As the immediate past minister of lnformation and Culture ,Alhaji Lai Mohamed recently revealed in a media chat,president Mohammadu Buhari whose tenure just ended on May 29 is aware that Nigerians had nicknamed him Baba Go- Slow while he was presiding over the affairs of the country,2015-2023.
That tag is derived from his reputation for applying snail speed in making decisions or his indecisiveness on critical national issues that snowballed with negative consequences on Nigeria and Nigerians.
Some of the most glaring indecisions include the over due removal of the obnoxious subsidy on petrol pump price ostensibly to make it affordable to the poor and the operation of multiple foreign exchange rates aimed at propping up the naira thus giving it exaggerated value against foreign currencies.
The aforementioned twin policies of the outgone administration are the bogeys that have sort of practically ruined the economy of our country because they are unproductive and unsustainable,hence they currently constitute the bulk of the mess that has been left behind by President Buhari for President Bola Tinubu and his team to clean up.
Because of the increase in petrol price,the cost of transportation has been jerked up, and the masses have been immediately negatively impacted,hence an uproar by the masses.
While the Nigerian National Petroleum Company ltd ,NNPCL has validated the increase by announcing a new price regime triggering about 300% increase ,the multiple Foreign Exchange rate,FX in the country are converging.
Take for example the Import and Export, I&E window and the official government rates that the gaps are gradually closing up.
The CBN in my reckoning is encouraging convergence of the windows by discouraging demand for FX by Nigerians through stiffer conditions precedent to receive FX from the CBN.
For instance,l have sighted a circular that states that from the 1st day of June, Nigerians are required to present a three (3) year tax clearance certificate to be qualified to obtain FX at official rate with respect to Basic Travel Allowance, and Business Travel Allowance,BTA.
How many Nigerians have such tax clearance certificates?
With the process of obtaining FX tougher, fewer Nigerians would be applying for it and the pressure will be less and the naira would become strengthened and more stable .
Just like the high cost of petrol has resulted in the disappearance of queues to purchase petrol in the retail stations,with the new CBN rule,most Nigerians would be unable to apply for the purchase of FX and the penchant for traveling abroad would be reduced.
So,the pronouncement by president Tinubu about an end of petrol subsidy and his desire to see a unification of all exchange rates with the naira in his inaugural speech,which is in stark contrast with ex president Mohammadu Buhari’s famous body language approach,is impacting both the cost of petrol and naira exchange rate with foreign currencies.
But it is doing so at different levels of impact.
Whereas there has been panic and tension arising from the astronomical petrol price increase, because it impacts practically everyone, (poor or rich) there is no panic arising from the FX rate adjustments simply because it applies perhaps to only about 10% of Nigerians who are the elite that travel abroad for business, educational,medical or holiday purposes.
All of the rapid changes catalogued above are the realities that justify tagging ex President Buhari as Baba Go-Slow and President Tinubu as Mr Go-Fast.
Drawing from the wisdom in the aphorism, the morning foretells the evening,by now it should be clear to all that when president Tinubu coughs Nigeria catches a cold.
That is one of the reasons that l have elected to brand him Mr Go-Fast so that Nigerians can understand the underlying reasons for some of the contents of his inaugural speech that is having a bombshell effect on Nigerian society.
Of course there is a myriad of other reasons for branding former president Buhari Baba Go-Slow .
They include the rash of bills that only got signed into law by President Buhari in the proverbial 11th hour of the life of the immediate past administration .
Those pieces of legislation, according to reliable sources had been deliberated upon by law makers and they had been awaiting the signature of the president for months,if not years before he eventually appended his signature on his way out.
And one event that stands out and therefore justifies the unenviable toga of Baba Go-Slow on former President Buhari is his inability or lack of interest in putting together a cabinet until he had spent a whooping six(6) months in office.
If president Buhari was slow in action,the new president Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the direct opposite in terms of speed of action.
In any case ,most pundits had speculated that he would likely hit the ground running. So it is no surprise that he is acting true to type.
