Heart of Arts

Tinubu’s One Year in Office: Will the hope be renewed?

Toyin Falola

From Olusegun Obasanjo to Musa Yar’adua, Goodluck Jonathan to Muhammadu Buhari, and now to Bola Tinubu, Nigeria has consistently represented a dim future of optimism, with its citizens persistently recounting the narratives of a better yesterday. Citizens are concerned about the political destiny of their country in the wake of recent elections, as voter intimidation, vote-buying, and overt acts of violence are widespread accusations that undermine the integrity of the electoral process and cast significant scepticism on the ballot results. Elections in our country seem to have only extended the political crises, thereby heightening the probability of further unrest and instability, as opposed to ushering in a new era of democratic progress. The bitter truth is that Nigeria has kept descending from a precarious level to an even more perilous one as the new administration assumes power. Will the collapse of hope define our next level?

Source_ concordia _Photo: Olusegun Obasanjo

Apart from the prevailing political crises, we are confronted with numerous economic difficulties stemming from the persistent devaluation of our legal tender and the daily inflation of goods and services provided within the nation. Amidst these circumstances, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu abruptly announced the removal of the fuel subsidy on May 29, 2023. However, following the president’s inauguration, prices for food, transportation, and other essentials skyrocketed in no time. Currently, the prevalent issues in the country encompass starvation, malnutrition, and the struggle for survival among Nigeria’s middle-income earners. The naira has lost redeemability because of the exchange rate deterioration, and an average Nigerian can barely afford to eat a three-square meal a day. Several challenging decisions, including the elimination of petroleum subsidies, contributed to these results, which makes many people question whether the removal of subsidies was a necessary sacrifice to exonerate an unstable system or a deliberate attempt to punish Nigerians.

In Nigeria, fuel subsidies have historically exhibited ambivalent characteristics. According to some critics, its elimination was intended to alleviate the government’s financial burden and foster economic expansion. To the contrary, it has inadvertently caused a cascade of increases in the cost of living. An immediate example is the significant increase in fuel expenses, which has a direct repercussion on transportation expenditures and, consequently, on the costs of goods and services. Transportation plays a vital role in facilitating economic activities in Nigeria, as most citizens extensively utilize it for their daily commuting needs. Transportation expenses escalate in tandem with petroleum costs, leading to a consequential surge in the prices of essential commodities. This has affected numerous citizens, especially individuals with low incomes, who devote a substantial proportion of their earnings to necessities. Since inflation undermines the ability of people to afford their fundamental necessities by eroding their purchasing power, middle- and lower-class populations are disproportionately affected by this circumstance, which exacerbates pre-existing socioeconomic inequalities.

Source_ linkedin by Razaq Ajadi _Photo: Musa Yar’adua

Furthermore, the dollar-to-naira exchange rate has experienced volatility, with a significant rise of about 95% observed in the initial months of Tinubu’s presidency. The dollar has depreciated from $439 to $1,468 at present. Inflation has significant impacts on nations that are highly dependent on imported commodities, like Nigeria. For instance, a substantial decline in the standard of living for many Sudanese citizens and a sharp increase in the cost of imported products resulted from the devaluation of the Sudanese pound by nearly 100 per cent. Additionally, the purchasing power of local consumers can be diminished by devaluation, rendering it more difficult for them to procure essential products and services.

Since the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999, it is no news that the country has experienced an unprecedented level of insecurity during the administrations of Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. While the terrorist group, known as the Boko Haram, disrupted the national peace during the former’s tenure, the criminal bandits further eroded the nation’s security under the latter. Based on data sourced from the Nigeria Security Tracker, the estimated number of fatalities during the tenure of Buhari was 63,111. In his first year in office, Tinubu also fell short of strengthening the nation’s security despite his assurances to the contrary. The SBM Intelligence platform reports that approximately 5,000 Nigerians were murdered and 7,000 kidnapped during President Tinubu’s first year. The deadly Niger State ambush and aircraft accident that occurred on August 14, 2023, just a few months after President Tinubu assumed office, also claimed the lives of no less than 36 soldiers.

