Like any previous government in Nigeria, President Ahmed Tinubu’s administration is facing economic and political challenges. However, Tinubu’s situation is unique because these problems began on the day he took office and have since ballooned beyond pundits imagination. Many pundits had high expectations that a Tinubu-led government would implement exceptional programmes that would be feasible and serve as the silver bullet for Nigeria’s socioeconomic sectors. Unfortunately, these expectations have been dashed due to slow results.

Furthermore, Tinubu came to power through many thorny paths, so all eyes are on him. For some, this attention is in hopes of his success, while others are eagerly waiting to see him fail.

The All Progressives Congress (APC), Tinubu’s platform, came to power in 2015 and 2023, riding on massive support from its strongholds in the Southwest and the entire North. However, the APC and the Tinubu presidency are now facing mass dissatisfaction from these strongholds.

Tinubu’s first problem is political: he has yet to consolidate his strongholds, especially in the North. President Tinubu’s method of using proxies to engage with the North is not yielding the desired results. For instance, many people who voluntarily campaigned for Tinubu in 2023 are not actively defending or promoting his programmes and projects in the North. A typical example is some young people and the Ulamas who campaigned for the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. However, it is fair to say that these groups cannot advocate effectively when the cost of living has skyrocketed, and most people attribute this increase to the high pump price of petroleum products and the floating of the naira. And the representation of young people in the Tinubu government is below average. 

Secondly, Tinubu’s public relations and communication team is addressing the northern masses in ‘languages’ they do not understand. Meanwhile, the Southwest appears to be silently discontented.

These dual problems—economic and political in the North, and economic in the South—surprisingly have one solution: ‘cheap rice and beans on the tables of the masses’. How can Tinubu achieve this? Tinubu can leverage this farming season in the North to address nearly 80% of these issues. Because 95% of the high cost of living is food inflation.

First, the Tinubu presidency must acknowledge that the Lagos model is not working as effectively on a national scale. Tinubu’s success in Lagos was evident, but its application in Nigeria is not yielding the desired results. This was apparent when the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, recently gave an interview to Seun Okinbaloye of Channels TV. The minister provided just generic answers to questions about how to improve the livelihoods of the masses. However, he did make a significant point by stating, “The decision to remove subsidies has made it possible for Nigeria to pay its debts both to the CBN and internationally and has kept the reputation of the country intact.” Additionally, the Tinubu government’s decision to continue the social investment programme of directly paying stipends to vulnerable Nigerians and initiating the student loan scheme is commendable. However, the truth is, the subsidy removal shouldn’t have been in a haste; it should have been gradual while the government was learning and unlearning in the process. For example, the Petroleum Equalisation Fund should have been remodelled to function in the new system. 

The best and quickest solution for Tinubu now is for the government to declare an emergency in the current farming season by providing massive direct support to farmers in the form of fertilisers, farm implements, pesticides, and herbicides. The cost of logistics should also be reduced through interventions in the price of diesel and a healthy discussion with farm produce marketers who have a large stock of food items in their warehouse. If these measures are implemented and these players in the good produce market are reached through less political and bureaucratic channels, the price of foodstuffs and livestock will drop.

Zayyad I. Muhammad, Abuja

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