Some economists believe that when the immediate past president of Nigeria, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari took over the reins of power in 2015 as a democratically elected president, the population of the poor in the country was 60 million. But by the time he was leaving office at the end of May this year, which is eight years after, an estimated 90 million Nigerians had fallen into the poverty trap.
Similarly, based on a recent World Bank report, four million, one hundred thousand people (4.1 million) Nigerians had fallen into the poverty trap from December last year to last month-June following the removal of subsidy on petrol pump price and the end of multiple exchange rates for the naira through the unification of all the rates by the administration of President Bola Tinubu that mounted the throne of leadership in Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power on 29 May this year.
The Bretton Woods institution had in the same report also warned that if appropriate measures were not deployed to ameliorate the negative fallouts of the earlier mentioned reform policies, another seven million Nigerians would join the unenviable ranks of the poor by December of this year.
That is despite the fact that a report authorized by the immediate past administration of President Buhari had revealed that Nigeria’s population of a little over 200 million is comprised of 133 million people who are multinationally poor.
And all the aforementioned poverty calamities have befallen Nigerians due to wrong headed policies that were not properly thought through by those saddled with the responsibility of leading our country. These include new and not so new policy measures such as laser sharp focus on anti corruption as the overarching policy of government, as opposed to fighting poverty which is actually the real enemy of the people.
Some of the other faulty or anti progress policies go as far back as four decades, and they have therefore become very entrenched in our system. As such they had so much blended with our way of life and had taken on a toga of culture.
Take the petrol and naira subsidies policies for instance. As a people, we had become acculturated to them.
Even though the two policies that have just been rescinded by President Tinubu can be likened to heavy bricks tied on the neck of Nigeria after which she got thrown into the sea to sink, the successive leaders that sustained the obnoxious policies for about four decades wore subsidy on petrol and naira like badges of honor by sustaining them.
Specifically, our leaders stretching from Army Generals: Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari,
Bto lbrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha’s era in the mid 1970s up to 1999, during which the strong men had attempted to slay the monster of subsidy but failed,until the emergence of President Tinubu in 2023 who has led Nigerians to terminate the life of the demon of subsidy on consumption that had been tormenting our beloved country.
Although it has been a very difficult task, President Tinubu is currently seeing to the burial of the ogre otherwise known as subsidy on consumption.
And Nigerians are happy to sing its nunc dimittis, simply because they understand that their current discomfort and inconvenience are short term pains, for long term gains.
Is it not stunning how a legion of our country’s military heads of state and elected presidents,over the years had become so acquiesced with the falsehood that they can not survive without the government subsidizing petrol and the naira, that they failed to even be motivated enough to do away with the policies?
In fact, our compatriots had become so jaded that as a country,she had become hopelessly helpless such that our dear country seemed irredeemable from the predicament of a dreaded but inevitable debt trap, if the policies shackling the country which are basically subsidizing consumption instead of production were not jettisoned.
It is even more shocking when it is realized that, all it would have taken to free the nation from the suffocating subsidy noose and pull our country back from the brinks would have been to simply repeal the two policies (petrol and naira subsidies) which were the main reforms that the International Monetary Funds, IMF and World Bank had demanded should be in place,before Nigeria could be availed of a soft loan that could have put the nation on the path of growth like her peers such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore that embraced reforms.
Today, the countries listed above are more or less one billion dollars ($1b) Gross Domestic Products, GDP economies as opposed to Nigeria whose GDP is a mere $440.8m economy, $2.66,000 per capita and her GDP is ranked number 31 of the major world economies.
And the reason our country has suffered such economic stagnation and development atrophy, is the inability and or failure of our past leaders to swallow the bitter pill that could have healed her of whatever was incapacitating the country in the manner that those who refuse to take anti malaria medications which are usually bitter, end up being very sick or even dying from the infirmity if and when it remains untreated over a long period.
For the records, l am not against application of subsidy as a tool in governance. But one is opposed to subsidy on consumption which petrol and naira subsidies represent.
Rather, l am a dye-the-wool advocate of subsidy on education which is a production oriented activity.
As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom, UK government just granted $500m subsidy to TaTa of India, the new owner of Range Rover, a British brand of luxury vehicles which has decided to set up a $4 billion lithium battery manufacturing plant in Somerset, UK.
