• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Between Tinubu’s blame game and governance

Between Tinubu’s blame game and governance

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu revels in ‘strategic ambiguity’. According to organizational communication expert Eric Eisenberg, strategic ambiguity enables an executive, individual or organisation to express itself – its mission and goals – in a way that allows “the freedom to alter operations which have become maladaptive over time.”

It helps operatives understand the need to find balance between being highly specific or overly vague in what they stand for and how they want to be perceived. But since his assumption of office, specific policy enunciations and curious summersaults rather represent a poor clone of strategic ambiguity as enunciated by Eisenberg.

A politician forged in the furnace of extreme intrigues, President Tinubu is expected to know the difference between being ambiguous and being strategic about his ambiguity. This quirky concept has not been mirrored by his peculiar preference of blaming others for his questionable development vision.

By nimbly ‘snatching and running’ with the presidency, unfortunately a bitterly disputed project, Tinubu has apparently moved to part two of his ‘sophisticated script’ – and that is unseemly blame game.

From blaming former President Muhammadu Buhari whom he largely choreographed his installment, to impugning banks, ex-CBN governor Godwin Emefiele, political opposition and more, this jaded mantra by his key officials has clearly reached an underwhelming crescendo.

But between rosy policy proclamations and actualisation lie a critical gulf of the power of deep thought. And this appears to be the bane of the Tinubu administration, especially coming after eight years of Buhari’s extremely ruinous regime.

President Tinubu’s debatable proposition that his administration’s economic reforms will lead to a $1trn-dollar national GDP growth in eight years flies in the face of ruinous economic policy trajectory.

Just two months ago, the Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company Limited and Non-executive Director of Parthians Partners, Bismarck Rewane, wrote off Tinubu administration’s target of achieving a $1 trillion economy in the next eight years as a pipe dream. Rewane said this at the Parthians Partners 2024 Outlook breakfast session held in Lagos.

For instance Tinubu’s recent proposed implementation of the Oronsaye Report is akin to putting the cart before the horse. The implementation should have started with the reduction and not the expansion of the federal ministries. Some of the newly created and even old ministries would have been better off as departments/directorates.

This was perhaps why Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), advised the president to go one better by reducing the size of his cabinet, which he described as “too unwieldy,” insisting there is too much wastage within the bureaucracy which requires urgent curtailing.

His words: “There is a lot that can be achieved through such harmonisation. But the president must start the implementation from his cabinet. Charity should begin at home.

“The size of the present cabinet is unwieldy. For him to embark on the implementation of Oronsaye report concerning other agencies, and leaving the presidency in the bloated manner it is, will not achieve the desired purpose. The president should set the good example by merging all those ministries that have no impact.

“The president should also cut the number of aides that follow him on official trips. That is the right message to send to the people of Nigeria.” A current example is the needless insertion of President Tinubu’s two sons in the list of the nation’s delegation to Doha, Quatar.

The essence of a regime change is to bring in new vision and leadership. Tinubu currently represents these. The emerging consensus is that he must deliver and discontinue his blame game. For some reasons the current administration is also blaming the financial services sector – banks – as being responsible for the economic woes of the country, especially with regards to the forex crisis. But they conveniently ignore the dynamics that sustain strong national currencies.

Just recently, the Presidency also blamed what it called “economic saboteurs” for the raging food crisis in the country. It accused “unscrupulous Nigerians” of working to undermine President Tinubu administration’s efforts at revamping the Nigerian economy.

For good measure, it condemned what it saw as the decades of mismanagement and underutilisation of the country’s assets within and outside the borders, leading to revenue losses that have hindered economic growth.

Vice President Kashim Shettima made the assertions at the recent Public Wealth Management Conference in Abuja. His words: “Just three nights ago, 45 trucks of maize were caught being transported to neighbouring countries. Just in that Ilela axis, there are 32 illegal smuggling routes. And the moment those foodstuffs were intercepted, the price of maize came down by N10,000. It came down from N60,000 to N50,000.

“So, there are forces that are hell-bent on undermining our nation, but this is the time for us to coalesce into a singular entity. We have to make this country work. We have to move beyond politics. We are now in the face of governance.

“Sadly, some of our countrymen are still in the political mode. They are the practitioners of violence, advocating that Nigeria should go the Lebanon way. But Nigeria is greater than any of us here. Nigeria will weather the storm.”

