When in 1999 President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as President of Nigeria, one of his intentions was to create a state-backed Nigeria enterprise that could compete with multinationals anywhere in the globe. So, Mr Obasanjo encouraged what came to be known as Corporate Nigeria. Many enterprising Nigerian businessmen were brought close to the seat of government. Many used the opportunity to carve for themselves business empires.
Instead of seeking sectoral benefits for the organised private sector, they sought concessions and waivers for their businesses and cronies. Down the line, members of Corporate Nigeria floated Transnational Corporation of Nigeria.
Nigerians thought that these men will seek the overall benefit of the nation and make the company work. Rivalries and board squabbles crippled Transcorp and it had to be sold out.
When Yar’adua became president, many of these big boys who are today’s cabal, almost went bankrupt and could not pay their bills. Unfortunately, President Yar’adua took ill and eventually died.
At the death of Yar’adua, these men resurfaced and rallied round President Jonathan. They were not only close to the President, they became members of his economic team. Instead of seeking the welfare and general progress of the nation and the economy, they once again went in for the kill.
This time in the name of membership of Economic Management Team, they shared available positions and took over the commanding heights of the economic sector where they operate. Those in the oil sector became oil merchants. Importation of petroleum products took the place of local refining. They imported and sold to government and fuel subsidy became a racket and jobs for the boys.
The President and the Minister of Petroleum Resources were taken hostage by the selfish and anti-people advice from these self-styled overnight economists. Instead of insisting on reviving the refineries, they saw it better and cheaper to import petroleum products all in an attempt to enrich themselves. Tank farms sprung up here and there. At the last count, over 82 portfolio businesses were importing fuel and claiming subsidy.
President Jonathan at a point not knowing what to do to these men, called them a cabal that has hijacked the fuel importation and distribution process. This cabal last week showed their true colour in the name of oil marketers by holding the nation to ransom. They refused to distribute fuel on the ground that government owed them. What was at stake was the fact that there was an exchange rate differential of about N159 billion.
The same oil marketers and depot owners who are the creation of successive administrations in the country got together to sabotage free flow of fuel in the country. These men who were the principal actors in the fuel scarcity saga were driven by profit and inordinate ambition to unduly benefit from fuel subsidy fund.
In the bid to make money, oil marketers and depot owners threw caution to the wind and stood between the people and free flow of fuel in the country. This explains why the country was enmeshed in scarcity of the product with attendant fuel queues at filling stations few weeks to the crucial inauguration of a new government.
To show the extent this cabal has entrenched themselves in the system, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is now using private depots to store fuel, a development that gives owners of the facilities undue advantage to create scarcity of the product at their whims.
NNPC shamelessly abandoned its own depots and allowed them to rot while patronising depots owned by the cabal. Why did NNPC opt for private depot to store its imported petrol? Besides, the Federal Government ought to have brought back the ailing refineries, by ensuring that their turnaround maintenance was done.
If the refineries were working and all the depots and storage facilities were in order, no cabal could have had the effrontery to hold the nation to ransom. Since the last days of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory, the five-letter word ‘cabal’ has become a popular syllable in our political lexicon. It is a word that connotes a secret intrigue by a group of people engaged in a secret political agenda.
The monstrous group tagged cabal is deep- rooted in government, thus making input into the economic policy of the state through channels camouflaged as Organised Private Sector and Economic Management Team of the Jonathan Administration. This is contrary to the make-believe posturing by government that the groups are faceless.
They are not. They are notable business tycoons in and out of government. As long as the status quo remains, it is doubtful if any government would ever muster enough courage to put a check on the cabal if it continues being errant. The muscle flexed last week by the group has shown that it has the capacity to cause enormous distortions in the polity if the government of the day decides to show any measure of altruism.
If things ever get out of hand, the cabal which is more of a creation of government, could assume the dimensions of global notorious mafias. It is left for President Mohammadu Buhari to decide how to handle this mafia before they cripple his government also.