Given the huge potentials of the venture which has the capacity to create jobs and boost the GDP of Somerset and the entire UK economy, it is in the best interest of the UK to offer TaTa the subsidy.
It is even more so because Britain was competing with Spain to be the host of the venture that would have tremendous economic impact that would be beneficial to the economy and people of the UK.
Coming back to Nigeria and its misadventures with subsidy, to be fair to past heads of government in Nigeria,their failure to take the IMF loan is owed to uproars or push backs against ending those earlier mentioned petrol and naira subsidy policies which are the pre conditions for the granting of bailout loans from Bretton woods institutions with stringent conditions, but low interest rates and long tenures.
The snag particularly stems from the populace that had developed a sense of entitlement due to the false impression that our country is very rich because it was once flushed with petrol dollars following the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities in the late 1960s and which it was splashing from mid the 1970s to early 1980s.
It is disappointing that, over the years, most Nigerians were not awakened to the fact that although the country had crude oil deposits,her human population was growing exponentially. The reality is such that while our population was estimated to be about 45.14 million in the 1960s, currently the number of citizens of Nigeria is in excess of 213. 40 million.
But arising from the exaggerated impression that Nigeria is wealthy and must continue to enjoy petrol subsidy and have the value of the naira propped up with the dollars earned from crude oil/gas revenue, the country’s fortune continued to sink because its natural resources like oil/gas are no longer growing. Instead, they are depleting, while her population has grown exponentially by about 372.8% between 1960 (45m) till date (200m) as earlier highlighted.
So, the reality that most Nigerians failed to come to terms with is that while the population of the country has ballooned, her oil wealth has been diminishing.
And due to the ignorance of citizens highlighted above, there was public resistance to the removal of subsidies on petrol and the naira as earlier cited ,hence the administration of Gen.Ibrahim Babangida demurred from taking the IMF loan in 1986.
Back in the days when the removal of subsidy on petrol became an issue of national debate, my colleague in Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, news department,who later became a senator,Mrs Chris Anyanwu had produced a survey/report indicating that the cost of a bottle Coca-Cola beverage was higher than the same quantity of petrol in a similar bottle in Nigeria. That was a solid justification for the removal of subsidy on petrol.
Instead of taking the lMF loan which had been tarred black by those with vested interests in retaining subsidy, the authorities opted to rely on a home grown alternative which it had branded Structural Adjustment Program, SAP.
But that also got tainted by amongst other factors, what the acronym SAP connoted -sapping of Nigerians.
On top of the negative branding, the authorities failed to implement SAP with the vigor and commitment which it deserved owing to the intended transmutation of military leaders into civilian political leaders. In other words, military leaders wanted to change from their khaki uniforms into traditional robes (Agbada) which is a euphemism for seamless transitioning from military juntas to politicians.
That resulted in our economy getting further mired in the doldrums in the manner that a raging bull that is stuck in quicksand, sinks deeper as it struggles forcefully to free itself.
Since that unfortunate event of leveraging SAP in salvaging the country,our country has figuratively behaved like an enraged bull struggling to pull itself out of sinking sand with an unsavory outcome.
Without the required reforms, the nation, if l can refer to it as such, was sinking deeper into the mud until it became almost belly up.
That is evidenced by the fact that over the years,its liability outstripped its revenue which peaked at about 102 per cent this year. It is a point that the World Bank made in its study released last month.
Whereas our political leaders should have engaged in further critical thinking in order to pull our distressed country out of the quagmire in which it had been wallowing, those in authority adopted the rather simplistic strategy of fighting corruption which they perceive as the enemy,instead of poverty which is the real malaise afflicting the critical mass of Nigerians.
It is against the backdrop of the foregoing reality that l was prompted to write the article below titled “The Call For A National War On Poverty“ that was first published in the mass media on 11 October 2019, which is nearly four years ago.
And l have elected to reproduce it below because the contents remain germane till date as it contains the advocacy that l have been making for the creation of an actionable development agenda in the manner that Lee Kuan Yew, one time Prime Minister of Singapore developed a development blueprint that changed the narrative about the Asian island country.
The motivation to reproduce the article at this point in time is derived from the fact that most of my advocacy over the past few decades gel with the current policies of president Tinubu’s administration tagged Renewed Hope agenda.
In the aforementioned piece,l made the case that the battle against corruption instead of poverty by successive governments has failed. So,we must rejig our strategy and focus on fighting poverty, instead of corruption.
