By Eddy Odivwri
Barring any eventuality, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also known as Jagaban, will, in ten days time, become Nigeria’s president. On that day, he will be sworn in to fulfil his life time ambition of becoming Nigeria’s president. His will be a presidency against all odds.
Perhaps in the history of Nigerian political experience, no presidential candidate has been as controversial as Bola Tinubu. From the contentious issue of running on a same-faith candidature with his running mate (the Muslim-Muslim ticket), through the ruckus noise that followed the parade of fake Bishops, whose borrowed cassocks and robes hung loosely on them like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief, down to the many verbal and psychomotor gaffes, not forgetting the litany of unresolved issues of the past: educational background, age, health status, source of wealth and even the foggy American drug odyssey. But in all, it is a tribute to resilience, commitment, determination and unusual courage that Senator Bola Tinubu waded through all the shark-infested waters to emerge on the other side as the President-elect of the Nigerian federation. That he is a political master strategist is clearly confirmed. He is a political Nostradamus.
Tinubu’s staying power is also legendary. He seems to have so deeply understood the Nigerian people and their nuances and mastered how to perfectly manage them. That is why all the noise about the many short comings that beclouded his candidature never got him fazed. By the side, he maintained a compact corps of attack dogs, who could bark and act somewhat wildly at whoever that dared to threaten the peace of the kingdom.
In ten days, all old things would have all passed away, and all things would have become new. We shall have a brand new president and a brand new Vice President and indeed, a brand new administration which will be manned by not-so-new men and women. And the nation will move ahead, regardless of all the protestations. Hopefully.
Some political parties are in court challenging the outcome of the election. Not many people believe anything substantial will come out of it, except that it will enrich the volume and depth of legal jurisprudence. By May 29, Bola Tinubu would have become President and the immunity conferred on Presidents and governors as provided for in Section 308 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, would be activated. What that means is that neither Mr President nor any of the governors would be subjected to any legal prosecution. But even if that provision was not shield enough, many believe the judges would not have the balls to unsettle the polity with a “rascally” ruling, as it happened in Kenya in September 2017.
It is instructive that the United States of America has withheld its felicitation with the President- elect by refusing to congratulate him, as many other sovereign states have done, including Russia and France. At the beginning of the week, the American government announced “visa Ban” to some persons believed to have helped in the subversion of democratic practices in the 2023 general elections. It however failed to release the names of such suspected democracy saboteurs. But it is remarkable that as a result of the many underhand dealings during the election, some Nigerians have been penciled for sanction. It is rather shameful that it is another country that is punishing our electoral offenders, despite the elaborate provision for punishment in our Electoral Act 2022.
But beyond the euphoria of the victory and the ululation of the emi lokan mantra, lies the real task of governance. The campaign promises that preceded the elections are yet fresh in our minds. The Tinubu administration is about inheriting a sickly economy, for nursing. Will the economy get better or will it get worse?
Now that the political bridge has been crossed, will the Tinubu administration be able to cross the economic bridge too? He is credited with some whiff of economic wizardry. The country is owing far above N77 trillion as at the time of writing this article. The outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is getting the country even more and more committed and indebted with curious loans and strange projects, sucking off huge sums of money. So, will Tinubu be coming with a magic wand that will turn our economic captivity into economic redemption? What fiscal discipline will Tinubu be introducing into governance that will transform our economic fortunes?
The signs on the horizon are not exactly helpful, neither do they raise our hopes, except that Mr President-elect is famed for turning around rotten situation toa rosy situation.
With headline inflation hitting 22.22 per cent and food inflation netting at 24.6 per cent, it is clear that the days ahead are going to be tough. But even tougher it will be when the administration finally draws courage to remove the subsidy on petrol. The removal which ought to start at the end of the Buhari administration was merely suspended, not cancelled.
Suspending the removal of the subsidy is merely postponing the evil day which, like death, will surely come. Tinubu had sworn during the campaigns that his administration will remove the subsidy which the Buhari administration had glibly described as “scam”, at the beginning.
It is however interesting to note that the $800 million palliative Loan from the World bank will be released to the incoming administration of Bola Tinubu. Nigerians will watch to see how that amount will be disbursed.
The World Bank has warned that unless the subsidy is promptly removed, the federal government will not be able to sustain the economy for more than two or so months. In the same vein, the World Bank had also warned that the country was exceeding its borrowing limit. That leaves us in a quandry that will compel us to look inward and wrest the economy from its ancient predators. Nigeria is presently owing the World Bank N6 tr, and is the fourth most indebted country to the World Bank.