Incidentally,l had observed in a piece titled: “Post Elections Conflicts,Peace And Hand Of God” and published in my column on May 2 before he was inaugurated into office that the president would hit the ground running as he has had time, especially during his two (2) trips to Europe while he was president- in-waiting to assess the situation of governance of Nigeria and come up with possible solutions.
In the piece,l expressed alarm that a critical ministry had no operating manual until a few weeks to the end of the administration:
“Ideally,every ministry in the executive branch of government should have a long term development plan which should encompass the regime’s broad agenda.
As revealed by the minister of Interior Mr Rauf Aregbesola,the ministry of the lnterior had no such development plan until recently. To be specific,the 18th of April ( barely one month to the end of the current regime )that he launched one”.
I continued by stating that “It beggars belief that critical ministry charged internal security had no defined plan of action. That implies that it had been operating on staccato basis.
If that is the case,then it is clear why the authorities have been unable to rein in religious Insurgency in the northern axis and separatism in the south east plus crude oil theft in the Niger delta”.
Further more ,l made the following observation “And there is every likelihood that the identified gap in the interior ministry applies to all the other ministries departments and agencies MDAs from the top to the bottom rung of the outgoing administration which obviously has no grand strategy.”
I argued further by stating that: “One would have thought that in the cause of the numerous retreats organized by the executive arm in the course of the nearly eight (8) years that President Buhari has been at the helm of affairs,a grand strategy for the management of the sociopolitical and economic affairs of our country would have been hashed out.
Apparently, given the revelation by lnterior minister, Aregbesola that is far from being the case”.
Then l condemned the short comings by commenting thus: “Little wonder leadership at the centre has been lack luster, performance far below the expectations of Nigerians whose desire for security of their lives and properties as well was economic transformation from poverty to prosperity has been unmet,hence the legacy of the outgoing government is sorrow ,tears and blood”.
And l finally concluded by hinting at the approach which l reckoned that then president- elect ,now president Tinubu would adopt upon his inauguration:
“Clearly, president-elect Tinubu’s mission upon taking office on 29 May would contrast the current leadership style at the centre with a new paradigm that would give Nigeria a new lease of life in a truly democratic atmosphere as opposed to the pseudo democracy which by all measure it is currently”.
Incredibly,it is the scenario that l had envisaged long ago that is currently playing out as the new president is complying with the law.
In a follow up piece titled: “President-Elect Tinubu, Likely First Billionaire Private Jet Owner To Occupy Aso Rock Villa” published on 16 May in my column,l also highlighted the fact that Asiwaju Tinubu as president-elect (before being sworn into office) was already on a business drive for investors in foreign countries,particularly Europe to put Nigeria in their radar for investment.
He did that during his last visit to United Kingdom,UK and France when departed our shores on May 10 and returned ten (10) days after on May 20 ,which is nine (9) days to his 29 May inauguration date.
That implies that even before he got sworn into office as president,Asiwaju Tinubu was already working implying that Mr President has a lot of zeal,passion and preparedness to serve:
“Invariably,it appears to me that it is the desire to save the economy and also have something tangible to show in the first 100 days in office that are the motivators for the president-elect Tinubu’s hurry to go to work quickly and as the saying goes: ‘hit the ground running’.
“That is the justification for his embarking on a trade drive in Europe even before officially receiving the baton of leadership from president Buhari which would only happen on 29 May all this being equal and which is still more or less two (2)weeks away”.
Arising from the above,Nigerians should not be surprised that he actually hit the ground running with his announcement of the very consequential policy decision to comply with the provision in the PIA that petrol subsidy policy had been abolished from June.
Apparently,he had already thought it through when he was president-in-waiting.
In my view the type of patriotic fervor that the new president is bringing into governance of Nigeria by not hesitating to take unpopular decisions in the best interest of our country is reflective of the fact that he has been preparing for the job for a long time as he had admitted in several media interviews.
To me, it also shows that unlike what is typical of politicians who more often than not distance themselves from their campaign promises as soon as they win the contest , President Tinubu has elected to keep his campaign promise as evidenced by a trending video in the social media where he had during his hustings vowed to,(if elected) remove petrol subsidy that is killing Nigeria,come what may.