According to Shettima, instead of waiting till 2027, desperate politicians who could not get to power through the ballot box were hell-bent on plunging this country into a state of anarchy.

But Shettima conveniently forgets that when there is sufficient supply, the issue of hoarding is clearly untenable as the current administration is alleging. It’s only a fool that will hoard fuel, rice, beans or other products where sufficient supply prevails.

Signs that the immediate past Nigerian President may collide with Tinubu, his successor, emerged when Tinubu told the ministers, Presidential Aides and Permanent Secretaries at a two – day retreat with him at the Villa that things may not be going down well as expected because he had accepted the assets and liabilities of the former President Buhari.

But renowned economist Bismarck Rewane called on the federal government to dump the blame game and come out clean with people on the situation of the economy and what is being done to tackle the current challenges. He said the government must take urgent action to reverse the trend because “doing nothing is now a recipe for chaos.”

Speaking on a national television recently, Rewane stated that, “First of all you have to understand, you have to implement efficiently because the consequence of misunderstanding is disorderly change and disorderly change is not what we want. It is a recipe for chaos.

“The truth is that you have to be honest with yourself and you have to understand that there is no quick fix. Come clean to the Nigerian people, tell them this is the extent of the problem.

“So come clean, block the leakages, look for competence. Competence is more important at this time than loyalty. So look for competence and ensure that you execute efficiently.

Nigerians are indeed facing hard times over high cost of living and inflation. Already protests are being held in several states over the high cost of living.

On the solution to the crisis, Rewane said printing of more money “Is the panacea for inflation and inflation is the beginning and the end of the currency and the end of the currency is the beginning of political crisis.

His words: “First of all you have to increase productivity but that is also not a quick fix… evolve “Fiscal policy that would incentivize productivity, concessioning the roads, concessioning the airports and taking government out of those entities where they have no competence, either they don’t have the competence or they don’t have the integrity to run those businesses, let them get out of there and use the increased revenue from subsidy reductions and exchange rate realignment, let them use that to do the new things they have to do.”

According to Retson Tedheke, writing almost ten years ago, “The Nigerian reality will only change when we are able to do the following: Feed our people & become a net exporter of food; Refine enough petroleum products for the Nigerian market & become a net exporter of finished products; and begin the processes of educating our people on the importance of the Nigerianization of our economy in all aspects.

He further prescribed that Nigeria should be “Be prepared to subsidize local production, local manufacturing, local consumption & local industrialization; Be ready to damn the consequences & impose currency as well as capital control; Be audacious enough to impose debilitating tariffs & outright ban if necessary for what Nigeria can produce; Be ready to borrow more for capital expenditure & massive infrastructural developments nationwide and be prepared to enforce fiscal sanity, discipline & financial accountability across all levels of governments in Nigeria.

Crucially, the Tinubu administration must note there is no recorded success of devaluation & currency floatation for any developing economy in crisis historically.

It is a given that capital & currency control, infant industry protection, debilitating tariffs, local manufacturers subsidies are the hallmark of the growth of all the advanced economies today with the exception of Switzerland and The Netherlands.

If Tinubu could be bothered, then he needs to look at just two out of several tenable successes intervention models from countries which experienced economic crunches but leveraged vision, discipline and courage to change their nation’s narratives.

Just recently, Reuters reported that Argentina’s embattled markets are showing signs of doubling down on the country’s no holds barred libertarian leader Javier Milei, betting he can pull the economy out of crisis.

Amid a painful economic downturn and with the government strapped for cash, President Milei made tough austerity a key focus since taking office in December, helping the country post its first monthly fiscal surplus for over a decade in January, music to the ears of investors after years of over-spending.

Both Milei and Tinubu took over in 2023 and inherited a disoriented economy, but both applied different measures to recovery.

Also Nigeria’s current quandary recalls the condition in the US when Barack Obama assumed power in 2009. Obama became American president in January 2009, two years after America entered severe financial crisis that began in 2007.

The economy reportedly lost nearly 3.6 million jobs in 2008. Also, major financial institutions either collapsed or were forced into mergers. Despite the precarious situation of the economy, Obama did not waste his time blaming his predecessor in off ice, but rather focused his attention and energy on how to rescue the situation, because that was why he was elected. Obamanomics wrought the economic magic to alter US trajectory.

Chukwuma writes from Lagos