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Tinubu’s first year as President has been planting time

There are promising signs that President Tinubu’s administration is on the right path regarding policy formulation. Nevetheless, it needs to focus more on implementation as it enters its second year, even as the task of revitalizing the economy remains ongoing

I WOULD like to commence this intervention by declarng upfront that I am a man who is a devotee of the planning school of thought.
So,l will be considering President Bola Tinubu’s one year in office from the prism of a farmer who devotes awesome time to planning ,planting, nurturing and harvesting the crops.

For the benefits of those who do not posses or are not familiar with the practice of farming ,which is the preserve of rural dwellers, l will also leverage the analogy of engineering construction that is right in the alley of city dwellers and the elite, to drive home my optimistic review of President Tinubu’s first year in office.

Without further ado, a very critical factor that has defined the administration of president Tinubu in the past 365 days, is time.

Even the scripture in the Holy Bible empasises the criticality of time as detailed in Ecclesiastes chapter 3:1-2

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, …”

Owing to the profundity of that counsel, one would not be surprised if the holy Quran also has an equivalent wise counsel for Muslims.

For President Tinubu, as evidenced by uprooting old policies and programmes in the administration of Nigeria and the replacement of same by planting and building new ones in timely manner, it should be obvious to the discerning that he is very time conscious because he is constrained by it.

Given the critically valuable role that time plays in planning, it would be difficult to carry out a fair assessment of the first year of President Bola Tinubu’s watch over Nigeria without taking into cognisance the counsel encapsulated in the scripture earlier cited.

As we would all agree, one element that is not a friend of politicians is time. As an astute politician, President Bola Tinubu recognises the criticality of time hence he seems to be in a hurry to make a quick impact.

More so because, the total time allocated to him based on the provisions in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria for him to be president of Nigeria before he seeks a renewal of his mandate, is a mere four (4) years, 29 May 2023-2027.

Arising from the above, President Tinubu may be anxious because the expiry date is literally around the corner.

It is in cognisance of the above, that my analytical mind tells me that President Tinubu is tending towards detesting taking the conventional grinding route to governace characterised by wide consultations and following the torturous and time-consuming path of due process procedures before policies are made.

We see that in how he annouced subsidy removal on petrol on his inauguration day and the quick passage of the law to revert to our old national anthem, which was not subjected to public debate, as the Attorney General had proposed, but was overruled, simply because it was good to go since the national CONFAB had debated and green-lighted it in 2014.

That has been attested to by renowned lawyer, Mike Ozekhome who is a proponent of the national anthem change.

Extraordinarily, in a short period of one year under President Tinubu’s watch, he has literally unleashed an avalanche of policy reforms significantly eclipsing the number of policy changes in the entire eight (8 )years lifespan of the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari.

As the conventional wisdom goes, time waits for no one.

So, keeping that in mind, l imagine that Mr President had to optimally allot the limited time that he has to the different aspects of his development plan (Renewed Hope Agenda) for Nigeria in order to generate maximum benefits for the electorate, before the expiration in 2027 of the validity of his four (4) years occupancy of Aso Rock Villa seat of political power.

The assertion above, about his aversion for bureaucracy that is time-consuming is validated by the speed with which President Tinubu has churned out his new policies, in addition to the removal of petrol subsidy on inauguration day, and subsequently merging of the naira exchange rates, he also introduced electricity law 2023 leading to increase in tariff, including changing the national anthem from the 1978 version to the one introduced at Independence in 1960 amongst many other such policies too many to be enumerated in this piece.

In light of the foregoing, I believe that the first year of Tinubu as president has been a time and season for planting, to maintain the analogy of farming.

In this second year which has just commenced, the seeds (policies and programmes) that he has sown (introduced) are expected to germinate and become crops (take effect) then start bearing fruits (dividends of democracy) that would benefit the long-suffering Nigerian people such that they would be motivated to renew his mandate when it is due for renewal in 2027.

