Is Tinubu’s Eldorado a Mirage?; By Zainab Suleiman Okino

BY NOW, it should be clear to all that no one is safe from bad government policies, including its cheerleaders. The effects of a wrong-headed approach to governance is evident in every home, on every plate of food (if any), the quality of living; even on Abuja’s now near empty streets, and the near collapse of small-scale businesses. We all bear the brunt of ill-advised and ill-timed policies, as recently enunciated by the new government of President Bola Tinubu.

In contrast, the convoy of over 100 cars in the president’s recent movement in Lagos, the almost 50 SUVs seen earlier during his triumphant return to Abuja in preparation for the inauguration; the governors’ and lawmakers’ convoys, numerous aides and the flamboyance, lavish lifestyle, waste associated with them and their retinue – of staff, family members, appointees – all show the polarity in the lives of those in authority and the governed.

The stratified society being created by dimming the hope of Eldorado that Nigerians had thought the new president represents, speaks volumes, from his actions so far. Welcome to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s republic. Within one month of his coming to power, everything has nosedived, for worse. The initial euphoria of ‘an action government’ has since given way to disillusionment. Replacing President Muhammadu Buhari, who took almost six months to appoint some principal staff, with the same dullness dogging his government in eight years, the Tinubu regime was ushered in with open hands and excitement because he was at least proactive, having taken some salient actions and made key appointments early in the day. How good or bad those decisions are, are now measured and talked about in every home, office or street corner in the country.

Tinubu told us to tighten our belts and make sacrifices for the country. He removed petrol subsidy, the last semblance of government impact in the lives of the people, and floated the naira almost in one fell swoop, with devastating consequences.

These twin actions erased all pretensions about renewing our hopes in good governance, because there was no iota of thought for the poor. Normally, before a new government unleashes terror, it tries to cuddle and romance the people with some positive vibes in friendly policy pronouncements, as a means of appreciation. No, not with Tinubu. From the get go, he has shown the ugly signs of things to come. The cancellation of the official forex rate has raised the naira beyond the black-market rate that he inherited.

I am not an economic analyst, but as a practical and realistic player in the Nigerian street economic system, my experience of the last few days is proof that the government has fleeced us. Tinubu cancelled multiple exchange rates and unified the same. On paper. For instance, if you want any hard currency like dollars or pounds, you still have to purchase it at the black-market rate (which is still multiple). Yet, you still have to go through CBN’s Import and Export (I&E) window using Form A. What is the point of the Form A again (supposedly the official market rate window of the previous government), while there is no facilitation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and you still have to buy dollars from the black market and process these through a domiciliary account? The only reason I guess is to enable you and I to pay tax to a government that has abdicated its responsibility of protecting and managing the nation’s fiscal and monetary policies? In simple terms, citizens are made to pay for services not rendered by the CBN, in addition to bank charges.

Meanwhile, the much-talked about palliatives to cushion the effect of the new policy measures may soon become stale. If it was so easy to pronounce by fiat that ‘subsidy is gone’, why is it so difficult to pronounce palliatives into instant action? Is it when more Nigerians have been pushed further down the poverty level as predicted by the World Bank, which observed that further 7.1 million more poor Nigerians will be added to the 130 million dimensionally poor, that the palliatives will come? Wouldn’t that be medicine after death?

Meanwhile countries of the West, which we love to copy blindly, still subsidise and offer palliatives to their citizens. In a Bloomberg report of November 2022, it was revealed that the German government was going to spend €83.3 billion to subsidise the 2023 energy prices. The subsidies will cover the cost of gas and district heating, and reduce the cost of electricity for households and businesses, to protect them from “higher energy prices”. It was also disclosed in the same report that governments across the Euro area have spent €200 billion to support energy and economic output. Not doing the above is tantamount to committing mass murder in Europe, considering their inclement weather. But for Nigeria, the impunity of those who govern us is celebrated, even more by those oppressed and or impacted adversely.

In his weekly column in Tribune, Professor Farooq Kperogi noted that the US government subsidises and gives palliatives as a form of social service, despite officials’ involvement in corruption, maintaining that instead of stopping the palliatives, the government fights the inherent corruption in the application of the palliatives. Contrary to this logic, what the Tinubu government has done so far is to condone corruption and allow those involved in forex exchange and fuel subsidy scams to go scot-free. The vulnerable is punished for the infractions of the rich, while the poor wallows in more misery.

By his action so far, we have an idea of the colour of the Tinubu government and its direction in the coming days. Are you surprised that the new government is yet to make concrete statements concerning the twin challenges of corruption and insecurity plaguing the country and the possibility of the local refining of crude? What is his position on our comatose refineries and over 70 registered modular refineries? The new government should have gotten those refineries working before subsidy removal. I do like the electricity bill that he signed into law. States and groups now have the opportunity to generate their own power without recourse to the federal government.

Instead, Tinubu has created more damage and confusion in the system, while doing more politically correct things such as board dissolutions, key personnel appointments, dealing with fuel and forex matters, and the removal of CBN governor Emefiele and EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa, which analysts say bordered on personal vendetta.

Yet, it is no brainer that refining locally, ordering manufacturers of highly utilised goods such as car and phone companies to establish their plants here if they want to operate in the Nigerian market, etc., that will create employment opportunities for citizens, reduce fuel prices, and stabilise forex to a certain extent and draw hard currencies back home.

On security, our story has not changed. At least 123 deaths have occurred since Tinubu’s inauguration, according to Isa Sanusi, Acting Nigeria Director of Amnesty International.

To be honest, Tinubu has his job cut out for him, and Nigerians were eager and even impatient for a life-changing experience, as contained in his policy documents and espoused by his minders. Asking for more time and sacrifice is no elixir to our pain. As president now, Tinubu lives on the state, which provides all his needs. He doesn’t pay for electricity, accommodation or transportation. His security is guaranteed; his wellbeing (and healthcare) is on the state, as against the citizens who struggle daily to eat. What kind of sacrifice will he make as a Nigerian, not as president, because we know that in Nigeria leadership takes and manages everything? We have the right to know.

Already, Tinubu has lost the euphoria and initial advantage going for him. Going forward, he may have to do a lot to mitigate the negative impacts of his initial policies to prove his doubters wrong and make meaningful impact in a bleeding country. It will be too bad to associate his regime with only enriching the rich and further pauperising the poor.

Hajiya Suleiman-Okino is the chairperson of Blueprint Editorial Board. She is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE). She can be reached via:

Adadainfo is an online newspaper reporting Nigerian news. Email: Phone: 08071790941

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