• Sunday, June 23, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Tinubu’s first-year performance rating: Score: 37%; grade: fail!

SIDS4: Tinubu pledges more action to mitigate climate impacts, promote sustainable development

Dear readers, I am wearing my academic hat this week, and assessing the first-year performance of Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s president since May 29 last year. In fact, I have already marked Tinubu’s first-year assessment. The result? He failed badly. He scored an abysmal 37 percent!

Last week, Tinubu marked his own exam paper and awarded himself a pass mark. He said he met Nigeria bleeding and stopped the bleeding. That’s utterly ludicrous, given that most Nigerians have been trapped in unimaginable misery and anguish over the past one year, and the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy and social fabric have crumbled further. Yet, Tinubu has cheerleaders. One of them is Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, who said Tinubu “has laid the groundwork for progress” in his first year. What an outlandish thing to say! Well, for me, Tinubu failed his first-year assessment.

Read also: Hunger, poverty, unemployment trail Tinubu 1st year Report

Talking about assessment, let me, in fidelity with the Aristotelian model of persuasion, appeal to ethos and credibility. Until recently, I was a tutor at the London School of Economics, LSE, where I am still a visiting fellow. Over the years, I have marked several essays, exams, and dissertations against established marking criteria. To secure a distinction or top merit, a student must show sophistication in the following areas: their answers must be relevant to the questions, organised and structured, show clarity of exposition, have analytical depth, and demonstrate the use of evidence.

Now, I don’t think these criteria are only relevant to students’ assessments; no, they are also applicable to performance in government, especially to policy development and delivery. For instance, policies must be relevant to the problems; the policy process must be organised, structured, and communicated with clarity; and policy development must involve rigorous analysis and the use of evidence, including regarding implementation. So, the marking criteria apply to policy-making. But Tinubu failed in each of them.

 “That’s utterly ludicrous, given that most Nigerians have been trapped in unimaginable misery and anguish over the past one year, and the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy and social fabric have crumbled further.”

Trust me, the 37 percent I have awarded Tinubu has nothing to do with the 37 percent he secured in last year’s presidential election. That said, there’s a shared resonance of failure between them. I mean, anyone who secured 37 percent of the vote in an election and was rejected by 63 percent of voters can hardly claim any success. But under Nigeria’s military constitution, someone with such a weak mandate and legitimacy can form a winner-take-all government. Thus, despite his 37 percent “mandate,” Tinubu has absolute power and runs Nigeria as his personal fiefdom, making far-reaching decisions based on his personal predilection. The presidential election result, now history, is not my concern here. Except that, coincidentally, Tinubu also gets 37 percent in his first-year assessment. But how?

Well, first, Tinubu’s government lacks an organising principle and a coherent vision; everything is based on a scattergun approach. The first evidence of the absence of vision is the formation of his cabinet. No president who wants to succeed, knowing the challenges that Nigeria faces, would form the kind of cabinet Tinubu formed. It was a cabinet designed to reward cronies, return political favours, and shore up support for his re-election bid in 2027. Why, for instance, did Tinubu put virtually all the economic ministries under his Lagos “boys” and other cronies from the south-west, his geopolitical zone? Why are there so many deadwood ministers whose only qualifications were that, as governors, they helped Tinubu “win” their states? Why did he choose to form a government of cronies, sycophants, and political jobbers? Truth be told, Tinubu’s current cabinet is too weak and ineffectual to tackle Nigeria’s acute challenges; the time calls for a government of all talents.

But there is another evidence of Tinubu’s scattergun approach. None of the policies he introduced since he came to power involved rigorous analysis and planning. There are what political economists call stroke-of-a-pen decisions. These are decisions anyone can make quickly and easily. But there are decisions, with far-reaching consequences, that no president should make simply at the stroke of a pen. Yet, Tinubu is used to making stroke-of-a-pen decisions. For instance, when he declared that “subsidy is gone” and floated the naira, what analysis and planning went into those decisions? What thoughts went into their implementation to avoid unintended consequences? Absolutely none. Tinubu said he was “possessed by courage” in making the decisions. But good policies are not made with such impulsiveness, such rashness.

Read also: Changing Nigeria national anthem is my priority Tinubu defends

Dr Agbakoba listed removal of the fuel subsidy, flotation of the naira and “rehabilitating refineries and incentivising new private refineries” as Tinubu’s “notable achievements” that laid the “groundwork for progress”. The learned senior lawyer was hasty in his judgement. The truth is that each of the “achievements” is already unravelling. Take the fuel subsidy. Even the IMF which called for its removal also called for “adequate compensatory measures for the poor and efficient and transparent use of the saved money.” None of these has happened. There is no transparency on the use of the saved money, and the savings have not been used to alleviate the pains of poor Nigerians.

Furthermore, the IMF believes the government has quietly introduced “an implicit subsidy.” This chimes with what many informed Nigerians have said. Industry actors said it, Nasir El-Rufai said it, and, indeed, this newspaper said it in a story titled “Petrol subsidy nears N1trn monthly, bigger than when Tinubu came” (BusinessDay, February 16, 2024). Truth is, until Nigeria can produce refined petroleum, enough to meet local demands, fuel subsidy won’t go away completely. Yet, despite the promises to turn around the Port Harcourt refinery, it is still not working, and the other three state-owned refineries remain moribund. Recently, Aliko Dangote said the government won’t need to import refined petroleum from this month, June, suggesting his refinery would produce enough to meet local demands. Would that happen? Even if it did, would Dangote’s refined petroleum bring down the pump price of petrol? The jury is still out!

What about the floating of the naira? Well, the government is panicking about the naira’s devaluation. And it is intervening aggressively to force the naira’s appreciation. But the value of a country’s currency is determined by the strength of its economy. If the economy is strong, the currency will be strong; but if the economy is weak, the currency will be weak. Yet, the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy are extremely weak. Ten years ago, Nigeria was celebrating being the largest economy in Africa. Today, it is the fourth largest, overtaken by South Africa, Egypt and Algeria. With a GDP per capita of $1,116, according to the IMF, Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world. Indeed, as Bismark Rewane pointed out last week, Ghana, with a GDP per capita of $2,266, is now richer than Nigeria!

In a recent report titled “Nigeria’s currency crisis the last straw for many overseas groups,” the Financial Times said naira’s devaluation and foreign exchange scarcity have forced many foreign companies to divest from Nigeria, while many local businesses “have died quietly.” So, where are Tinubu’s “notable achievements” that lay the “groundwork for progress”?

The students’ loans, plans to establish state police and the so-called Lagos-Calabar coastal highway are other policies that fail the good policy-making test and will have perverse consequences. Some have hailed the proposed Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, but it looks like another white elephant project that will gulp trillions of naira and enrich some politicians and their acolytes. We were told the Ajaokuta Steel Mill would transform Nigeria’s economy, but where is it today, 45 years later?

So, forget the praise singers, Tinubu’s first year in office is a failure. It inflicted untold pains on ordinary Nigerians and caused huge damage to Nigeria’s economy and social fabric. All for some pie-in-the-sky future “gains”!