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 Published January 8th, 2012

Expectedly most Nigerians have criticized and rejected the fuel subsidy removal presented as a New Year gift by the government, albeit few have supported it.  While I do not intend to delve into the nitty-gritty, criticize or justify the plausibility of the reasons touted or adduced for the hike in fuel prices, my major concern is the timing. The point must be made that even the best of policy reforms, with all the good intentions, right motives and plausible justifications, if introduced or implemented at the wrong, inauspicious or inappropriate time, are likely to boomerang and meet with a brick wall, vehement opposition and stiff resistance by the stake holders. Wrong or inappropriate timing creates a potential mine field, landmine and ‘time-bomb’ that is capable of undermining or jeopardizing the success of any policy change or reform.

Experience has shown that, in many cases, the difference or missing link between the success and failure of a policy change lies in timing. Timing is a crucial, critical and sensitive factor in determining the success or failure of any policy reform or transformational change. A positive or progressive change could loose its meaning if it is not balanced by appropriate timing. For a change to be successful and enduring, therefore, it has to be well timed. Any policy change or reform that is hastily introduced or implemented without due consideration to appropriate timing and adequate consultations with key stakeholders is not only meaningless, worthless and purposeless but also amounts to a travesty and a pipe dream which cannot stand the test of time. Effective and visionary leaders recognize that when to effect a change is as critically and strategically important as the change itself. According to the Nobel Laureate and playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka “Timing is a crucial part of leadership intelligence and sensibility”.

A truly positive change must, therefore, be time sensitive and effected with a “human face”. The change leader must ensure the right change at the right time, for the change to win the support and enjoy the acceptance of the stakeholders. This is because a good change at the wrong time is as good as a bad change which, abinitio, is a futile attempt, and, ipso facto, programmed and doomed to fail.

In this context, therefore, it will be considered insensitive, ill-conceived and ill-timed to introduce an upward change or increase in the prices of petroleum products at a time when the problems of inadequate infrastructures have not been effectively addressed. In a situation where there is poor and inefficient mode of public transportation system, as we presently have in Nigeria, coupled with widespread poverty, it will be insensitive and counter-productive to hike the price of such a strategic commodity as fuel, as this is likely to shoot-up the cost of public transportation which is majorly used by the vulnerable mass majority of the populace. Concomitantly, an increase in the cost of transportation will have a snow-ball or spill-over effect on the cost of consumer items which are mainly distributed via the transportation system thereby engendering cost-push or consumer price inflation with the attendant socio-economic costs. This will further escalate and exacerbate the level of poverty with the resultant worsening and aggravation of the level of tension and insecurity in the country.

The increase in price (removal of subsidy) of petroleum products, at this point in time, is to say the list, inimical, iniquitous, injudicious and untenable as this will have adverse and deleterious effect on the well-being of average Nigerians. Apart  from offending the sensibilities of the Nigerian people [at a time they are going through some excruciating and debilitating economic difficulties], the removal of fuel subsidy, without any form of intervention or social safety net (“human face”) by the government to mitigate the possible hardships, cushion the likely inconveniences and alleviate the initial adverse or harmful effects, will cause the critical mass of our people, especially the under privilege, downtrodden and vulnerable class in the society to feel disempowered, disenchanted and cheated (rightly and understandably so) and may consequently revolt, savage and resist the change, as we are presently witnessing.

Finally, let me sound a note of caution and make it abundantly clear to our leaders, that it is delusional and indeed a grave mistake, fallacy and misconception to believe that they can introduce or implement policy reforms without considering appropriate timing, peculiarities and realities on ground as well as their compatibility with the mood, feelings, demands, wishes, hopes, expectations, yearnings and aspirations of the people – for whose benefit the policies or reforms are supposedly meant in the first place – and expect the change to succeed. Such leaders must be living in fool’s paradise! Indeed such a scenario or situation clearly shows that there is a gulf or disconnect between the leadership and the people which in itself is a major hindrance to change.


Kayode Oluwa, President, Academy for leadership and change management, wrote vide 4c Femi Okunu estate, Phase 2, Lekki, Lagos. He can be contacted on   08033233844 or 

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