By Lateef Adewole
In Nigeria, the last one or few weeks have been eventful. Nigeria is what can be called ‘one day one drama’. There is never a dull moment. For some days now, things have been happening so fast that it’s breathtaking to catch up with them. And they have put a huge test on President Tinubu’s leadership capacity. Nigerians were keen to see how he handled the series of the events.
The verdict as to how well Tinubu has done so far is subjective. As at today, looking at the overall situation in Nigeria on face value, many will conclude that Tinubu’s administration has not done well or met their expectations. When we consider the economic challenges that people are facing, the hardship and pains brought by some decisions and actions of the government. Chiefs among them were the twin of petrol subsidy removal and the unification of the exchange rates.
These two difficult decisions, made by President Tinubu at his inauguration, have shaped the country ever since. A country that rely so much on petrol to run and survive responded to the consequential price spike. This in turn, drove every other thing up, pushing prices of goods and services to unprecedented level. The economy is majorly import dependent. Nigeria import almost everything, including the petroleum products, despite being an oil producing country.
The implication of this was that the official exchange rate at which many goods, like the petroleum products, were brought in, went up, thereby causing increase in the landing cost of the goods. Although, the aim of that policy decision was to bridge the gap between the former official rates and the parallel market rates, which used to be as high as N300 per dollar or more. Unfortunately, after initial gain in reducing the arbitrage margin, the parallel market started to shift upward too and widening the margin again.
Majority of requests for foreign exchange couldn’t be met by the CBN through the official window at official rate, this then mean that people are compelled to patronise the black market, at higher rates. Importers of consumable goods, equipment, items for manufacturing and raw materials in some instances, all affected by the high dollar exchange rate. This cost is then passed down to final consumers, who happen to be the masses, in form of high cost of goods in the market, hence, the high cost of living and hardship being faced by the populace. On this premise, many concluded that the present administration has not done well, and they used it to guage Tinubu’s leadership capacity as well.
To put everything in context, the administration is about seven month old. Is that period enough to evaluate if a government has done well or not? Is that period sufficient to conclude on the capacity of the president? Personally, I will say no. Again, majority hardly make effort to found out the background of whatever is happening. What could have informed those decisions made by the president at the time he made them? Why did he have to make them at such time? Didn’t he weigh the implications of such? And so on.
Most Nigerians are low information citizens. What borders us is our basic existential needs. We have given our sovereignty to those we put in political offices and entrusted them to do right by us. This makes us not to pay attention to deeper issues surrounding whatever government is doing. When the new government complained of precarious fiscal situation of the country, many saw such as excuse. However, with many events that have been unfolding and the huge revelations concerning malfeasance that appointees of previous administration perpetrated, reality of that is hitting home.
With the submission of the report of the Special Investigator, Mr. Jim Obazee, which revealed many things that we did not imagine could happened, how the country was turned to bazaar by the custodian of our national treasury, the former CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, his deputies, top officials of the central bank and their external collaborators. The allegations levied against them are unbelievable. Money were moved recklessly, with impunity. Round-tripping of dollars to make insane money to their private pockets. And so on.
One shocking revelation was how four banks were illegally acquired by the proxies of Emefiele using these illicit funds. One of them was even said to have been acquired at zero cost. How did all that happen when there was a government in place, and a president who was alive? The affected banks are Union Bank, Titan Bank, Plc, Keystone Bank Plc, and Polaris Bank. The ownerships of these banks were invited to give them fair hearing but they did not honour the invitation. This has led to the implementation of the recommendation of the Special Investigator that the banks should be taken over by the federal government.
Sincerely, when I read that part of the report, I never thought it was something a Tinubu administration would be able to do. Surprisingly, three days ago, that was precisely what was done. The federal government, through the CBN, took over the banks, sacked the boards of these banks, and appointed new boards to manage them on behalf of government. I could not believe my ears.
