President Tinubu: Talk is cheap by Dele Sobowale

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By Dele Sobowale

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“If the unemployed could eat plans and promises; they would be able to spend [some of their time in Dubai]” – W. E B Du Bois, 1882-1963, amended.

Welcome to the hot seat. Whatever happens, don’t forget; you asked for it. And, any time you find it too hot, you can always get out of the kitchen. I have observed at close quarters the following Heads of Government: Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and the man you imposed on us – Buhari.

If, as it is globally believed, you have been bequeathed a country on the brink, then you can start by pointing at the ‘G8 or the Gang of 8’ leaders before you. Without doubt, each of them contributed their own share of atrocities. But, two or three left some legacies which assist us today.

I have more in common with you than any of the G8. We are both Yoruba; grew up in Lagos Island; studied in the USA; had been with the ‘progressives’ throughout. In our different ways we suffered under Abacha; you ran away but supported others in exile. I stayed right here and on these pages battled Abacha.

We both fervently supported Buhari in 2015; and there the similarities ended. You were with Buhari till the end. I foresaw the disaster the man would become and parted ways with him. Today, all Nigerians, including you, are groaning under Buhariism. Generations unborn will share in the tragedy. You will be lifting the heaviest load. Despite the fact that you were partly the architect of our misfortune, I am duty bound as a citizen to help you succeed. Not as you think.

Every President faces a different set of challenges. So, comparisons are difficult to make between the G8. The only one I have documented is Obasanjo. But, one thing is common to Presidents worldwide – even Military Heads of State. They all start with promises – usually a mixed bag of illusions masquerading as great visions.

Supporters applaud. I did too – until I started writing Vanguard columns and my eyes were opened to the deceptions. So, I waited for your promises and the grand visions, laid out in the inaugural address, hoping something novel might turn up; so I can determine how to help you.

To be quite candid, it was superbly written; unlike the drivel shoved down our throats before. The hands of good wordsmiths and erudite writers were present in every line. One or two phrases can easily adorn a Nigerian Book of Quotations for posterity. It was delightful to read. Swallowing the stuff entirely, however, became the problem. Like a plate of food with quality food stuff and ingredients applied to excess, it stuck in the throat. Excess of anything is always a serious flaw.

But, since you are just starting, I hope you will ask the speech writers to be more moderate. There is only a fine line between wild exaggeration and mild dissembling. As you are aware, there is already a credibility problem to overcome. So, don’t make it more difficult for us to support your laudable efforts. We must be ready to help you to succeed; otherwise Nigeria is doomed.

Inaugural addresses by new Presidents, in the modern age, invariably present his visions and how he intends to re-create a new society capable of competing with other nations in a rapidly changing world. I searched in vain for that sentence or that expression which is both unique and symptomatic of the new approach for governance. There was none. The closest to a truth, signifying a more honest approach to fiscal policy was on fuel subsidy.

When you announced that “Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources”, I jumped up and applauded – despite the fact that you messed up the paragraph by giving credit to gutless Buhari for pushing the hard decision forward for you to make. All your predecessors ran for cover each time they faced the backlash on subsidy removal.

Adams Oshiomole became a national hero by leading workers out on national strike three times when subsidy removal was announced. As a Governor, he sided with Jonathan when the former President tried to stop paying subsidy, but, he quickly retreated into silence when parts of Lagos State were occupied by protesters – who were allowed space by the state government. Jonathan eventually threw in the towel.

Buhari called subsidy a fraud and swore to end it if elected. He became President, saw the benefits to those who controlled the oil sector, his brothers naturally, and promptly forgot about subsidy removal – until he could escape the consequences. Like all cowards, he was brave when danger was far away. He ducked when confronted with the repercussions of subsidy removal.

I have gone to this length to point out that the best aspect of your inaugural address, subsidy removal, is not original. In fact, it is the promise we have heard most often and broken just as often. That accounts for the title of today’s article; with all due respects, Mr President. The Jonathan/Okonjo Iweala team made the most bogus presentation to support subsidy removal in a programme called SURE-P; which was launched in 2012.