It was somehow exhilarating that the challenges that l predicted like a prophecy that the new president would be faced with and how they may manifest started becoming reality barely 24 hours after he took the oath of office.
At this juncture ,I would like to crave the indulgence of readers once again to allow me reproduce a snippet of the referenced article relevant to what occurred immediately after Mr President took his oath of office:
“Another ‘can’ as the Americans would put it that is being kicked down the road by the outgoing government for the in-coming government to deal with is the burden of removing the obnoxious petrol pump price that by some estimates the authorities have been sinking funds in the region of $15 billion dollars in the past decade”.
I further made my point by stating that: “It may be recalled that just last year alone ,a whopping six (N6) trillion naira was budgeted for petrol subsidy and just for the half of this year alone(January to June) three and half (N3.5) trillion was also appropriated as petrol subsidy in budget 2023.
That is a total of nearly ten (N10) trillion naira sunk into subsidy for petrol in less than two(2) years in a country that the government is borrowing money from banks and relying on ways-and-means (printing the naira )to pay salaries to civil servants”.
In trying to consolidate my point the following submission was made: “In the same category of what l would like to categorize as escapist tactics that reflect political spinelessness of the outgoing administration is the case of the naira that had been propped up in the past eight (8) years via Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN intervention policy of injecting billions of dollars into the Foreign Exchange,FX market resulting in trillions of naira being expended to defend the local currency”.
Noting that the CBN measures failed to achieve the objective of keeping the naira at par with the United States dollar which was a campaign promise made in 2015 by the outgone administration ,l justifiably made the following argument: “Despite,the interventions,government exchange rate or lmport and Export,I&E window which was about N160 to $1 in 2015 had reached N450 to $1 by this time last year and it is currently N460 with the black/parallel market rate hovering around N765 to a dollar.
Going by the rate at which the gap between CBN and black/parallel market rates is closing up since the dollar injection to defend the naira stopped ,it appears as if the the CBN may be left with no better option than to allow for the two (2)market rates to merge sooner than later”.
Continuing,l expressed my convictions about imminent further devaluation of the naira this way: “And should the matter continue to be out of the control of the CBN,since the Nigerian National Petroleum Company,NNPC currently a limited liability company that is about to be privatized is no more remitting crude oil income to the CBN which in turn is no longer able to intervene in the exchange market by pumping dollars into the system through multiple bureau de change outfits selling dollars to the highest bidders to shore up the value of the naira,our local currency may soon be exchanging at about N1000 to one United States dollar by this year’s end”.
There after, l reached the conclusion below which is almost prophetic because it has panned out:
“That may be the reality that the new administration under president-elect Tinubu’s watch may have to deal with immediately upon assuming office, especially as the current governor of the apex bank,Mr Godwin Emefiele,highly stressed and distressed due to the enormity of the burden of managing Nigeria’s complex and complicated financial system has been reported in the media to be planning to go on study leave validating the rumor that he would be quitting his role as the curtain falls on the stage for the current administration.
The narrative was concluded with the following emphatic prediction: “Similarly,after the removal of petrol subsidy which is due next month,it is being predicted that the pump price of the commodity may also spike up to the region of N350-N500 per liter”.
Co-incidentally, petrol price is now selling at the N500 naira benchmark as l had projected.
The other event that is bound to also create prickly heat,if not turmoil,following the withdrawal of subsidy from naira foreign exchange rate was also predicted thus: “The immediate consequence of the anticipated spikes in prices of Foreign Exchange and petrol that are essential services with high impact effect on the masses would be that the inflation rate in our country that is currently 22.22% (which is a seventeen (17) years high based on National Bureau of Statistics,NBS report) could become double of the current level.
And that would spell more misery for the critical masses of Nigerians of which about one hundred and thirty (130m) million of our compatriots are said to be living below poverty line”.
Following the above projections,Nigerians should have braced up for the worse in the preliminary stages of Tinubu’s presidency because a lot of rot that is making the economy and by extension our country sick would be aggressively be dealt with to give the nation a new lease of life .
That is why President Tinubu’s demonstration of boldness by literally taking the bull by horn that was also in tandem with the projection in the referenced article should be commendable.
