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Kachikwu’s Gaffe, Tinubu’s Blast And Nigeria’s Pain, By Laz Ude Eze

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On Easter Sunday, I observed a mild drama at the NNPC mega fuel station around the Katampe section of Kubwa expressway Abuja, Nigeria. I had rushed to the station around 11.00 a.m. immediately after church service hoping to buy petrol within an hour but was on the fuel queue for more than two hours.

When I thought my long wait was almost over, a mild drama ensued; one fuel attendant named Maryam did not want to fill the fuel tank of the vehicle directly in front of me. She was apparently upset because motorists were not offering her “money for water” as she earlier demanded before we threatened to expose her.

While efforts were being made to resolve the situation, another attendant had to direct me to another pump to fill my tank. On leaving the scene, I noticed a much longer fuel queue and extreme frustration on the faces of motorists who waited patiently under the scotching sun. Then I remembered “May 2016”…. Felt like an epiphany.

It has not been the best of times for Nigeria and its leaders. The polity has become more heated in the past couple of weeks, no thanks to the untold hardships being experienced by many compatriots. The Minister of State (Petroleum) would not have imagined that he will be in the news this long, albeit for the wrong reasons, after making a statement he may have considered innocuous.

The Minister was widely reported to have said that the fuel scarcity may linger till May 2016 as he couldn’t perform any magical acts to bring it to an abrupt end. Mixed reactions followed the report, while some were outraged others commended him for “telling the bitter truth”.

Nigerians would have moved on (as usual) but for the scathing attack on the minister by a national leader of the party – the Asiwaju himself. The public reprimand of Kachikwu by Chief Tinubu has been described in some quarters as a sign of turbulence within the ruling party.

What’s my take? I think the minister’s statement should have been more sensitive. There is so much anger and pain in the land as Nigerians struggle with economic hardship and trying to cope with what I call the recurrent twin torture (fuel scarcity and lack of electric power supply).

If the minister saw indications that the scarcity would linger that long, I would have expected an informative media brief delivered with empathy. How do you see this; “At the just-concluded meeting between the President and the leaders of NUPENG and PENGASSAN, strategies have been developed to solve the problem of fuel scarcity within the shortest possible time. We are concerned that it may take weeks to completely resolve the issues and deeply regret the inconveniences Nigerians may experience. We have worked out some palliatives (name them) and will be providing periodic updates going forward…?”

But does Kachikwu’s gaffe warrant the insidious gush of fury and vitriol from some sections of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as widely reported? I don’t think it does. I have huge respect for the former Governor of Lagos State, Chief Bola Tinubu.

While he may have some flaws like every other politician, I believe he has made significant positive contributions towards the growth of democracy in Nigeria. However, I did not expect a public outburst from him at a time like this. I expected him to reprimand privately and also share his proffered solutions with top party and government officials as well as help to solve the problem.  I doubt if blames, excuses or even apologies will sufficiently assuage anyone at this time; Nigerians want positive outcomes. We want demonstrable positive change that was promised a year ago.  Who I be to advise Jagaban sef?

Anyway, the people are hangry for obvious reasons. Nigerians have been very patient, resilient and hopeful; we deserve huge commendation. Leaders at all levels of governance should utilize innovative measures to improve the quality of lives in the country. The citizens should hold the leaders accountable while continuing to support and pray for them. Now that the 2016 has been passed, we look forward to accelerated development and amelioration of the lingering economic hardship. Above all, Nigerians expect diligent implementation of the budget. Making Nigeria better is a collective responsibility, are you playing your part? God bless Nigeria!

Laz is a public health physician, development consultant and initiator of the African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD).

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