A year of Tinubu

Not five months had passed since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office when people began to ask: How far? In Nigeria’s middle-class and elite social circles, that question, or its variant: how to market? – is often reserved for people whose sympathy for a cause or person is in danger.

I often responded by saying that given the enormity of the problems that the Tinubu government faced at the outset, five months or so was insufficient to judge. And that wasn’t just a convenient detour.
Of course, there are American presidents who made their mark after 100 days in office, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. But they aren’t done often, whatever the 100-day-in-office fetish popularized by the U.S. After all, President Clinton had a difficult 100 days in office only to end up being the first Democratic president elected to office. two full terms after roosevelt.

unusual choice
Nigeria’s 2023 elections were so contentious that although voting ended in February and the electoral commission announced a president almost immediately, it was not until eight months later that the Supreme Court finally confirmed his choice. Tinubu was, as we say, hugging the chair with only one side of his buttocks. Of course, he had made decisions from day one for which he had to be held accountable, even if he was hanging by a thread.

Perhaps the most momentous was his improvised announcement that “the fuel subsidy has disappeared.” The removal was delayed. A good number of people agreed, although some objected to the hasty announcement and subsequent exchange rate meltdown as evidence of Tinubu’s overzealous attempt to please the IMF and World Bank. It could also have been an honest attempt on his part to avoid being taken hostage by the bureaucracy.

Whatever the motivation, it backfired; not because of the announcement, but because the government seemed completely unprepared to manage the consequences. Strictly speaking, there was no government to speak of at that time. The chaos that followed the announcement added to the chaos Tinubu experienced in office.

Buhari did nothing?
It would be unfair to say that Tinubu’s predecessor and party colleague, President Muhammadu Buhari, did nothing in eight years. The problem was that those who installed Buhari, the main one of whom was

Tinubu and those who thought he could do the job, including me, were unfair to Buhari. He wasn’t up to the job, but we didn’t care. In his incompetence, he subjected Nigerians to shege and left his successor a legacy of shege banza, if you will excuse my French.

The fallout from COVID-19 and supply chain issues stemming from the war in Ukraine complicated matters for Buhari. But what has come to light even from the management of these crises was his absence most of the time. He loved his title much more than he understood his work.

Perfect storm
His successor fell into a perfect storm: inflation near 22 percent; unemployment at 33 percent; shortage of foreign currency and decreased revenue from oil sales; a looming debt crisis; a population that grows faster than GDP; an inefficient, unbalanced and inflated public service; rampant insecurity; and loss of trust in the government. Let’s not even add the dysfunctional relationship between fiscal and monetary authorities.

In the last four political transitions since 1999, the Buhari-Tinubu transition has been the most tense and fraught with risks incomparable to the one between President Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari in 2015, which was supposed to have been a hostile takeover. However, the Buhari-Tinubu transition was a transfer of power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to itself.

Tinubu’s cross
But Tinubu must be judged for what he did or did not do, especially since he has said, repeatedly, that he asked for the job and would not invite any pity parties. It was not Buhari’s fault, for example, that he could not form a cabinet until 56 days after assuming office.

It was also not Buhari’s fault that when Tinubu finally put together his team, he selected, with a few exceptions, mostly people whose main credential was knowing someone who knew someone who knew the president. The drama surrounding some of the dates and screening is a topic in itself. That had nothing to do with Buhari.

The rot was deep. But the treatment – ​​radical attempts to remove market restrictions and tighten fiscal and monetary controls – appears, for now, worse than the disease, leaving large sections of the population struggling and impoverished.

The compound chaos was neither entirely unforeseen nor inevitable. Buhari left behind a nearly bankrupt treasury and ran his government largely by printing money. Getting the economy back on track was going to depend largely on unpredictable revenues from oil sales, which in turn were going to depend on less oil theft and a higher production quota. Foreign investor confidence has also been undermined by excessive price controls; while on the home front, rampant insecurity kept food prices high.

Focus matters
Much more careful calibration and better management of public expectations than the zeal of the Tinubu government suggested could have produced a different result. Unfortunately, a lifetime’s suffering seems to have unfolded in a terrifyingly short time.

However, while some of them are inevitable, some of the problems of the past year have been fomented by vested interests determined to compound the government’s misery. Let’s take two examples: the reaction of currency manipulators and organized crime in ministry departments and agencies (MDA).

In the first case, it is difficult to know who was more complicit: commercial banks (often in collusion with state governors) or black market operators. The incestuous relationship between the two, aided and abetted for years by the Central Bank, was fueled by cheap government funds, producing an army of white-collar criminals who became multimillionaires by exploiting multiple commercial windows.

Our monkey worked to get cut by his baboon. Once the Tinubu government said enough, the manipulators and their ground crypto soldiers launched a fierce counterattack. The fight still continues.
The second main war has been with the demon within, elegantly named MDA. A source told me not long ago that some of these government agencies, particularly NPA and NIMASA among others, illegally blocked around $3.8 billion of revenue. While they lied and lied that there was no “cash support” for capital projects, they withheld foreign currency remittances to the Central Bank and also struck deals with bank officials to roll over the principal sums, while pocketing the interest.
Tinubu’s focus on these places has unleashed a storm of vested interests, now aligned with sections of the political class to paint his government in the worst possible light.

gift of exaggeration
The Tinubu government’s problems over the past year have been partly self-inflicted and partly inevitable. But criticism of his government as a disaster, mainly from politicians who cannot wait for the next general election in 2027, is overblown.
If ongoing structural reforms accelerate, the share of oil production continues to rise and the government leads by example, finding disciplined ways to manage the impact of tighter monetary controls on the cost of funds, things could still improve further. sooner rather than later.

It is doubtful that any of those who competed with him for the presidency could have done better, whatever they may say from their armchairs. What Tinubu still has going for him is his courage, foresight and resilience. He now has a shorter margin of maneuver to produce concrete results in the lives of citizens.

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