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100 days: Tinubu’s burden of resetting Nigeria

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Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State, perennial international statesman and oracle of diplomacy, profiled six world leaders – now of blessed memories – in his most recent book, Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy. These long departed leaders were the architects of the post-war evolution of their respective societies. The leaders – Konrad Adenauer (Germany), Charles de Gaulle (France), Richard Nixon (United States), Anwar Sadat (Egypt), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore) and Margaret Thatcher (Britain) – reshaped and redefined their national purposes, having inherited a postwar world that was in turmoil and full of uncertainties. They opened up new frontiers, confronted local political and economic challenges and significantly contributed to an enduring new world order.

Just like these global figures who shaped the circumstances of their era, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu assumed the leadership of Africa’s most populous country at a time of great economic difficulties marked by very high socio-political tension. President Tinubu came in the midst of raging storms, inheriting legacy problems including insecurity, multi-dimensional poverty, angst, high decibel of ethnic agitations and general state of despair.

Since he assumed office 100 days ago, President Tinubu has focused on how to steady the floundering ship of state, redirect the economy and remove all barriers that inhibit productivity and growth. The first thing he did was the removal of fuel subsidy that has become a bottomless pit for the country. A world class auditor and turnaround expert himself, his goal is to re-prioritise national spending. A nation that literally flushed down over N21 trillion between 2005 and 2023 in the name of paying for cheap petrol when it could not generate the electricity to power its industries, run its hospitals and provide universal basic education to school children is a nation moving speedily towards self-destruction.

The removal of fuel subsidy now means funding becomes available to invest in critical infrastructures to develop the country and position it on the path of economic prosperity. It also means government at all levels will now have more money to spend on social services, soft infrastructures and general social amenities that will improve quality of life.

The combined effect of fuel subsidy removal and realignment of the foreign exchange markets to remove corruption-ridden regime of preferential foreign exchange allocation to economic predators that previously ruled the day has led to high cost of living especially food and public transportation for Nigerians. Unfortunately, the hapless masses are mostly bearing the brunt of this, making many people to wonder if a government that should make life better for them had come to inflict more hardship.

Like a caring father who must navigate his family through turbulent period, President Tinubu, through national broadcasts, public statements and various interventions during meetings with groups and business leaders, laid out the issues before Nigerians and explained why the decisions he took to save the country – even when they came with momentary pains – are in the best interest of the country as doing otherwise will be accelerating the total collapse of the economy without any guardrail. A number of intervention programmes have been unveiled as reliefs to the people.

Under the intervention initiatives, the administration granted N5 billion to each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to procure food items, fertilisers and seedlings for distribution to households and farmers. To further bring immediate relief to the people 100,000 bags of rice were also sent to the states by the Federal Government, while modalities are being worked out with Governors under the National Economic Council for a new national minimum wage and consequential salary increase for public and private sector workers.

It is interesting to know that some private sector employers in the organised private sector have taken the initiative on their own to increase staff salary in line with the prevailing inflationary trend. In conjunction with the World Bank, states and local government councils, the Federal Government is also working on direct cash transfers targeted at over 20 million most vulnerable people across the country. The plan to deploy 11,500 mass transit buses powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to make public transportation affordable for the masses is being concluded for participating mass transit companies. The government, in a partnership between NNPC Limited and NIPCO PLC is setting up CNG mega stations across the country that can conveniently serve 200,000 vehicles daily.

Just like he did when he became the Governor of Lagos State in 1999, where he re-engineered the finances of the state from insolvency and paltry N600 million per month to the point where the state currently generates over N50 billion in internally generated revenue, President Tinubu knew from Day One in office that the current revenue profile of the Federal Government and state governments cannot fund the kind of development that needs to happen in Nigeria. At barely 10 per cent tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio, Nigeria ranks abysmally low compared to other African countries in revenue index. What South Africa makes in tax revenue from one per cent of her high net worth tax payers in one year, is more than the entire Internally Generated Revenue revenue of 36 states and FCT. It is the parlous revenue profile of the country that informed the decision of the President to set up the Taiwo Oyedele-led Tax and Fiscal Policy Reforms Committee. At the inauguration of the committee on 7th August, President Tinubu declared that government could not provide the social services and first-world infrastructure the people need to live a good life when it is unable to generate the revenue to make them happen. He then tasked the committee to close the N20 trillion annual revenue gap in tax collection.

Equally, President Tinubu understands that there cannot be any meaningful development and progress in an atmosphere of constant agitations and strife with the intervening primordial interests within the polity. One of the reasons for almost unceasing agitations by a section of the country is the seeming lopsided appointments within the security establishment. The received wisdom in Nigeria is that any ethnic group without representation in the top hierarchy of the security establishment is not yet within the power arena even if all money of the country is spent to pave their streets with gold.

As a leader who sufficiently understands the national psyche, in this regards, President Tinubu balanced the appointment of his service chiefs to project national outlook. Political leaders from the South East and Ohaneze Ndigbo severely criticised the Muhammadu Buhari administration for marginalizing the Igbo in key security and other appointments. Now, an Igbo man from Enugu State, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla is the Chief of Naval Staff, while a minority and a Christian from Southern Kaduna, Lt. General Christopher Musa is the Chief of Defence Staff. In the same spirit of promoting social harmony and repairing damaged social fabrics, President Tinubu also ensured geopolitical balance in distribution of key portfolios of the recently sworn-in Ministers while also ensuring a proper-fit between the professional competence of majority of them and the ministries they lead.

Connectivity of empathy between a leader and the people he/she leads and ability to communicate are essential attributes of a good leader. President Tinubu possesses these two attributes in abundance with how he has connected with the economic hardships Nigerians are going through. One of the best leadership and management books I ever read, The Leadership Lessons of Jesus: A Timeless Model for Today’s Leaders was written by Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard. The authors explained why a leader must have clear vision and be able it clearly and concisely to the followers without leaving anyone in doubt about the ability to provide direction. This was best exemplified by Jesus Christ when he met Peter, James and John and called them to discipleship. Jesus told the trio, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. By vocation, Peter, James and John were fishermen.

Jesus was clear about the job He was calling them unto. He didn’t leave them in doubt as to why they should drop their day time job. Just like Jesus did many centuries ago, President Tinubu has not failed in telling Nigerians about the dire strait of our national economy and what needs to be done to remake a buoyant economy that will serve every segment of the society. In his last national broadcast, he empathised with Nigerians and laid out his vision for a greater future that awaits. Part of the mark of his dexterity in political and diversity management is how he has, within 100 days in office, fostered social harmony and significantly reduced ethnic and political tensions in the country.

President Tinubu has used his first 100 days in office to set the path and a new direction for the country. Many Nigerians – 67 per cent to be precise, according to a recent survey – trust him to deliver on his Renewed Hope agenda.

Ajayi is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

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