Let me confess this, even while I believe in Tinubu’s capacity to deliver the country and turn things around, reason for my total support before, during and after the election, and up till date, I did not see him as being someone who will fight any corruption. And that worried me then. I had my reasons. I wrote this copiously in some of my articles at the time. Whenever I gave my reasons for backing his candidacy to become the president, fighting corruption was never one them.
In fact, I worried that corruption could escalate further under him. Not after the unprecedented level of corruption that took place under a Buhari, ‘Mr. Clean’, who was generally considered to be the “anti-corruption czar”. He was touted to have zero tolerance for corruption and bad behaviours, which were sold to Nigerians before 2015. Sadly, it all turned out to be lies. The worst corruption in the history of Nigeria so far, happened under his watch. How then could I have imagined that Tinubu will fight any corruption?
My reasons being, one, he is a powerful politician in Nigeria. I have since, come to conclusion about corruption generally in Nigeria and I do ask: who is not corrupt in Nigeria? To now be a politician in a corrupt society, it is almost impossible not to have your hands soiled. This is my conclusion and anyone who disagrees with me will have to prove themselves. Which politician is clean in Nigeria today?
Two, his journey to the presidency was tortuous and complicated. Before and during the campaigns, whenever I watched him having series of meetings with various interest groups across the country as he tried to win them to support his ambition, I did wonder how much compromises must have gone into such agreements. The concessions he would have agreed to and the likes. In Nigeria, everybody, every group; ethnic, religious, social, political and traditional, all have “selfish” interests they want protected.
In that process, the hands of the candidate could have been tied against doing so many things that can jeopardise such interests. At that time, these gave me worries about him and his administration if he eventually wins. The election came and he won. He has been in power for seven months, and I can say with all sincerity, he shocked me. To have announced the petrol subsidy removal and the unification of the exchange rates on the first day in office was my greatest shock. I couldn’t believe it.
As someone in Oil and Gas sector for over two decades, that petrol subsidy regime was a cash cow of some ‘cabal’ in the industry and government. And cancelling of other associated payments for bridging of petrol across the county by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), which was riddled with fraud, just like subsidy itself. These were sources of illicit funds to this ‘cabal’ and have made many very rich, without any serious visible work. The replica of this is found in the forex arbitrtage business in the financial sector, regulated by the CBN. So, taking on these two monsters simultaneously was huge for me. He vindicated my opinion of him of having gut.
While we kept telling people that Tinubu remained one person who could take on the task of leading Nigeria out of the doldrums, his traducers disagreed vehemently. They cite every little wrong they could find about him as their reason and use it to attack him. However, the last one week turned the tide so much so that it will take a hardened sadist not to appreciate what President Tinubu has done, and the actions he has taken on several issues that reared their ugly heads and confronted him. He rose to the occasion and proved to be the man that some of us believed he was.
Those who are sincere among the opposition and who try to be as objective as possible, and not driven by poisonous resentment and hate for his person, have been publicly praising him. This did not exempt his most prominent opposition leader, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who praised his recent decisions. The allegations of mismanagement of funds within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation have been the hottest issue in the week. While the probe of Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, the former Minister in that minstry was going on about N37 billion naira she was accused of looting, another one surfaced, which was leveled against Hajia Halima Shehu, the CEO of National Social Intervention Programme Agency (NSIPA), who was also accused of diverting N44.8 billion to private accounts.
Before we could recover from these two, another one came out about the new Minister, Betta Edu. It was alleged that she moved N585m, Renewed Hope Grant for Vulnerable Group, to a private account. Being a serving minister, all hell let loose. Subsequently, some other infractions allegedly committed by her, were unearthed and circulated on social media. She was the former woman leader of APC. She was very active during the presidential campaign, travelled with the team all over the country, organised women and youths to galvanise support for Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate. It is safe to say that she is close to the president, one way or the other. Her youthfulness, at just 37, was an advantage. She is agile and brilliant. It was no surprise that President Tinubu appointed her into that position. She was the youngest minister in his cabinet.
