it. That was when the whole country was drowning in the Buhari hysteria and his messianic aura was beyond reproach.

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Today, naira is 430 to the dollar after it briefly topped 500 as it did in early 2017 following the economic recession that unfolded just one year into Buhari’s administration. Compare the rate to what it was before Buhari: N220 – $1.

On top of the fuel price increase, the electricity rate was jacked up by over 100 per cent, from N30.23 for kilowatt unit per hour to N62.23. The rationale behind the massive increase is cost recovery for all the players in the epileptic power industry.

It is only in Nigeria that prices go up at once by 100 percent and the government defends it with a straight face. Meanwhile, most households are yet to be metered, as the extortions through the dubious estimated billing by the DISCOs continue unabated.

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Nigerians are in the grip of a PAINDEMIC caused by the relentless stress of trying to survive these extremely tough times, with a federal government that’s completely out of its depth and a president who is permanently absent from his job. Prices of everything are hurtling skyward. Despite the CBN’s efforts to shore up the naira, it’ll soon resume its free fall. And the people’s real incomes – purchasing power – has been devastated. The large population of extremely poor Nigerians continues to grow exponentially.

So now, we all have become “wailing wailers”. Why are we wailing? Because we’re suffering and there’s no one to relieve our burden that’s getting heavier and heavier every day. And there’s no indication that tomorrow may be less traumatic. In fact, the reality is that our already abject condition will worsen.

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The president has been missing in action right from the first day he became the landlord of Aso Rock. He continues to fiddle and doodle while the country is in a slow, painful meltdown. 

In 2014, President Jonathan had warned about the 2015 general elections: “The choice before Nigerians in the coming elections is simple: A choice between going forward or going backwards; between the new ways and the old ways; between freedom and repression; between a record of visible achievements and beneficial reforms and desperate power-seekers with empty promises.”

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Duped by the ‘change’ merchants, Nigeria chose the desperate power-seekers with empty promises, spurned the new ways for the old and traded freedom for repression. That’s why we all are now wailing. But nobody is listening to our cries of anguish. And the wind of mass misery blows on.

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Muhammadu Buhari, Donald Trump and Goodluck Jonathan Photo
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