With the flurry of policy reforms in our country that is rapidly changing the socioeconomic landscape, it is critical that we take a cursory look at the series of actions of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in about four weeks of his presidency particularly with respect to the quality of his team and the manifestations on society of the policy decisions that he has so far made.
Focusing on the team that would help him develop and implement his Renewed Hope promise, one of the strategic actions that he has taken is the appointment of some critical aides designated as Special Advisers in strategic areas that would be engaging the attention of Nigeria’s new political leader, President Tinubu.
An assessment of the caliber of people that he has assembled as core members of his team is critical because it would reflect the quality of decisions that he has already made that have so far created rippling effects and how well the policies would be implemented by the apparently savvy team of technocrats.
The policies that have had seismic effects on society range from the first, which is the dramatic announcement of the end of petrol subsidy in the course of making his maiden speech as president on 29 May, to the current announcement of more appointments of key officials to
serve as his husband men and women in the delivery of the onerous task as well as some executive orders reversing some hurriedly passed laws In the twilight of the last administration.
It is a combination of his policy initiatives via acts of law and executive orders from the presidency that have combined to earn the reforms introduced by President Tinubu the sobriquet: Tinubunomics.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to recall that the penultimate Senate President of the 9th National Assembly, NASS, Ahmad Lawan had on the 6th of June read out on the floor of the Senate a letter from President Tinubu requesting for their approval of 20 Special Advisers for him.
On that occasion, it was noted by the senators that the names and roles to be played by the potential appointees were not specified in the letter. But in the spirit of the new beginning, the list was approved as requested.
And, apparently, President Tinubu has not disappointed the Senate that gave him a carte blanche and indeed the electorate by appointing 10 thoroughbred professionals into the role of Special Advisers, which represents half of the 20 approved for him by the legislators in the upper chambers.
The new Special Advisers who some pundits have aptly dubbed the members of the president’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ comprise of old timers and newcomers.
And l would like to describe them as new and old wines in a new bottle with Tinubu’s presidency being the new bottle.
A typical old wine in the new bottle is Mr Dele Alake, who is now Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communications and Strategy. He is being characterized as old wine because he is one of the longest standing Tinubu devotees, having served as commissioner for information and strategy during President Tinubu’s tour of duty as governor of Lagos State -1999-2007.
Since then he has remained steadfastly connected to President Tinubu through thick and thin to the extent that Mr Alake has become a sort of right arm of the two arms of Asiwaju Tinubu, and not just a right hand man.
A manifestation of the metaphorical description above happened during then presidential candidate Tinubu’s Chatham House outing on 5 December last year where Mr Alake (amongst a couple of other close associates of Tinubu) was assigned the role of responding to some questions posed by Chatham House panelists.
In light of the above, the new Special Adviser, Special Projects Communications and Strategy, Mr Alake’s prime role in the unfolding cabinet of President Tinubu is unsurprising as it had been long in coming.
Having currently been assigned a role officially, his authenticity as the man that has the ears and eyes of President Tinubu is no longer in doubt.
Therefore, the situation whereby Mr Alake was challenged by the organized labor, NLC led by Comrade Joe Ajaero who questioned his role as a negotiator on behalf of the government in the aftermath of the removal of petrol subsidy and threat by NLC to go on strike, would no longer arise.
It may be recalled that Mr Ajaero, the NLC president, had during the first meeting after petrol subsidy removal was announced, stated publicly that he was not interested in negotiating with Mr Alake because he could not fathom in what capacity he was acting.
That snide remark would not be repeated going forward because it has become clear that Mr Alake is the mouthpiece and a key strategist for President Tinubu, therefore a powerful factor in Tinubunomics.
Another Special Adviser whose pedigree has its roots running all the way to President Tinubu’s political origin as governor of Lagos State is Mr Wale Edun. Like Mr Alake, he too has remained with Mr President till date, even long after he served as commissioner for finance in Lagos State during Tinubu’s reign as governor of Lagos State from 1999-2007 ended.
Mr Edun is a consummate investment banker with a rich pedigree that runs deep as an alumni of foremost United States of America, USA Investment banks-Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs amongst other leading financial institutions.
After introducing innovative measures that enabled Lagos state to ramp up internally generated revenue from a mere N600 million monthly about two decades ago into multiple billions, Mr Edun laid the foundation for the billion naira level to which successive administrations have taken internally generated revenue that currently is in the region of N50 billion monthly, which is a superlative accomplishment.
According to records, Mr Edun had stepped aside from the role of finance commissioner in the wee days of Asiwaju Tinubu’s tenure as governor of Lagos State to play a more active role in the private sector where he founded and operated Denham Capital.