Source_ Bella Naija _Photo: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Insecurity is a major challenge that has persisted in plaguing the Nigerian state. The country is beset by banditry in the North-West, the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, Fulani herdsmen, and militancy in the Niger Delta. The Tinubu administration is reportedly contributing to a decline in security. As reported by the Punch, there was a heinous murder of two individuals, Nabeeha al-Kadriyar and Folashade Ariyo, committed by bandits within the Federal Capital Territory, and the nation has been thrown into a state of terror as a result. A sense of insecurity within a nation frequently results in an increased sense of suspicion towards outsiders and even fellow citizens, which may cause social divisions. A nation engulfed in insecurity may lose investors and investments due to potential economic stability. The propensity of individuals to be business-oriented or even pursue educational opportunities may be diminished, thereby impeding the nation’s overall development.

In addition to these, there have been several industrial conflicts within the country. The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria constitute the two primary labour organizations in Nigeria. During the presidency of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the NLC was very aggressive, and it represented the voice of the citizenry who had constantly been subjected to a succession of fuel price increases by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. Because the government’s decisions had an equal impact on both workers and the public, Oshiomhole-led Labour was in a valiant confrontation with the Obasanjo administration. Also, a few months following the inauguration of the Obasanjo-Atiku administration, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also initiated a five-month-long nationwide strike. It is often said that strike actions are the only language the Nigerian leaders understand, which seems genuine because the masses’ grievances are heard only when there is a threat to embark on industrial actions.

Source_ Bella Naija _Photo: Muhammadu Buhari

Following the inauguration of President Tinubu, the NLC organized a nationwide #EndHungerNow demonstration to bring an end to the country’s persistent economic hardship. The deplorable cost of living afflicts a significant portion of the Nigerian population, and many are compelled to endure the severe economy. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), as stated in a statement signed by its president, Joe Ajaero, accused President Tinubu of engaging in political manoeuvring while government policies caused millions of Nigerians to endure starvation and insecurity. Additionally, the (ASUU) and the Federal Government are at odds due to the latter’s failure to fulfil its promises. The union has continuously expressed concerns regarding the IPPIS payment platform before the Federal Government exempted academics from the IPPIS platform in December 2023. In contrast to the earlier agreement, ASUU observed that the platform is still being used to pay its members.

If there is a common menace in Africa’s democracies, it is corruption. There were several corruption and criminal charges levelled against Nigerian politicians, including Tinubu. The president had once faced allegations of corrupt activities against him by Dapo Apara, an accountant at Alpha-beta Consulting. There were also suspicions that he was engaged in vote-buying during the 2019 election, which were fueled by a bold display of an armoured vehicle used by banks to transport money into his palatial compound in Lagos. Perhaps to dispel his “supposed” reputation for corruption, Abdulrasheed Bawa, the suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was sacked by Tinubu recently on the charge of abuse of office. In addition, Bello Matawalle, the former governor of Zamfara State, levied allegations against Mr. Bawa, contending that he had once requested a bribe of $2 million from him. Although this constitutes a fearless and honourable decision, does it sufficiently demonstrate Tinubu’s aversion to corruption?

Source_ Wikimedia _Photo: President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Similarly, Tinubu has pledged to combat corruption to the end and reiterated that he would adhere to his policies. The presence of visionary leadership in a society yields a multitude of economic and social advantages, while the diversion of resources from vital sectors, including healthcare, education, and infrastructure, is the consequence of corruption. The efficient application of a nation’s funds fosters a stronger economy that expands opportunities for all.

Juxtaposing the experiences during the Buhari tenure and the one-year run President Tinubu has had in the office, four questions come to mind:

Has the hope been renewed?

Is the hope being renewed?

Will the hope be renewed?

When will the hope be renewed?

If the answers to these questions are negative, then Nigerians might have just recorded another periodic status quo of “from frying pan to fire.”

 

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