Journalism in the service of society

One year later, what value has Tinubu added to our lives? – 1

It made a lot of sense that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu chose to mark, not celebrate, his first year in office. Celebration would have been termed insensitive by many, and the president would have been charged for profligacy and extravagance. Which serious or sane leader celebrates when the people he leads are in great and excruciating pains?

Truth be told, the suffering in the land beggars belief. In that, I am one with the critics of the president. But we part ways when they say one year is enough – or even more then enough – for Tinubu to have cleansed the country’s Augean stable.

The rains started beating the country a long time ago; unfortunately, we seemed not to have taken notice until it began to pour, if I must quote “Ogbuefi” Godwin Nzeakah (where are you?), my colleague on The PUNCH newspaper’s Editorial Board. Godwin was fond of saying it doesn’t just rain for him but that it pours!

Nigerians did not take notice of – or they ignored – the incremental damage done to the country right from Independence in 1960, through the time of the first military coup in January 1966, to the wasteful years of Yakubu Gowon, who was credited with saying that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it. Oil money that should have been invested in agriculture and industrialization, thus, was wasted.

Military ruler after military ruler continued where Gowon stopped, with the gap-toothed one, IBB, acclaimed for institutionalizing corruption and the “settlement” syndrome as well as destroying esprit de corps and discipline in the military. Since 1999, mention a Nigerian leader whose administration did not add heaps of rot on the country’s Augean stable?

Pardon me, I am not one of those who expect a miracle or magic from President Tinubu. I know it is easier to destroy than to repair or rebuild. So, I expect that more than one year is needed before we begin to see appreciable results. But my worry is whether or not the president is headed in the right direction; whether or not he is pursuing the right policies; and whether or not he is clear-headed and deeply-foresighted as to where he is taking us.

Are we heading farther into the dark tunnel? Are we sinking deeper in the miry clay? Is the president leaving the substance and chasing shadows? Unfortunately, two decisions of his which coincided with his first year anniversary got me deeply worried. The first was his decision to drag the 36 state governors to court over so-called autonomy for local governments.

I have said quite unambiguously in my “Nigeria: Federalism, unitarism, hybrid or what?” that what is needed is the total scrapping of the 774 local government areas and not strengthening them in any form. It is the duty of federating units to create, manage and fund local governments, not that of the Federal or Central Government. The question must also be asked: The 20 local governments and the additional 37 Local Council Development Areas created by Tinubu as governor of Lagos State (1999 – 2007) – did he let them enjoy the fiscal autonomy he (Tinubu) is now demanding from the present governors?

The second decision of the president that has made him the butt of cruel jokes is the return of the country to the old national anthem. Please, get me right: old or new, I am not a fan of any of the anthems. As my people will say, a man is engulfed by fire and you are still asking after his lush beards! Nigeria itself is on fire and some wailing wailers (apologies, Femi Adeshina) are bringing down the roof on our head over a common anthem!

If I may ask, which of the anthems is better than the other? There may, however, be a spiritual significance lurking somewhere; to wit, that the country’s glory years remain in its past! May we not know better yesterday! Ask Nigerians, they will tell you that this country has known better yesterday. My people say where going forward is impossible, going backward becomes inevitable.

Is that also what is playing out in Kano? Why the hullabaloo if not that our people have very short memories like Adolf Hitler did posit? How dare we easily forget the many lives lost to the fire of religious extremism stoked by this Emir, even if we overlook his shenanigans at our apex bank? Was he the rightful occupant the first time he was dashed the throne? And then he lost it the same way he had got it. A new Emir then got to the throne the same way the old Emir did. He, too, now lost it the same way the old Emir did. New/Old. Old/New. Game of musical chairs. What goes around comes around. Every usurper has his cup full some day. If the House of Uthman dan Fodio becomes like the House of Abraham in the land of Palestine, then, their cup of tea! Let them drink it!

Back to Tinubu! I read Bayo Onanuga’s “One year after: The legacy man and his strides” and Tunde Rahman’s “Tinubu’s silent and unreported achievements” and felt empathy for the two presidential spokespersons, who are both my friends and professional colleagues. They have a task to perform. And it is not an easy one. Besides, I agree with them that their principal has done a lot within such a short time. The chicken sweats but the feathers wont let us see.

The task before Tinubu is gargantuan. And one year is such a short time. When trees fall upon trees, you start by first pulling off those on top before you get to those at the bottom of the pile. In Nigeria’s present predicament, the trees on top are the powerful and mighty; those with a voice, and those we call the ruling class. We have seen how Tinubu has quickly attended to them. Those underneath, the underlings, the hoi polloi, the suffering masses, will have to be patient. It is turn-by-turn. Emilokan before Eyinlokan!

I am not a fan of Ayinde Wasiu but there is a song of his that I love so much: Nwon maa pe yin, ijo o ti kan yin/Ijo maa kan yin, nwon o ti pe yin! It is a song of appeal at a party to those rushing to take their turn on the dance floor that it is not yet their turn. Be patient! It will still/soon be your turn. The big masquerades are the ones dancing now. Lesser mortals, be patient. Has it not been said that the patient dog eats the fattest bones? But I heard it in my spirit: Not in Nigeria! Here, the fastest and smartest dogs eat the fattest bones!

But let us remind Onanuga and Rahman that what the people are saying is not that the President has not been working his arse out in the past one year. No, the people have eyes and can see their president working real hard. What they are saying is that he is not working in their direction yet. The great work the President has done in the last one year has not added value to the life of the majority of our people. Instead, they get more impoverished by the day.

Our people say if you give a mad man a hoe, he will make the first ridges to benefit himself. That is natural. What the people are saying is that, lest the suffering in the land kill them before it is their turn to enjoy the proverbial dividends of democracy, the President should quickly look in their direction – NOW! They are also saying that delay is dangerous. And they are not asking for the Moon!

Permit me to be their spokesperson as I list their demands as follows: 1. Tackle insecurity, which still struts the arena like a colossus 2. Curb inflation, which is making nonsense of every decent effort to eke out a living 3. Arrest epileptic power supply and bring down the cost, which is frustrating big and small businesses, and making life miserable for the people 4. Do something about the Naira that is rising and falling every day in the forex market 5. Resolve the lingering ASUU/FG dispute so our children’s stay in school is not unnecessarily prolonged with the attendant cost implication on parents; not to talk of the frustration it causes students and lecturers alike 6. Resolve the dispute with Labour once and for all so that the losses and damage inflicted on the economy and on individuals by incessant strike actions can cease 7. Drive a vigorous return to the land (agriculture) so that soaring cost of foodstuffs can be arrested. 8. Decrepit infrastructure, especially inland and township roads, should be addressed expeditiously as Tinubu has done the Lagos – Calabar coastal expressway. 9. The unemployment rate has become damn too alarming for comfort; the “Japa” syndrome is an ill-wind that blows the country no good. 10. A prayer that everyone prays these days is: May we not fall sick! The cost of medicine and medicare has soared beyond the reach of many. Our hospitals are bereft of quality hands and are now worse than the “mere consulting centres” of the military era.

I as a person appreciate our President. As our people will say, “Okunrin l’ada”. Tinubu is the Lion Heart. But now is the time for him to come to Macedonia and help the perishing poor!

I hope I have spoken well!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspaper, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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