•Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Arewa Leaders speak on President’s missteps
•Insist fuel subsidy removal hasn’t yielded any benefit
•Warn against emerging profligacy in governance
•Democracy means the masses have food on their tables – CLO
Against the backdrop of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent appeal to Nigerians for prayers and support towards the efforts of his administration to revive the ailing economy of the nation and restore the good old days when the naira was at par with the dollar and other western currencies, some leaders of the country’s socio-cultural groups and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have advised him to watch his steps, noting that some of his actions actually erode the people’s confidence in him.
President Tinubu, while speaking at the 47th Convocation ceremony of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, recently, called for citizens’ support towards his administration’s efforts to revive the economy and reposition the country for the benefit of all.
Represented by the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, he said: “As this government embarks on a great journey of rebuilding the nation, reviving the economy, uniting the people and righting the wrongs of the past, we earnestly seek your prayers, support and cooperation in realising these objectives. And, by the grace of God, we shall sail the ship of this country to a safe harbour. Our nascent democracy deserves to be nurtured so that Nigeria will be a good example for discouragement to other coup-planning nations within the West African sub-region and the continent of Africa.”
However, a former National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, told The Guardian that the confidence of Nigerians in his administration was being eroded daily, alleging that the President appears to be more interested in settling those at the corridors of power.
His words: “What we are practicing in Nigeria is kakistocracy. It is not democracy. Kakistocracy is the government of the worst set of people by the worst set of people for the worst set of people. But we saw it coming and we warned that this bunch of kakistocrats would destroy this country.
“Imagine a situation where Nigerians go hungry every day and the first thing Tinubu did after being sworn in was to remove fuel subsidy. Then you ask yourself, who are the beneficiaries of the removal of fuel subsidy? It is the same kakistocrats. Since the time subsidy was removed, Nigeria has been on a roller coaster. From Aba to Lagos is now N30, 000; same with Aba to Abuja and where can people get this kind of money. Where people cannot move, the economy will collapse. Businesses have been collapsing. What have we benefited from the removal of fuel subsidy? All they have saved; they are using it for themselves to live profligate lives.
“What are the legislators doing? We have always advocated for part time legislators, but they have been resisting it. Every month they will be paid billions for doing nothing, except asking those who say yes or no to raise their hands. Since 1999, it has been ‘yes or no’ and they have made no positive impact on the life of Nigerians. While the current National Assembly members are busy shouting yes or no, President Tinubu is busy living a life that is not predictable.
“The President travels almost every other week, wasting scarce resources in the guise of searching for investors for Nigeria, while the few multinationals around are leaving the shores of the country. He is busy with politics while insecurity is ravaging everywhere. Nigerians are running away from the country in their numbers and the government is not bothered, why would anyone still have confidence in his administration?
“The other day, Nyesom Wike, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) started talking about building the Vice President’s lodge and destroying property of Nigerians. That is the only thing he feels is important at this time. All the promises that came with fuel subsidy removal, how many of them have been implemented? So, there is no confidence that anything good will come out of this government from what is manifesting now.”
Executive Director of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Ibuchukwu Ezike, noted that the ugly nature of the economy inherited by the President is incontestable, explaining that the rot required pragmatic efforts and time to be addressed. While stating that Nigerians were upbeat that Tinubu had come with the wand to turn things around for the better and usher in the right attributes for democracy to thrive in the country, he stressed that some actions taken so far by the administration do not support the confidence reposed in it.
“President Tinubu is a democrat who fought against the annulment of June 12, and therefore, should be seen to be doing things that should encourage democracy to thrive. From1999 till now, we have not gotten democracy. Democracy means there must be food for the people on the table; it means that education must be of quality and affordable; it means that power must be affordable and available to the people at all times; it means that elections must be credible. If these things are lacking currently, we cannot say we are in a democracy.
“He should find ways to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary.
“The N5 billion subsidy palliatives to each state that did not get to the real masses is something to worry about, especially going by stories that some governors pocketed the money.
“I believe that not calling those accused of mismanaging the money to question is something to worry about. This money has not been used for the interest of the people; Nigerians are suffering and groaning and something must be done to restore the confidence of the people that the government is thinking about their interest.
“I also believe that the Presidency gave Nigerians something to worry about when it approved the purchase of a Presidential Yacht when Nigerians are going to bed without food. It is not right and I think that some people appointed by the president are causing some of these things by not advising him properly,” Ezike said.
He also noted that the way the President addressed the issue of “non-existent oil subsidies” wasn’t convincing.
He argued: “Oil subsidy, I will continue to say, was withdrawn in 1989. During the anti-Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) riot; I was a student then and we protested across the nation that IBB should not withdraw oil subsidies because we saw it as a scam that those in power used to defraud Nigeria and Nigerians. But he withdrew it. So, at what point was it reintroduced?
“The way President Tinubu withdrew it caused a lot of crisis because those who were benefitting from the illegality were angry and decided to fight the system. What the President would have done is to keep quiet, reconstruct the refineries and if the refineries are working, these things will come down. We won’t need to go outside the country to refine oil and create hardship for our people.
“Nigerians believe that he has not taken enough actions to solve the problems he inherited and this is why a good number is impoverished and in the long run created room for increase in social vices.
