The barrage of criticisms of some policies of the Bola Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government from the opposition and even his supporters is an indication that the honeymoon for the President to deliver on his campaign promises seems to be over. President Tinubu had made several promises in the course of interacting with different stakeholders ahead of the 2023 elections although many faulted him and the other presidential candidates for not dwelling on the specifics of how they will go about the policies and programmes in their respective manifestos. Tinubu’s policy document with the theme: “Renewed Hope: Action Plan for a Better Nigeria,” offered directions on his plans for security, economy and foreign policy. On his plans for the economy, Tinubu said he will engage the private sector to drive economic development across the country. “My belief that the private sector is the fulcrum of economic progress is evident and documented. However, fundamental flaws with the basic design of our national economy imperil the private sector from playing the role it ought to and adding the value it is capable of. In this instance, the government must act as a catalyst. “We shall do this on all fronts. We will address the conflict between monetary and fiscal policies. Budgeting will be based on the projected spending levels needed to push real annual growth rate above seven per cent, while reducing the unemployment rate, so that we can double the economy in ten years,” he said.
Besides promising to phase out fuel subsidy (which he did on his inauguration day), Tinubu also pledged to accelerate full implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act and implement additional favourable policies to attract investment in deep water assets within six months. On how he would tackle the forex crisis impeding the economy, Tinubu stated in the Renewed Hope document: “The recent dip in our exchange rate is primarily due to global supply and production shortfalls caused by global factors well beyond the scope of our control. Our diminished levels of oil production and the modest capacity of our manufacturing sector to expand production both serve to compound the pressure on the naira. “Further compounding our difficulty is the fact that we are tied to an ineffective regime of multiple, somewhat arbitrary, exchange rates. This situation gives rise to financial dislocation, currency speculation and arbitrage. These practices divert much-needed funds away from productive endeavours that could employ hundreds of thousands of people and create products that improve average living conditions. “To ensure that exchange rate policy harmonises with our goals of optimal growth and job creation driven by industrial, agricultural and infrastructural expansion, we will work with the Central Bank and the financial sector to carefully review and better optimise the exchange rate regime. Our economic policies shall be guided by our desire for a stronger, more stable Naira founded upon a vibrant and productive real economy.”
On agriculture, he said his administration will place emphasis on the use of technology to improve the agricultural sector for better production and contribution to the nation’s economy. According to him, “the Buhari administration has invested heavily in agriculture, providing loans and expanding the country’s total acreage of cultivated land. We will build on this, but our focus will be on using technology and expertise to accelerate growth and development by providing the critical infrastructure necessary to achieve the commodity transformations in the agriculture value chain. “Roads, rail, access to ports, and storage infrastructure are what we require to radically transform the agriculture sector and increase its value to the nation. Providing these will be the areas of our focus so that the full potential of our agro economy can be achieved, and we can reap the benefits in jobs, improved economic opportunities and increased prosperity.” On power, he said his administration will be committed to energy sufficiency through the reform of the sector. His words: “Energy supply is another priority. There is no version of the world where Nigeria’s ambition for self can be achieved without solving the problem of how to provide energy to homes and businesses across the country.”
The education sector was not left out as Tinubu said he will provide student loans and reform the Almajiri system in the northern part of the country. He promised that he would recruit and train more teachers as a way of boosting education; establish technology hubs, where youths can develop technological languages on their own and make a better 21st-century approach to governance in Nigeria. On how he would tackle insecurity that is ravaging almost all parts of the country, Tinubu said his administration will establish a highly trained and disciplined anti-terrorist squad to tackle the problem.
