Subsidy removal: Kill corruption, not Nigerians, Bakare tells Tinubu

LAGOS——SENIOR Pastor of the Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as the Latter Rain Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, yesterday, declared that he was not against the removal of the fuel subsidy but the corruption in the system.

While he noted that fuel subsidy removal and its harsh economic impact was taking a toll on Nigerians, Bakare urged President Bola Tinubu to kill corruption and not Nigerians.

The firy televangelist also tasked Tinubu to “mount a genuine fight against corruption, rise above vendetta, foster reconciliation, and give every Nigerian a reason to believe in a united country.

The cleric, who spoke on State of the Nation broadcast, theme ‘’Vice, virtue and time: The three things that shall never stand still’’, held at the church auditorium, located on Kuditat Abiola way, Ikeja in Lagos, also faulted the proposed military intervention in the Niger Republic by ECOWAS.

Speaking on the harsh economy in the country, he said: “What is further clear concerning our domestic challenges is that by imposing hardship on Nigerians without going after those corrupt individuals, corporations and government officials, who have plundered Nigeria over the years in the name of subsidy, the president has picked the wrong fight.

‘’In his Monday, July 31, 2023, address to the nation, the president stated that the vast sum of money which ‘would have been better spent on public transportation, healthcare, schools, housing and even national security…was being funnelled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.

“The president further stated that the subsidy removal policy was to stop the squandering of monies on smugglers and fraudsters.
“This compels us to ask the following salient questions: Who are these select groups of individuals into whose deep pockets our national treasury has been funnelled?
‘’Who are these smugglers and fraudsters that have been defrauding our nation in the name of subsidy?
“Who are these nameless characters that have fed fat at the expense of the poor? Or are they all sacred cows?
‘’Mr President, if you are truly on the side of the poor, if you are serious about the welfare of the people, if you truly want the poor to breathe, as you once said, then kill corruption, not Nigerians.
“Fellow citizens, the rallying cry by which the Save Nigeria Group, SNG, galvanised Nigerians in January 2012 at Gani Fawehinmi Pack, Ojota was ‘kill corruption, not Nigerians’
This was our cry when we made it evident that our fight was not against the removal of fuel subsidy but the corruption in the system. This was our fight when, amid the threats to my life and family, right there at Ojota and live on national and international television, I called out by name those individuals and corporate entities who had allegedly ravaged our nation.
“Mr President, given the complexity of the Nigerian economy, we are not thoroughly convinced that your palliatives will be sufficient to cushion the effect of your policies on the Nigerian citizen.
‘’What we do know, however, is that on May 29, 2023, you swore an oath to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
On the coup in Niger Republic, Bakare kicked against the proposal by ECOWAS for military intervention, describing it as counter-intuitive.
He said: “It is, therefore, counter-intuitive to engage in what could be a protracted conflict. This much the Tinubu-led ECOWAS ought to have learnt from the aftermath of America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
‘’While we condemn the spate of coup d’états in West Africa, we recognise that the situation calls for deep introspection on the part of African leaders and makes even more urgent the case for good governance.
‘’The call upon Nigeria at this time is not so much to compel submission in the subregion through the force of might, but to command alignment through exemplary governance. The real question is whether President Tinubu is capable of providing such moral leadership, even in the domestic context.
“The president furtherstated that the subsidy removal policy was to stop the squandering of monies on smugglers and fraudsters.
“Mr President, while we admit that, as of today, our nation has transitioned from an administration that came to power on the supposed wings of integrity and anti-corruption to one that cannot be described as such, the fact remains that you are today the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with enormous powers to fight against corruption in its hydra-headed forms.

“Even if the allegations against you are valid, you can still have a road to Damascus experience and decide today to stand on the side of probity and bring to book the vested interests that have built their wealth on the ruins of our nation.
‘’You can decide today to take the burden of reforms off the Nigerian people and go after the corporations and individuals who have plundered our nation. You can decide today to stand with the poor and take the fight to the plunderers.
‘’Mr President, even though you have announced some palliatives, let me remind you that palliatives cannot address the root cause of the problem.
“Therefore, we demand that you address the root cause of the problem. Take the yoke off the neck of the poor, go after the looters, recover the loot, and retool it to the benefit of Nigerians. In simple terms, Mr President, kill corruption, not Nigerians.

“Some may ask at this juncture: Who exactly are these plunderers that have been enabled over the years to launder our collective patrimony through a dubious subsidy regime? How much can we recover from them?
‘’My fellow citizens, tighten your seat belts as I take you back to certain alarming events that occurred in our nation’s recent history; events that have elicited lingering questions.”

Bakare, who took a swipe at the continued detention of the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, FCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, described it as a clampdown on perceived political adversaries.

His words: “Recently, the actions of the DSS have raised concerns about professionalism and adherence to the rule of law. Instances such as the reported invasion of the premises of the EFCC and the handling of the case of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, have sparked discussions regarding the need for due process and equitable application of justice.

‘’Considering the reported claims by the DSS that its actions were in line with ‘an order from above,’ the handling of the Emefiele case has sent a signal to the world that the current president’s disposition to the war against corruption is primarily motivated by a clampdown on perceived political adversaries, while various other enemies of Nigeria remain untouched.

‘’Mr Godwin Emefiele may have made the wrong judgement calls in the management of Nigeria’s monetary policy, but he must not be made a scapegoat. By the provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Act, 2007, there is every possibility that the erstwhile Central Bank Governor did not act without presidential authorisation. If Emefiele is found liable for any crime, by all means, he should be prosecuted.

