Everything that has a beginning must have an end. So it was with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration that expired on 28th May, 2023, after a backbreaking two terms of eight years. The first term of Buhari’s four years in power turned out a strangulation of hope for the change mantra, while the second term witnessed massive killing and decimation of Nigerian communities by criminal groups. At the end of the Buhari presidency, no fewer than 63,000 citizens have been gruesomely killed, with payments of ransoms amounting to several billions of naira, mostly converted into dollars for easy passage to criminal groups.
Nothing was horrifying as the tempest of insecurity that drove rural dwellers from villages to urban centres, resulting in the depletion of the farming populace from the villages. The outcome of this forced migration was seen in decreasing level of food security and soaring foodstuff prices that made life a haranguing experience for many families. As the nation waited with anxiety to bid the Buhari-led administration, it was very clear that the former Head of State was leaving behind uninspiring footprints of despair for citizens that had hoped he would salvage them from terror gangs that overwhelmed the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan between 2014 and 2015.
As soon as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in, the mental clouds of hopelessness that had encompassed the nation’s skies retreated fleetingly, giving hope for renewed confidence and hope for the new government’s capacity to create a new dawn for distraught citizens. As Buhari headed to Daura in Katsina State after handing over power to the man who said it was his turn, Nigerians were not unaware that the road ahead for the new administration was thorny and turbulent, requiring the skills of a political Mafioso.
Unlike many before him who found themselves in power without any form of preparation, the inaugural speech of the man, who said winning the nation’s presidency had always been his life ambition, demonstrated tenacity of vision in directing the ship of state. Without mincing words, President Tinubu declared: “Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence”.
Praising the resilience of his fellow citizens despite the floods of insecurity and economic hardship of past years, the Jagaban noted with deep rumination: “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”.
“We have endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble. Yet, we have shouldered the heavy burden to arrive at this SUBLIME moment where the prospect of a better future merges with our improved capacity to create that future”.
Unveiling the basis upon which Nigerians should judge his administration, he re-echoed his administration’s respect for the right of freedom: “Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own. We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it”.
Identifying the need for rule of law that shall form the bastion of his government, the president promised: “We shall defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country and our sub-region. We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty.
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,” Tinubu declared among others.
In taking personal responsibility and recognising the fact that the buck stops at his table, Tinubu enthusiastically declared: “With full confidence in our ability, I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The president’s speech ranks as one of the best in the annals of presidential inaugural ceremonies. Apart from capturing the momentum of the moment, the solemnity of the president’s willingness to reach out to all, across political divides, portrays his eagerness to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. For Nigerians who have grown weary and forlorn of what has been described as subtle and gradual enthronement of ethnic and religious politics, many hailed the commitment of the Tinubu administration to constitutional governance and the somber pledge to respect citizens’ rights. For a nation that has long endured the yoke of the tyranny of victory, Tinubu has soothing balm for those on the other side of the political divide: “To those who voted otherwise, I extend my hand across the political divide. I ask you to grasp it in national affinity and brotherhood. For me, political coloration has faded away. All I see are Nigerians”.
His inaugural speech was not without fallout as his comment on withdrawal of subsidies went like a wildfire. Responding to the inaugural speech, some oil marketers immediately adjusted their fuel pump for N500 per litre, while others sold beyond N650 per litre.
Immediately after the inaugural ceremony, the Tinubu presidency swung into action by announcing the appointments of Ambassador Kunle Adeleke as the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) to the President; former Lagos State Commissioner of Information, Dele Alake, as Presidential Spokesman and Olusegun Dada Special Adviser, Digital Media.
Less than 24 hours, after the inauguration of the new administration, investors in both the equities and money market responded positively. In particular, the stock market appreciated as investors gained N1.51 trillion, in response to the plan to unify foreign exchange rates. A day after the inauguration, the naira appreciated on the parallel market, gaining N5 to close at N765/$1, up from the N770/ $1 it traded the previous day.
The day after his inauguration, the president had a meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr. Mele Kyari, to look into the issue of withdrawal of fuel subsidies that was attracting public outrage. Vice President Kashim Shettima foreclosed any plan to rescind the decision on oil subsidies just as he noted that the new administration is aware that those benefiting from the huge subsidies will unquestionably fight back. The appropriation of N3.6 trillion by the former government as fuel subsidies for January to June 2023 reflects the huge waste of public funds and daylight criminal enterprise that the oil subsidy regime had become.
In a bid to keep abreast of security issues that has remained a recurring albatross for Nigeria, Tinubu met with security chiefs and heads of security agencies, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor. He charged the security chiefs to avoid working at cross purpose even as he charged them to end insecurity and banditry.
Recognising the need to frontally confront the issue of oil subsidies, the new administration declared it was not willing to negotiate any review of its decision over ending the fuel subsidy regime. In a country where 96 percent of public revenue is spent on servicing mounting debts, it amounts to crippling cluelessness to continue paying trillions of naira to oil marketers. To continue subsidizing the unsubstantiated 80 million litres of fuel on a daily basis amounts to a deliberate attempt to kill the country.
At the time of writing this piece yesterday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) declared a national strike for Wednesday next week over the withdrawal of fuel subsidy palaver. The strike should serve as an early warning sign for the stumbling blocks ahead for the new government. Negotiation should triumph and the will to retake our country from an oil cabal that has milked this nation dry of resources for development must never falter. The basis upon which the payment of oil subsidies has always been fraudulent and intended to fleece the nation.
The administration of Tinubu holds as many prospects as challenges at the same time. The appointment of the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Chief of Staff to the President, and Chief George Akume, as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) attest to the commitment of the president to recruit competent hands to assist him achieve his vision.
As Vice President Shettima declared during the week, if Nigeria does not end the oil subsidy regime, the nation stands the risk of collapsing under the ravenousness of oil marketers determined to fight back, using available forces within its reach.
Now that President Tinubu has hit the ground running, Nigerians should join hands in supporting the extermination of this oil cabal that is more desperate for the perpetuation of its interminable greed, even if it means killing the country..