President Bola Tinubu cannot afford to disappoint, writes Joshua Ocheja

 It has been a tough one for the country. Many things are popping up at the same time. At some point, I assume President Bola Tinubu reclined on his chair and tried to think deeply about the way out of the predicament. Even the presidential spin-masters were careful about what to spin at the risk of compounding the situation for their principal. 

The blame game could not do any magic and was not even considered, even though it was whispered in certain quarters that the country was experiencing the carryover of the previous administration. But it remained in the realm of whispers to date. 

Someone jokingly asked for the whereabouts of the Lagos “whizkids” manning critical sectors of the economy. Those who did magic in Lagos at some point. He wondered why they could not make magic happen. That was wishful thinking. The country has been in a mess several years back, but we elected to live in denial. 

I say this because it has been argued that removing fuel subsidy was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. I won’t argue with the economists and development experts in our midst. But I have a right to my opinion, formed from an intellectual perspective by analyzing the country’s economic policies of successive governments. They were bereft of ideas. It was garbage in and garbage out. 

Jagaban knew he was in trouble when he took over the realms of affairs. But he was forbidden from complaining because he lifted the hands of “someone” and sold him to the country. So complaining would have amounted to an insult to our sensibilities. But he was smart about it. It is on record that he once stated that he inherited “assets” and “liabilities.” That was a subtle way to complain. But many didn’t understand. 

His hands were also tied, given some revelations of the identities of those who made a mess of the system. What ran through his mind was to avoid washing the dirty linen in public. He chose to find a way out and in good time. But it is a tough one. The country is at the tipping point. No one is immune; it is just a matter of manifestation. 

What are the options before Jagaban? Dine with the devil or be a saint? They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think dining with the devil now pays more for the short-term benefit because the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know.

The system is being manipulated. Who are those manipulating the system? Can he fight them? I wonder if he can put up any good fight now. Is fighting an option because time is ticking fast? He has to make a statement that he is still the Jagaban; otherwise, his hard-earned reputation would go down the drain. And that is not a good way to end a race. 

This is not to say he is relenting and allowing the wind to dictate the country’s economic direction; far from that. It is just that most of his moves have been matched with commensurate counter-action, just like a game of chess. Nigeria is like a chessboard now. Players must be mindful of “checks, threats and captures” to avoid losing the game. But I have an idea. There must be concessions between the government and those that dictate the market forces. They are not spirits. We see them every day. 

In a Facebook post by Reno Omokri in 2022, he said, “Learn to stoop to conquer. If you bend to a dwarf, you lose nothing and gain knowledge he will give you. After listening to him, you can stand up again and remain taller than the dwarf. But not just taller but wiser, too. 

Nigeria is in a state of oligopoly. An oligopoly is a market in which control lies in the hands of a few large sellers who own dominant market shares. Can there be any progress without stooping for them? Unfortunately not. The government lost control of the market a long time ago. And it can’t take it back in a jiffy. It’s impossible. They have enjoyed hefty tax waivers from the government. They have dictated the policy direction of the country. They have their hands and ears in government circles. And nothing happens without their approval. This is the stark reality. 

Maybe Jagaban is thinking along my line of thought. I will give an example. Recently, Jagaban held a meeting with key members of the organized private sector. They discussed the economy, food security, and national security. Imagine that in less than 48 hours, the naira appreciated against the dollar. What changed? Did our foreign exchange earnings increase? Did our crude oil production increase? This is indicative and buttresses the fact that there is more than meets the eyes in the debacle in Nigeria. 

Either way, it is a tough one for Jagaban. He is sweating it out. I am impressed. He is not shifting blame because the buck stops at his table. That is what it takes to be the Commander-in-Chief. The hole is deeper than what we imagined. Only the one who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. 

I am not convinced Jagaban meant it this way. Unfortunately, our options are limited. It has to be the hard way. There is a lot at stake for Jagaban, and he can’t disappoint. I’m not sure he wants to climax his political trajectory on an infamous note. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. It is a tough one for Jagaban and all of us. But time is ticking. 

Ocheja, a military historian and doctoral researcher, can be reached via jaocheja@gmail.com 

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