“They think he is taking time to revitalise the agricultural and solid minerals sectors and not depend on oil as the sole earner. The textile industry should attract his attention.”
Also, two prominent Southwest groups, Afenifere and Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum urged President Tinubu to urgently change his approach to governance before the current high cost of living precipitates ugly reactions from Nigerians.
Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, Afenifere expressed deep concerns over the spate of internal security breaches in various parts of the country in recent times.
The group urged the President to up his ante in tackling the menace through the relevant security agencies. It added that he must address the poor state of the economy, as it is pushing Nigerians to a state of desperado.
On his part, President of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, said: “Following the communication from a World Bank lead economist, Alex Sienaert, in a conference in Abuja recently that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s reforms will require a stable macro-economic framework to be able to achieve any measure of success in growing the economy that he has made pale, our leadership forum is offering a new window of understanding and the clear meaning of macro-economic stability and what it connotes in relation to our own environment and the required discipline for its attainments.
“For ease of understanding, the Tinubu government must show discipline in ensuring the stability of his macro-economic policies. The government must define its inflation and forex policies. Such stability will enable the private sector to plan and sustain its manpower. The government must show the required discipline in ensuring the sustainability of all its policies before it can get the necessary boosters within the private sector circles. The cost of governance must be reduced and all wasteful assets must be streamlined.
“As it is today, no business or manufacturing company can plan for its continued existence because of fear of unstable naira value, unstable energy security without subsidy and double taxations, which are still ongoing and unstable macro-economic variables and lack of policy directions. These fears must be erased before the private sector can be assured that the government is ready to show the required desire to allow things to flow without unnecessary interventions. This and some others including wages difficulties and disparities are obstacles to sustainable growth. We must warn that the value of naira may nosedive to about N1500.00 to the dollar by the end of January 2024 if the government doesn’t get it right quickly.
“The government must go the whole hog in fighting corruption to a standstill, stem insecurity and fund education maximally. The era of profligacy must end and those occupying political offices must key into improving the quality of life of the people and not of themselves. Overseas tours should be disallowed if we want to conserve foreign exchange for useful purposes. Ministers should be instructed to use experts inside their organisation for professional conferences. It should not be all comers’ affairs.
“At present, we have not seen or noticed any desirable move by the Agriculture Ministry to improve on farming nationwide, while ranching, which is key to stability, is still not at the front burner. They can do better than looking on.
“If the government must get it right, it must work vigorously to take the nation back to where ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo left it in 2007.”
For the President of Arewa Defence League (ADL), Alhaji Murtala Abubakar, “the N5 billion granted to states to procure fuel subsidy palliatives, by design and manner of its implementation, was never meant to impact the masses positively.”
He added: “Don’t forget that out of the N5 billion, N2 billion are loans to the states to be paid back. In essence, what played out with the palliative funds was simply an attempt by the government to divert attention from genuine calls by well meaning people to do something about the excruciating pains Nigerians are going through because of the subsidy removal but rather the government decided to pay lip service to the issue.
“The greatest challenges that have continued to hinder our development as a nation despite the abundance of mineral and human resources God blessed Nigeria with is lack of willingness by successive governments to set our priorities right.
“See the huge amount of money the present government budgeted for buying SUVs for senators and members of the House of Representatives and even the office of the First Lady that is not constitutionally recognised, as well as furnishing of the Vice President’s residence, buying of presidential yacht, etc. Clearly, this demonstrates that the present government’s budgeting and economic focus is not on the people but luxury of the politicians and the privileged few Nigerians at the top echelon of leadership.”
Also speaking, 8th National Assembly Senator, Shehu Sani, noted that “in every election cycle, the collective voice of a populace resonates through the ballot box, shaping the destiny of nations and communities.”
According to him, “the choice of leadership carries profound consequences, as the selection of ineffective or unethical leaders can perpetuate a multitude of dangers and adverse impacts from eroding democratic values to hindering economic progress and jeopardising social cohesion.”
Sani added: “Moreover, the consequences of electing poor leaders extend beyond the realm of governance, permeating economic and social spheres. Inefficient and corrupt leadership can stifle economic growth, hamper investment and perpetuate inequality.
“A lack of visionary leadership can result in the mismanagement of public finances, hindering essential services and perpetuating poverty. Furthermore, the absence of effective policies and strategies to address pressing societal challenges such as healthcare, education and infrastructure can exacerbate social divisions and impede progress.
“The appointment of leaders who lack empathy, integrity and a commitment to the well-being of their citizens can amplify social injustices and exacerbate divisions within communities. The failure to address social disparities, promote inclusivity and safeguard the rights of marginalised groups can perpetuate societal unrest and heighten tensions. In the absence of ethical and compassionate leadership, the social fabric of a nation can fray, leading to heightened polarisation, intolerance and a breakdown of social cohesion.
“Additionally, the consequences of electing poor leaders can reverberate on the global stage, affecting international relations and cooperation. Leaders who engage in reckless and shortsighted foreign policies can contribute to geopolitical instability, strain diplomatic relations and exacerbate international tensions.”
(First published by The Guardian December 17, 2023)