By Tunde Oladunjoye
“If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.”
- Barrack Obama
The above title and quote will probably be the most appropriate to describe the less than a month old administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
After surviving the internal schisms of the scheming camps within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to emerge as its flag bearer in the last presidential election, then going through a most turbulent electioneering that attacked his personality more than his manifesto; and finally surviving all legal and illegal hurdles placed on his path to been sworn-in as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; President Tinubu has shown within weeks of assumption of office that he, from actions and pronouncements, actually came prepared.
Never in the annals of Nigeria has any President come into office and within a week or two, embarked on policy pronouncements, initiatives and directives that impacted the lives of all the citizenry positively or otherwise. Some have said Tinubu promised to hit the ground running, but he actually seems to be speeding. And the speed with which Tinubu has taken off inspired the caption of a report on the new government, by the popular global news medium, Reuters, entitled “Baba Go Fast”!
From his maiden address during inauguration at Eagles Square, Mr. President told Nigerians what they did not like or want to hear, he bellowed into the microphone: “Fuel subsidy is gone”! That’s unusual! What is common of such addresses are rosy promises and high vaulting words reminiscent of failed vainglorious platitudes of the past. However, this business-minded helmsman means business. Subsidy is gone, unified exchange rate of the dollars against the value-battered naira is here! Of course, President Tinubu compassionately promised not to take the people for granted. Their sacrifices, he assured, will not be in vain.
But government in this part of the world suffers serious trust deficit from the governed. Surprisingly, the Nigerian youths, workers, students, peasants, and other segments of the populace who needed no mobilization to spill into the streets protesting, creating barricades and burning used tyres and even vehicles after successive increments in prices of petrol and related products as we have witnessed in the past; this time, in a rare demonstration of support, decided to give the new regime a benefit of doubt. Or was it that the populace was shocked or taken unawares? So new a regime, so soon a policy!
The Labour leaders, for save of face, announced mobilization for strike over the removal of fuel subsidy that instantly led to price increment, but the government of the day did not wait for the mobilisation to commence or for the ultimatum to expire, nor claim to be “unaware”; the labour was immediately engaged and made to see reasons. Labour shelved the planned mobilisation and negotiations are ongoing; more about cushioning the effects of the subsidy elimination rather than restoration of drain-pipe subsidy.
There is a new President in town! A politician, businessman, economist, accountant and philanthropist combined! Tinubu struts where Angels dread to thread! His deliberate, calculated actions has so far underlined his previous remark that the presidency of the most populous nation in Africa has been his “life-long ambition”.
Like a hand long-itching to be active, long overdue bills were signed into law within two weeks. Students Loan Bill, signed! Electricity Bill, signed! Judges retirement age bill, signed!
Even the usually conservative international media, as represented by Reuters in the “Baba Go Fast” article observed thus: “Nigeria’s new president, in office for less than a month, is pushing to put Africa’s largest economy on a reform track that investors have eyed for decades, fueling excitement that money could flow to a nation that many had deemed uninvestible. Obviously, the task before the new administration was daunting but President Bola Tinubu’s bold actions, including removing restrictions on the naira currency that allowed it to hit a record 790 to the dollar and subsidy removals that tripled petrol prices, could take stress off the battered finances of Africa’s largest economy.”
The new President assured he will practice “open door policy”, and almost instantaneously, he demystified the seat of government. The hitherto impregnable Aso Rock Presidential Villa had its gates literarily flung open. From the labour unions, traditional rulers, students, politicians, local and international businessmen, it is now like anyone could just wake up at home and say “I am going to the villa to see Mr. President!”
Furthermore , “sacred cow” called Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank Governor, who introduced a warped currency colour-change, called currency swap, that mindlessly led to collapses of businesses and death of many Nigerians, was suspended from office and arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS). Tongues were still waggling on Emefiele fall from grace to grass when the head of the government’s anti-corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, was also suspended and “invited” by the DSS! What a rare courage shown by Tinubu. These are the hitherto ‘untouchables’ who bestrode the landscape like a colossus.
What audacity! What courage! Not a few wondered where Tinubu got the balls from, especially when the helmsmen being suspended and arrested got a good cover from the immediate past Administration produced by the same ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) of . President Tinubu.
And as I was rounding up this article, a tsunami came! In one fell swoop, all the Service Chiefs, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police, Comptroller-General of Customs, were gone! To avoid any vacuum, men and officers were appointed in acting capacities by the President, pending confirmation by the Senate.
Before the dust of sweeping removal and replacement of Service Chiefs could settle down, news came that all federal boards, parastatals, institutions and what have you , have been dissolved, safe few.
Nigerians and non-Nigerians are indeed, very awed by the actions of the new President. Vocal public commentators have commended his start, some political opponents have hummed his praise. The question now is: if the President will be able to sustain the commendable and commended proactiveness? Only time will tell. But, if the morning tells the day, then he has started well. We can only wish Mr. President Godspeed in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Oladunjoye, a UNICEF trained social policy advocate, sent this from Mecca, Saudi Arabia.