Soyinka speaks on fuel scarcity, Buhari’s 1977 statement

Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka [Photo:]

A Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Saturday said he wished Nigerians less miseries in the new year.

Mr. Soyinka also called on the Nigeria government to end the current fuel scarcity in the country rather than resort to blame passing.

The Nobel laureate in a New Year message on Saturday said government must not be fooled by the quietness in major cities, adding that Nigerians are going through pains to get petroleum products.

“In the accustomed tradition, I wish the nation less misery in the coming year. A genuine Happy New Year greeting is probably too extravagant a wish,” Mr. Soyinka wrote Saturday.

In the message titled, “Blame passing: The New Year Gift to a Nation,’’ he cited the viral newspaper clipping of the 1977 edition of the Daily Times newspaper when then minister of petroleum and natural resources, Muhammadu Buhari, was quoted as saying, “Fuel crisis may be over next year.”

He recounted what he experienced at filling stations when he travelled through Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta, describing the situation as traumatising.

“Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint – hearted,” Mr. Soyinka wrote of efforts to get fuel around the cities.

“Just getting past fuelling stations was traumatising, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better.

“I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long -suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centres. It is time the reporting monitors of government moved to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen!”

The Nobel laureate argued that pronouncements such as the one contained in the 1977 Daily Times newspaper’s viral headline are “a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence.”

He described it as attempts to buy time and pass blame, adding that the current hike must be remedied quickly.

Of the 1977 newspaper clipping, Mr. Soyinka said, “When many of us are blissfully departed, an updated rendition of this same clipping – with a change of cast here and there – will undoubtedly be reproduced in the media, with the same alibis, the same in -built panacea of blame passing.”

He explained that apart from the current fuel crisis, there had been other challenges requiring immediate fix, among which he said was the call for ‘restructuring’ of the nation.

Mr. Soyinka said he wonders what happened to initiatives by different states of the federation to create their own energy sources, saying such moves had been sabotaged by the federal government.

“Just to think laterally for a moment – what became of the initiatives by some states nearly two decades ago – Lagos most prominently – to decentralize power, and thus empower states to generate and distribute their own energy requirements?

“Frustrated and eventually sabotaged in the most cynical manner from the federal centre!” he lamented.

“As the tussle for the next round of power gets hotter in the coming year,” Mr. Soyinka wrote, “The electorate will again be manipulated into losing sight of the base issue … Sooner than later, but not as soon as pledged, the fuel crisis will pass.

“And then, of course, we shall await the next round of shortages, then a recommencement of blame passing.”

In an apparent reference to the nation’s perennial lack of basic amenities, the Nobel laureate lamented that despite the nation’s abundant resources, nothing is beyond shortage.

“What will be the commodity this time – food perhaps? Maybe even potable water? In a nation of plenty, nothing is beyond eventual shortage – except, of course, the commonplace endowment of pre-emptive planning and methodical execution,” Mr. Soyinka concluded.

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