But he remained an active member of the inner caucus of President Tinubu even after he migrated from the public sector back to the private sector.
As such, under the watch of President Buhari, Mr Edun had served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ogoni Trust Fund, focused on environmental clean up efforts in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta based on the recommendation of then APC national leader, Asiwaju Tinubu.
Given his rich background in investment banking/financial engineering and in line with his role as former finance commissioner in Lagos State, it was speculated that he would either be the new finance minister or governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
And his appointment into the new role as Special Adviser Monetary Policy ends that speculation for now.
Without an iota of doubt, the revelation by President Tinubu in his inaugural speech that it is his desire to see an end to the regime of multiple naira exchange rates and platforms that defined the immediate past regime’s management of the economy, emphasizing that there would also be some house cleaning in the financial services sector, bore the imprimatur of Mr Edun whom Bloomberg news had earlier quoted as having stated that changes in the the financial landscape of Nigeria were imminent.
During his parley with Nigerians in France on the sidelines of the Global Conference on Economic Impact attended last week by President Tinubu in Paris, he revealed to his audience that Mr Edun is the leader of Team Tinubu hashing out the policies that are driving Tinubunomics.
Arising from the above, his choice as President Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Monetary Policy is a sort of validation of his position as an inner caucus member of Team Tinubu and a significant factor in Tinubunomics.
The third Special Adviser appointed by President Tinubu is Mr Nuhu Ribadu, who reigned as a fearless anticorruption tzar during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ from 1999 – 2007.
Mr Ribadu, a police officer that assumed the role of an anti corruption crusader when he served as EFCC chairman and stepped on a lot of powerful toes before he retired from the police force after rising from the post of deputy commissioner of police to the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG. He is fortunate to be named the new National Security Adviser, NSA.
Even though he has in the past castigated and indicted then Lagos State governor and now President Tinubu for alleged financial crimes, he has nevertheless been named a Special Adviser, and later NSA by President Tinubu.
That makes him a critical player in Tinubunomics.
So, from fighting financial crimes as EFCC boss, by virtue of his new appointment as NSA, Mr Ribadu has been assigned an expanded sphere of influence as he would be in charge of the whole gamut of security of Nigeria, which is a huge responsibility.
The assertion above is in the light of the prime position that tackling insecurity occupies in the Renewed Hope agenda of President Tinubu as the threat of religious insurgency, separatism and banditry have continued to thrive, having been defying solutions proffered by successive governments.
It is disheartening that instead of insecurity abating, it had degenerated into a national scourge.
As such, it had remained a major threat to the continued corporate existence of Nigeria which makes security a priority area of attention for President Tinubu.
That Mr President assigned Mr Ribadu the all important NSA role speaks volumes about his management style because it implies that he has no malice or grudge against Mr Ribadu despite past antagonism, hence he has been made a critical component of Tinubunomics.
And the NSA role is particularly critical because a safe and secure environment is a precondition for a buoyant and virile economy that President Tinubu has promised the Nigerian electorate.
And that is why it would be remiss of me not to point out that it is a sort of noble gesture for President Tinubu to appoint his former traducer as the NSA.
The simple interpretation of the gesture is that, perhaps Mr President does not take past differences between him and others personal. As such, he lets bygone be bygone.
After all, it is said that in politics, there are no permanent enemies or friends,but permanent interests.
And, apparently, President Tinubu prefers to put grievances behind him and chooses to prioritize national interests and professionalism over personal gripe.
That is my guess.
Whatever may be the justification, the noble and lofty mindset displayed by President Tinubu with respect to the appointment of Mr Ribadu as NSA, in my view is a highly commendable leadership strength worthy of admiration and emulation because it demonstrates statesmanship.
The fourth Special Adviser with known pedigree in the public sector of Nigeria that President Tinubu has appointed is Ms Hadiza Bala Usman who is a close political associate of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the immediate past governor of Kaduna State.
Ms Bala Usman is an offspring of the famous academic and human rights activist from the northern part of our country, Dr Bala Usman of blessed memory.
And she is the immediate past Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
She lost the job following a face-off with former minister of transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, who leveled corruption allegations against her and of which she successfully absolved herself after thorough investigations.
As a reform-minded technocrat that has been tested in her leadership role in NPA during which innovative changes were introduced into the management of our country’s foremost port, Apapa port, she earned the reputation of being a change agent.
Riding on the wave of that accomplishment, she is now a foot-soldier in the Tinubunomics movement.Q
Apart from the above listed four Tinubunomics evangelists that are like old wine now put in a new bottle, there are six newcomers in the club of Special Advisers so far named and assigned portfolios by President Tinubu.
