Heart of Arts


Toyin Falola


I must first confess that the feeble-minded do not have any business with leadership, and when Nigeria is put in context, it takes some extraordinary human or individuals to lead the country outstandingly. So, we may cut Bola Ahmed Tinubu (aka BAT) some slack in the coming months. Let him “cook,” and if his cooking is turning into a “cook-a-thon” with no immediate impact, Nigerians, the Netizens, the good and the bad, can let hell lose. He can start with his hot pepper soup; we will add more pepper later.

Our people must know that BAT means àdán in Yoruba—neither a rat nor a bird; the males are smaller than the females, and the funny wings lack fur. Bats are consummate eaters—they can eat flies, beetles, moths and mosquitoes. But our dear BAT is a human, and I will never know why àdán sticks as his name. Bats are not blind, as people at Ife told us when we were consuming roasted bats with palm wine. Bats eat insects, but biologists tell us they create healthy ecosystems by consuming insects. They sleep upside down.

Does BAT belong to the family of àdán? If so, let me introduce you to hematophagy, a high-sounding word but simple to understand: some members of the bat family eat only the blood of other animals. They are known as vampire bats. Nigeria is a vampire state: its leaders and politicians feed on blood, human blood. Every morning you wake up, pray that Bola Ahmed Tinubu does not change his name to Diaemus Young, Diphylla Ecaudata, or Desmodus Rotundas. These are actual names, but they are the bats whose only food is blood. Pray!

As all the birds and rats fled the jungle, the power got to the turn of BAT, THE “Emilokan”, on the 29th of May, 2023, and Nigerians could not but hope for the best following the despicable outing of Buhari and his fellows that have driven the nation far backwards. Whether you are BATified, Atikulated, Obidient, or whatever, political loyalty you claim, a new sheriff is in town, BAT is your president and his decisions, whether good or bad, would affect you. Àdán is here: if you become an insect, he will eat you. Àdán is not blind, as he keeps an eye on you. Sora se!

Mr. President, several have searched for ways to describe you. I am using àdán here. E dakun sir! Some have seen you as Chief Awolowo (without the cap), and M. K. O. Abiola reawaken, only that you don’t stammer. Your choice of glasses is further likened to that of the former Western Premier. In essence, many people really plugged into the Renewed Hope Agenda, believe a Lagos-like general development in the country, and could only see the light in the tunnel, even if the uncertain light is the sprinkling light of a possible explosion that will bring the tunnel and those that walk it down. Your Excellency, many do not believe in your leadership. Some are waiting for the final judgment of the Supreme Court, and several others have no positive anticipation. So, it is up to you to prove right or wrong, but remember, there is a Nigeria that belongs to us all.

The problems of Nigeria are perennial, and the solutions are quite very mysterious. However, the country has suffered more from uncalculated and emotional decisions from its leaders that have put the country in more trouble and backwards. Tinubu must not fall into the trap of mere instantaneous decisions that could turn the people against him. There are already traces of the tendency to make these decisions with good intentions but without calculated approaches and anticipated results. However, the euphoria that preceded the swearing-in celebration was short-lived as soon as the new president reiterated his commitment to removing fuel subsidies. This declaration, despite being unofficial at the moment, created uproars nationwide. Almost immediately, the prices of petrol skyrocketed across the country. And the rush and distress purchases automatically led to an increment in prices and fares. The Nigerian ordeal started again just at a time when the people hoped for that light at the end of the tunnel.

Fortunately, authorities could clamp down on the greedy defaulters while an official release from NNPC was made. In as much as one would love to acknowledge the fact that the removal of subsidy was a very great move by the new administration, it would be gross insensitivity not to acknowledge the fact that these policies, just like the few ones the new administration have put into place came at a time where the masses had no absorber to cushion the effect on their existence. The first few days saw many Nigerians at home due to the high fare prices. Schoolchildren whose parents manage to make ends meet were forced to stay at home till they could afford money to commute themselves to school; after all, most of these kids attend government schools which are usually far from home. No governments have been making efforts to provide palliatives to citizens.

