Beyond the ‘Crudity’ of Crude Oil: An Irreversible Reality, By Oluwadele Bolutife
It is time for us as people and a nation to rediscover ourselves and speak to ourselves the not too comfortable home truth. Nigeria has no formula to halt the ravaging poverty that will be imminent, unless and unless, we take the bull by the horns, and roll up our sleeves in no deceit, and return to the trenches to fashion out for ourselves pathways though difficult…
For full disclosure, I operate in two oil-driven environments, Alberta in Canada, and Nigeria. Whereas the challenges in both places differ in context and purpose, the main thrust in difficulties are nonetheless situated within the paradigms of crude oil and its prices.
For sometimes, the main issue in Alberta is the ‘unholy’ war, as it seems, that the rest of the country is waging against the oil-rich province, with a no love indication that the oil can go to waste for all they care. The politics of pipelines is a sour taste in the mouth. Of course, the intrinsic value in the unfair treatment of Alberta and its oil is difficult to fathom, except you are immune from its ‘scotching’ effects on the wellbeing of the residents.
Contrasted to that is a case of Nigeria, with its legendary profligacy and monumental wastages in the utilization of the ‘easily’ gotten, not earned oil revenue. I have consistently argued that Nigeria only has oil, but it is not an oil-producing nation. My reason is not based on hearsay but the indisputable fact that up till this hour, there is no accurate official record of the quantum of oil that is extracted daily. We just accept the figures given to us all in the phony name of joint venture (JV) arrangement, which is neither controlled nor supervised by anyone, except perhaps the oil major themselves.
The oil majors have known with experience, where and whose palms to ‘oil’, and are always having their ways and unscrupulously imposing their will on our gullible populace. It is even a lot easier for them, in an atmosphere devoid of any known interest in accountability and probity.
For some time now, the successive government has spoken well, even organized so many of those unproductive seminars, to orchestrate a supposed diversification from oil strategy, as a means of weaning the nation from over dependency on oil. Yet, in a twist of event, that is not contradictory, but hypocritical, the national budgets have always been predicated on oil prices as a benchmark.
How do wean yourself from the fulcrum of your budgeting focus, is a question that begs for answer by all right-thinking individuals. We have been inundated by somehow ‘concocted’ statistics to show us immense progress ‘achieved’ in the diversification efforts. Numerous examples abound, but the ‘un-doctored’ reality on ‘the streets’ is that ‘the street is not smiling’ at all.
Now with the less than sharp fall in oil prices, what is going to happen to the Nigerian economy? In a four series articles published by Premium Times opinion page, I vigorously advocated for a significant shift in our budgeting system, to a more profound, purpose-driven, away from our current system of ‘cut and nail’ where figures are just assembled and given the stamp of authority to be called a national budget.
If the lifestyles of our so-called leaders are any indication that it still a long trek to ‘Uhuru’ for us, it is high time we stopped leaving in illusion that these crops of leaders will lead out us out of the wood. Some examples will suffice. Governor Ganduje caught on camera stuffing ‘hard currency’ (the almighty dollars) in his ‘voluminous attire’ did not only got it swept under the carpet, but he was also ‘rewarded’ with a second term in office. For a ‘treble’ win, he has removed the highly cerebral Sanusi as Emir.
It was also alleged that the supposed number four in hierarchy recently took no less than 300 people to Dubai, to celebrate his ninety-year-old mother. A basic calculation of the costs for transporting those alone and its hemorrhaging effects on a fragile economy is left to the imagination.
Yes, he claimed he was not spending public funds! We do know, however, that he neither inherited fortunes nor have run any successful business to give him access to such a vast resource. Plus, such is a disservice to our psyche and economy. Admittedly, Senator Dino Melaye, in his latest melodious song, confessed that to a voracious appetite just a few months after been expunged from having access to the shared ‘pot of soup.’ How did these people have access to such stupendous ‘wealth’ and wastage inclination can be traced to the readily available money from sales of our crude oil?
Perhaps, it is the crudity of the crude oil on one hand that makes them behave so crudely, or it is the easy access to it that makes it impossible for them to think right?
The unfortunate reality of crude oil price is that it can never regain its ascendancy as a golden goose that lays golden eggs. The world is moving so rapidly away from the pre-eminence of fossil fuel and its economic wands to something irreversible. Any economy that is not thinking beyond these imperatives is doing itself a disservice. There seems nothing that can be done to halt the descent of crude oil from its once envious and elevated position to ‘once upon a time’ archival and nostalgic references. It thus behooves on all policymakers in all climes that are overly dependent on crude oil to put on the uncommon cap of intellectual acumen to fashion out pathways beyond fossil fuel.
It will require just more than mere rhetoric of economic diversification to practically building blocks for new thinking, new skills, new retooling, or else, and it will be caught up with perhaps something worse off than recession.
No doubt, the Nigerian government is good at denials. The current sharp and not envisaged fall will have devastating effects on our economy. Resulting to borrowing will only help to worsen the situation, as the capacity even to service those loans will significantly diminish. On the right side, though, this may be a lifetime opportunity to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Real work this time around. It may afford us a change in the trajectory of taking a salary to earn our income. We have taken for too long that we no longer know how to make a living.
For instance, if Dino has made all the money, would he have splashed them on those luxuries, only to be resorting to begging Baba God to now come to his aid to fill his gluttonous belly, rather than using his so-called experiences as a legislator to help to fashion out better policies?
Like one governor aptly said recently, “Omo Ogun Ise ya” (Ogun state indigene it is time for real work to begin), eyin Nigerian, ise ya o! (Nigerians, it is now for real work to begin). It is time for us as people and a nation to rediscover ourselves and speak to ourselves the not too comfortable home truth. Nigeria has no formula to halt the ravaging poverty that will be imminent, unless and unless, we take the bull by the horns, and roll up our sleeves in no deceit, and return to the trenches to fashion out for ourselves pathways, though difficult, but which will usher in a new posterity if only we get it the right from the onset.
The free party is about coming to a close, if it did not end yesterday.
It is still your village boy, #JustThinkingAloud.
Oluwadele L. Bolutife, a chartered accountant and a public policy and administration scholar, writes from Canada.