Below is how l had put it:
“Given the doom and gloom picture of the economy and country that the incoming president would be inheriting,a faint hearted president-elect would have balked at the enormity of the challenges ahead.
But the incoming president,Asiwaja Bola Ahmed Tinubu also known as the Lion Of Bourdilon by his fans and foes alike is not a faint hearted leader”.
In my estimation,President Tinubu is bringing stability and certainty to the management of Nigeria and the economy which is needed at this point in time to earn the confidence of potential investors-local and foreigners alike who have been skittish about the uncertainties entrenched by the immediate past administration .
As a further evidence of his dynamism suggesting leadership from the front which indicates that he would be more responsive than his predecessor,president Tinubu had also quickly resolved the face-off between the Department Of State Security Services, DSS and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC when the former laid siege on the offices of the latter in an inter agency squabble.
It may be recalled that when a similar incident occurred under the watch of the immediate past administration,the confrontation was not promptly deescalated as president Tinubu has done by ordering DSS to immediately vacate EFFC premises that it had forcefully occupied.
The new president has also met with the leaders in the other major security arms of government during which he informed them that he would not tolerate their working at cross purposes.
It is hoped that his marching order would not turn out to the sort that president Buhari gave and he was not aware that a particular security chief was not where he should have been in compliance with the order of The Commander- in-Chief C-in C of the armed forces of Nigeria.
One would imagine that president Tinubu would demand accountability,monitoring and feedback from the respective security chiefs that met with him.
Given the scenario above,it should not be such a surprise to followers of political developments in Nigeria that president Tinubu has moved swiftly by making decisions in a manner that is quite the opposite of his predecessor who was often dilly dallying.
The assertion above is validated by the fact that after he took the oath of office as the sixteenth (16th) president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria on Monday 29 May,in his inaugural speech,he uttered the words: “Fuel Subsidy Is Gone” which has had a tumultuous, if not tsunami like effect in the lives of our country men /women .
That is a declaration that has sealed the controversy over petrol subsidy in Nigeria and it is a statement that past administrations-military and democratic alike-have dreaded and therefore avoided dealing with like a plague.
And it is on record that Military heads of state,ranging from generals,Olusegun Obasanjo,Mohammadu Buhari,Ibrahim Babangida to Sanni Abacha have been too lily-livered to remove petrol subsidy although,they were military and autocratic rulers.
Even both ex presidents Obasanjo and Buhari as democratically elected presidents had also failed to end petrol subsidy under their watch despite their reputation as strong men. So where they should have been like lions,they have been like kittens.
It is amazing how tough army generals have proven to be unable to make tough political decisions like ending an economic policy that has almost wrecked our country . I have always bern intrigued when in movies most villainous men are unable to pull the trigger when children and would be in harms way. I guess that is how God wired them.
Otherwise ,how can Army Generals who have not only gone to war and participated in active battle fields,but have killed people in combat and commanded their troops to kill opposing soldiers and even civilian foes in some cases, be afraid to end debilitating policies like petrol pump price subsidy and propping up of the naira against foreign currencies at monumental costs to the nation’s treasury.
If it did not happen for real,it could never have been imagined that the no nonsense military dictators could demur from taking decisions such as the removal of petrol subsidy and multiple naira exchangevrate with foreign currencies that would prevent our country from descending into economic ruins in which it is currently mired.
Think of the killing of innocent civilians in Odi in Bayelsa state and Zakibiam in Benue state on the alleged orders of Olusegun Obasanjo,president,1999-2007.
Also think of the notorious sergeant Rogers and his killing machine deployed to eliminate civilians resisting military autocracy and advocating for return to Democratic governance that were mowed down in broad daylight under the watch of army general Sani Abacha (1993/1998)
The fearless democracy advocate,Kudirat Abiola ,the wife of Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory who is the acclaimed winner of the June 12th 1993 presidential elections was a victim of military tyranny when she got murdered in cold bold by sergeant Rogers etal.
