Fuel Subsidy Removal Turns Friends Into Enemies


 The battle line is drawn between the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, Sanusi and his long-time friend and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, over the views on the removal of fuel subsidy by the government. EROMOSELE EBHOMELE examines the situation.


The fuel subsidy removal gift President Goodluck Jonathan presented to Nigerians has just proved that Nigerians can unite if they want to. The situation of the country during this period brought people of diverse backgrounds together, some protesting against the policy and others gathering in clusters to discuss the issue at newspaper stands and streets around the country.

It also showed how very good friends can become sworn enemies depending on which side of the divide they stand.

This is currently the case between former Minister of Aviation in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Femi Fani-Kayode, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Their friendship began even before they found themselves in government. As members of the Progressive Action Movement in 2001 with the goal of helping build a country worthy of its name, they had forged a common front even though, according to Fani-Kayode, they clashed once in a while for the good of the organisation.

The current state of their relationship as a result of the pronouncement of the government against fuel subsidy can best be described as sour. And it may take a whole lot to get them together as friends again.

Fani-Kayode, who had been an analyst before he was appointed a Minister, went back to his love: criticising policies and actions of government he thinks are not right. He has continued with these critical views about President Jonathan.

In one of his articles titled ‘Who Will Deliver Us From This Goodluck?,’ Fani-Kayode wrote: “as president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo spent 300 billion per year on the fuel subsidy. Under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, it shot up to N1.3 trillion in the last one year alone. Can someone please explain to me how it got so high in four years and what exactly they were subsidising with the extra one trillion naira?”

He further explained that when the Obasanjo administration quit in 2007, the country was no longer in debt and the $30 billion foreign debt that Obasanjo met, when he came to power in 1999, was fully paid off.

Today, however, he disclosed that under Jonathan’s administration, the country is back in debt to the tune of $41 billion (both foreign and domestic) and “we are still borrowing. Can someone please tell me what the loans were used for and whether we will ever be able to pay them off?

“When the Obasanjo administration left, our foreign reserves were $80 billion, though when he came into office in 1999, we only had $1.5 billion.

“Today, our foreign reserves have dropped from $80 billion in 2007 to $33 billion. Can someone please tell me where all the money went? When Obasanjo left power in 2007, $23 billion was left in the Excess Crude Account, after he built it up from nothing in 1999. Today, we do not have one dollar left in that account because the money has been squandered and the account scrapped.”

He had wondered why President Jonathan has sold himself to be enslaved by the dictates of the World Bank, the IMF and the Bretton Woods institutions.

“At the expense of the Nigerian people, he has become the darling of the leaders of the western world, who seek to impoverish Nigeria through the auspices of a fully globalised new world order and who seek to bring our people to their knees,” he said while claiming that all the government does in the country is to remain silent at serious security threats but push down its might on unarmed Nigerians, who are opposed to certain policies.

He likened President Jonathan to King Rehoboam in the Bible for remaining stubborn despite the huge cries against some of his actions.

“May the Lord save Nigeria from this inexplicable and unpleasant mess and may the Nigerian people themselves wake up from their slumber to take their destiny into their own hands. The smell of sectarian violence, regional and ethnic conflict, insecurity, untold suffering, rampant poverty and economic hardship is in the air. Nigerians are divided as never before and our country is slowly crumbling and dying before our very eyes.

Fani-Kayode also wrote several other articles and named the Minister of Finance and head of the country’s economic team, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as an agent of the World Bank.

Apparently irritated by the way Fani-Kayode was going about his criticisms of the government, the CBN Governor decided to throw a salvo. And this came with the opportunity he had to draw himself back to former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate in the last presidential election as a result of his position on the removal of fuel subsidy.

While pleading with his fans to see the duo as his brothers and never insult them in the analysis of national issues, stressing that any attack on them is an attack on him, he said: “Femi Fani-Kayode has written in Nasir’s defence but these are not Nasir’s words and if you knew Femi well, you would not be surprised or bothered by his peculiar choice of language.

“I have seen Femi transit from a rabid ethnic chauvinist and Christian fanatic who thought Obasanjo was a stooge of the backward Muslim north, to a minister in Obasanjo’s cabinet preaching national unity, and now to some freelance activist and public commentator.”

However, for el-Rufai, who, like Fani-Kayode, has become a public commentator, Sanusi painted him in favourable colour saying he “is one person for whom I have always had the highest level of personal respect. His integrity is beyond reproach-of course, people will say anything but after years of trying no one is yet able to show any evidence backing up allegations. Intellectually, I am yet to know anyone who can match him and this has been the case since the 1970s.

“…I, therefore, request please that no one defending me should attack his person. And only those who don’t know Nasir will even think I am his intellectual match- he is just exceptional in his brilliance.”

Fani-Kayode, who could not bear the attack on his person, reacted with a heavier punch. He started his article with appreciating Sanusi for praising Ribadu and el-Rufai. “As I have always said, these are the two people that gave me hope that we could have a united Nigeria again where northerners and southerners could live and work together.

“I cannot say the same about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi whom I have always found a little bit more complicated ever since I have known him in the days of the Progressive Acion Movement in 2001. We were both members of that vibrant political association and we often clashed in terms of our world view and our vision of what Nigeria should be.

“…At that time, as he quite rightly said in his essay, I was a regionalist and Yoruba nationalist who did not believe in a united Nigeria anymore simply due to what the Abacha administration had put our people through and due to the June 12 annulment.

Not through with his counter blow, he said: “I was also a hard-line foot soldier of NADECO and I reflected the thinking of every self-respecting Yoruba man at that time. I believed then, and I still believe today, that if we cannot have a Nigeria where all people are treated as equals regardless of tribe or faith then we should not have a Nigeria at all.

“People like Sanusi opposed that view and they believed, and possibly still do, that some Nigerians were born to rule and that some faiths are greater than others.”

He agreed that he was critical about ex-President Obasanjo at first just like every other Yoruba man, who thought he was a tool of the northern part of the country, but had to join his government after he met several times with Obasanjo through a mediator and when he became convinced that he meant well for the country as against the perception people had of him. “I joined his government and after serving him for three years as his spokesman he, thankfully, promoted me to the position of a Federal Minister in two separate Ministries which is a position that Sanusi is yet to achieve.

He described Sanusi as a hypocrite who serves a government that hunted for those he called his brothers. He also wondered why the CBN Governor would bring him into any problem he has with the el-Rufai stressing that, “clearly, he brought me into it in bad faith and with malicious intent and I suppose he has every reason to do so given the role that I played in the oil subsidy debate and because I referred to his boss, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as an agent of the IMF and the World Bank.

“Sanusi spent many hours on television trying to pontificate to the Nigerian people about the “blessings” and ”beauty” of having our pump price at 145 naira per litre but unfortunately for them they failed to convince anyone but themselves. Frankly they should both resign now and they would have done so if people placed any stock or value on honour and decency in this country,”

He asked Nigerians to constantly blame Sanusi and all those who convinced President Jonathan to remove fuel subsidy for the killing of some Nigerians during the protests that followed the announcement.

“People like him are completely detached and they simply have no empathy with or compassion for the ordinary people and neither can they identify with their hardship and suffering. That is the difference between a technocrat from the strange world of international high finance like Sanusi and a politician, lawyer, “freelance contributor” and “public commentator” like me,” he said.

It remains uncertain who would win this fight.

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