One example of such was the move by the Kwara State Government to reduce the working days to just three a week. This was done to save the cost of transportation as no new wages or palliative have been put in place. Commercial transport workers and traders alike hiked their prices as expected to meet the new living conditions, but this only resulted in shortchanges. They had little or no patronage. Within two weeks, Nigerians could no longer “f’okanbale”. And truthfully, people experiencing poverty could stop breathing anytime soon.

Subsidy removal is a reality the country must face at one point or the other. It has become a tool for enriching the rich and making the poor poorer to make them live comfortably. It has increased the rate of corruption among politicians, oil industries, and other connected sectors across the county. As of February 2023, Nigeria was paying about 400 billion Naira monthly on fuel subsidies enriching the pockets of a few while other important facilities needed to be tended to. The removal is necessary, and as the last act of President Buhari, still showing the ghost of his administration in the early days of Tinubu’s tenure. Mr President should have, however, realized the effect of the policy and the reiteration during his inauguration speech. Incidental policies and action plans that could make the effect bearable should have been envisioned. Truthfully, Nigerians would adjust; they always do, but at the expense of the lives and futures of some. Mr. President, the country is returning from the trauma of Emefiele-inflicted hell through cash scarcity and unfavourable economic policies that have killed humans and businesses. There are too many on the citizens’ plates; let Nigerians breathe, please don’t suffocate them. Implementing subsidy removal without adequate preparation is suffocating enough.

Another early mistake that could be a source of more trouble and crisis is the supposed promulgation of the Students Loan Act by President Tinubu. This is one of the ideas that have brought individuals in academia into an argument with the government because of the trap the Loans are capable of causing. The family’s average income must not be more than ₦500,000 to qualify for the loan. Considering the possibility of a family having more than one child in school, the Act creates a wide scope for its operation. Anyways, it must. The question is, can the loan solve the problems in the educational section? Since more than 60% of Nigerias are regarded as poor, there is an expectation that almost everyone at a High-Institution going age would be qualified for the loan. Hence, how much would the country be able to give out, and how many people would benefit from it? Would this not be another “subsidy” situation that sees the allocation of money with almost no effect on the people? Have Nigerians asked how effective the enforcement is? About 33% of Nigerians are unemployed, meaning we pump more people into the labour market without a job.

The fear has been that the purpose of this loan is to have arguments in support of the increment in fees payable at public universities to generate more funds. Most students attending public universities are from poor homes and backgrounds and may not be able to afford an exorbitant increment from fees of around 30,000 Naira to between 100,000 to 300,000 Naira, as the case may be. Even with the current fees, it is not surprising that many students have not been able to meet the supposed meagre fees that the government has been itching to increase. So while you play the game of carrot and cane with students, the nation must understand the further problems they may enter.

It is not pessimism that the loan cannot be available for up to 10% of the students in theory and less than 5% when one considers the country’s systemic corruption and red-tapism. I agree that education is expensive, but for a nation that wants rapid growth, tertiary education should not be seen as a liability but an investment because it drives innovation and development faster. Hence, the arguments for comparing the fees payable in other parts of the world, especially those regarded as developed, may not be sustainable. How would Iya Risi that sells Iru, locust beans, survive? How will Musa that pushes sugarcane, send any of his 7 kids beyond primary education, knowing that the higher the level, the more impossible educating his child will become?

While Tinubu’s government might have moved into action to hit the ground running, it must be careful not to affect its decisions and their resultant circumstance. The welfare of the people is the greatest responsibility of any government; hence, shifting too much discomfort in the name of for better future may cause damages that may make the government lose its focus. Nigeria is destroyed beyond how it was envisioned in the past, and as such, the nation needs deep, deliberate actions in every single decision made through every level of government and parastatal available. Nigerians have suffered too much; the phrase “suffer some more” may cause more social issues that would attract long-term problems for the nation.

Aside from calculative actions, you must remember to be the epitome of unity in a divided nation. You are the President of South East, South-South, South West, North Central, North West, and North East. Security must be the priority to reduce apprehensions affecting all sectors of the nation. Corruption must be reduced to the minimum, knowing that it is the root of the problems in which many policies are wrongly made with the oblivion of the root. You are the president, so you must let low-income people breathe.

Àdán is not blind. Don’t let us believe the lie! Bats can see.

Ahmed, don’t become Diaemus Young

Bola, don’t change your name to Diphylla Ecaudata

Tinubu, don’t become Desmodus Rotundas




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