As such,l am making a case that it is time to focus on fighting poverty as president Tinubu has proposed in his Renewed Hope manifesto and which he has started implementing through his revolutionary reform policies such as an end to petrol subsidy that has freed up humongous funds that need to be applied in other sectors of the economy for progress and prosperity of the masses; the unification of the multiple naira/dollar exchange rates that has stopped our country from further financial hemorrhage; the passage of Electricity Act 2023 to attract investment into electricity production and distribution sector thereby catalyzing jobs creation and industrialization of our country; as well as the passage of students loan for indigent students in tertiary institutions of learning which would lead to a boost in the quality of our country’s workforce.
Similarly ,the protection of data bill also signed into an act of law by president Tinubu is expected to deepen Nigeria’s involvement and investment in the digital technology space upon which practically all the socioeconomic activities in the advanced economies from FINTECH to Artificial Intelligence, Al are predicated.with that space opened up in our clime, youth employment would me boosted.
Taken together,the above listed policy reforms so far made by president Tinubu,are self reinforcing to each other with the sole objective of fighting poverty in order to ultimately eliminate it,while ushering progress and prosperity into the lives of a critical mass of our compatriots in our beloved Nigeria.
Against the foregoing backdrop,it is my fervent hope that the nuggets of information contained in this piece would serve the current administration well.
That is because it is a sort of blueprint of what some of the fastest growing countries in the world did to leapfrog their economies and the live wires that the immediate past administration of Buhari stepped on and got tripped off with calamitous consequences on the polity. Here we go:
“With Nigeria remaining in socio-economic doldrums at age 59, does it not suggest that Africa’s most populous country is suffering the malaise of mid life crisis?
By way of comparison,China also celebrated seventy years as a communist country on the same day-October 1 that Nigeria marked her 59th anniversary of independence from Britain.
“That means China is only 11 years older than Nigeria in terms of nationhood and independence. But the East Asian country has grown from being an autarky (like North Korea trading with nobody ) some 30 years ago until it joined WTO in 2001 and became a production factory to the world.
“Subsequently, China assumed the position of the world’s second largest economy status with an estimated $12 trillion GDP, and it is now on track to becoming the largest economy by global ranking, in less than two decades, when it would have overtaken the USA’s economy which is currently the world’s largest.
“In contrast,Nigeria has degenerated from being a peer to countries like Singapore, Malaysia,Taiwan and South Korea, which it was at par at independence in 1960, to Banana Republic level , in terms of socio-economic standards of living and security of lives and property of citizens.
“The unfortunate and depressing descent of Nigerians into a vortex of misery, courtesy of recurring visionless
leadership of our country is a much bigger malaise than the anti-corruption rhetoric of governments from the colonialists to military and democratically elected civilians that have not yielded any modicum of positive dividends since independence some 59 years ago.
“There is a common saying that it is only a mad man that does one thing consistently the same way and expects a different outcome. From trend analysis, it is clear to all that successive Nigerian governments have been fighting graft in the same manner since independence. So are Nigerian leaders mad?
“If they are not,why have they been flying the same anti-corruption kite all these years? Could it boil down to the fact that nobody in Aso Rock Villa has bothered to conduct a simple research into corruption antecedents in Nigeria to realize how the scourge has defeated all the previous leaders who attempted to tame the monster as evidenced by the fact that rather than be eliminated or reduced, corruption has become more entrenched, malignant and hydra headed like a virus that’s being treated with the wrong antibiotics and as such, became resistant and cancerous?
“Going down the memory lane into the annals of Nigerian history, you may take away the same impression that our leaders may be afflicted by some mental malady which is responsible for their fighting corruption in the same manner continuously and expecting a different result. For instance, the justification that the likes of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and co-coup plotters had for toppling the first democratically elected government in Nigeria in 1966 was that corruption had become so embedded and endemic in government and public sector that 10% of public contracts value was being demanded and paid to public officials.
“Today, it’s not just 10%, but the entire funds for a project can be totally embezzled if the alleged diversion of $2.1b for arms procurements leveled against Dasuki, former National Security Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan is anything to go by.
“Similarly, several public officials assigned to recover stolen public funds have also been known to re-loot the loot as reflected by the case of Abdulrasheed Maina, the former chairman of Pensions Reform Task Team that allegedly looted billions of naira recovered from pension fund thieves, absconded and later weaved his way back into the civil service until he was recently arrested and re arraigned.