The six other new Special Advisers who do not possess well known pedigree of playing in Nigerian public sector are:
Mr. Yau Darazo as Special Adviser, Political and Intergovernmental Affairs,
Mrs. Olu Verheijen who is Special Adviser, Energy, while Mr. Zachaeus Adedeji is the Special Adviser, Revenue.
Also appointed are Mr. John Ugochukwu Uwajumogu who is the Special Adviser, Industry, Trade and Investment, while Dr (Mrs.) Salma Ibrahim Anas is Special Adviser, Health.
There is also the spoken words poet, Hanatu Musa Musawa that serenaded television viewers with poetic presentation of the profile of President Tinubu, who has also been appointed Special Adviser, Culture And Entertainment Economy.
Two amongst the six newcomers, Mr Darazo and Dr Anas are believed to be nominees of Vice President Ibrahim Shettima.
As earlier stated, the request made by President Tinubu to the 9th NASS is for 20 Special Advisers in a letter that was read on the floor by senator Ahmad Lawan in his capacity as then Senate president that got approved.
So, President Tinubu still has outstanding 10 more Special Advisers yet to be unveiled as drivers of the evolving Tinubunomics ideology.
And following the pattern of upgrading Mr Nuhu Ribadfu from SA on Security to NSA, l have a hunch that in due course of time, most of the 20 Special Advisers may also be upgraded to ministerial positions.
The assumption is based on the suspicion that the twenty 20 experts originally designated as Special Advisers may constitute a cohort of professionals to be appointed into President Tinubu’s cabinet as ministers and they would be the core drivers of Tinubunomics prior to bringing in members of the political class through whose efforts he clinched the presidency.
Overall, l get the sense that given all the groundbreaking steps that he has taken so far, President Tinubu possesses the courage to do what is necessary to move our country forward no matter whose ox is gored.
Nevertheless,the new president needs to be kept on his toes to ensure that he delivers on his lofty promises. And l believe that he is not averse to his feet being held to the fire literally, since there is no evidence that at any point in time, he has tried to gag the media despite being in the eyes of media storm in the past four decades or so of being a senator, political activist, governor and now president of Nigeria.
Having said that, it is my fervent belief that Nigerians need to give President Tinubu the chance to operationalize his new policies to enable them be the judge on whether Tinubunomics has been efficacious or not before calling for his crucifixion as some are already doing barely 40 days of his being in office.
In my estimation, President Tinubu’s administration in the short span of a month of being in charge of the destiny of over 200 million Nigerians has been making sense, thus far.
That is simply because it makes sense to remove petrol subsidy that had not only assumed the dimension of an ogre, but has also taken on the characteristics of a cancerous tumor that had hitherto appeared as if it was incurable and therefore a cross that long suffering Nigerians must continue to bear until it literally kills us.
The enormity of the challenge of subsidy removal from PMS has been felt by the populace and its pain has also been very pervasive simply because the use or abuse of petrol basically impacts all aspects of our lives in Nigeria, particularly as mobility either by road which is the commonest means of transportation in our country or any other means is a critical and inevitable activity that we must all engage in as human beings on a daily basis.
It is owing to the criticality of the pervasive role of petrol in the lives of Nigerians that the implementation of the removal of subsidy from the pump price has led to a spike in the cost of living that triggered crisis in the society, particularly amongst the masses who have been groaning under the pernicious policies of the immediate past administration that had made them experience excruciating pains by pushing the country into two economic recessions in eight years.
Cognizant of the unpalatable past experience, Nigerians are bound to be apprehensive of being faced with another grinding hardship.
And my candid advice to the masses is that the reasonable thing to do under these perilous circumstances is to consider the current situation of petrol subsidy removal like a case of farmers slashing and burning the bush to allow them prepare the soil to plant new crops in replacement of the shrubs previously occupying the space. And in this case, petrol subsidy is the shrub being weeded and that process of planting new crops amounts to regeneration.
Continuing with the farming analogy, President Tinubu can be deemed figuratively to be preparing the soil to plant the crops of development, progress and prosperity that would eventually pull a critical mass of our country men and women out of poverty into wealth.
In other words, under President Tinubu, Nigeria has the chance of becoming like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.That is based on his previous accomplishment as governor of Lagos State (1999-2007)
In my view, President Tinubu’s policy actions, so far, which can be deemed as a sort of building block for the manifestation of more far-reaching reforms, is a plus for all Nigerians. That assertion is validated by the fact that his new policies have already started touching in one way or the other the lives of Nigerians across the country and the entire spectrum of human endeavors in our nation.
But at this point in time, the unpalatable effects of the policy reforms appear to supersede the positive.
The reality is that the current policy changes are like a sweet and sour meal that is typically featured in Chinese cuisines and which is very popular with Asian food aficionados who like to balance the sweet with the sour taste.