Patience running out as challenges persist
There is no doubt that the discontent in the polity that compelled most Nigerians to seek for a new beginning after Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency is yet to be addressed although President Tinubu initially blamed his inability to turns things around within the shortest possible time on the comatose economy Buhari bequeathed to him. While it is should be noted that Tinubu has not publicly put the blame on Buhari, he seems to be speaking through his aides. For instance, many believe that Nuhu Ribadu, a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who is presently serving as National Security Adviser (NSA), spoke the President’s mind, when he revealed that Buhari’s administration not only looted the country but left it bankrupt before handing over power to Tinubu on May 29, 2023. Ribadu, who spoke at the Chief of Defence Intelligence, 2023, Annual Conference in November last year, was emphatic that Buhari left no money in the treasury for Tinubu to run the country. His words: “Yes, we’re facing budgetary constraints. It is okay for me to tell you. Fine, it is important for you to know that we inherited a difficult situation, literally a bankrupt country, no money, to a point where we can say that all the money we’re getting now, we’re paying back what was taken. It is serious!” While many saw reasons with the Tinubu administration’s claim of empty treasury in its early days given the huge debt burden (over $103 billion) left by the Buhari administration, the people’s patience seems to be running out although the President keeps assuring Nigerians of better days ahead. As it stands, many Nigerians seem not interested in listening to any excuse as a justification for non-performance. To them, Tinubu was aware of the prevalent situation in the country before he made promises of better life for the citizenry. Matters seem to have been worsened by the belief that he played a major role in bringing Buhari to power. This, perhaps, explains the protests over high cost of living in some states last week. The protest which started in Minna, the Niger State capital, saw thousands of women and youths taking to major streets against hike in prices of food items in the state. The protesters refused to back down despite the presence of the deputy governor of the state, Yakubu Garba. One of the protesters, Ibrahim Allawi, who spoke with New Telegraph, said: “We are doing this today because of the rising cost of food items and poor government’s effort to arrest the situation. We decided to block major roads, so that the government can hear our cries and act.” Traders in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, followed suit on Wednesday. The protesters voiced their concerns over rising costs of food items, which they said, has negatively impacted customer turnout. Similar protests have been staged in Kano and Osun states, while the organised labour is also insisting on embarking on industrial action to register its displeasure over the current economic hardship in the country despite. The organised labour under the aegis of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), had on Thursday issued a 14-day strike notice to the Federal Government if it fails to meet its demands of paying a wage award to civil servants, adding that it was long overdue. The unions accused the government of neglecting the welfare of Nigerians, particularly their members, amid the current excruciating economic situation in the country. Labour stated that on October 2, 2023, the Federal Government agreed to focus on addressing the massive suffering and the general harsh socioeconomic consequences of the “ill-conceived and illexecuted IMF/World Bank-induced hike in the price of PMS and the devaluation of the naira.” It added that these “dual policies have had, as we predicted, dire economic consequences for the masses and workers of Nigeria.” Besides the hardship over high cost of living, Nigerians are also grappling with security challenges and the situation has assumed an alarming dimension. Tinubu is eight months in office but emboldened criminal elements have upscale their attacks on citizens. According to the 2023 Nigeria Security Report by Beacon Consulting, no fewer than 5,060 Nigerians were killed, with 2,263 others abducted between May and December 2023, when the report was released. The states that are worst hit in the renewed killings are Plateau and Benue. The five states of the South-East are not left out as several lives have been lost due to the Mondays’ stay-at-home directive ordered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The killings are despite Tinubu promise in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2023, to “defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country.” The President also pledged to effectively tackle the menace by reforming both the security doctrine and architecture.
LP urges Tinubu to seek help before it’s too late
The Labour Party (LP), in its reaction to the protests, urged President Tinubu to seek help over the increasing cost of living and hardships in the country before they become unmanageable. The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, said it is deeply concerned about how millions of Nigerians are battling with the crisis of food shortages since the turn of the year and called on President Tinubu to prevail on some of his aides from making inflammatory and unreasonable comments, which are capable of offending the sensibility of average Nigerians. The opposition party said Tinubu and his team should admit that they have ran out of ideas and ask for help as no amount of propaganda can change the fact that more Nigerians are falling below the poverty line. LP’s statement read in part”: “It is either that the government is bereft of ideas on how to check this unfolding catastrophe or that it chose to continue to act as if it is still campaigning for office. “You can’t run governance based on whim. The economic turmoil we are suffering today is a result of this poor sense of judgement. Sadly, amidst all of these, the APC administration has increased its spending on the lavish lifestyles of its elected officials, and corruption among government officials has never been worse.”
Atiku berates APC for indulging in blame game
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 elections , on his part, said Former vice president Atiku Abubakar said President Tinubu’s poor response to Nigeria’s economic challenges is setting the stage for a prolonged and deeper domestic economic crisis. He added that Tinubu and his economic management team must swallow their pride, admit their missteps and failures, and follow those who know the terrain. He insisted that the President must act fast before the economy sinks deeper into the abyss as according to him, Tinubu has shown incapacity to deal with the adverse and disastrous impact of the new subsidy regime on the people and businesses and the new foreign exchange policy, which provides for a free-floating exchange rate. The former vice president further lampooned Tinubu and his political appointees for blaming his predecessor in office for bequeathing a ‘dead’ economy, adding that it is a familiar game popularised by former President Muhammadu Buhari while in office. He said: “It has become fashionable for every APC-led government to blame others, especially the opposition and external factors for Nigeria’s economic woes. Now, Tinubu is elevating the blame game to the NEXT LEVEL as he accuses his own party of lacklustre performance. “The evidence, however, is overwhelming. Tinubu’s underperformance is largely attributable to leadership failures in the management of the economy. The failure of leadership by the APC-led government is staring every Nigerian in the face as the country’s economic, social, political, and security challenges persist and assume frightening dimensions. An unprepared leadership such as Bola Tinubu’s fails to anticipate impending crisis and is always slow to react.”