Eschewing politics, we would all agree that it will take time for the seeds planted to sprout as crops before maturing and bearing fruits, after which it would be harvest time.

To plant crops that have four (4) years gestation period and expect to reap the fruits in just one (1) year, would be magical, would it not?

It is for the reasons above that one believes that the declaration of Tinubu’s presidency in a mere one year of four years mandate as a failure by critics is hasty.

Let us think about it in a manner that is devoid of emotion.

We were able to judge ex-president Muhammadu Buhari’s eight (8) years tenure as disastrous and locust years in the life of our country only after his two (2) terms tenure of four (4) years each had been completed. Likewise, it was claimed by some Nigerians that Goodluck Jonathan was clueless as president after his six (6 ) years of our country being under his watch.

Is it not rather preposterous that some Nigerians are romantically recalling the Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari days and some members of the commentariat are even comparing Tinubu’s only one-year reign to Buhari’s eight (8) years and Jonathan’s six (6) years watch?

Even more ridiculous is that some are claiming that since life was better off that time for the average Nigerian by comparing the cost of living then and now, the incumbent President Tinubu should reverse all the new policies so far introduced and revert to the status quo ante.

That proposition reminds me of how the Israelites were clamourng for Moses to let them go back to their slavery in Egypt after the exodus that he was leading suffered initial setbacks.

The question to ask is: are the temporary pains being experienced in the course of our journey to socioeconomic freedom led by President Tinubu bad enough to warrant a wish to go back to the torment of economic policies that were slowly but surely going to strangulate our economy and asphyxiate our country?

Without a doubt, if the subsidy on petrol and naira were not removed, the income from crude oil sales that has gradually been drying up due to lower international prices, dwindling international demand owing to the adoption of electric vehicles in the industrialised world, and low production of the commodity in the Niger Delta due to policy inconsistency (Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Total Energies, during the Africa CEO conference held in Rwanda recently cited it as a reason for investing $6 billion in Angola instead of Nigeria), not forgetting complications from massive theft of the commodity by international oil syndicates; our cherished country was surely going the way of Venezuela — a country rich in oil but suffering from resource course. Hence that nation has been in socioeconomic doldrums, even though it is a close neighbour of the richest country in the world, the USA.

By and large, my optimistic assessment is that President Tinubu’s policies, although imperfect, (which is not unusual for new rules that often require being finetuned after being operationalised) are meant to steer the ship of the state of Nigeria off the violent currents and rapids that could result in the wreckage of the vessel sooner than imagined.

In light of the narrative above, it would be unfair to make a full judgment call on Tinubu’s government after a mere 12 months of being in the saddle.

At best, it is an interim assessment that could be carried out because he has only done 25% (one year) of (100%) four (4) years tenure.

Some critics have sought to know the reason for my optimism about President Tinubu’s ability and capacity to turn the fortune of our cherished country around, and the reasons are legion.

Take for instance the two major policies that have spiked the cost of living – subsidy removal from petrol pump price and the merging of the multiple exchange rates of the naira.

The new higher education loan fund that would boost the pool of skilled workforce in our country is also a product of subsidy removal. That policy amounts to subsidy on production as opposed to consumption which subsidies on petrol and the Naira represent.

Also, by ending the petrol subsidy, more money is accruing to the subnational governments for the development of the rural areas.

The federal government is currently tackling the state governments in court to make them spend the huge funds accruing to them responsibly by compelling governors to hands-off funds that should be managed by local governments for the upliftment of lives of folks at the grassroots level.

The floating of the naira by those who took over from Mr Godwin Emefiele, as Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor was wrong-headed. So, it didn’t work, and it got reversed by the new CBN leadership that is trying other options. The fallout of the effort is triggering temporary instability in the market, causing some multinational manufacturing firms with low financial thresholds to exit Nigeria.

But as the economy becomes more stable, perhaps Nigerian investors can fill in the vacuum left by the foreign firms that exited in the manner that a consortium of local investors (Renaissance group) has bought over the assets of International Oil Companies, IOCs, particularly SHELL that have recently divested from onshore Nigeria exploration activities.