I urge, no, I beg you on my hands and knees, to ask someone to go into the archives and get the complete SURE-P programme. It was widely applauded. I called it a fraud. Today, there is no trace of benefit to common people on account of SURE-P. But, there are a few billionaires; who, before SURE-P were as poor as the proverbial church rat.

So, be careful what you promise; be more careful about the programmes you introduce. All sorts of people will come to you with schemes tried in Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Japan and which transformed those nations. I have an archive full of projects and programmes tried nationally, by states and even local governments, which started with a great deal of fanfare and ended in dismal failures. Talk is cheap; so cheap, Nigerians have been fed with them since 1960.

That is why we are suffering from kwashiorkor; I hope you remember that word. As a result of the unanswered questions from your inaugural address, I will have to wait until you provide the details of what you intend to do with the funds released from subsidy removal. At any rate, the announcement was vague regarding when the free market prices of fuel will start. Organised Labour and the usual critics of subsidy removal are either confused or too dazed for immediate action. But, once the prices change at the filling stations, the push-back will start. It is then that I will know whether you are a true man of grit; or if you will also reverse yourself and run for cover like others before you.

SIXTY DAYS TO SELECT A CABINET IS NOT WORLD STANDARD

“A fool if offered eternity will not know what to do with it” – Epicurus, 341-270 BC.

You are not a fool. That is why you are President and not somebody else. But, even geniuses can make mistakes. The announcement that you will present your cabinet within 60 days is not encouraging. Most newly-elected Presidents now present the core of their cabinet within a week of being sworn-in. They would have spent the period between declaration as elected President and inauguration searching for those who would help redeem the promises made in all areas. Quite frequently, they are people who have helped to shape the campaign itself.

Almost invariably, the first two cabinet appointments are the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Finance. Not only the people, but, the whole world is interested in those who will defend the territorial integrity, as well as, the economy of the nation. If you want to know the truth, Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, declined under Buhari because he appointed two incompetent Ministers of Finance on pure sentiments. You should avoid that blunder.

The Minister of Finance is not an officer you appoint to please a friend or to repay a political debt – however great. We have an economic wreck; we need a real professional to salvage it and not another ‘borrow-and-spend’ operator. No competent finance manager would have allowed the government to go into so much debt and damn the consequences for the nation as the immediate past Minister.

Cabinet selection needs to be completed more quickly. No government can “hit the ground running” without runners. Horse trading might take over.

LAST OF BUHARI’S COMEDIANS BOWS OUT

“We are not amused” – Queen Elizabeth I, 1533-1603.

A court jester, called in to make the queen laugh, whenever she was melancholy, ran the risk of being made “shorter by a head” (beheaded) – once the monarch announced that “We are not amused”. That meant the jokes were not funny.

A former Minister of Aviation in Buhari’s cabinet full of comedians, on May 26, 2023, two days after the last Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, tried to pull a stunt which would have been hilarious; if it was well scripted and acted.

Mr Hadi Sirika, after four years of promising to launch Nigeria Air, finally gathered well-deluded people together on that day to launch the new airline.

There was only one plane on the ground; not three. The plane was not properly licensed to operate in Nigeria. The aircraft, owned by Ethiopian Airlines, EA, was still flying EA flag three days before it landed in Abuja; repainted. Still Mr Sirika, with a straight face, delivered a moving address to those silly or forced to attend. He promised more planes in the future; and people actually clapped.

Various organisations rose on the same day to point out why Sirika’s illusion must end. He ignored them. Today, the lone Nigeria Air plane has disappeared; flight by night operation. As you are reading this article, Nigeria Air launched by Buhari’s Minister has no plane to call its own. This was a bad joke carried too far; and not amusing at all. Now you know why the government failed miserably.

Where is a Queen Elizabeth I now that we need her to make a man shorter…?

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staffhttps://www.naija247news.com/
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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