with Reno Omokri
The contradictions of Nigeria under this administration are quite pathetic. You have a state government that cannot trace the killers of the wife of an evangelist beheaded in broad day light in Kano even though the event was caught on camera, then you have another state government that is able to trace killers of hundreds of its own citizens to Cameroon and Niger and when they traced them-wait for it-they did not apprehend them. Instead they offered them money not to kill again. No. this is not an excerpt from Steven King’s latest horror book. This is an excerpt of life in the new and improved Nigeria! And the contradictions continue to pour in. On Monday the 5th of November, 2916, President Buhari complained about the demands that Nigerians were making on him and ended his lamentations by asking Nigerians not to make expensive demands of him. A president who built an expensive helipad for his personal use in Daura with taxpayers money now asks taxpayers not to make expensive demands! Indeed, #ChangeBeginsWithMe! If President Muhammadu Buhari knew the demands of the office were too much for him then why did he contest for the office four times? If I were to advice the President, I would tell him to choose his words carefully because his defensive words today may be offensive words tomorrow.
And yet another contradiction is the ugly news from the NCC. When the madness from the Nigerian Communications Commission reared its ugly head in the form of the attempt by the Buhari administration to hike the tariffs for GSM and Internet services, I immediately saw it as a desperate attempt by the federal government to source for funds to pay the 200,000 N-Power graduate employees it had promised to employ. After repeated promises to employ them and even more repeated delays in the date they were to resume, the Vice President eventually set a resumption date for the scheme as 1st December, 2016, the same date that the federal government through the NCC had set as the start date for the new tariffs. Coincidence? As a life long student of mathematics, I am convinced that there are no coincidences and this latest ‘coincidence’ only crystallizes my belief. Like someone said on Twitter, other than Nigeria, I can not imagine another nation that will devalue its currency, increase fuel and electric cost yet leave wages the same! Little did I know at the time I was reading that tweet that the government was toying with another tariff increase. And when it suspended the data tariff hike, after public outcry, the NCC said it did so to enable it do consultations? My response to them is that they should not waste their money. I, Reno Omokri, have consulted on their behalf and free of charge at that and here is the verdict-Nigerians reject it! It is wrong really for officials whose electricity tariff, fuel and GSM plans are paid for by taxpayers to increase fuel, power and GSM plans of the people! In truly progressive nations, it is the regulator that forces telecommunications firms to lower prices. I am dumbfounded that in our case, the regulator is the one seeking an increase. I thought the federal government said they were going to spend their way out of the recession? From the look of things, their plan seems to be to tax their way out of it!
In my opinion, rather than direct GSM firms to hike rates, the NCC should invest in free public wifi for the advancement of knowledge in Nigeria. Free wifi would boost the type of thrift and industry that Nigeria needs to come out of her present recession. It will enable unemployed youths gain access to a treasure trove of publicly available information that they can then apply to creative ventures that will lead to jobs, businesses and vocations. The human mind must be engaged and if it is not positively engaged then it is a must that it will be negatively engaged. And of course I sympathize with the Buhari administration on its need to source for funds to pay for N-Power and other poverty alleviation initiatives. However, they should not tax the poor to provide for the poor. You tax the rich to provide for the poor. On the second of December 2016, Forbes magazine reported that China has begun implementing a 10% additional tax (additional to regular sales tax) on luxury cars. In justifying the tax, the Chinese ministry of finance released a statement in which it said “In order to guide rational consumption and promote energy saving and emission reduction, the State Council [cabinet] has approved a consumption tax on luxury cars.” Nigeria’s leaders expose their hypocrisy when they turn up for public events in their long convoys of very expensive and foreign cars! This is a country that manufactures cars. Nigerian automobile manufactures now make bulletproof cars (partially made in Nigeria) so there is no reason for anyone, including the President, to drive in long convoys of obscenely expensive Mercedes Benz and BMWs. The government’s Naira hardly circulates within Nigeria. Rather, our government officials make the dollar, euro or Japanese Yen stronger by their purchase of all things foreign! Rather than increase the tariff on GSM and Internet rates, the federal government should direct the Federal Inland Revenue Service to take a cue from China and tax the super rich who import luxurious cars “in order to guide rational consumption” in Nigeria. If China, which is in a much better financial position than Nigeria, is doing it, what are we waiting for? But instead of taxing the rich, the FIRS announced that it is about to implement a policy where Nigerians would have to show a tax clearance certificate before being able to apply for an international passport. I mean what type of authoritarianism is this? An international passport is a right not a privilege. A government cannot deny it to its people. Even Nigerian citizens who become naturalised citizens of The UK, the USA, Canada and other such nations apply for passports without having to produce anything other than their identification and either a marriage or birth certificate yet in their own nation by birth their government is coming up with a hare brained idea of requiring tax certificate before a passport can be applied for! Rather than target the long suffering masses of Nigeria, wealthy Nigerians can and should pay their fare share! We are all witnesses to the larger than life lifestyles of the rich. First Class cabins on British Airways are still regularly filled up by those for whom recession is ‘just a word’.
