In 2019, I published ‘The Job Is for Asiwaju Tinubu’ in this column. I have no affiliations to Tinubu, and I owe him or his protégés or empire nothing. I took my position on the platform of what he did in Lagos and his political consistency over the years. He built bridges and wasn’t a bridge ‘jumper’ like Atiku, who had done carpet-crossing in searching for his lost presidency.
As a Nigerian, I chose Tinubu based on experience and a few things I knew about him. A newspaper editor who had a working relationship with Ahmed or Adekunle Tinubu said he is a genius who is a dangerous listener when he closes his eyes. So, Nigerians should be aware that Tinubu is not sleeping when you see him closing his eyes at a public function. He listens intensively and creatively and can recap what everyone has said while his eyes are closed.
To me, he is a deep-rooted and seated person. One, he knows the right timing to strike. That could be the only reason to have allowed Buhari’s presidency despite his grip on the platform. He is a strategist, which is why he said when questioned about his choice for a Muslim vice-presidential candidate by CAN. He said, ‘I must bake a cake before I can share it. I must win the election, and that was why he chose a Muslim from the north.’
All the elections are over, and it is time to start judging Tinubu based on his policy and outcome for Nigerians. To some, it is too early to judge this administration, given that no one can sleep with his two eyes with a pending case in the Supreme Court. However, Tinubu started his presidency by making many decisions, which I can categorise into two broad lines. The economy and the political structure of Nigeria. They are both intertwined and influence each other.
The removal of the petroleum subsidy was first proposed by the Jonathan administration, with Sanusi Lamido and Ngozi Iweala being the proponents canvassing for it far and wide. We put political sentiments into it and drown Jonathan in the 2015 election. Buhari came into power, and for eight years, he never removed the subsidies despite the acknowledgement of it as one of the greatest economic scams and frauds in Nigeria. I would like to know the difference between the subsidy scheme and the works of the Yahoo boys that the EFCC had made its significant callings. We are pursuing the more petty thieves and overlooking the bigger ones.
Why was it that Buhari didn’t remove the subsidy in eight years and left it on until 2023? Why do we ditch the right things for the deception of people? I can understand Buhari not removing the subsidy in his first term. The politicians in Nigeria focus on the next election, not the next generation or the economy. They do things to accede to the interest of the powerful political institutions that guarantee their continuity in office. The only exception to the politics of the second term is El-Rufai who sacked many teachers in his first term as a governor in Kaduna state without fear of the consequences of his re-election ambitions.
Nigerians will not pardon his decisions except the Naira gains traction, the cost of living and inflation are reduced, and the standard of living improves
On the economy, Tinubu came as fearless, taking the tough decisions we had abandoned for years at the likely detriment of his political future. He had floated the Naira, which caused immediate hardship for the people waiting for a change in story. We all know that nothing goes up and returns down in the economy of Nigeria. So, for a president to be bold enough to take those steps is an alien decision in Nigeria, especially from the politicians who want to remain relevant and in office. Is Tinubu not afraid of not being voted for the second term?
The future will judge the president’s decision to liberalise the economy. Nigerians will not pardon his decisions except the Naira gains traction, the cost of living and inflation are reduced, and the standard of living improves. One thing the future and history will do is acknowledge Tinubu’s decisiveness as a leader who took the steps avoided by his predecessors. At any time in a nation’s development, there must come someone who can put his future on the line and take a course of action to move the country forward. In all nations, some people have changed the course of history by their infamous decisions.
We are watching. What would be the outcome of his boldness, unlike the cheap presidency we expect? Tinubu could have offered us what Buhari offered. He could have avoided removing the subsidy, at least in his first term, and did it after re-election. He could have asked for his share of the subsidy and allowed the killing of the nation to continue. He could have focused on pleasing everyone except the man on the streets, focusing on his future elections as a man who had never lost any election.
As someone unpatriotically optimistic for Nigeria, this tough time will likely end in the next two years. Whether Nigerians will understand the nitty-gritty of ‘Tinubunomics’ will be a question for the next presidential election. So, for Tinubu to have behaved differently from his predecessors and put his political career on the line shows I was right to have shouted him out as the best person for the job in 2019. The question is, why should Tinubu lead anyone beyond 2027?
In Ben Murray-Bruce’s words on X (formerly Twitter), ‘the Naira is gaining value. Flotation is succeeding. Fitch Rating has affirmed that our economy is stable and growing. Fitch and Standard rate our GDP to have grown by 3%. The reforms are working. Nigeria’s economy is attracting foreign direct investment again. Things are looking up.’ While I am as optimistic as Ben, it is difficult to say so for Nigerians who can’t put food on their tables and whose little wealth has been eroded by inflation. How do we convince an average person that Tinubu is making the right decisions?
I wonder if Peter Obi will be bold enough to make decisions on the state of the economy and if Atiku will ever put his next election on the line for any tough economic decision. For Nigerians who are making the sacrifices and educated enough, the call for reducing the cost of governance is high. I agree with them, and I will discuss that under the second category, the political structure of the country.
Before then, I think Tinubu deliberately did not want to test the depth of a river by putting both legs into the river simultaneously. I agree it is unfair for political appointees like ministers and senators to maintain their pre-Tinubu luxurious lifestyle when others cannot feed. However, for Tinubu, losing with the populace and the political class at the same time might not be an option, except he is ready to put his political career in a suicide mode.
Who will then help us reduce the cost of governance if the senators can’t self-regulate themselves?
To be continued…