A lot, for good and for ill, has happened in the country in the one month since Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor, took oath of office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Right there at the Eagle Square, Abuja, while delivering his inaugural speech on May 29, he said the nebulous fuel subsidy regime was gone. And it was. As if waiting for that pronouncement, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, on Wednesday, May 31, hiked the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, nationwide ranging from N448 in Lagos State to N557 in Borno State.
Since then, the Tinubu-led government has been on fire, literally, with a litany of policy reforms, in what some have aptly dubbed “Hurricane Tinubu.”
Two weeks after the fuel subsidy removal, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, directed Deposit Money Banks to remove the rate cap on the naira, thereby unifying the hitherto double foreign exchange rates. This not only pulled the plug on the subsidised investors and exporters window but also allowed for the floating of the national currency against the dollar and other global currencies.
Before then, the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was suspended from office and subsequently arrested by the Department of State Securities, DSS. Speaking to a group of Nigerians in Paris, France, on June 24, Tinubu said the fiscal regime Emefiele superintended was “rotten”. And most Nigerians agree that Emefiele under-performed. Although his tenure saw to the lowering of the non-performing loans of Nigerian banks from 30 per cent to below five per cent, yet inflation rate rose to over 24 per cent, naira lost over 70 per cent of its value under his watch, the effective commercial interest rate now surpasses 30 per cent, and the controversial naira redesign programme cost the already asphyxiating Nigerian economy a whopping N20 trillion in the first quarter of 2023. In fact, the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, CPPE, in its Q1 2023 report, released on July 2, claimed that Nigeria’s economic growth slowed to 2.3 per cent in the same period compared to 3.1 per cent in the previous quarter.
Aside the unification of the forex rates, Tinubu, within one month, also sacked the boards of parastatals and agencies, abolished government’s hitherto support for professional bodies, signed some executive orders and bills such as the students’ loan, electricity tariff, and the data protection bills which his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, left to gather dust on his executive indolence shelf, into law.
The same day the CBN floated the naira, Tinubu also suspended the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, over “weighty allegations of abuse of office levelled against him”. Just like in the Emefiele case, Bawa’s suspension was necessitated by the need to allow for a transparent and unencumbered investigation into his conduct while in office.
Within the same period, Tinubu also named eight Special Advisers out of the 20 the ninth Senate approved for him on June 6 at his request. Thus Nuhu Ribadu emerged as SA Security (he has since been elevated to the position of National Security Adviser, NSA; Wale Edun (Monetary Policies); Olu Verheijen (Energy); Zacchaeus Adedeji (Revenue); John Uwajumogu (Industry, Trade and Investment); Dele Alake (Communications and Strategy); Yau Darazo (Political and Intergovernmental Affairs); and Salma Anas (Health).
He has subsequently expanded the list with the appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman as Special Adviser on Policy Coordination; Hannatu Musawa (Culture and Entertainment Economy); Senator Abdullahi Gumel, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate) and Olarewaju Ibrahim, SSA on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).
But before then, he had appointed the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as Chief of Staff, and former Benue State governor, George Akume, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
With the appointment of a new Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen. C.G. Musa; acting Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun; Chief of Defense Intelligence, Maj. Gen. EPA Undiandeye; acting Comptroller General of Customs, Adeniyi Adewale, and the Service Chiefs across the three branches of the armed forces, Tinubu, it would appear, is keeping to his pledge of hitting the ground running.
While some of these weighty decisions have impacted many Nigerians negatively, even if it is in the short term as some insist, many still believe that Tinubu’s proactiveness is by far more beneficial to the polity than Buhari’s leadership lethargy in 2015.
However, many Nigerians find it curious that the same Tinubu who has been able to take these consequential decisions, not minding whose ox is gored, is finding it rather difficult to appoint ministers as he steps into his second month in office. The tentativeness of the president on that score reminds many of Buhari’s inability to appoint ministers, or noisemakers as he called them, six months after taking his oath of office. Though nobody expects Tinubu to travel the same disastrous Buhari route, most Nigerians worry that the longer he delays, the higher the risk of creating an ignoble market for unconscionable political jobbers who peddle influence and hawk political offices. Already, the media is awash with stories of desperate political office seekers who have been swindled of millions of naira by the new kids on Nigeria’s power block.
The question concentrating many discerning minds right now is whether it is true, as alleged, that the major, if not only transaction currently going on in Abuja is influence peddling by those close to President Tinubu. They are unabashedly hawking ministerial appointments, both real and fake, to gullible fortune seekers in the corridors of power. Many believe that the stories making the rounds are true. Such people aver that never in Nigeria’s history has the “business” of selling ministerial slots and other appointments been so openly brazen. Sadly, those accused of this malfeasance are people in the President’s innermost political circle.
Whether such stories are true or not, the fact remains that Nigerians, wary of the country’s recent leadership recruitment tragedy that brought the country to its knees, are becoming worried about the delay in ministerial appointments. Many had expected that a president of Tinubu’s political sagacity and experience with a huge reputation for head hunting talents would have had his ministerial list ready even before his inauguration to avoid this burgeoning cesspit of corruption and scandal. That has not happened, thus fueling the perception that the hawks have hijacked the process and charging their quarries as much as N150 million to get their name into the ministerial bogey list. The truth is that anyone who is prepared to part with such humongous amount to be made a minister is not coming to serve. That is a red flag. Even at that, many fear that what is unfolding may be worse than our experience under past governments.
They contend that under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, none of his highly educated children nor his revered Chief of Staff, General Abdullahi Mohammed, was even remotely accused of such practice. Same with President Umaru Yar’Adua’s Chief of Staff, Gbolade Osinowo, who succeeded General Mohammed on June 2, 2008 and was in office until September 18, 2008 when Yar’Adua abolished the office. In fact, only few researchers still remember his name.
Those would seem now to be the years of innocence. Today, those closest to the president have been fingered in this alleged ministerial bazaar, who, sometimes use the sacred precincts of Aso Rock as Advanced Fee Fraud – 419 – theatre.
It is even worse in the South-East where a governor, who is openly boasting that President Tinubu has outsourced the entire region to him to produce the ministers and other federal appointees, is said to have submitted three names each for the four states in the South-East (except Ebonyi State where there is an All Progressives Congress (APC) governor.
To succeed in the onerous task of retrieving Nigeria from the political doldrums of the accursed Buhari era, the Tinubu presidency needs to walk away from the shenanigans of the Aso Rock cabal that promised everyone who was foolish to be conned the APC presidential ticket at a heavy cost. We cannot afford to replace one cabal with a more pernicious one.
Enough of the ministerial bazaar in Abuja by “Mr. President’s men”.