One month after coming into office by the new All Progressives Congress (APC) federal administration in a highly controversial manner, all I see in the governance space is a continuation of conservative politics and less of progressive policies. This is historically consistent with the pattern of politics in Nigeria regardless of which political party is in power. The Nigerian political space is dominated by old and largely discredited conservative politicians who owe no one apologies for this brand of anti-people politics and governance. In this type of politics, the preservation and promotion of the interests of the powerful and exploiting class across political, economic, traditional and religious spheres of life, holds sway. The sustenance and dominance of this brand of politics is achieved through the manipulation of intense and acrimonious ethnic and religious sentiments and politics, as well as through provincialism, nepotism, cronyism and spoils system in the distribution of political and even top administrative career-based appointments.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) regardless of its name has a notorious record in this. Although there was a notable improvement in the appointment of Service Chiefs by the present administration, tokenism however is still the norm in other appointments so far – a case of give them one and give many more to people of the zone from where the president of the country comes from. This pattern of unabashed nepotism in appointment – a Buhari’s condemnable legacy – appears to be emerging in the new appointments announced so far by the Tinubu administration.
As usual with the ascendance of new government (whether with legitimacy or not) an army of sycophants are already singing praises to high heavens telling the world that no Federal Government has ever done things with great speed like the present one. One may wonder if Nigerians should ‘eat speed of governance’ and ‘hurriedly die’ given the adoption of many of the anti-people policies presently. Leaving this ‘Baba go fast’ diversion by sycophants, one should be concerned about the content of the policy measures released with this so-called speed of governance. And what a needless and unhelpful comparison between a ‘Baba go fast’ (with agonising and unbearable policy measures such as removing fuel subsidy before adopting policy measures that could cushion its effects), and a ‘Baba go slow’ who inflicted untold hardship on Nigerians? There is indeed no virtue in acting fast before deep thinking.
Aside from the foreign exchange unification policy which abolished the unmerited privilege of a few, and the signing of Student Loan Bill into law, other policy measures so far are rooted in conservatism, and are bereft of progressivism. Conservative politics preserves, protects and promotes the interests of members of the ruling class and leaves the masses suffering more and more. This is why the government is unexpectedly and unapologetically calling the ‘dying masses’ to make more sacrifices, while those in government have not shown any visible sign of making sacrifices.
There is little sign so far that those in federal administration understand the hue and cry about the urgency of addressing the problem of the rising cost of governance. It is (governance) business as usual, otherwise how can one explain the wasting of public resources visiting top traditional rulers and assuring them of loyalty to them. We have seen reports of such visits to some notable traditional rulers in the South-west, North-east and North-west. Yet as we know, traditional institution is at the heart of conservative politics, as traditional rulers are known more about conserving than reforming their heritage.
Traditional institutions across the country are also at the heart of the escalating cost of governance across levels of government. There is a brief history behind this practice. Given the nature of unpopular policies by governments at both the federal and state levels, the increasing practice of hobnobbing with traditional rulers became necessary. With such hobnobbing, unpopular governments have been able to buy ‘legitimacy’ from the traditional rulers. This does not come cheap as they also have to expand the pool of privileges enjoyed by traditional rulers while their subjects lavish in penury. Traditional rulers across the country are maintained by public funds, and given their sheer high number, the cost of maintaining them has been atrociously high. The promise of loyalty to the traditional rulers rather than to the Nigerian people, is a sure signal that conservative politics is dominating the governance space so far, thereby suffocating and limiting the adoption of progressive policies regardless of the pronouncement of governments.
Talking about the role of Organised Labour in the ascendency of conservative politics, sycophantic supporters of conservative Federal Government are already rejoicing that Organised Labour has been tamed. They see this as an achievement by the new Federal Government. They forgot that Organised Labour was ambushed through the court order which restrained them against embarking on a strike against the subsidy removal. This sycophantic euphoria is very unfortunate, for it is the masses and the middle class that would continue to be impoverished.
Conservative politics is on the rise despite the deceptive progressive ideological posture of the ruling APC Federal Government. Has anyone wondered why the removal of fuel subsidy came first before serious thinking of measures to mitigate its devastating effects on the masses? Why the hurry to remove the fuel subsidy when the refineries are still not working, and knowing very well that the new foreign exchange regime would impose more hardship on the masses and the middle class?
Lastly, the signing of the student loan bill into law – a progressive policy – unfortunately has been diluted almost immediately with a policy shift allowing the federal universities to introduce tuition fees. The new loan policy should have been implemented first (at least for an academic session) before the introduction of fees. Like the removal of fuel subsidy before introducing measures to address its harsh effects, the student loan policy is another misstep where action takes place before deep thinking. This misstep stresses the point again that there is no virtue in introducing policies in a hurry, as public policy making requires critical cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis before implementation. For example, the policy shift on introduction of tuition fees has already removed the joy of many of the same students who applauded it initially. Hence Baba go fast should apply a break and look properly before accelerating further.
•Prof. Isaac N. Obasi, who is a public policy expert, can be reached via [email protected]