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October 4, 2023

Buhari’s mistakes Tinubu must avoid

By Omoniyi Salaudeen

Cautious optimism, rather than the usual euphoria of a change of government, greeted the swearing-in of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, May 29. This is because many see the new administration as an extension of the traumatizing regime of his immediate predecessor – Muhammadu Buhari.  This is more so that the two of them are members of the same ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) whose policies and programmes have brought more pain than relief to ordinary Nigerians.

Buhari, who rode on the crest of the goodwill of the masses to defeat the incumbent former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, had promised so much, but delivered so little in his eight-year tenure, turning Nigeria into the poverty capital of the world. Though his handlers have been making some claims around massive infrastructure as part of the major achievements of the administration under his watch, but Nigeria witnessed two recessions, huge debt overhang, foreign exchange instability, dwindling value of the naira, rising unemployment, hunger, and general despair.

According to available reports, Nigeria’s total public debt, consisting of domestic and external stocks, as of the end of December 2022, stands at N46.25 trillion. In the same vein, the unemployment and inflation figures are equally staggering amidst the declining standard of living.

This negative trajectory of the economy has been largely blamed on the perceived ineptitude of Buhari, his nepotistic tendency, and parochialism which accounted for the abysmal performance of his administration.

Moving forward, therefore, some eminent Nigerians have identified some of the past pitfalls which President Tinubu must avoid as his new administration takes off on a stormy note with the ongoing resistance against the total removal of fuel subsidy by organized labour.

Chief Chekwas Okorie, in his conversation with Sunday Sun, advised Tinubu not to allow religion or tribal sentiment to influence his appointment into the key government positions in order to be able to recruit the right people with the requisite capacity to run the new administration.

His words: “To begin with, I will advise this government to be very mindful of its promises. He (Tinubu) should not say anything he does not have a plan to implement. And whatever he says he would do, he must not hesitate to do it no matter how difficult it is. Again, in the process of doing it, his communication machinery with the Nigerian people must be top-notch. They should be up and doing and not wait till when things have gone awry before they begin to give excuses.

“The greatest mistake former President Buhari made was his unyielding and unbridled parochialism in terms of appointments to public office. Merit was completely thrown overboard. It did not matter to him whether somebody was qualified or not. So long as such an individual came from his own side of the country, he was qualified to hold even the most sensitive assignment. You cannot have incompetent people holding public assignments and expect that there will be a good result.

“So, Tinubu has to make sure that no part of this country is alienated. No religion should have a preponderance of presence over other religions. There are two major religions in Nigeria, Christianity and Islam, though those who profess other religions also need protection. That is a way of assuring people that they are equal citizens.

“He has already mentioned that he would look into the security architecture of the country. That is a flowery political statement. The statement I expected is to say that he would embark on decentralizing our police command structure. Nigeria is too large to be policed by a central command structure. There should be state police and community police. It is only when you have state police and community police that every citizen, man or woman, old or young, will be an equal stakeholder in a matter of security.

“Again, there are too many leakages in the way we manage public resources. What he has started doing with regard to fuel subsidy and harmonization of exchange structures is a right step in the right direction.  But there are so many other leakages in the areas of oil theft and tax administration. Those who are supposed to pay appropriate taxes are not paying. Those who are supposed to be given tax relief are the ones being chased around. He is a man known to have done something substantial in that area when he was the governor of Lagos State. I do not doubt his capacity to generate revenue.

“He should resist any temptation to abandon any project the previous administration had already started. That is one of the major things Nigerians had against the PDP when they were in power. He should endeavour to complete all the projects on which foreign loans have been committed.”       

A Professor of law at Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Tayo Bello, while also lamenting some of the perceived lapses of the last administration, noted that it took Buhari more than six months before he could nominate his ministers, urging President Tinubu not do repeat the same mistake.

“There are too many lapses of the Buhari administration which must be avoided by the new government. For instance, financing subsidy to the tune of about N3 point-something trillion, and the inability of the government to provide security as a result of putting round pegs in square holes are some of the lapses of the last government.    

“It was not only the minister of education that was wrongly appointed, Aregbesola too said he didn’t know anything about internal affairs, yet he appointed him and left him there for eight years. Babatunde Fashola, who is a lawyer, was appointed as Minister of Works and Housing and he kept him there. These are lacunas created by the previous government which cannot in any way help this government. 

“It took Buhari about six months before he nominated his ministers. President Tinubu should not do that. He should put the square pegs in square holes. There is no way this government can behave like the Buhari administration because he had his own personal agenda,” he said.

While commending the boldness of the new president to implement the total deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, he expressed optimism that proper management of the money realised from the subsidy removal would revamp the economy.

“As I have always said the total removal of subsidy is the right thing to do. However, it shouldn’t have been sudden. Anyhow, it has been withdrawn. It has to start from somewhere. We cannot say they should create palliative when there is no money to do palliative. What it means now is that if we have been spending about N500 billion on a monthly basis to subsidize the consumption of fuel, at the end of this June, that N500 billion must be saved. If it is properly managed, it can revamp the economy.

“Again, the regime of multiple exchange rates cannot continue. Once the government can eradicate that, it will be perfect. Kidnapping, banditry, and terrorism are still rampant. They should curtail it. They must decentralize Nigeria’s policing system. There must also be massive investment in infrastructure,” Prof Bello added. 

A chieftain of the APC, Chief Frank Kokori, equally lent his voice to the discourse, exuding confidence that Tinubu would leverage his network of political friendships built across the country to resuscitate the nation’s ailing economy. 

“Buhari is a lucky Nigerian because he was able to rule Nigeria twice. But at the end of the day, he surrounded himself with a few cabals. That is, those he trusted from his religious and ethnic enclaves.

“Tinubu is a more experienced politician and he has a better human relations than Buhari. He has a network of friends all over the country. Leveraging his political structure, he will be able to govern the country better.

“He will not follow Buhari’s footprints. All his campaign statements were just political statements to win the election. Tinubu is a different man. So, he should do what the people want. One of the things he should work on is the devolution of power and true federalism. Nigeria should be properly restructured. But he should not do it in the way Obasanjo and Jonathan did it through the national confab organized almost at the twilight of the two administrations. Tinubu should start it now. Nigerians need devolution of power. Things are not working under the current system. He should give the states their autonomy. However, that is a constitutional matter. As the president and the leader of the ruling party, he can liaise with the National Assembly to do that,” Kokori posited.

In the same vein, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a member of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), advised Tinubu to set his priorities right and avoid the past mistake of focusing energy on too many agenda at a time. Instead, he said the government should select a few critical aspects of development that could change the socio-economic fortune of the country within the four-year tenure of the administration.

“The president-elect should avoid the mistake the previous governments made in going into office without a definite agenda. He must make sure he concentrates on a few agenda that he will be able to complete within the next four years. And it should be done in such a way that anybody coming after him will have no alternative than to complete what he has started,” Yakassai said.

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