Therefore, when those allegations broke out, all eyes were on Tinubu. Everyone was waiting for what he would do, given where we were coming from in the previous eight years where such allegations were easily allowed to slide, no matter how much dust the people raised. That must have given all the appointees the temerity to commit all those criminalities that are now being exposed. Surprisingly, President Tinubu swiftly ordered her suspension and directed that she reports to EFCC for further investigation. That was new. These decisions have raised the profile of the president and earned him much accolades. These are things I never really put as part of my criteria to support him. So, I was pleasantly surprised and happy that he is living up to the bidding.
The two other women accused of fraud in the last and current administration are also answering questions in EFCC. Another Minister, Bello Tunji-Ojo, whose former company was said to have gotten a contract from Betta’s ministry, was also summoned by the president. Although, he denied any knowledge or involvement in the contract. He was on Channels Television on Monday to clear his name, with various evidences to prove he and his wife, had resigned as directors of the company five years ago when he ventured into politics as a member of the House of Representatives. For me, that exonerated him, though, his enemies are hell bent on roping him in. He has been the “star minister” of this administration, with laudable reforms, impressive progress and achievements in various agencies under him, especially the Immigration Service. So, it is not impossible that those he has blocked from their bad ways within the MDAs are working hard to get him out.
There are several decisions that Tinubu has taken that have tested his leadership capacity. They have portrayed his government as no-nonsense, proactive, sensitive and listening one. He directed the clearing of Life Insurance benefits of fallen heroes outstanding since 2011, which amounted to N18bn. Same as the outstanding payments that were due to the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles and coaches, N12bn. Infrastructures are getting attention with funds released for them. Ajaokuta Steel is in focus with the Chinese company, Luan Steel Holdings’ plan to build new steel plant and start manufacturing of military hardware there, in a $10bn investment.
After COP28 which generated a lot of criticism for the size of delegation that attended, the president has now directed a drastic cut in the number of people in his entourage whenever he travels within and outside the country. Same as that of the vice president, Senator Kashim Shettima and their wives. This will cascade down to all the people in both public and civil service. The allowances to everyone was also cut by 60%. This is a cost saving measure in public spending. We hope these extend to other arms of government and the lower levels of government at states and local governments. Some might say it is tokenism but we must start from somewhere. Little drops make an ocean.
His political strength and sagacity were also tested with the brewing crisis in Ondo and Rivers states few months back, and he rose to the occasion. Although, Rivers is a PDP state, he didn’t look at it from partisan position but from the view of solving problem and stemming crisis from erupting. Peace has been reasonably restored to the state after his interventions, which were still criticised by his opponents who had wished the crisis boiled over and escalated. Politics taken too far.
That was how the tension in Ondo state was also doused with his interventions before the permanent solution happened with the eventual passing of the former governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). May his soul rest in peace. At international level too, in Sierra Leone, a crisis that could have thrown that country into turmoil due to a failed coup attempt was nipped in the bud by President Tinubu’s swift intervention. Former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who was accused of being involved and charged for treason, has been given a temporary asylum in Nigeria while the issue gets resolved. That was a test of leadership and courage. There are many other things too numerous to mention. I could see that he has settled down to do his job.
All these that I have highlighted may be seen to not mean much to some people. That is only if we have forgotten what we went through in those eight harrowing years under Buhari. That would amount to collective amnesia. I was a vocal critic of all that was going wrong throughout his tenure. I was labelled as anti-Buhari, anti-APC or opposition writer. That did not deter me. All I was shouting about then are now coming out. So, I can’t forget. And any leader who does things contrary to that era, I will appreciate him or her.
The road is still long. The journey is still far. President Tinubu has almost 40 months in his term. He has promised a lot. Nigerians are waiting anxiously for him to fulfil those promises. The promise of shared prosperity, better and greater future for all. He has continued to implore that we be patient and give him time for his reforms to take root, we hope these will bring out good fruits after the shoots have grown up. Right now, “pressure ti wa”. Government must hasten to come to our aide. Nigerians are suffering!
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
Adewole can be reached through Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and +2348036034685