“After the counter coup of 1967 where it was alleged that the plotters of the 1966 putsch were ‘corrupt’ and ‘fraudulent’ in terms of ethnic bias by assassinating only top military officers from a particular section of the country, and officers of a religious faith while preserving the lives of those from the ethnic stock and faith of the coup leaders, the Brigadier Murtala Muhammed led coup of 1975 was also mainly driven by the crusade against corruption in government.
“The fiery army general is famous for the mantra: “This government can not condone Indiscipline” which is a military euphemism for corruption. That interregnum was followed by the coup led by General Muhammadu Buhari on December 31,1983 which like the 1966 and 1975 coups was on a mission to dislodge the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the bid to clean the proverbial Augean stable by getting rid of corrupt politicians in the country.
“The lbrahim Babangida led palace coup of 1985 that unseated Buhari’s 18 months spell in office was also launched to cleanse our country of corruption. This time the corruption was not so much bribery, but of the hue of fraud and double standards as reflected by the scandal of 53 suit cases allegedly belonging to the Emir of Gwandu which was illegally allowed into the country during change of Nigerian currency. That’s in addition to the case of an underage child of a member of the ruling military council going on the Muslim religious pilgrimage to Mecca which was against the law, amongst many infractions.
“The fearsome army General Sani Abacha, who took over the reins of govt in 1993 after Babangida stepped aside , did not have an anti corruption agenda, rather successive governments had recovered billions of dollars stolen and stashed abroad by the late dictator. Similarly, General Abdulsalam Abubakar’s short tenure as interim military head of state 1998 to 1999 had no anti-corruption ideological inclination because it had no time for such luxury. But the democratically elected government of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 was geared towards continuing with the anti corruption play book of the past leaders hence it established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to tackle graft shortly after he assumed office.
“The assertion above is underscored by the fact that the Nuhu Ribadu led EFCC was basically primed to lead the charge against corruption both in the public and private sectors in the same old style that have always been applied in the checkered history of Nigeria. Skepticism about the altruistic value of the government’s persistent war on corruption was triggered at that point as cynics were convinced that the fight against graft under the EFCC was not only partisan, but weaponized by then President Obasanjo to rein in his opponents across the aisle and also compel fellow party members to tow his line.
“Thereafter Umaru Yar’Adua, of blessed memory, struggled with the battle against corruption until his sudden passage in 2010 after which Goodluck Jonathan assumed the leadership of our country. Jonathan attempted to migrate the fight against corruption from the rudimentary level of naming, shaming and jailing which had been the modus operandi of successive governments, to a fraud prevention system via technology without success, until President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Aso Rock Villa as a democratically elected president in 2015, and reinvigorated the battle against corruption by reverting to status quo ante.
“If at age 59, the war against corruption, (a cankerworm that’s believed to be the bane of Nigeria and the bogey of its socioeconomic development) started by the British colonialists in the late 1950s has remained a recurring decimal in the agenda of successive governments nearly 60 years after, Nigeria has certainly lost the battle.
“So let’s declare a national war on poverty which is the demon that the vast majority of Nigeria’s poor no longer want to be associated with and can not wait to turn their back against. Records reveal that ranging from the pre- independence period, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President General of Nigeria, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, first Prime Minister of Nigeria and Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of Western Nigeria were all investigated and indicted at various times by the British colonialists for corruption.
“The scenario above is clear evidence that the war on corruption which was started by the colonialists in the late 1950s has not been won by the government, rather the corruption monster that has been bedeviling our country has been having the upper hand. Allow me to acquaint you with the anti-corruption record of China, the world’s second largest economy. Since 2012 when the current Chinese Premier Xi Jinping assumed power an average of 50 top officials have been tried and jailed annually. In some cases the death penalty was applied.
“And at a point in time, there were nearly one million public office holders under investigation in the city of Beijing alone, according to Minxin Pei , a Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College in the USA. Even high ranking military chief, Guo Boxiong recently committed suicide while being investigated for bribery. That’s in addition to a Communist Party General Secretary and Politburo member, Sun Zhengcai who was also tried and jailed according to a report by a Drake University, USA don, David Skidmore.