Also add the fact that members of the defunct National Democratic Coalition,NADECO including senator Bola Tinubu (as he was then known) that were hounded into exile by the aforementioned tyrannical military leaders who were toppling governments-both military and democratically elected,but could not summon the courage to ‘topple’ petrol subsidy and multiple FX rates regime.
The foregoing retrospection is to enable readers get a clearer picture of the caliber of men who inspired fear in mortals in their hey days,yet they were unable to make the critical decision to remove petrol subsidy whose negative effects on Nigerian economy and the well being of the good people of our beloved country can be said to be worse than the effect of COVID -19 pandemic.
Clearly,where the ex soldiers have been dreading and therefore failed spectacularly to make a decision and act boldly,perhaps they are not trained to manage civilians,the brand new president,Bola Ahmed Tinubu has decided without equivocation or hesitancy to tread.
Although,the decision to announce the end of petrol pump price regime and imminent convergence of multiple exchange rates regime is bound to be painful initially,which is currently the case, it is generally agreed that it is an inevitable path to the redemption of our country from the self inflicted wound that has the potentiality and capacity to be fatalistic.
That is with respect to the need for petrol subsidy removal as vice president Kashim Shettima has stated in his recent address on his first day at work : “lf we don’t end petrol subsidy it may end the country“
In the light of the above,terminating without further delay the petrol subsidy regime which is metaphorically like a malignant cancer that is close to the terminal stage of killing its victim ,hence it had to be removed before it metastasizes, is a decision which all Nigerians must embrace.
Obviously,the end of cheap petrol has become a sort of fait accompli as it has been endorsed by practically all Nigerians.
The only issue with it is the style that president Tinubu adopted in announcing it which did not gel with some stakeholders-particularly the Nigerian Labor Congress, NLC that has threatened to commence a strike actin from next Wednesday.
That is regardless of the fact that the foundation for the new oil/gas exploration regime had long been laid with the signing of the Petroleum Industry Act,PIA into law in August 2021 by President Buhari after the legislature passed it in July of the same 2021.
The PIA introduced a new regulatory framework that reformed the century old rules guiding the exploration of oil and gas in Nigeria that had been stifling the required growth in the sector simply because the old rules had become as obsolete and fossil as the fossil fuel mined from the soil.
An integral and very critical component of the reform intrinsic in the PIA is the definitive end to subsidy payment ostensibly aimed at reducing the pump price of petrol purportedly in the interest of the masses who presumably can not afford to pay the real cost.
But in reality studies have revealed that petrol subsidy has been benefiting the wealthy more than that the masses that it was targeting.
That is because statistics indicate that only about 10% of Nigerians that are car owners are benefiting more from subsidized petrol pump price policy.
The assertion above is basically underscored by the fact that in most cases it is the wealthy Nigerians that own fleets of luxury cars with high engine capacities of up to 12 cylinders that are guzzling the cheap petrol who are gaining from petrol subsidy.
In advanced societies,high petrol cost discourage ownership of a fleet of vehicles by the rich. That is apart from the fear of the taxation for owing a certain number of cars.
Yes ,car ownership is taxed in Germany for instance.
Some time ago,l invited a Germany partner firm involved in waste management to speak at a conference/seminar on effective ways of managing waste in Nigeria that my company organized .
As readers may be aware ,Germany is a leading country in waste management mainly due to the activities of the Green Party which commands significant influence in German politics.
While the Germans were visiting,after the event,l decided to take them round to various states across Nigeria to have first hand knowledge about the situation and also leveraging the attendees as local anchor,try to strike deals in waste management with relevant authorities in various states across the six (6) regions.
And my German guests were conveyed in multiple cars between Abuja and adjourning states that we visited.
Another set of cars took the visitors and l around from Asaba in delta state to surrounding states.
Unbeknown to me,my guests were discreetly asking the drivers conveying them about who owns the cars.
Perhaps they were doing so to confirm the financial capacity of my firm and its ability to be their partner in Nigeria.
At the end of their visit,during a dinner party that l hosted in their honor in my home in lagos,my partners expressed surprise that l had personal cars in Abuja , Lagos and Agbor, delta state where l hail from.