“However, considering the dynamics of the pre-election environment, and the then-candidate Bola Tinubu’s public allegation that the naira-redesign policy was targeted at him, the optic of the president targeting Emefiele for prosecution after winning the election and being sworn in as president could be interpreted as a form of vendetta far beneath such a distinguished office.
“The same can be said of the detention of the suspended chairman of EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa. Mr Bawa was not only linked to the naira redesign policy, but he had also disclosed that the anti-graft agency would arrest and prosecute some outgoing governors after the expiration of their immunity on May 29, 2023.

“Once again, if Bawa is indicted in any criminal investigation, then the lawful thing to do is to prosecute him. To continue to hold him in detention, in these circumstances, raises significant concerns about the readiness of the Tinubu administration to fight corruption.
‘’This undemocratic disposition questions the pro-democracy antecedents of the president and indicates the consolidation of authoritarian tendencies.
“It is rather preposterous that the DSS has reduced itself to a pack of Napoleon’s dogs let loose on perceived opponents of the president when, in this same country, a militant like Asari Dokubo is openly breeding an armed militia in open support of the president, doing so with impunity and without as much as a slap on the wrist from the security agencies.
“Our security agencies cannot look the other way in the face of the brazen violation of the constitution by non-state actors who declare allegiance to the president while being ever poised to clamp down on the rights of the perceived opponents of the powers that be.
“Let me remind those who constitutionally hold a monopoly on the use of force that they do so on behalf of the Nigerian people and not as agents of those in power. This reminder is especially pertinent as Nigerians become increasingly agitated due to the hardships imposed on them by the government.
“As citizen-led movements spring up in Nigeria, the democratic quotient of those in power will be tested. Such office holders must remember the warning we sounded in December 2011, a few weeks before the protest in Ojota.

‘’ Let those relying on their ill-equipped, underpaid, and underfed police officers and political thugs remember the words of President J. F. Kennedy: ‘A society that cannot help the many who are poor, cannot save the few that are rich.’

“Undeniably, the state of our nation calls for courage. However, as the story of Rehoboam, the fourth king of Israel, teaches us, the kind of courage that adopts anti-people policies and oppresses the weak will only yield divisive outcomes.

‘’Therefore, Mr President, use your courage to lessen the burdens of our citizens and not to further oppress them. Use your courage to unite the nation and not to further divide us.”
While charging the president to address historical grievances and not to further deepen wounds, Bakare said: “Use your courage to address historical grievances and not to further deepen wounds. Do justice, mount a genuine fight against corruption, rise above vendetta, foster reconciliation, and give every Nigerian — in the East, West, North, and South — a reason to believe in a united Nigeria.”

Nigerians fed up with APC
On the outcome of the 2023 general elections, Pator Bakare said it was an indication that Nigerians were fed up with the All Progressives Congress, APC, just as he warned the party to revisit its foundation if it was to survive politically.
He said: “At this juncture, I must also sound a warning to the ruling party, the APC. I was there when the APC was formed and the extent of my involvement is well-documented. As a stakeholder and, more importantly, as a nation-builder, I am obligated to state without equivocation that this is not the APC we envisaged.

“The results of the last elections were a clear indication that Nigerians are fed up with what the APC has become. According to the results released by INEC, in the presidential elections, the APC had 15.4 million votes in 2015 and 15.2 million votes in 2019, but by the 2023 elections, the APC’s support base had declined significantly to 8.8 million, with a loss of almost half of the traditional support base. ‘’If it were not for the divisions within the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the emergence of the Obidient movement of the Labour Party, LP, that split the traditional support base of the PDP, the APC would have convincingly lost the 2023 elections.

“Even now, the party’s victory as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is being challenged in court. When I consider the vision and founding spirit that birthed the APC, I cannot but conclude that the APC is losing the plot.
‘’The APC was established as a progressive party with clear motivations to establish true nationhood, eliminate corruption, oversee governance structure reforms, eradicate poverty, and facilitate economic growth.
‘’However, like its predecessor, the PDP, the APC has now become a platform for politicians who have neither conviction nor ideology and who hop from party to party seeking power at all costs. The suffering meted out to the Nigerian people as a result of anti-people policies are not what the APC once stood for.
“The APC stood for progressivism. Progressivism is characterised by substantial public investments in social sectors such as education and healthcare, and it achieves inclusiveness and social mobility by deploying political power to provide a minimum standard of living for citizens; progressivism prioritises equity, justice and inclusiveness in access to opportunities. ‘’While it facilitates a private sector-led economy, its economic growth policies are hinged on empowering the people by redistributing opportunities on the bases of fairness and equity. Progressivism is not built on trickle-down economics; instead, it is grassroots-oriented, invests in local opportunities, and builds the economy from the bottom up.
“As progressivism eradicates currency arbitrage, it would not leave the currency to float without a guarantee of domestic production, the cushioning effect of social investments, and a readiness to intervene where necessary to strengthen the local currency.
‘’As progressivism eliminates a corruption-ridden subsidy regime, it would not hesitate to boost or underwrite access to factors of production such as energy, infrastructure, and human resource in an atmosphere of transparency and accountability.
‘’A progressive approach to the subsidy conundrum would have been characterised by a phased removal of subsidy, buffered by transparent investments in local refining capacity and social welfare, while the corrupt individuals and corporations that have bled the nation are compelled to return their loots.
‘’Whereas progressivism cooperates with the international community in compliance with international economic and trade law, it would not allow the economy to drift in the ocean of one-size-fits-all recommendations by neoliberal foreign interests.
“If the APC hopes to survive as a political party in a political landscape that is becoming highly competitive, it must revisit its foundations and reinvent itself into a new party that is an
Alternative, Parallel, and Contrast, APC, to what the current party has become.
‘’While the president has tried to stabilise a rocking boat by announcing some interventions, let it be known that we cannot build a strong economy on reactionary and shifting policies. The president and his team must return to the drawing board to drive a coordinated economic programme based on the original progressive ideology of the APC.”

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