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Is President Bola Ahmed Tinubu A Heavyweight or Lightweight? By Adedeji O Kilanko

Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR
President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

"Now that he is so proud about performing the feat called subsidy removal, from this point going forward I think it would be safe to refer to him as SRP-Tinubu, Subsidy Removal President- Tinubu." Adedeji O Kilanko.

A lot has been said in the last couple of weeks, regarding President Tinubu’s proclamation on fuel subsidy.

There have been hues and cries around this announcement by PBAT. Some have likened it to an achievement so spectacular and unprecedented; it is as if PBAT confronted and killed a lion.

It was so terrific a feat such that King Sanusi Lamido had to pay the brave and courageous PBAT a visit in Aso Rock, to inspect and check the sharpness of the claws on the paws of the lion and likewise, very eager to see the huge, muscular and hairy king of the beast.

PBAT announced the fuel subsidy removal that has brought untold hardship on Nigerians like it was a tea party and we saw many supporters, journalists including some elites, rejoicing and showing excitement as if it was time for their much anticipated vacation.

PBAT didn’t come in focusing on the issues and challenges around their so called subsidy regime such as ordering the NNPCL head to step aside in order to pave way for investigations by a replacement, with the mandate among others to determine the actual daily PMS consumption in the country. He did not announce the deployment of technology wherever necessary along the line, mandating the Customs and Immigration Services to man the borders for operations that will reveal the secrets and details behind the diversion of our subsidized fuel through the borders.

Fishing out the marketers and their agents perpetrating the subsidy scam within, figuring out our actual daily consumption data by justifying fraud in establishing disparities; a contradiction between the past and latest data established and then confiscate trucks used in transporting PMS to and across the border.

It is by accomplishing all of the above that Mr President could justify all the praises being heaped on him. That is when Mr President qualifies that his actions symbolise killing a lion; heavyweight.

But, coming within the first half hour of your swearing-in at a time Mr President’s team and supporters were supposed to be relishing the victory and moment, it was quite appalling and shocking to many Nigerians to hear PBAT utter the "Subsidy Is Gone" remark. Some of us thought it might just be a mere announcement, just to get everyone prepared for final removal to come later. It was quite disappointing to realise that as time went by, we only just realised PBAT and his government were not joking or playing with the issue of subsidy removal as it was final.

It was quite glaring that the President came up empty and unprepared with the announcement on the removal of subsidy. Some of us, up till this moment are still wondering what is going on. Is this the right way to remove subsidy or go about the process?  

Quite shockingly, where PBAT hails from the popular saying is Ologbon dori eja mu

An economic model which puts the welfare of the masses on the front burner; recognising that the masses are an integral part of the economy, one that has in the picture, a leader who would fight tooth and nail for a soft landing for the masses because, soft landing for the poor guarantees one for the economy otherwise, hard landing for the populace is a recipe for the precipice, for the economy.

For an administration whose number one priority are the people, you just don’t come out thoughtless and directionless with such a big and serious national issues of concern which affect all and sundry. It is an issue that must have given a serious leader some sleepless nights; the manner in which parents worry or even over worry about their wards as in reluctancy around the decision, determination on removal and in making final and formal proclamation. 

The situation surrounding the aftermath of the removal clearly reflects cluelessness of this government regarding the realities and implications of subsidy removal.

Ab initio, the most important move would have been a negotiation with Organised Labour in which an offer of between 45k to 60k by the FG before removal would have been a slam dunk with a promise of increments over subsequent years for the government workers and with a promise of tax cuts to the private sector so as to partake in dispensing the minimum wage and also to retain and hire workers. 

In serious climes you cannot just arrive at such position but with plans, not just plans, robust plans; more of a blueprint. 

The FG is exhibiting a behavioral pattern similar to Mr Dehinde who would give anesthetic to his patients only after operation, would not carefully locate veins on his patients but just place the needle and inject anywhere on the flesh.

That Sanusi Lamido, whom we respect so much regarding his economic views and thoughts, would approve an approach in which caution has been thrown into the wind in the handling of our economic affairs, is very worrying.  Removing subsidy on PMS and floating the Naira simultaneously?

Now that he is so proud about performing the feat called subsidy removal, from this point going forward I think it would be safe to refer to him as SRP-Tinubu, Subsidy Removal President- Tinubu.

OBJ applied common sense in his approach to the economy. He therefore had the handle on the economy. He enjoyed his days in office to the point where he was crying while he was reading his last speech in office and more so, it is no secret he attempted third term in office.

For Buhari, he started on a wrong footing in 2015 with many of the choices he made concerning the economy. He lost the handle on the economy as early as 2016. He never recovered. He didn’t enjoy his days in office to the point that he couldn’t wait to leave. He was wishing the last week come faster so that he could exit.

It is quite obvious you have started on Buhari’s path as the Subsidy Removal President, you started by putting the cart before the horse. It is not too late to have a rethink and hit the reset button.

