So short a letter to President Tinubu

My vote for plan “B”

Dear President Bola Tinubu, I would first of all like to extend my greetings to you. Also, I have to express the fact that I am sort of impressed by how you have managed to remain sane while steering the affairs of this our country, Africa’s most populous, not to mention craziest. I also want to extend my sympathies to you regarding the unfortunate incident at the venue of the Democracy Day celebration, where you suffered a fall. I sincerely was worried on your behalf, and I felt relieved to hear you are OK. In fact, I totally condemn those who were gleefully making jokes at your expense, as well as those who appeared to be happy it happened. Misfortunes of any kind, even when it happens to powerful people, is still worthy of empathy. Now that I am done with the pleasantries, I will proceed to the main reason which I wrote this admittedly short letter to you.

I will begin by going back to a point in February this year, when you vowed that Nigeria would survive the current economic hardship being suffered. “[Nigeria] will survive the current economic challenges. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I requested the job, and I am not complaining about it. I take full responsibility,” you said, when you addressed Afenifere leaders in Akure, Ondo State. The full thing was later disseminated widely, courtesy of your SA on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale. You emphasised his commitment to leading Nigeria towards economic and social prosperity, adding: “The economic challenges we have endured since assuming office are not new to me. As the former Governor of Lagos State, I faced similar calls for my resignation. But, through perseverance, Lagos emerged as the fifth largest economy in the entire continent of Africa. We must manage this moment with wisdom and grow Nigeria responsibly.”

You continued: “I campaigned for this office to serve Nigeria’s interests, and I was elected. Some said I would not last in the tribunal and came up with all sorts of predictions, but even when in court, I remained focused. We cannot allow Nigeria’s economy to be exploited. We cannot abandon our economy to marauders. I am determined to re-engineer our finances and curb selfish interests permanently.” Now, I am not in any way presuming to present some sort of scorecard or definitive assessment. I am simply going to wonder, out loud of course, what happened behind the scenes just before you announced that petroleum subsidy is gone. Anyone, even whoever advised that route, will certainly agree with me that our downward spiral began the moment you uttered the magic words. As fuel prices climbed, the collective lives of Nigerians crashed. The worst part of it all is that no concrete jargon-free explanation was offered. It was basically ‘lie down and take it like a champ’. 

Many weeks later, another expert in meting out suffering to Nigerians, our former president, Muhammadu Buhari ventured his two kobo on your performance, and it couldn’t have been a more ridiculous attempt to retcon reality. The former President, Muhammadu Buhari, has praised President Bola Tinubu for performing well since getting to office despite the economic hardship experienced by Nigerians across the country. According to the ex-president, there isn’t much anybody can do to help the country at this time because it is “so complex”. Basically, a workman blaming his tools, because none of us will forget in a hurry that hardship in Nigeria began during Buhari’s first four years in office, and continued to worsen till the end. Everything took a downward spiral. The only thing that skyrocketed was the suffering. 

That is exactly why Nigerians were left puzzled when on your inauguration day, you declared your administration would no longer subsidise fuel, on the lame premise that it is because it was beneficial to neighbouring countries. Of course, our already-weak naira began a free fall that would make even a skydiver blush. Even with the efforts of the Talented Mr. Cardoso and his able team, it’s still twenty thousand leagues away from Uhuru. I know there is no point saying that subsidy never should have been removed without a failsafe put in place, but I will still tell you. If I don’t tell you, then the faces of suffering Nigerians will tell you. If only you would look at them at all. The same ordinary Nigerians, led by organised labour, even protested across the country in recent weeks to revolt against the worsening circumstances.  

Also, any criticism of your modus operandi, or lack of one, is met by fierce defenders, going for the throats of the critics like attack dogs. I wrote last week about how you do not need to stoop to the level of commissioning urban roads, and the insulting responses I got would fill up my column for weeks. One even said when Buhari was in power, I was quiet. Apparently, that responder was not on this planet when this column began. And to think I even began with commendations! While I feel like I should retract my praise, I’ll refrain and be the bigger person. At least, for this week. Because when you think about it, tomorrow’s ‘Big Sallah’ is going to be the most miserable one Nigerians have ever had, and that’s saying a lot. I won’t be surprised if rams campaign for you to get a third term, because heaven knows not many of them will be slaughtered this year.

But, back to Buhari: Like I mentioned earlier, it was when he was receiving a VIP delegation in Daura, Katsina State, that he stated the obvious that governing Nigeria is a tough job for anyone, and he asked, almost rhetorically, that Nigerians should endure the economic hardship in the country and support the policies and programmes of the current administration. “Really, there isn’t much anybody can do,” he said, ironically and inadvertently giving himself a scathing review. My takeaway from the whole thing is that your predecessor wants you to – just like him – do nothing. Even if my plea is meant to address an old piece of advice given to you, I still plead: Do not listen to Buhari. Listen to the people, fix Nigeria, and history will be kind to you. I have to rest my pen here, but only for now. Yours faithfully, a concerned citizen.