Arising from the need to give Nigerians a balance of both sweet and sour tastes, it
It is important that before the sour taste becomes attuned to the taste buds of long suffering Nigerian masses, it is imperative that they are allowed to taste the sweet aspects of the sweeping reforms sooner than later.
As the conventional wisdom goes: the morning foretells the evening.
That is why the alacrity with which the reforms were announced should be followed with equal speedy deployment of the procedures and tools for their execution in order to ease the palpable pains of long suffering Nigerians.
As such, the 10 technocrats of the 20 so far engaged by President Tinubu as Special Advisers that l would like to refer to as Tinubunomics evangelists, should hurry up in coming up with the solutions that they have been crafting in order to bring about more innovative and productive ways of giving succor to the long suffering masses on short, medium and long terms basis.
In other words, before the main menu, it would help if the already highly distressed Nigerians can have the opportunity of enjoying the entree.
By now, it should be obvious to the new leadership that the currently over stretched Nigerians masses cannot wait much longer to exhale.
So, as the conventional wisdom goes: make haste while the sun shines, President Tinubu’s administration must not allow itself to lose the momentum by allowing Nigerians to become despondent.
As those with vast knowledge in operations management would attest, solid preparation is key to the successful and satisfactory outcome of any project or initiative.
Since the announcement of petrol subsidy withdrawal was sudden and unprepared for by the outgone regime which actually passed the law but did not have the political will to implement it, President Tinubu has been caught in what can be described as: after-the-fact type of situation.
As l have argued in other submissions, perhaps if Mr President had waited to announce the end of petrol subsidy after he had taken over the reins of power, (let us say about six months after) he would have been caught in similar traps of hands being tied like his predecessors, and the decision would not have been made to end petrol subsidy.
That is because the entrenched interests that have been perpetuating petrol subsidy would have unleashed their arsenal to resist the introduction of the initiative that had been overdue.
Befuddling leaders has been an antic that the cartel have perfected over the years.
Is it not astonishing that petrol subsidy removal and unification of the naira exchange rates are some of the preconditions for the granting of IMF loan request by our country under the watch of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, IBB in 1986?
Since 1986 till 29 May 2023 when President Tinubu made the pronouncement: “petrol subsidy is gone”, which is a decision that has eliminated the albatross that had been hanging over Nigeria, it had been impossible to get rid of the misfortune or dead weight. Alongside subsidy on petrol, operating multiple rates is the second component of the twin sinkers that had been keeping our country under the water.
That is owed to the manipulation of petroleum products importation by electricity generating set sellers that do not want the refineries to be functional and the sundry vested interests in NNPC and other agencies of government that inflate the volume imported and exploit the organized labor by pushing them to resist subsidies removal and also stoke anger and violence amongst the populace by encouraging the masses to engage in street protests, etc.
So, in my reckoning, President Tinubu’s action of announcing the end of petrol subsidy during his inaugural speech extempore caught them napping.
Hence they started playing catch up, but failed to achieve their objective of instigating a strike action or street protests which had been their modus operandi.
Given, the sudden nature of the decision to remove petrol subsidy, it should be understandable that preparation by the purveyors of Tinubunomics on how to ameliorate the pervasive hardship in our country after the decision had been announced by President Tinubu would be afoot after the fact.
That is why the decision is looking like president Tinubu has put the cart before the horse.But the reality is that it is the most pragmatic thing to do given that he had no option and an element of surprise was also required under the prevailing circumstances at that time.
Be that as it may, more speed is needed in unfurling the solutions to the myriad of challenges being faced by the hoi polloi.
So, as Nigerians anxiously await the unfolding of President Tinubu’s ministers that has taken over one month of the mandatory two months in coming, they are also hoping that the granular and actionable details of the policy initiatives that he has so far been rolling out would be unfolded soon after.
The justification for that expectation is anchored on the belief that since at least 10 of the 20 Special Advisers approved by the ninth Senate for him have been appointed, assigned rolls and working round the clock to come up with the much awaited bolts and nuts or operating procedures for the new policy changes, some evidence of their efforts should have by now become manifest.
Clearly, the critical mass of Nigerians that the flood of policy reforms in the past one month has forced their heads under the water are anxious to metaphorically raise their heads above the water in order to receive some fresh breath of air in the form of palliatives or succor.
In other words, the already weary Nigerians cannot afford to wait much longer for what Tinubunomics is expected to introduce as shock absorbers in the wake of the prevailing hard economic environment which is the immediate negative fall out of the new reforms.
And l would like to believe that the drivers of Tinubunomics are taking note of the growing anxiety of weary Nigerian masses.
–Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.
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