“If the purpose of the heavy crackdown on graft, like the one recently carried out by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman, is ostensibly to send the message that nobody is above the law or untouchable, corruption in China has not abated. Mark Jennings, a Forbes magazine contributor reported that although the Chinese leader is portrayed as having zero tolerance, “However, China ranks 77th on Berlin-based nonprofit Transparency International’s 180-country “Corruption Perceptions” scale. The widely cited index assigned it a low-ish to mid-range score of 41 last year, barely changed from 39 in 2012 when Xi took office and in every intervening year”
“Similarly, Moody’s Investors Service has found that China also falls in the middle of the pack for graft that impairs a country’s “ability and willingness” to repay debt, says the service’s Singapore-based associate Managing Director Marie Diron. The record of anti corruption and its false positive outlook is not different in Nigeria.
We are all witnesses to our country’s slide in the corruption index from about 121 in 1996 to 144 in out of 175 least corrupt countries according to Transparency International’s 2018 rating? As if to compliment the abysmal corruption rating, our country has taken over from India as the poverty headquarters of the world, according to a survey by World Poverty Clock.
“All these woes have befallen Nigerians despite the rigorous fight against graft put up by President Buhari including unwittingly endorsing the branding of Nigerians as ‘fantastically corrupt’ by ex UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. By simple logic, if the fight against corruption that has been waged by colonialists pre-independence and subsequently by our political leaders, post independence for at least 60 years has been successful, it won’t remain a permanent feature and battle cry of politicians when they are seeking office till the present time. If the anti graft had been won by successive governments, our country, like its former peers such as Singapore, would be first, not third world.
“And isn’t it paradoxical and absurd that both Obasanjo and Buhari fought corruption as military heads of state and still returned 30 years after as democratically elected presidents to fight the same scourge? A rather odious but curiously pragmatic slogan promoted by the Nigerian police Force (NPF) some time ago was: ‘lf you don’t trust the police, try the thug’ Following the underpinning logic of the rather nihilistic slogan, since Nigeria has failed abysmally in its fight against corruption for so long, why don’t we launch a national war against poverty frontally? After all, corruption is only one of the many contributors to poverty as there are a slew of other factors that engender it. So why don’t our leaders take on the poverty demon directly? One of the measures or policies for mitigating poverty is a well articulated social safety net.
“Presently, Nigeria does not seem to have a viable and robust social safety net that could serve as a buffer or cushion for the poor against poverty. Under lbrahim Babangida’s regime, a social safety initiative, Better Life For Rural Women was promoted by his wife, Mrs Mariam Babangida of blessed memory. The women empowerment program had a profound effect on a critical mass of Nigerians from the grassroots to the top echelon. More so because it was women focused and being the gender that is basically responsible for the home front, it was adjudged a resounding success.
“Before that program, there was the Jerome Udoji led upwards review of salaries of civil servants tagged ‘Udoji Award’ in 1974 under Yakubu Gowon’s regime which, rather than solve the challenge of poverty , exacerbated it as it spiked inflation in the economy.
“There was also Petroleum Trust Fund, (PTF) promulgated under the watch of the military dictator Sani Abacha and meant to ameliorate the pains from the increase in petroleum pump price. That exercise led by then General Buhari was blighted by large scale corruption.
“The current N500 billion special intervention funds set aside by the present government in power for social investment as encapsulated in the Tradermoni, school children feeding, NPower youths empowerment initiative, statutory transfer of N5,000 to indigent Nigerians schemes, have proven to be less efficacious basically because the motive and implementation have been adjudged not to be altruistic.
“As a matter of fact, the ongoing anti poverty schemes have been dogged by criticisms including a scathing dissing by First Lady Aisha Buhari who lamented that Tradermoni did not get to her people in Adamawa state, a complaint and grudge also echoed and nursed by a plethora of Nigerians from other states. Critics, especially from the opposition party also allege that Tradermoni, under the purview of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office has been nothing but a vote buying scheme by the ruling party.
“The allegation underscores the believe that the social safety measures which President Buhari copiously mentioned in his Independence Day broadcast as being one of the fulcrum of his administration, has been as unedifying and forlorn as the long futile fight against corruption waged by successive governments going back to the colonial days which is in excess of 60 years.