The subsidy removal conundrum will be the first deep water that the Tinubu administration will have to cross, as the organized labour unions like the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), are girding up their loins for a duel with the incoming administration. That will surely be a good baptism for the Jagaban.
Two days ago, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on a 5-day warning strike. Labour disputes were a regular feature of the Buhari administration. Will the Tinubu administration be able to rein-in the workforce with less cases of industrial disputes every now and then?
The huge debt to be inherited are overwhelming. The size of government yet promises to be massive and weighty. Ironically, we are draped with debt, but yet live large and more luxuriantly than our creditors. They who lend to us manage their resources with remarkable discipline, but we who borrow from them splurge and splatter resources with a valueless spirit. Roguery and corruption have not only become very daring, they have been lionized. Getting into public office is a ticket to instant and humongous wealth. With less than a third of what they steal, they can very comfortably compromise the system that will attempt to sanction them. And the beat goes on.
Beside the construction of the rail lines and a few other projects like the Ajaokuta Kaduna kano (AKK Gas) pipeline, and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, it is difficult to understand how suddenly Nigeria got so deeply plunged in debts. What were the loans used for?
It is troubling that the privatised Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) which is one of the biggest paying jobs in the public sector, has, for some three or so years not been able to refine a litre of petroleum product, despite the huge sums allegedly spent on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries. Yet, they remain in office, incurring massive bills. The huge theft of petroleum products going on in the Niger Delta region has remained, robbing the nation of valuable income. These are clearly issues waiting to be tackled, if the nation must recover from the cesspit of indebtedness.
If our vast natural resources are well and honestly managed, we should have no business borrowing these huge loans from just everywhere. It is bad enough that we are unable to efficiently manage our resources for our own development, yet, it is doubly troubling to see that even what we borrow, we not only mismanage, we steal them in very daring streaks.
This will be the present and immediate task for the Tinubu administration. Can the many leakages be blocked or are we going to see even more leakages?
Perhaps one standing challenge the Tinubu administration will also inherit will be the problem of insecurity in the land. The benign malaise of kidnapping, banditry and herders-farmers clash which has continued to take lives and more lives, has continued to rage. The Northwest zone which has become the epicentre of banditry, especially Kaduna and Katsina States, remain very troubling. The Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima has been alleged to have an affiliation with some of these terror-groups. Will his being in office now help to contain or escalate the philistinic affliction from the terror gangs? The fate of Leah Sharibu, the remaining Chibok girls and many unreleased kidnapped victims across the land are some of the unresolved issues the Buhari administration will be handing over to the Tinubu administration. It must be pointed out that the Chibok school girls kidnap happened in 2014, before the Buhari administration came into office in 2015.
How far and well Tinubu will go will depend largely on the kind of people that will make up his cabinet. As a consummate politician, he’d have many factors to consider in choosing his cabinet. Already, he is said to have traveled to Europe on a working visit. Last Monday, he met, for four hours, with the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Democratic Party (NNDP), Alh Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is believed to have concluded a deal of being part of the cabinet, in a major strategy to burrow into the huge voting mass of the north west..
So, what kind of people will be in the cabinet? The jostling had been on for over two months now. If the cabinet is filled with dealers and wheelers, then we’d be in a deep shit as a country. But if it is populated by technocrats and patriots who are ready to serve, then we will be on the pathway to recovery.
But with the appointment of Kashim Shettima’s Personal Assistant, Ibrahim Abba Umar, as Executive Director, Engineering and Technical service, of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) less than two weeks ago, it is difficult to say if due process will not be brazenly breached and compromised when the Tinubu administration fully takes off. The same Umar, unconfirmed reports say, is being groomed to take over as the Managing Director of the NPA in due course. Nigerians are waiting and watching.
One area that will define the amount of peace and quiet in the land will be what the administration is able to do or fail to do on the issue of youth employment. Unemployment figures in the country have been terribly high. Many youths and even middle-aged persons have literally fled the country in what is described on the street as Japa syndrome. If jobs are not made available, not only will the nation’s workforce continue to flee the country, the crime rate in the land will generally be on the rise. Banditry, Boko Haram, herders-farmers clash and all forms of terrorism in Nigeria are largely fed by the malaise of poverty and hardship. Thus, the more engaged the Nigerian populace are, the more peace we will see in the land.