APC accuses opposition of sponsoring protests
The ruling party in its reaction to the protests, blamed them on opposition parties. APC, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, accused opposition parties of being the brain behind the protests, which it claimed were not mere coincidence. Morka added that it was a desperate move to portray the APC-led administration as underperforming. The statement read in part: “The protests in Minna and Kano on Monday were the manifestation of this devious and unpatriotic plot. That the protests happened simultaneously in both cities is not coincidental. It bears the bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort to instigate unrest and undermine the government. “This mercenary opposition tactic is a clear and present threat to public peace and national security. While we recognise the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protest, we urge our good people to be vigilant and not lend themselves to the treacherous attempt by the opposition to promote social strife by its incendiary rhetoric and manipulative plots. “The President Tinubuled administration is solidly committed to doing everything in its power to mitigate the transient pains of critically important reforms that are crucial to economic recovery and sustainable prosperity for all Nigerians.” Morka, who faulted criticism of Tinubu by Atiku and the presidential candidate of LP, Peter Obi, however charged the duo to share suggestions with the President on how to effectively run the economy and governance. The APC National Publicity Secretary, in an interview, urged the two presidential candidates of opposition political parties not only to condemn what the government is doing to address economic hardship in the country but suggest ideas. “Opposition politics is not necessarily about condemning. These individuals, Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar, touted some of the economic policies this government is running with to be at the core of their economic agenda. So, what has happened? It is not enough to just condemn, these leaders should be able to, assuming they have the silver bullets this government is not deploying, they should point it out.’ “It is not enough for Atiku Abubakar to bandy words. I expect a man who thinks deeply as he claims about governance, economy and other aspects of our national life to offer ideas, concrete suggestions,” he said.
Lukman warns on dangers of protests
A former National Vice Chairman (North West) of the APC, Salihu Lukman, who spoke on the issue, said President Tinubu would be ignoring the mass protests over high cost of living at his peril. Expressing the fear that the mass protests may engulf the entire country soon if the issues were not addressed, the former Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), said: “As it is now, the Renewed Hope Agenda of our party has been floated. Like the Naira exchange rate, Renewed Hope is being exchanged for Renewed Anger. The value is becoming more and more provocative to citizens. “If the truth must be told, there is hunger in the land! As a committed member of APC, it is very depressing that this is happening under the leadership of our party. Even more depressing was the statement issued by Mr. Felix Morka, our national publicity secretary alleging that opposition parties are behind the protests. “For Mr. Morka to issue such a very dishonest statement points to only one thing that the leadership of our party has completely lost it and at this rate their political utility value is zero. This clearly suggests that even the old pretense about being progressive has been thrown to the dogs. “How can we be talking of opposition sponsoring protests in the strongholds of the APC? Both Minna and Kano are strong holds of APC. In the case of Minna, Niger State, APC is the ruling party. Kano is the home state of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the APC National Chairman. “To suggest that any opposition party could mobilise citizens to protests our government is already defeatist. The hard reality is that these protests are logical responses to the realities facing Nigerians. “If these realities continue unattended to, these protests will spread like bush fire across every part of the country within a very short period. No one should be deceived, these are justifiable protests, which tests the responsiveness of our party, our leaders and above all our democracy. APC and President Tinubu may wish to ignore them at their own peril.”
FG calls for patience
The Federal Government, in response to the protests, called for patience, saying that it is working to meet the workers’ demands. It also announced that as a temporary response to the nation’s growing food crisis and the rising prices of commodities, President Tinubu has ordered the immediate release of more than 42,000 metric tons of various grain types from the Strategic Reserve, while the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria promised the release of 60,000 metric tonnes of rice. Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, stated this, while speaking with State House correspondents after the final leg of the three meetings of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on Thursday. No doubt, President Tinubu has continued to reiterate his determination to bring the present suffering of Nigerians to an end, he should be reminded that the deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principle on which it was founded.