Fair is fair: Bola Tinubu did not cause the economic crisis. We need to acknowledge that from the get-go. He inherited a massive debt from an administration who piled it on, right up to 24 hours before it checked out of office.
Tinubu was installed in power in anation on a moral nose-dive. An economy in parlous degeneracy. An insecure nation at the edge of widespread domestic terrorism and public revolt. It was already foretold: whoever took over from Buhari was going to inherit the carcass of a nation.
It required that such a person possessed the mental and physical energy to work something close to magic, in order to pull Nigeria from the ledge. It is going to be slow but steady work. The keyword there is “steady.” But that’s what’s the problem.
In the two months following Bola Tinubu’s unconstitutional inauguration – and I need to emphasize this again and again, because the only way a President can legally be inaugurated is if the result of the Presidential result is fully, legally settled – the man has flip-flopped from one misstep to the other. Tinubu was imposed on Nigeria by Buhari, who handed him hot potatoes as part of his exit plans.
Tinubu’s presidency is burdened thus, not only with a legitimacy crisis, but also with the problem of strategic capacity. He is currently governing without an Executive Council. It has taken over two months to send a ministerial list to the National Assembly, and from the hints of the names on that list, it is seems like a congeries of snakes and serpents, if we are to believe Shehu Sani.
Same old political jobbers who have really nothing more to offer Nigeria. We cross our fingers, of course, but we must note that if the initial steps already taken by Tinubu is evidence of the direction of his presidency, should the courts even affirm him, then Nigerians are in for a very violent ride on the Black Maria called Nation. Take the example of the Palliative announced by Tinubu and his economic team. It is what can now be called the “Bala-Blu palliative” because it does not make sense.
On the very day he was inaugurated as president, the man they call Jagaban promptly announced the end of the controversial Fuel subsidy. It was a campaign issue.
All the candidates had pledged a review of this very shady program which had bilked money from the Nigerian treasury and enriched just a few cronies of presidents, some of whom, according to an insider’s insider, Isa Yuguda, had actually gone to President Buhari to plead with him to end the perfidy because, to quote these oligarchs: “we are tired of making money.” Subsidy removal was on every plate because, frankly, Nigerians could not feel the direct impact of the so-called subsidy; it was a dark tunnel operation, and it was what the Labour Party Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi described as an “Organized Crime.” It was indeed all that. But there was another side to this move: it was pragmatic and urgent. The coffers of the Nigerian government is virtually empty.
Debts have piled up.
The cost of government has risen. Tax droughts, corruption and poor management of Nigeria’s public finance was closing off government’s revenue stream. The only avenue to generate revenue to continue to fund government, was to lop off the head of the serpent called “Fuel Subsidy.” The trouble is, when Nigerians clamoured for the removal of fuel subsidy, they actually meant the reform of the subsidy regime. Not its ending. As the Labour Party candidate said, subsidy removal was on the table, but it had to be done after considering and fully securing an alternative to the kind of general welfare program necessary for the wellbeing of Nigerians.
The fuel Subsidy had to be rethought, but not without a plan. And right there was the problem for Mr. Tinubu. On his inauguration, he announced the immediate removal of the subsidy. But he had no plan. Quickly, prices spiraled. The cumulative effect of that policy, without the cushioning plans, has been horrendous. Food prices; cost of energy; price of public transportation, all spiraled out of the reach of Nigerians. Inflation is in a gallop. It should of course have been anticipated.
But the Tinubu government is not a quick-thinking type. It huffs. It puffs. It is empty on real solutions. In reaction to the public backlash from the effects of his economic policy, Tinubu’s administration quickly announced its plan to distribute N8,000 as “conditional cash transfer” to twelve million poorest Nigerians for a period of six months. That comes roughly to N50, 000. It feels like a joke. But if it is joke, not many are laughing. Real Nigerians are not amused. There are many questions about the process for identifying and selecting recipients of this transfer, and about the general lack of National Infrastructure for Welfare Administration. Many have pointed out the problem of transparency, given the experience of the criminal scam conducted under the Buhari administration as Welfare programs and cash transfers. Besides all that is the question: What can N8,000 do to alleviate poverty? It does not even qualify as pittance. It is a joke. What is needed is a better designed, better-funded relief initiative that will allow impoverished Nigerians to truly breathe. Lift the pall of institutional poverty.
Never mind that Senator Godswill Akpabio was caught on TV mocking Nigerians, who are saying, “Let the Poor Breathe.” That plea was turned into mockery by Mr. Akpabio because, apparently, the impoverishment of Nigerians is a great source of amusement for Akpabio and his party, the APC. Akpabio has nothing to worry about, against a backdrop of a National Assembly which had approved for itself N70 billion for the welfare of Lawmakers, even as those who elected them suffer hellishly. The garish lifestyle of the likes of Akpabio, riding around in bullet-proof SUVs and in long convoys, demonstrate a very disturbing lack of empathy and awareness of the conditions that ordinary Nigerians have been forced to endure.
The Buhari administration destroyed the economy of Nigeria, corrupted every public institution, and impoverished Nigerians beyond measure. That is the legacy of Buhari and the APC. Its continuation by this Tinubu APC-led government is not only insensitive, it is an affront to Nigerians.So far, Mr. Tinubu in his conducts, body language, and emerging policies have not indicated that he is going to reduce the cost of government; rein-in corruption, or stabilize Nigeria through the rule of law.
An important factor for my unease is what happened in the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Wednesday at the arraignment of the quondam governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele. In flagrant, and startling defiance of an order of a High Court judge properly made, who had released the embattled CBN governor to the custody of the Correctional Services, pending when he would post his bail, officers of the Department of State Security (DSS), moved to re-arrest him. What followed was a disagreement, resulting in an embarrassing public scuffle between the DSS and the Nigerian Correctional Services. A team of the men of the DSS had not only publicly rough handled an officer of the Correctional Services, but as videos of the incident showed, some of the men had cocked their guns inside the court room threatening to shoot people inside the court. This is unprecedented.
A number of issues arise from this incident. First, is the needless persecution of Godwin Emefiele who is still officially the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, until his term expires. I need to stress it here, Mr. Emefiele was a key part of the Buhari administration, and I have no personal sympathies for him. If in carrying out his function, he broke the law, he should be properly tried, and held accountable. But if he executed orders as authorized by the President to whom he answered, then it is about time to summon that president to court also. Why? Because there was nothing Emefiele did without the express sanction of the president. There was no policy of the CBN he issued alone. The Central Bank has an Executive Board, all of whom were party to bank policy. To selectively target Mr. Emefiele is clearly the real meaning of a witch hunt, and it breaks the law. The order to arrest and detain Emefiele is illegal, and amounts to misuse of power. Why? Because it is abusing the privilege of the office of the president to target a political opponent. It is impeachable conduct.
The use of the DSS to do this dirty work is even more disturbing. It has reduced the DSS to police duties. The DSS is not constituted as a Police authority and has no police powers. It is established as a secret service. It should in fact, not have a detention facility. Officers of the DSS are supposed to be invisible, and to be above the fray of party politics. The fact that the DSS has embarked on this increasingly embarrassing show of shame now requires that the National Assembly investigate it, and possibly dismantle and defund it, and from its ashes, rebuild a proper, professional, competent National Secret Service for Nigeria.