There should be a practical alternative to the unproductive war on corruption in order to pull a critical mass of Nigerians out of the misery of poverty trap as the Chinese has done, is simple:
“Let’s declare a national war on poverty in the manner that Nigeria’s past leaders continuously waged war on corruption. Perhaps that would help us catch up development wise with our peer countries at independence in 1960 such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia amongst others. We can start by understudying the blueprint of some of these Asian tiger countries. A good candidate that lends itself to such emulation is Singapore.
“The secret of success of that south East Asian country has been well documented in the critically acclaimed book by it’s former President who is regarded as the ‘father of the country, Lee kuan Yew, titled “From Third To First World: The Story of Singapore :1965-2000”. In that book, Nigeria was referenced, sadly not for good, but for the notoriety of our leaders for corruption. Nevertheless, it has nuggets of wisdom for Nigerian leaders to imbibe and emulate.
“Another country that made a successful leap forward from poverty to prosperity in a relatively short span that Nigeria should copy its Standard Operating Procedure, SOP is China.
“It is the former Chinese premier, Deng Xiaoping that’s credited with being the architect of Chinese rapid development who famously said that it is through the window that you open for development to come into a country that corruption can also slip in through.
“Put succinctly, a good leader must learn to deal with both progress via economic development and the associated corruption pari-passu. In spite of its largely criticized (owing to its death sentence component) and generally unsuccessful anti graft crusade, China has simultaneously pursued its development agenda and as such it has been able to lift over 200m from poverty into prosperity.
“It is difficult to believe that today China is the world’s second largest economy. But in 1994,inflation in China was 24% and nearly 60% of the population lived on $1.90 a day which basically is the current situation in Nigeria, more or less.
China, the world’s most populous country achieved the feat of economic leap forward through its now highly acclaimed development paradigm known as the Four Modernizations which were first set out by Deng Xiaoping whose mission was to strengthen the fields of agriculture,industry, defense and science & technology.
“The Four Modernizations were adopted in 1977, replacing the cultural revolution driven by Chairman Mao whose warped communist policy got the country trapped in poverty for ages. Remarkably, and thankfully Nigeria has recently adopted and is currently implementing aggressive developments in agriculture which is the No 1 amongst the Four Modernizations policy that accelerated the accelerated the socioeconomic growth of China.
“By controlling tariffs,migration, demography, exchange rate, as well as interest rates, even though those policies are not compliant with global best practice, the Chinese leaders, particularly Deng Xiaoping and now Xi Jinping liberated a vast majority of Chinese people estimated to be 1.3b from being peasant farmers to industrialists and great scientists.
“Nigeria, home to the largest number of black people in the world ( 200 million), can also achieve a similar feat if we all put our hands on the plough and place national interest ahead of ethnicity, religion and all other sentiments which have shackled our country and is responsible for the nation’s arrested development.
“With high quality input from the high calibre and respected crop of economists drawn from the academia and the private sector recently inaugurated as members of the Economic Advisory Council, EAC by President Buhari, l am optimistic that Nigeria is at the cusp of a voyage of economic discovery and recovery.”
It is needless restating that the conclusion of the essay on an optimistic note turned out to be a colossal misjudgment on my part. That is because the much vaunted Economic Advisory Council that was supposed to turn things around, underperformed,thus became an anti climax.
It is worth pointing out that my optimistic expectations from the EAC is similar to my current enthusiasm about the Tinubunomics champions-the 10 special advisers comprising mainly professionals that are presently driving the Tinubu development agenda.
And the foregoing reality validates the fact that my advocacy for the sort of change that president Tinubu is presently unfolding is not borne out of sycophancy as it predates this administration.
Evidently, l had expressed similar hope at the commencement of Buhari’s second tenure in 2019, and even before then, when l was part of the team that packaged late President Musa Yar’Adua’s Seven Point Agenda in 2007.
Regrettably, as the curtain finally fell on the penultimate administration on 29 May when it exited Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power, and President Buhari handed the leadership baton over to President Tinubu, instead of pulling millions out of poverty as had been promised, more Nigerians had been gutted and mauled by poverty as if a demon possessed beast had been on rampage in an animal farm.
In the light of the misery currently ravaging fellow citizens as a whole,but particularly wrecking the lives of the most vulnerable,our country has ingloriously moved from having sixty million poor in 2015 to 90 million very poor in 2023 and 133 million who are being characterized as multidimensionally poor,which is based on a report commissioned by the administration that just quit the leadership stage.
