“As a nation, we have long ago decided to march beyond the dimness of night into the open day of renewed national hope. The question we now ask ourselves is whether to remain faithful to the work inherent in building a better society or retreat into the shadows of our unmet potential.
“For me, there is but one answer. We are too great a nation and too grounded as a people to rob ourselves of our finest destiny,” Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said after taking the oath of office as the 16th president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He sounded like having a full grasp of the enormous, daunting tasks ahead.
Without contestation, Nigeria possesses all the qualities of a great and prosperous nation except leadership. The richly blessed, most populous black country has been held down, especially in the recent past, by inept, clueless, parochial and ethnocentric leadership, which instead of uniting it, had decimated it into shreds. Religious and ethnic patronage took centre stage, leaving some sections of the country highly excluded from the common patrimony.
The beautifully crafted inaugural address of the new president undoubtedly raises hope of national healing and restoration. However, recalling that the most resonating part of the inaugural speech of former President Muhammadu Buhari, which is “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody,” turned out to be a mere coinage, one is compelled to take BAT’s speech with a pinch of salt.
The eight-year reign betrayed PMB’s real intentions as he was generally assessed to have failed woefully in his campaign promises to, among other things, fight corruption to a standstill and make Nigeria secure. He is believed to have left Nigeria more precariously unsafe than he met it in 2015 while the country still occupies a worrisome position in the global Corruption Perception Index. However, he is acknowledged for his unusual interventions, which have brought some positive changes in national infrastructures. Little wonder the new president promised to sustain the tempo. Be that as it may, such records are not enough to change the unfavourable submission about his administration.
Good a thing, he is history now as a new helmsman had reeled out heart-warming promises to Nigerians, which are currently commanding analytical attention across the land. Titled “THE NIGERIAN IDEAL”, the new president acknowledged that Nigeria had seen hardship capable of tearing it apart but has remained one indivisible entity.
“For many years, Nigeria’s critics have trafficked the rumour that our nation will break apart, even perish. Yet here we are. We have stumbled at times, but our resilience and diversity have kept us going. Our burdens may make us bend at times, but they shall never break us. Instead, we stand forth as Africa’s most populous nation and as the best hope and strongest champion of the Black Race.”
In what sounds like the “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”, President Tinubu said inter alia, “Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it.”
He said, “Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper, we must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
“Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your president, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all.”
Tinubu broadly highlighted a few initiatives he would pursue in furtherance of the Nigerian ideal. Nigeria, he pledged, will be governed in accordance with the constitution and the rule of law.
“We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty,” he said further. “Our government will continue to take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.”
The commitment to fight corruption is another highlight which must be spotlighted, in that our national woes and failures cannot be divorced from it. If PMB, who at inception was believed to be above board in the matter of corruption, achieved little or nothing in fighting the scourge, it remains to be seen how BAT will go about the onerous task with the public perception of him in this regard.
The President got the nod of millions of Nigerians when he named security a top priority for his administration. He said the nation would be defended from terror and all other threats to its peace and stability. He says, “Neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence. To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security doctrine and architecture.”
Despite his promise to invest more in security, Nigerians expect corruption among the rank and file of the security agencies and the armed forces will be quickly addressed as a compelling condition for effective and efficient interventions in that sector. It is widely believed that the battle to secure the nation, especially to end terrorism, would have been more successful but for compromise among those prosecuting the war.
Talking economy, BAT spoke of the target of increasing the nation’s GDP growth and significantly reducing unemployment. “We intend to accomplish this by taking the following steps: First, budgetary reform stimulating the economy without engendering inflation will be instituted. Second, industrial policy will utilise the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
“Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double, and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well.”
To the applause of many Nigerians, he promised to encourage both local and foreign investors with the review of all their complaints about multiple taxations and various anti-investment inhibitions. “We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard-earned dividends and profits home.”
President Tinubu recommitted himself to creating one million new jobs in the digital economy in line with his campaign promise. “Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable,” he said.
Also, the new President revealed his good intentions for the agric sector. “Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.
“Agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing. The livestock sector will be introduced to the best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector. Through these actions, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly. Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.”
It was, however, bad news for Nigerians that the fuel subsidy, which was responsible for affordable pump prices of petroleum products, would be discontinued. As the biggest cash cow, which has empowered the rich and impoverished the poor, the President said, “Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources. We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.”
He did not end the speech without a mention of the monetary aspect of the economy, which was taunted to be against his presidential ambition, especially with the CBN naira redesign and cashless policy. President Tinubu believed “the Monetary policy needs a thorough housecleaning. The Central Bank must work towards a unified exchange rate.”
“Whatever merits it had in concept, the currency swap was too harshly applied by the CBN given the number of unbanked Nigerians. The policy shall be reviewed. In the meantime, my administration will treat both currencies as legal tender.”
Apart from the above, concerns expressed by the president concerning Nigeria’s foreign policy are in good taste. He identified the crisis in Sudan and the democratic recession in several neighbouring countries as a pressing concerns.
“As such, my primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African sub-region and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and to resolve new ones.
“As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional and continental quest for collective prosperity.”
All these notwithstanding, the task of rescuing Nigeria must be collective. While the election which produced Tinubu as president is still being challenged at the Presidential Election Petition Court, it is not out of place to beckon every Nigerian to do whatever is within their reach to see the emergence of a great nation of our dream.
The presidential address climaxed with the optimism that Nigeria, which has reaffirmed its rightful place among the world’s great democracies, shall reside there forever.
This is rather a function of the leadership style. As the president has committed himself to respect the constitution and the rule of law, Nigerians hope to reap the benefits of that promise which will see everyone equal and below the law no matter his or her political, economic and social status. They hope to enjoy freedom of expression without any attempt to stifle opposition.
The outcome of the 2023 presidential left Nigerians sharply divided. As the judiciary is anxiously awaited to rule of all matters before it, deliberate and genuine efforts must be made to unite every segment of the country. The new president should take the lead in this regard.
This is because together we stand, divided we fall. God forbid that Nigeria falls into full-blown anarchy and disorder.