Their leader informed me that although he is a multi billionaire in Germany,he only owns two (2) cars.
That is because in Germany where he came from,he would be taxed heavily if he were to own more cars .
I then informed him that In Nigeria,there is no tax on ownership of cars.
And that is perhaps why Germany is the richest country in Europe and Nigeria has remained the potential richest country in Africa.
Simply put ,while Nigeria’s humungous human and material resources have not been optimally harnessed via fiscal discipline,end to existing profligacy in government and expansion of constricted tax net,Germany is a country where all resources are optimized and best in class governance tools and systems are deployed by the administrators.
I am of the conviction that it is that type of innovative measures/ approach to governance that would move our country from being the poverty capital of the world to a nation to be reckoned with in the global comity of nations that president Tinubu would be onboarding in his tenure.
The message contained in his inaugural speech and the actions that he has taken so far and which have taken some Nigerians by surprise and thus created a firestorm of sort in the society is a testament to how president Tinubu intends to take our country by storm while passing it through the furnace for refinement from it’s current crude form to a better and more functional country that truly guarantees the safety and prosperity of all no matter the tongue,tribe or faith.
In conclusion, the experience of Nigerians with the commencement of the administration of Nigeria under president Tinubu’s watch may be likened to an aircraft at the point at which it is taking off which is always full of turbulence.
After gaining some height as the aircraft soars into the skies,the flight becomes smoother with the passengers enjoying tranquility.
While not claiming to be clairvoyant,that is my simple illustration of how l perceive president Tinubu’s reign. Although it is turbulent in its nascent stage of take-off, there is high likelihood that it would be stable at cruising level before sunset.
So,l urge all well meaning and patriotic Nigerians to join president Tinubu and his team in slaying the twin dragon of petrol pump price subsidy that is compelling our country to borrow to pay salaries of public servants after deploying basically nearly all our revenue into subsidy payments, even when the nation is earning income from oil /gas sales and the multiple naira exchange rate regime fueling arbitrage which has impoverished the masses as the CBN is literally bleeding FX to defend the naira for ego purposes,while the well connected who obtain dollar at N460 and sell same at N760 and above to the real industrialists who need it.
These are the phenomena bankrupting our country.
Without appearing to be holding brief for president Tinubu, in his speech he actually stated that there would be further elucidation on the policy directions of his administration by his team by stating the following:
“In the coming days and weeks,my team will publicly detail key aspects of our programme. Today, permit me to outline in broad terms a few initiatives that define our concept of progressive good governance in furtherance of the Nigerian ideal”
Arising from the above,l would like readers to avert their minds towards anticipating that similar to how national or state governments budgets breakdown are given by the economic planning team led by the minister or commissioner of finance and economic adviser after the president or governor has presented the budget to the country or state as the case may be; it is in that same manner that the granular details about the measures to be taken to soften the hardships arising from the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit,PMS would be shared with the populace in due course.
My guess is that the new administration has been unable to do so as fast as it should have,simply because the appointment of the officials that would carry out the assignment has only been partially made with the naming of the outgoing speaker of the winding up House of Representatives,Rt. Honorable Femi
Gbajabiamila as Chief of Staff to the president and and Senator George Akume, former Benue state governor and the immediate past minister of special duties, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.
In the coming days,the cabinet that would assist President Tinubu in steering the ship of state would be unfurled so that all hands would be on board.
And the strategy that would serve as the shock absorber for the masses from being harmed by the hard landing that the petrol subsidy removal announcement has caused would be unfolded.
One lesson that our political leaders must imbibe or internalize is that the human mind is so complex that no matter what you do in leadership, you are damned.
That is more so ,if the outcome does not produce the proverbial dividends of democracy which is improved welfare of the citizens in an atmosphere of good governance, prosperity and reasonable freedom for the people.
Fortuitously, the end of petrol subsidy and naira subsidy which President Tinubu is laser focused on,are means to an end which is the unshackling of Nigerians and Nigeria from the crisis of debt trap that we are currently caught in and the demoralizing feeling of being the poverty capital of the world.
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.
To continue with this conversation,please visit www.magnum.ng