Additionally, we all read how President Buhari, a president who has only brought austerity where he met prosperity, recently had his daughter betrothed to the son of a billionaire who splurged N44 million on gifts for the President’s daughter! The funniest thing is that a few miles from the house of the President’s would be in-laws are refugees from Borno who don’t have enough to eat. That these acts are occurring at a time when the government is toying with taxing the poor out of existence only shows that some are mourning while others are celebrating! A situation where the cost of everything skyrockets except salary and wages should not continue into 2017 except it is a deliberate attempt by the Buhari administration to rapidly reduce Nigeria’s population by ensuring mass starvation! Before President Jonathan increased fuel prices, he first increase salaries and wages for civil servants, the military, the paramilitary and for members of the National Youth Service Corp. That is a government and a President that is connected to its people! And just before I conclude this piece, let me touch on the fourth contradiction and just say that the presidency’s response to the Emir of Kano, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II is most pedestrian. How can anyone in his right mind call Sanusi Lamido ‘ignorant’! Really? Ignorant!! Even if Garba Shehu was directed to issue that statement he should also direct his mind to know that there is life after directives! Even before President Muhammadu Buhari indicated an interest in running for the office of President of Nigeria in 2002, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (as he then was) was one of his first advocate who, as early as 2002, had publicly promoted the idea of a Buhari presidency as the panacea to Nigeria’s many leadership woes. Was he ‘ignorant’ then? The same Sanusi was the poster boy of the All Progress Congress when he made allegations against the Jonathan administration to the effect that it was unable to account for $49 billion. At that time, the APC took out center page advertorials promoting Sanusi and castigating the Jonathan administration. Was he not ‘ignorant’ then? I doubt if amongst the ministers and appointees of the Buhari administration there can be found any individual who is as knowledgeable as Emir Sanusi. Is it Buhari’s minister of finance who graduated from a polytechnic (University of East London was a polytechnic when Kemi Adeosun attended it and that is her highest academic qualification, BSc economics and a post graduate diploma) or the minister of budget that does not know how much Nigeria owes, or the sports minister that thinks Nigerian athletes are too hungry to go for the World Cup. Tell me who amongst Buhari’s ministers is as enlightened as the erudite and intellectual Emir Sanusi? The Buhari administration would do well to listen more than it insults or the economy may collapse even further than it has. Then we will know who is truly ‘ignorant’! Had this government hit the ground running rather than hitting it blaming, Nigeria will not have experienced the present recession. They have blamed former President Jonathan, blamed ex President Obasanjo, blamed the Peoples Democratic Party, they have blamed Nigerians, they have blamed their perceived enemies and now after running out of people to blame, they are now blaming their friends.
- Omokri is the founder of the Mind of Christ Christian Center in California, author of Shunpiking: No Shortcuts to God and Why Jesus Wept and the host of Transformation with Reno Omokri.