NIGERIA is in the intensive care unit and its caregivers appear not to be perturbed. No. They are actually engaged but not in attending to a gravely ill patient. They make platitudes on the delivery of their promises but commit to attending to their hedonistic desires and pleasures. It is 146 days since another set of rulers took the reins of power in Abuja. But not for one day have Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. It has been like the reign of the Biblical rebellious Absalom in one part of the divided Kingdom of Israel. Absalom had told his subjects that whilst his father King David chastised them with the whip, he would do same with the scorpion. Under the former President, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria suffered afflictions of unimaginable proportions. Indeed, as that clueless regime that was bereft of imagination and humaneness was winding down, the common refrain from Nigerians was: Never Again. Many citizens believed that no future administration in Nigeria will be worse than Buhari’s in terms of abuse of power, impunity, desecration of democratic ethos, insensitivity to the country’s diversity, disregard for the suffering of citizens and intolerance of critical and opposing views. Obviously, we were mistaken.
From the days of old there have been divergent views about what the day holds and its promises between the English language speakers and my native Igbo language speakers. In English it’s widely believed that the morning points to the direction of the likely outcome of the day. On the contrary, there is an adage in Igbo which says that ‘anagh eji ututu ama njo ahia’. Loosely translated it means that it could be misleading to second guess how a day pans out just because of how it started. But our forebears were also wise by moderating the above adage when they posited that if a dozen cooked eggs would be needed to appease the gods for the recovery of a gravely sick child it would only be right, proper and prudent to feed the sick child with some of the nutritional delicacy from the eggs. For them feeding the gods with all the cooked eggs in the expectation for the quick recovery of the ailing child was a bad idea. So the Igbo, and l presume other nations in Nigeria, made sufficient provisions for the All Progressives Congress [APC] President, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the double speak, so to speak, of, on the one hand and on the other hand.
Yes, it could be said to be unkind and uncharitable, indeed premature to determine the outcome of a four-year presidential term after just about 146 days. Apologies for the potential offence but our people also say that you can guess the taste of a fecal discharge from the smell of its preceding gaseous emissions from the depths of a bowel. We can see what tomorrow portends by our collective experiences of today and especially from the priorities of this regime which is in its early days.
Appointments into critical government offices by Tinubu have followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Buhari. They are nepotistic. Tinubu’s may actually be worse. There is no intention to assert that some of the appointees are not qualified or capable but the point to note is that there are equally other qualified persons from other parts of the nations in the country who could or should have been so appointed. If perchance the excuse is that those others are not known to the President, then we have cause to worry. It could only mean that we are still in the era of the provincialism of Buhari. The country is still paying a huge price of that insular regime.
Any doubt about the priorities and direction of the six months-old Tinubu government was dispelled a few days ago. With less than two months to the end of this fiscal year, the regime considered it needful to prepare a supplementary budget. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea even if it came one week to the end of the fiscal year. The general understanding of a supplementary budget is that something critical was not captured or provisioned for in a running budget or that it was not sufficiently provided for in terms of funding or that something new and imperative cropped up and could not wait for a new budget year. Some such things could include providing additional funds to mitigate the pains on citizens arising from the sudden and ill-digested removal of the so-called subsidy on petrol; funding a seemingly reinvigorated conditional cash transfer to the most vulnerable families who have been dealt a bad hand by the harsh policies of the administration or providing for the students loan proposal or funding payroll support for civil/public servants and similar programmes.
As it turned out the critical issues for which a supplementary budget could be considered as imperatives were just attachments to the provisioning for the base and unconscionable lifestyles of our rulers. How do you explain a supplementary budget at the tail end of a fiscal year just to renovate otherwise idle mansions for the President and the Vice Presidents after earlier spending billions of naira to refurbish their official offices and residences? Some of these complexes including Dodan Barracks in Lagos should be candidates for conversions into museums because of what they represent to the majority of Nigerians. What’s the urgency in budgeting billions of Naira to acquire sport utility vehicles [SUVs] for the President and the Vice President when there was no report that the vehicles used by their predecessors have suddenly become bad and unserviceable? How do you explain that a regime that has been hellbent on taxing citizens to death and that goes around with a bowl to borrow from international lending agencies also approved an emergency fund to pay for a luxury and well appointed presidential yacht? To cap it up the supplementary budget also has a subhead for more billions of Naira to procure another set of SUVs for the “Office of the First Lady”, an office that is not known to any law of the land. It’s ironic and a crying shame that this same ‘First Lady’ had told Nigerians ahead of the accession of her husband to the Presidency that God had so blessed her family that they do not need to live off Nigeria’s patrimony in the course of their rule. Now Nigerians know better. As our rulers indulge in their debauchery citizens are groaning. Life in Nigeria’s 21st century has become ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’. The regime’s slogan is ‘Renewed Hope’ but the reality of the people is lingering hopelessness, despondency, disenchantment, dissatisfaction, disappointment and depression. To be sure, some Nigerians are not really disappointed at the turn of events. Thoughts and acts of suicide arising from severe privations are becoming commonplace.
Unemployment is rife. The few who are employed are grappling with completely eroded value of their wages, no thanks to inflation which is at about 28% and projected to hit 30% by the beginning of 2024. Families are starving and children are malnourished. For the first time since after the experience of the Biafran children more than 50 years ago, kwashiorkor is stalking our land. Deaths and funerals have also become daily experiences. Everyday you hear or read about lamentations of sick fellow citizens who cannot afford medical bills. Two recent viral videos illustrate the castration of many Nigerians. One such lamented about the price of an antibiotic, Agumentin, which has skyrocketed from about N5,000 before the coming of Tinubu to anywhere between N30,000-N40,000 today depending on the outlet. The same for Seretide inhaler for asthmatic patients. It now goes for between N40,000-N70,000 depending on the brand name and country of manufacture. It used to be about N7000. One pack- diskus- lasts for about 30 days. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria PLC, the well known makers of Seretide inhaler, has since notified relevant regulatory bodies that it is leaving Nigeria. A people of an otherwise natural resource-endowed country are suffering untold hardships because of the myopia, greed and wickedness of their rulers.
Under Tinubu Nigerians have a right to hope for the best but they should prepare for the worst. The indications are that it will get worse before it gets worse. His priorities are not just wrong but insensitive. His policy pronouncements are ill-digested, bereft of consultations, lack timelines and benchmarks for measurements and they inflict pains with virtually no provisions for mitigations. In Tinubu we have another Buhari. He has chosen to live in the Presidential Jet junketing from America to India to the United Arab Emirates to Germany and elsewhere with occasional visits to, and stopovers, in Nigeria. He will rationalise his Ajala travels to the quest for wooing foreign investors. Buhari told us the same thing but where are the results after eight years. If the Nigerian environment is not conducive for domestic investors, as is the case right now, it will only be foolhardy to expect the influx of foreign investors except the crooked ones. Our country suffers severe energy shortage. Our country is insecure. Our roads and other critical infrastructure are in a shambles. Our foreign exchange market is unstable and repatriation of profit/capital is uncertain. For example, it is estimated that foreign airlines operating into Nigeria have a backlog of about $800 million of their working capital trapped here. Those who have the ears of Tinubu should advise him to stay home and roll up his sleeves. The heavy lifting is in Nigeria and his job is clearly cut out for him. We only hope that unlike Buhari, Tinubu did not seek to be president to fulfill a ‘lifelong ambition’. So far it is, sadly, looking like that. Eight years of Buhari was a long time to hold down a country. We can’t afford another.