Birthdays are suitable for reflecting on paths taken, tasks at hand and roads ahead, writes Monday Philips Ekpe

Even those who disagree with you, President Bola Tinubu, would concede that your widely announced decision to keep your birthday this year away from pomp, pageantry and lavish media attention because of the nation’s mood is top-notch.  That some persons did not heed that wish didn’t take away its significance. It’s on record that you decided to keep low your first anniversary since becoming president on the declared grounds of empathy and sensitivity. Ironically, however, it’s also because of the prime position of March 29 this year in your life as Nigeria’s number one citizen that some people won’t allow it to simply fade from the pages of history.

Here’s pushing the rationale further. To say that you, Asiwaju Tinubu, are not a true man of history is to deny the obvious. And this goes beyond your taking the oath of office to lead the country on May 29 last year. In the face of scepticism, cynicism and strong oppositions, you had seized several opportunities to proclaim your intention to see your lifelong ambition of being president through. At the climax of what appeared to be an arrogant daring of fate, you even moved steps higher into the realm of “it’s my turn”, the avalanche of formidable opposing interests and personalities notwithstanding.

In less than two months, you who, to many people, didn’t quite look like someone who could withstand the rigours of Aso Rock, will mark your one year as the leader of the largest concentration of black people on earth. The ranks that match or surpass that description are not many in the world. Drums aren’t needed to remind Nigerians about the importance of their president(s). But, for you Sir, birthday celebrations or not, you need moments of introspection, away from the ever-present madding crowds around you, in order to acquire the requisite energy to move on. You shouldn’t be that leader who allows the noise around him to drown his own innate properties. No matter how flamboyant or compelling a king’s externalities are, he mustn’t ignore the critical strengths that lie within himself.

Now that you’re 72 years old, Your Excellency, spend some time to think deeply, to reflect on the job placed on your battle-tested shoulders. Those who had dared to doubt your ability to brave the odds and clinch that crucial victory pronouncement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been silenced. And the patriotic, resilient fighters who went up to the Supreme Court to pursue their “stolen” mandate have since yielded whatever is left of their dreams to the almighty, after reaching the end of the legal road. Even the discomfiting allegations that have trailed much of your sojourn in politics may no more have the ability to bite. And barring any unforeseen circumstance, you’ll finish your term in 2027 and, in a predictable Nigerian way, gun straight for the second stanza.

But, Mr President, whoever tells you that the journey ahead of you will be that simple has lied to you. Apart from the fact that a chunk of the destinies of men and women is not under their own control, the people you govern, most of whom lack the gut to even speak for themselves, are in various stages of disillusionment and despair. In theory, at least, they put you in your exalted seat. Their helplessness should never be misconstrued as a permanent disability. Material things, money and political posts aren’t all there is to power. The wishes, goodwill, frustrations, anguish and prayers of the people actually form metaphysical, if not spiritual, clouds. And the rains do fall. The repercussions for the persons who fritter away their chances to provide quality, selfless leadership at different levels are too multifaceted to list here.

Jagaban of Nupe Kingdom, you’ve been around long enough to know the fixation of our political class with the term, hope. It’s unfortunate that “Hope 1993” which was packaged and driven by the late Chief Moshood Abiola went the way it did. Fast forward to 2015. I doubt if any Nigerian president will ever replicate the kind of enthusiasm that ushered former President Muhammadu Buhari into office that year. As everybody knows and you’ve kept reminding everyone publicly about the centrality of your role in his emergence, it’s practically impossible to distance yourself from the perceived failures of his government. I say this because recently some of your aides started suggesting that you’re surprised about the depth of those failings. The Renewed Hope mantra upon which you anchored your own quest for the top job is yet to earn the respect of your long-suffering compatriots. Most of them have since succumbed to resignation and ennui. 

I’m convinced that the gods haven’t played a fast one on you by making sure that you directly succeeded the man from Daura. You threw everything you had into the ring and it payed off, against daunting odds. While I won’t agree with anybody who thinks that nothing good happened during the eight years of your predecessor, truth be told, the feelings and convictions of many Nigerians about Buhari’s performance fell too short in comparison with the euphoria that welcomed his second coming to the nation’s topmost desk. In plain language, his administration underachieved substantially. Now the scars are everywhere. But excuses and windy explanations can’t take the place of respectable memories.

I listened to someone the other day attempting a theory in the form of rhetorical questioning: “Has any Nigerian government done better than the preceding one, especially since this current republic started in 1999?” What sombre, frightening, recurring reality! Mr President Sir, your diehard supporters believe that you’re a special one. So unique that all the eminent Nigerians who have governed the wonderful but difficult Lagos State can’t measure up to you, particularly in their developmental efforts. If that’s hyperbolic, it isn’t mine. The idea formed a major strand of your campaign in the run-up to the 2023 presidential election. No argument about its validity even matters at this point.

Kindly look back a bit, Sir. Buhari had been as loved as any Nigerian leader would ever wish; yet he got some key things terribly wrong. Unlearn from him fast. No luxury of time-wasting. No good reasons exist why statutory positions in some public institutions still haven’t been filled over 10 months into your administration. Councils of most federal tertiary institutions are not in place, with all the attendant bottlenecks. You inherited that problem from the last government but here comes a chance to prove that you have a better grasp of functional education. Only few of your appointees seem to know why they’ve been invited to the party. One of the saddest aspects of having Buhari in the saddle was his clear inability to monitor delegated authority and take adequate and prompt responsibility. That way, some of his ministers and heads of parastatals had the inglorious credit of comfortably presiding over directionless entities for four to eight years. One or two of them even confessed about their incompetence at the twilight of the tenure, of course, without consequences.

Mr President, congratulations on naira’s reported revival in the forex market. But Nigerians can’t immediately troop out in jubilation. They’re still bogged down by issues that have conspired to ruin their joy and wellbeing. None of these challenges has its roots in the last one year, meaning they all successfully defied your predecessors. That’s no credible alibi to perpetuate underperformance. Your shot should now be used to authenticate and immortalise the Asiwaju Tinubu brand, if indeed you have one. Get on target fast!

Dr Ekpe is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board               

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