In light of the reality described above, debilitating poverty is actually wreaking havoc on Nigerians and we must intentionally collectively fight it.
A veritable testimony to the massive suffering of Nigerians is the headline inflation rate which has just inched up to 22.79% in the short period of less than two months since the emergence of President Tinubu in Aso Rock Villa during which he has introduced transformative reforms necessary for the rebirth of our country,but which have triggered inflation that may rise up as high as 30% by this month end,with temporary painful consequences on the masses.
Since the reform’s negative fallouts are supposed to be short term pains for long term gains,and as Nigerians are known to be very resilient people,all hands are expected be put on deck to fight poverty collectively by all citizens of our country, both mighty and low, until it retreats.
Hence my candid advise to fellow Nigerians who are downcast ,crest fallen and at their wits end as a consequence of the ongoing painful but highly needed reforms,is for them to be guided by the message in the biblical scripture verse in Psalm 30:5 which goes thus: “weeping may endure for a night,but joy cometh in the morning.”
On the part of government,there is no doubt that it owes the masses transparency in its deployment of public funds recently appropriated to alleviate the pains of Nigerians arising from the negative consequences of the reforms.
As such, those in the commanding heights of political power are required to exhibit a sense of sacrifice, so that as leaders they would be seen as being empathic to the plight of the followers in the lower rungs of the ladder and thus create the optics that there is collective sacrifice by all.
That would engender a sense of do as l do ,as opposed to ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’ feeling that could rile up the masses that are mainly bearing the brunt.
Clearly,the recently approved N8,000 direct cash payout to the poorest of the poor amongst us is ill advised and has left a bad taste in the mouths of a vast majority of Nigerians.
Having waited for so long to take ameliorative actions, government should have realized that it ought to have rolled out a more comprehensive and encompassing program of action and not just direct cash payments to the poorest of the poor amongst us,which it has done with a heavy backlash.
However, as a responsive administration,President Tinubu has taken notice of the consternation of a critical mass of Nigerians and has ordered a review of the rejected direct cash payment policy/initiative.
Beyond the directive by Mr President for the authorities to not only review the direct cash deposit policy and release grains to the masses from the strategic reserve as well as make fertilizer available to farmers, policies that would ease the existing unbearable transportation challenges such as provision of Compressed Natural Gas, CNG buses as has been done in Borno and Rivers states,and the improvement of the purchasing power of workers both in the public and private sectors via at least 100% salary increase for those in the lower rungs of the social ladder,to boost the spending power of workers. These are policies that must be implemented without further delay.
Normally, technocrats bid their time to get policies well packaged. But these are not normal times. President Tinubu who is a politician is aware that traditionally, time is not a friend of politicians.That is basically because their mandate is always tenured. As such,they need to deliver dividends of democracy speedily, hence political actors are always in a race against time.
Not making enough haste, while the sun shines is a significant factor that is currently not being accorded the primacy of time by Aso Rock Villa. And it could become its Achilles heels.
Truly, the present administration,for no fault of the current leadership is operating in jeopardy.
That is because it was confronted with the dilemma of a fait accompli as petrol subsidy removal was actually triggered by the outgone administration that passed the Petroleum Industry Bill,PlB into an act of law in August 2021.
President Tinubu was compelled to implement the policy that had become Petroleum Industry Act,PIA at the time that president Buhari handed power over to him hence he announced the end of petrol subsidy during his inaugural speech on 29 May.
In tandem with the aphorism:”uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”,President Tinubu has been left to bear the brunt of managing the negative fallouts in a manner that seems as if he has put the cart before the horse.
Although, the president’s leadership capacity is being stretched and tested by the current tough decisions that he has to make, President Tinubu has no other option than to step up to the plate by dexterously walking on the tight rope in front of him and in a space that is currently filled with land mines (explosives) that requires a leader with an astute skill in navigating his way delicately through very dangerous terrains.
Fortunately, having successfully governed Lagos state,1999-2007, President Tinubu possesses a rich pedigree in public sector management and cognate experience in political leadership during volatile and turbulent socioeconomic and political times.
Therefore, the bottomline right now is that President Tinubu who is sitting atop the commanding heights of political power in Aso Rock Villa as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria,has to prove that he is that leader that would change the narrative about Nigeria from poverty to prosperity of the masses by acting wisely and timely.
–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.
To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng