Tinubu’s Best-forgotten First Year In Office


Asked last December to comment on Bola Tinubu’s performance as President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces since May 29, 2023, Prof Wole Soyinka, first black man to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the most fervent cheerleaders of the Tinubu presidency, said he will only do so on the administration’s first anniversary.

“Well, you know, something you may have noticed about me is that most heads of state, when they take office, I always leave them alone for about the first year… because they need time. I know when they come in, they don’t start from ground zero. They often start even lower than ground zero and they have to make up. So, I’m adopting the same principle this time. When you see me next year, ask the same question again and listen to my answer,” Soyinka, who has taken up the untypical role of Tinubu’s attack dog, told journalists on December 25 when he paid the president who was holidaying in Lagos what he called an “embarrassing visit.”

The literary giant, whose primary assignment from the Tinubu government seems to be a vicious and unrelenting putdown of Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 elections with the sole purpose of demarketing him ahead of the 2027 polls, is yet to comment even as fellow citizens struggle to make sense of where the government is headed. Nigerians are patiently waiting for his take on the Tinubu presidency.

But the Jagaban, just like the proverbial lizard that jumped from the high Iroko tree to the ground and crowed that he would praise himself if no one else did, didn’t wait for Soyinka’s validation of his “exceptional exploits” in office.

While flagging-off the controversial 700-kilometre Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway on Monday, a visibly excited Tinubu said it was his day to boast.

Maybe it is. But the boasting would have been more appropriate if it was reserved for the commissioning of the project after completion. The deal cannot simply be done as he ululated because a project has been flagged-off. The deal can only be done when the project is completed and delivered to the Nigerian people.

But he was not only euphoric about the coastal highway, he also commissioned the rehabilitated Third Mainland Bridge and the concrete-paved road to the nation’s major ports in Apapa and Tin Can Island.

It is instructive that Tinubu is making a song and dance about a rehabilitated bridge. But why not? Considering the fact that the disastrous Muhammadu Buhari regime worked on the same bridge intermittently without any appreciable result, the Tinubu administration, indeed, has earned a bragging right for doing a refurbishing job on the 12.5 kilometre bridge that even their worst critics acknowledge is outstanding.

What’s more, in an era where a state governor is listing a visit to the National Security Adviser (NSA) and a courtesy call by his constituents as achievements in his first 100 days as Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi State did recently, why won’t Tinubu brag about refurbishing a bridge in his first 365 days in office?

But to say that the president has made good progress in the last one year as his spin doctors are doing is to incredulously stretch logic and common sense.

Agreed, Tinubu is entitled to his fantasies which explain his gloating while speaking to a group of investors in November 2023 at the 10th German-Nigerian Business Forum in Berlin, Germany, that his name be included in the Guinness World Records (GWR) for reforms that have made life unbearable not only for the poor but also the rich.

But beyond the grandstanding and propaganda, Nigerians, with the exception of those feeding off the crumbs from his table, agree that Tinubu’s first year in office has been a curse rather than a blessing.

The primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people as clearly spelt out in Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

So, beyond refurbishing the Third Mainland Bridge, which, to those who may have forgotten, was commissioned by President Shehu Shagari in 1980 and completed by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1990, and the reconstructed concrete-paved road leading to the Lagos seaports, a project which was financed by the Dangote Group, using its tax credits and completed before Tinubu became president, the economy is in dire straits and Nigerians are bleeding, literally, due to the actions, inactions and policy flip-flops of the Tinubu administration.

Besides, assessments cannot be made in a vacuum. Those who say Tinubu inherited a hellhole from Buhari and use that as an excuse for his abysmal performance are being smart by half.

To be sure, Tinubu knew that Buhari was a colossal failure. He was well aware that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government took Nigeria to the brink of socio-economic and political collapse, which explains why Nigerians refused to reward such dreadful performance and rejected the APC at the February 25, 2023 ballot. But the magician he is, he managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and ran away with the fraud.

Having wangled his way into Aso Rock, and knowing how badly Buhari damaged the country, he unfurled an eight-point agenda to recovery that included food security, poverty eradication, growth, job creation, access to capital, inclusion, rule of law and fighting corruption. Any assessment not anchored on this agenda is duplicitous.

Unveiling the agenda in September 2023 at the first Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting after three months of haphazardness, Tinubu said it was targeted at addressing the country’s socio-economic challenges and mandated the ministers to deliver the first phase within three years. Reminding them of the prevailing adversity, unemployment, insecurity, and poverty in the land, he said the idea was to move away from the frenzied borrowing of the Buhari regime, check the “unacceptably high” jobless rate, achieve economic growth, “prosperity for all,” and end poverty with a promise to create 50 million jobs to boot.

One of those three years has been spent and no item in the eight-point agenda was realized. Nigerians are starving, literally, and food security has become a mirage. Rather than creating 50 million jobs, millions of Nigerians have been pushed into the unemployment loop.

It couldn’t have been otherwise. The ill-digested twin policies of petrol subsidy stoppage and consequent higher pump prices, and the unification of official and parallel foreign exchange rates not only pummelled the Naira but also pushed the headline inflation to 33.69 per cent in April 2024 according to the figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on May 15. It was 22.22 per cent in April 23, a month before Tinubu came on board. Food inflation which was 24.45 per cent in March 2023 is today 40.01 per cent, a 15.56 percentage point year-on-year climb.

Rather than ebb, insecurity has spiked in the 12 months of Tinubu’s presidency. This week, some 84 civil society organisations led by Global Rights disclosed that more than 4,416 people were killed and 4,334 abducted in the last one year.

Tinubu enthused in October 2023 at the 29th Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja that the economy under his watch can grow to $1 trillion by 2026, stressing that a $3 trillion economy is possible in a decade with government ensuring “double-digit, inclusive, sustainable and competitive growth.” That remains a mirage with the GDP declining to 2.98 per cent in the first quarter of 2024. With interest rate at 26.25 per cent, access to capital for businesses is near zero.

The average Nigerian is poorer today than he was a year ago. Tinubu’s renewed hope agenda has not yielded the touted benefits. Instead, it has dragged Nigeria back to the Hobbesian state of nature in which life, to many, has become solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

If the sole purpose of government is the welfare and security of citizens, a fact which Tinubu captured in his eight-point agenda, then, he cannot claim to have achieved much, if anything at all, when there is hardly any Nigerian that can sincerely say he is better off today than a year ago.

But most worrisome is the fact that the president, like the fifth Roman emperor, Nero, who was busy playing the fiddle while Rome was consumed by fire, has perfected the inelegant art of majoring in the minor, focusing on insignificant things rather than the larger, more important issues at hand. It is quite instructive that on a day that should have been spent introspecting and seeking ideas for navigating out of the self-inflicted headwinds, the government busied itself replacing the National Anthem with the colonially bequeathed version, discarded since 1978 even as his media aides – Bayo Onanuga and Ajuri Ngelale – fight dirty. Talk of Tinubu’s best-forgotten first 365 days in office. At best, the man has been sleeping on duty.

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