Tinubu Presidency: How Not To Make A Hero Out Of Buhari

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“But Buhari even did better in his initial appointments; the South-west oversaw the Ministry of Finance (Kemi Adeosun), super ministry of works, housing, and power (Raji Fashola), and FIRS (Babatunde Fowler), and CBN (Godwin Emefiele) from the South-South. Today, these key finance-related appointments are held by people of the South-west”.

BY ZAINAB SULEIMAN OKINO

To the chagrin of many citizens of Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, like his predecessor’s, constantly demonises the previous government of President Muhammadu Buhari to justify the negative effects of their harsh and unbearable economic policies, such that you would be forgiven to think they belong to different political parties. We don’t know whether making a scapegoat out of the past administration was part of the ruling party’s mantra. Blaming ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was a familiar refrain that characterised the Buhari presidency for eight years. In those early years, it was excusable, considering Jonathan’s below average performance and their different political orientations. Little did we know!

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun at the Senate Committee on Finance last week condemned Buhari’s government for “aimlessly” enabling the CBN to print N22.7trillion through ways and means overdraft which caused the current inflationary trend. He noted, “eight years of just printing money… that was not matched by productivity. It is not like when you earn the dollars, you free the naira alongside it. It is not as if the money is matched by productivity and increase in output. For eight years, the weak were left to their own devices. It is the privileged few that took everything”.

It might be true that the Buhari government applied the ways and means as an economic strategy, though its efficacy is debatable. However, Mr Tinubu as he then was and as the national leader of their party was never on record to have opposed Buhari’s action. He, instead indulged and supported Buhari’s policies to the tilt, however awkward. If not then, why now? Was he just playing to the gallery?

Instead of reprimanding Buhari, Tinubu as an influential leader whose opinion counted, drew examples from the US Federal Reserves which had printed more dollars to save their economy and stave off the impact of COVID-19, as exemplary and encouraged Buhari to do same. “Already, the price of oil has fallen to less than $30 a barrel. This will bring a dollar shortfall. This does not, however, necessitate a corresponding shortfall in public sector Naira expenditures. The US controls dollar issuance. We control Naira issuance as it is our sovereign right. Just as America has used its sovereign right to issue its currency to stave off economic disaster, so too may Nigeria issue Naira for the same purpose”, the Punch of March 29, 2020, quoted President Tinubu to have made the statement on his 68th birthday.

Also, even if the average Nigerian felt “left to their own devices”, by Buhari who allowed “the privileged” to “take everything”, Nigerians think worse of the Tinubu government today. While the same “privileged few” that enjoyed benefits and gains of ways and means are yet to be prosecuted (except Emefiele), and have therefore continued to enjoy their loot, the weak now feel let down by a man that pledged a renewed hope for them. The weak can no longer afford the basic needs of man—food, and hunger is now prevalent. And if we must hold the president to his “better tomorrow” for which we are to sacrifice today, should we go out of extinction (due to hardship) before that tomorrow comes? What sacrifice is the rich and privileged like him making for our better tomorrow?

Not providing for the vulnerable members of the society is an invitation to chaos. It is a disaster waiting to explode. Already, the signs are there. The brazen attacks and looting of warehouses and food transport trucks are signs of the times we are in, as criminal as it is. Hands out in form of palliatives as practiced by the Buhari government became a huge scandal under the Minister of humanitarian affairs, Saadiya Farouq. More scandals relating to palliatives have been witnessed since the inception of this government. What does that tell you? Palliatives are open to abuse by officialdom; it is a temporary measure; it is not sustainable, and it can’t work.

So, after a conscious and deliberate decision taken from IMF and World Bank playbooks, to remove fuel subsidy and float the naira without as much thought for their consequences, the government of today is looking everywhere and everybody but themselves to blame. Agreed that Godwin Emefiele recklessly misused and abused the CBN platform to damage the country’s monetary policy, according to what we are told by this government including alleged forged signature scandal to siphon 6.2m dollars from the CBN under his (Emefiele) leadership, the wrong timing of the Naira redesign and printing of the Naira, as endorsed by the current President, has Tinubu’s anointed CBN governor (Yemi Cardoso) reversed past obnoxious policies to our advantage?

