• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Tinubu’s first 100 days: It’s all rhetoric and no substance

Tinubu’s first 100 days: It’s all rhetoric and no substance

For those who have not yet noticed it, here’s a major difference between Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari, his immediate predecessor as president. While Buhari was tongue-tied and taciturn, Tinubu is free-tongued and expressive. While Buhari kept most of his limited thoughts to himself, Tinubu has something to say on virtually every subject, except his personal life, and is more than willing to say it. Indeed, he’s been speaking!

To be clear, that’s a positive thing. For, as Professors Paul Collier and Tim Besley put it in their seminal report Escaping the fragility trap, “Leaders are first-and-foremost communicators.” They argued that “narratives” are a powerful tool that leaders can use to transform their nation: narratives about their vision for a better future, narratives about what must be done to achieve that future and narratives about how they intend to lead their country towards that better future. So, it’s a good thing that Tinubu is talking to Nigerians.

But here’s the rub. Firstly, a leader’s narrative can only carry weight and have salience if, to start with, he gained trust. If there is a perceived gap between what a leader says and what he really means or represents, his narrative would fail. Secondly, narratives are not credible unless they are followed by credible signalling actions. A leader whose narratives are not backed with the right actions would lose credibility. Finally, narratives must be realistic and promise what can be visibly delivered. After all, it’s delivery and tangible results that matter. Thus, trust, credible actions and tangible results will define how Tinubu’s administration is judged over the next four years, assuming the Supreme Court affirms his presidency.

Read also: Oct 1st: Buhari sends anniversary wishes to Tinubu, Nigerians

However, if the first 100 days are anything to go by, and are a guide to the future, then there’s little room for hope. For, truth be told, Tinubu has not gained the trust of most Nigerians, and even the residual trust, based on his over-hyped performance as governor of Lagos state, has been dissipated. There have been activities but no credible actions, and, let’s face it, the living standards of most Nigerians have deteriorated since he assumed office. So, no tangible, positive results!

Yet, Tinubu’s speeches are often hailed by Nigerians. Some applauded his inaugural speech, some cheered his national broadcasts, and some commended his speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Indeed, some will praise his Independence Day speech this week. But as George Orwell said in his famous essay Politics and the English Language, political speeches are typically defined by rhetorical flourishes and inherent vacuity, insincerity, and sophistry. Therefore, one must decipher and take them with a pinch of salt, not at face value.

Indeed, as Orwell specifically put it, “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Surely, the positive spin that Tinubu’s aides put on his 100 days in office when, in fact, it has been “blood, sweat and tears” across Nigeria comes close to what Orwell was describing. The fact that the administration resorts to misrepresentations, half-truths and outright lies, in a bid to claw at some positive news, again proves Orwell right!

Tinubu is confident about his own ability – “because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu”. But the boastfulness is utterly misplaced; nothing in his 100 days in office justifies it

Think about it. At every meeting of world leaders, it’s common for some to meet formally through bilateral meetings or informally through “brush-bys” or “pull-asides”. But Tinubu’s putative brief meetings with the US president, Joe Biden, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, during recent international events were hyped as if they were national accomplishments. And his meeting with the leader of the United Arab Emirates was misrepresented as triggering immediate lifting of the country’s visa ban on Nigerians and resumption of Emirates Airlines flights to Nigeria. Tinubu’s loyalists seized upon both false “achievements” as evidence that he’s a superstar-president, as they did the false claim that he was the first African leader to ring the NASDAQ closing bell. All the propaganda was, of course, designed, as Orwell put it, “to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”!

Read also: Tinubu, Sultan beg labour to shelve planned strike

But a much bigger challenge to Tinubu’s narratives is lack of trust; they simply lack credibility. For instance, he urged Nigerians to shun ethnic and religious rivalries, but didn’t he fuel religious and ethnic divisions with his Muslim-Muslim ticket and Yoruba lokan/Emi lokan ethnic card in the presidential election? He said his administration would tackle drug-trafficking, but should Nigerians ignore his drug-related case and property forfeiture in the US? He spews rhetorical bluster about fighting corruption, but what about his stupendous unexplained wealth? And why did he appoint and retain in his cabinet and government people who are facing serious allegations of corruption or malfeasance? Like Buhari, Tinubu is fighting corruption selectively, hounding the opposition while turning a blind eye to those that EFCC has accused of corruption in his party, cabinet and government.

Recently, Tinubu’s lawyer asked a US court not to release his Chicago State University academic records because “severe and irreparable harm will be done to Bola Tinubu if the records are released”, adding that it would cause him “fatal potential damage”. What are in academic records that could cause anyone “severe and irreparable harm”? Why should Nigeria’s president be in such a terrible situation? And isn’t it a national embarrassment that Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry on Nigeria’s president reads: “Many of the details of Tinubu’s early life, education, work, and finances are unclear”? The simple truth is that Tinubu can’t give Nigeria moral leadership, and whither Nigeria without moral leadership!

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed on News Central TV. I said that Tinubu oversold himself during the election and that some Nigerians bought the overselling. Well, in government, he’s still overselling himself and some are still buying the overselling. In his inaugural speech, Tinubu listed several national issues, including insecurity and the economy. Then, he concluded: “I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Essentially, he was saying: Nigeria’s problems will be solved because he’s Tinubu and in charge!

Yet, according to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, 629 people were killed within 45 days of Tinubu’s presidency, between May 29 and July 13 this year. Since then, terrorists have killed many more, including 30 soldiers in August. His badly-introduced and poorly-implemented removal of the fuel subsidy and flotation of the naira have pushed inflation rate up to over 25 per cent, the highest since 2015, and exchange rate up to nearly N1000 to $1, while deepening poverty. Having abandoned the hare-brained idea of giving N8000 to 12million households monthly for six months, he decided to give N5bn to each state for palliatives, much of which would be mismanaged and never reach the needy!

Read also: Tinubu celebrates NUPRC CEO, Komolafe on 60th birthday

Given the huge challenges that Nigeria faces, one would expect a president that is serious about tackling those challenges to form a government of all the talents. But Tinubu formed a bloated and mediocre government consisting of cronies, acolytes and political allies. As the Economist magazine rightly puts it, “his new administration is remarkably thin on technocrats. Instead, he seems to be repaying political favours and shoring up support.” The magazine adds: “This lack of technical expertise is a shame.” I agree.

Tinubu is confident about his own ability – “because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu”. But the boastfulness is utterly misplaced; nothing in his 100 days in office justifies it. He’s been muddling through policies, domestic and international. Flowery presidential speeches, yes; but that won’t transform Nigeria. Only credible actions and tangible results will. Sadly, so far, Tinubu is all talk!