We wish, hope and pray this administration succeeds but the fact that it started veering off right from the beginning, particularly the lackadaisical posture post subsidy removal, is very concerning.

As if the removal of subsidy is not enough, it was quite scary when it was announced that the previous arrangement in bringing PMS to the country has been jettisoned .

The DSDP, (Direct Sale Direct Purchase) approach was so outstanding that it eliminated the headache and burden associated with sourcing for dollars by marketers to bring in fuel.

One would have thought that its continuation would have been nonnegotiable considering the existential pressure on Naira from within. Coming at a time this government is floating its currency, the expectation would have been to avoid and shield the currency from unnecessary volatility.

The Naira has been sinking since the introduction of the I&E window for forex trading.

From #461 it has sunk to #756 and up to #815 at a point. We are all holding our breath hoping for a consolidation, as soon as possible around a favourable rate.

This administration just doesn’t seem to be ready and disciplined enough to achieve the above goal. This is because, no doubt, a huge chunk of those patronizing the I&E window are marketers sourcing for forex. At first, we were told only Dangote would do the importation only to find out later after some grumbling in some quarters that the number increased to six. It was suggested that in some sense, this was a ploy to pour forex into Dangotes pocket through the back door. Forex to import fuel over the next months will ultimately put immense pressure on the I&E window sinking Naira the more as it struggles to settle.

The masses would always be at the receiving end because, the deeper the Naira sinks, the heavier the cross carried by the poor, most especially as it affects PMS pricing.

At #461 rate, PMS was #530, at #750, do the math and fill-in the gap, not minding the fact that it slid to #815 at a time. It is in the midst of these that an avalanche of hikes which I wouldn’t just want to delve into surfaced. 

It just goes to illustrate the insensitivity of the present government to the pain and suffering of the poor in this country.

This idea of pandering to the foreign investors at the expense of your domestic economic interests speaks to SRP-Tinuubu’s disillusionment in terms of his economic vision for the country.

SRP-Tinubu fits into the theme of an individual looking forward to attending a party he considers in his mind as special and classy. He has the opportunity to prepare a good meal for himself having all the means, the food stuff and time but was just fixated on his expectations of delicacies from the party. The fact remains that for one reason or the other he might not make it to the party, the food at the party might not go round, it might be puerile, unpleasant or unsatisfactory at the end of the day.

For these reasons, informed individuals with experience always take care of themselves well at home before any event or party.

You don’t bank on the inflow of such investments at the detriment of your economy in the home front. They might come or might not come. They might come but might be late, also the quality and quantity you get might not be what is anticipated.

Centering our observations and comments only on issues we considered this administration is not getting right makes us to appear as unduly critical of this government. For SRP-Tinubu, in all honesty, it is so far so good concerning the appointments made up to this moment. One can confidently say that the B-word applies to the appointments of heads of military divisions, the NASS, and his kitchen cabinet. 

They all reflected balance regarding the nation’s ethnic and religious outlook. For those genuinely complaining about the appointments tilting towards a particular clan. One can feel the direction they are pointing toward. Their concern is more about choices and selection SRP-Tinubu made into some sensitive domestic security positions. 

Decisions around the above positions are left to the prerogative of Subsidy Removal President-Tinubu whether or not to make it reflect our ethnic and religious differences. It is quite unfortunate and at the same time interesting that, for those criticising SRP-Tinubu on this, they would not know whether their position is right, correct or not until when they occupy the same position .

Having balanced the military, National Assembly and cabinet positions one would think he should be excused for ‘flaws’ in the other critical positions, we think he did wonderfully well as regards the appointments -the best you can get as far as Nigeria is concerned as of present.

Now and finally on the issue of subsidy and its removal, SRP-Tinubu would have to shut up some of us saying subsidy was nowhere, nonexistent in the first place. 

He should shame we naysayers, the pundits and all the doubting Thomases out there that subsidy truly exists and we were truly subsidised by sponsoring a little bill establishing Subsidy Removal Account or Subsidy Savings Account or, given any available name under Aso Rock.

As we have been inundated with reports and complaints about why subsidy must go away-draining FG’s purse and shielding it from its fundamental responsibilities to Nigerian citizens and taxpayers.Therefore, the money that we used to earmark towards subsidy should start going into the newly created Subsidy Account.

There are still many honest Nigerians around with impeccable credentials home and abroad, who should be constituted into a body with a mandate to administer the subsidy savings in the area of education, healthcare, police reform and a host of other important national challenges.

More like the old PTF, some might argue it would amount to the creation of a government within a government. Behold, the state of infrastructural decay and the infrastructural deficit in the country calls for any means necessary to move governance forward and faster so as to close the deficit gap.

The success and outcome of such a body and initiative would depend on the strength of character of the group in terms of credibility, competence and commitment to national growth and development.

"A stitch in time saves nine."

Mr. Adedeji O Kilanko Writes From Elekuro, Ibadan, Oyo State.

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