The removal of subsidies on petrol is also driving the Compressed Natural Gas, CNG initiative that has been ramped up to power mass transit buses and cars for commuters, representing evidence of a silver lining on the horizon for commuters who may be relieved of the burden of high cost of transportation.

The reforms in the electricity sector are also accelerating investment in natural gas recovery, instead of being flared as has been the case since 1967 when oil was first discovered in Oloibiribiri, Bayelsa state.

That is not all, as new investments in oil/gas processing facilities, not just in crude oil extraction, as we have been doing since 1967, would boost productivity and create more jobs for teeming Nigerian youths.

Apart from the Dangote mega refinery that came on stream a few months ago, multiple refineries are also being set up (although they are modular and of small capacity) to fill the local supply gap that has been depleting our treasury.

When our country becomes energy-independent by not importing petrol and diesel, as Alh. Aliko Dangote, chairman/president of Dangote refinery has promised, the pressure on the naira would be reduced and the exchange rate may become less volatile just as inflation would also go down in tandem.

Clearly, religious insurgency and banditry in the hinterlands are some of the forces driving up food inflation. As opposed to applying the same methodology relied on by his predecessors, President Tinubu could be looking at more technological ways of addressing the insecurity challenges. That would be a paradigm shift from the erstwhile kinetic approach of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari who are ex-soldiers that believe in war, war as opposed to jaw-jaw in their attempts to restore and guarantee security of lives and properties of Nigerians by reining in the enemies of state that have taken up arms against our country in the last two (2) decades.

Furthermore, the removal of subsidy on electricity following the reformed electricity law of 2023 has also opened up the sector for more private sector investments in renewable energy such as solar power which most Nigerians are currently embracing in the light of the high cost of electricity powered by fossil fuel that is expensive. Is that not another reason to be optimistic?

Although about 12 million consumers (15% of electricity users) have been tagged Band A consumers who have to pay higher tariffs of N225 naira per kilowatt, which has also negatively impacted the cost of living at the initial stage, since manufacturers are passing the cost to consumers, the ultimate expectation is that the high tariffs for Band A consumers would come down as more electricity suppliers come on stream with the cost to consumers coming down due to competition and from alternative sources such as wind etc.

We witnessed the rise of costs with the introduction of GSM telephony some twenty-four (24) years ago and a subsequent drop in the cost of telephone calls a couple of years after the cost of technology had been significantly recouped by investors such as MTN, GLO, Econet/Airtel etc.

The positive effect of the reform policy in the electricity sector is that higher tariffs is also positively driving up interest in harnessing our natural gas potentials that had been left fallow all these 61 years of discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in Nigeria.

For instance, some owners of GENCOS may sell off their equity to or go into partnerships with some new investors, including state governments and very likely international investors such as Siemens of Germany that had shunned Nigeria when the sector was being unbundled.

Incidentally, the partial removal of subsidy on electricity via an increase in the tariff for Band A consumers has also resulted in more responsible use of electricity by consumers who used to be nonchalant owing to its subsidised cost, but are currently turning off gadgets when they are not necessary.

What is more, with the new arrangement encapsulated in the new electricity law 2023, the ideal concept of zoning the country to different players in the electricity power sector to serve as practicsd in other climes, may be in the offing.

One can go on and on but my point is made by the fact President Tinubu has spent the first year working on Policy formulation, hence we have seen him tweak and calibrate some policies to make them fit for purpose, which is a trait that some pundits are railing against.

As the saying goes, the morning determines the evening. There are promising signs that President Tinubu’s administration is on the right path regarding policy formulation. Nevetheless, it needs to focus more on implementation as it enters its second year, even as the task of revitalising the economy remains ongoing.

 

* Magnus Onyibe,an entrepreneur,public policy analyst ,author,democracy advocate,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,Tufts University, Massachusetts,USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.
To continue with this conversation and more, please visit www.magnum.ng

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