Pointing out wrong actions without as much effort to right those wrongs is a wrong-headed approach. And until the Nigerian masses fare better than they did during Buhari’s time, pointing accusing fingers to him or his policies would only make them popular. Many people now hate to think that our glorious era is gone, and that’s no credit to the Tinubu presidency, which seems to be working against the tide.

The floating and devaluation of the Naira leading to its free fall against the dollar and the fuel subsidy removal, touted to benefit only the rich, leading to sky-rocketing cost of everything, I mean everything, are all testaments to the romanticisation of the past. That sadly includes Buhari and Jonathan, even though Buhari’s non-budgetary provision for subsidy is the alleged catalyst for the subsidy removal by Tinubu. Whatever might be the reason, Buhari’s incremental removal cannot be compared to Tinubu’s sudden subsidy removal. Increasing the cost of petrol from N194 to almost N700 is a near death sentence even for the average middle class, if there’s still anything like that.

Apart from the issue of the economy, all other indices of misgovernance of the Buhari era are still very much around us. Indeed, Buhari and Tinubu rallied Nigerians and the world to work against Jonathan over Boko Haram’s attacks and killing of 59 students at FGC, Buni Yadi and abduction of 276 girls from a Chibok secondary school, 41 in Mamudo and 44 in Gujba among others.

Unfortunately, the situation did not abate even when Buhari was in charge. In 2018, 110 students were kidnapped from Government Girls Science and Technical College at Dapchi and in no time banditry took a firm root in our land such that most schools in the North became endangered. 300 boys were taken from Kankara in Katsina state, 279 girls were abducted from Jangebe, Zamfara state, 103 Islamiyah kids from Salihu Tanko Islamiyya school in Tegina, Niger state, 103 from FGC, Yauri in Kebbi state and 121 from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna state among others. Most of these students spent over a year in captivity before they were later released after ransom payment while some lost their lives.

Here we are again under Tinubu and in less than one year, over 500 pupils, students and IDPs have been abducted in Kaduna, Sokoto and Borno states. In Abuja, bandits break into people’s houses to cart them away. This may be about criminality and hardship, but the impunity of it is an assault on the state and by extension, the presidency.

I dare say that until the renewed hope agenda is being implemented and its impact felt by all, and unless the government is proactive in reducing insecurity so that farmers can go back to their farms and guarantee food security, the situation is not likely to improve. And until the president gives a marching order to his security chiefs to restore order, enrich intelligence gathering and give his government a human face, history may be kinder to Buhari than him, despite the former’s lacklustre performance too.

Lest we forget, Buhari was known to care less for meritocracy as against his nepotistic appointments. The only way to deconstruct Buhari in this respect is to do otherwise. With the appointments of his service chiefs, Tinubu started well, but he soon veered off to Lagos, when his ardent supporters even from the South-west started complaining that his appointments are Lagos-centric. This was a bad optics for Buhari as it is now for Tinubu. But Buhari even did better in his initial appointments; the South-west oversaw the Ministry of Finance (Kemi Adeosun), super ministry of works, housing, and power (Raji Fashola), and FIRS (Babatunde Fowler), and CBN (Godwin Emefiele) from the South-South. Today, these key finance-related appointments are held by people of the South-west. Not that it matters to me, if the appointees are competent and capable, but between the duo (of Tinubu and Buhari), who is more provincial in deeds and not in political talks? The jury is out there.

My position is by no means a validation of Buhari’s style of government and policy initiatives. It is a wakeup call to the present government to be wary of reforms that engender hardships. And if appointees of government continue to reference the past as the cause of our present predicament, they will make themselves villains out of Buhari’s heroism. And Nigerians will prove to them that at least, they could eat and afford basic things of life under Buhari then than now.

…Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached via: zainabokino@gmail.com

 

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