After receiving his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is now looking forward to his inauguration on 29 May in Abuja. The intervening period is the second phase of Tinubu’s presidential project where, you can be sure, a lot of consultations are going on side by side with strategic visits. Phase three will begin once the President-elect is sworn into office.
Tinubu’s first stop was in Daura where he presented his Certificate of Return to President Muhammadu Buhari. After another round of engagements in Abuja, he flew to Lagos where he was welcomed by a mammoth crowd of party members and supporters. He proceeded to the Iga-Iduganran palace of the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness Rilwan Akiolu.
Tinubu’s key message during the courtesy visit to the Oba was that “he would work for a better Nigeria”. This message keeps resonating everywhere he goes – before and during the presidential election, and after he was declared by INEC as the winner of the keenly contested election.
It was then the turn of Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, to welcome him into his expansive home last week. Given Elumelu’s track record in promoting entrepreneurship across Africa, it was not surprising that their discussion centred on youth empowerment and how to unleash their potential.
Since the inception of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, over 18,000 young entrepreneurs in Africa have received nearly $100 million in seed funds with over 400,000 jobs created. This is truly remarkable as Elumelu forges ahead with his vision to create wealth and prosperity in Africa.
Pictures and video of the visit released by Elumelu on his Instagram post trended widely on the internet. The PR message from that encounter was that entrepreneurs and the government can work together for the benefit of Nigerians, despite our differences and challenges. We should never lose our focus or drop the ball because of politics. Instead, we need an environment that thrives in spite of politics.
Previously, the President-elect, who has assured Nigerians that he would not let them down, met business moguls Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola. My view is that these visits to high net-worth individuals are important and they show that Tinubu has hit the ground running. There is no time to waste. Nigerians are anxious and want a leader that can make their lives better. The President-elect says he can and his time starts now.
What should follow these strategic visits are the initial quick wins that should set the tone for his administration. When Elumelu teased Tinubu as the “last man standing” to show his staying power in politics and leadership credentials, he replied: “I’m still standing”. This simply means he is ready for the leadership journey ahead of him.
Ask Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who Tinubu is as a leader, and he would explain how his vision for Lagos has sustained the continued growth and development of the coastal state and “centre of excellence.” In a TVC programme, Let’s Talk, Fashola told his audience that he worked closely with Tinubu for four and half years as his chief of staff when he was 39 years old (Tinubu was the governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007) before Fashola also served with distinction as governor for two terms (from 2007 to 2015).
“I worked with Tinubu at close quarters for at least 14 hours every day”, Fashola said, adding that, “you under-estimate his resilience and intelligence at your own peril”. According to the minister, the first state bond for infrastructure development in Nigeria was raised by Tinubu during his tenure as governor, despite the opposition of the Federal Government controlled by People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The objective of the bond was to raise funds to develop Lagos State.
Another brilliant initiative of Tinubu, Fashola continued, was expanding the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, which was followed by the establishment of the Office of the Public Defender to make access to justice easier for low income earners – another first by Tinubu which was adopted by other states.
The Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency was set up by Tinubu to increase local government revenue because they have the constitutional responsibility for outdoor signage and advertising. Again, the innovative business model was adopted by over 15 states, according to Fashola. The Lagos State Traffic Monitoring Agency was also adopted by more than 16 states. Tinubu succeeded because he was supported by members of the executive council and other stakeholders, partners and consultants.
Fashola believes strongly – without a doubt in his mind – that the President-elect is a strong leader who has the capacity to do more at the national level as a patriotic Nigerian. “All his policies as governor gained resonance nationwide with broad appeal, acceptance and sustainability”, the minster explained. Fashola said that these achievements stand as credible credentials for Tinubu to serve as Nigeria’s president.
The first low-hanging fruit for Tinubu is for him to announce a broad-based government of “national unity” with all the ministerial appointees and other high ranking personnel not more than 24 hours after he has been sworn into office. Many people are endeared to Tinubu for mainly two reasons: his sterling performance as governor of Lagos state and his role as an outspoken and fearless democracy activist – even at the risk of his life. One quality you cannot take away from Tinubu is that he is a transformational leader. He is also a talent management expert with a loyal base of supporters.
The second quick win for the Tinubu presidency is to address the bottlenecks surrounding the ill-fated Naira swap policy that inflicted unnecessary pains on Nigerians. Business owners are bleeding because there’s no cash for transaction
The third low-hanging fruit will be to get the National Orientation Agency to wake up from its slumber and embark on a “culture change” advocacy campaign to address the way Nigerians “think and behave”. It is an imperative for national development. According to Nosa Osaikhiwu, a Nigerian who works as a project manager and trainer in Houston, Texas, United States, a “behaviour change and culture transformation” from the ground floor up can address corruption, our ethically challenged environment and poor political leadership. The outcome, he said, will be transparency and accountability in governance where there are consequences for bad behaviour without anyone seeking the help of godfathers to beg for them.
Without a doubt, the removal of fuel subsidy is a no-brainer because the popular view is that the subsidy is a scam that does not benefit Nigerians. Petrol is still smuggled across our borders without consequences. Petrol scarcity has been with us for as long as I can remember. The Nigerian government assumed the responsibility to fix retail prices of petroleum products and subsidy has been going on for decades. The political will to remove it has always been absent. But in November 2021, the Buhari administration announced plans to remove the fuel subsidy and replace it with a monthly N5,000 transport grant for poor Nigerians. It never materialised. Last month, the NNPC Limited (NNPCL) announced that Nigeria was spending over N400 billion monthly (N4.8 trillion annually) on petroleum subsidy. NNPCL is the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria, yet we experience fuel shortages. No one has explained satisfactorily how we consume over 65 million litres of petrol daily.
The next quick win for the incoming administration is combating youth unemployment. This is urgent. According to a report by Jobberman Nigeria, a leading recruitment agency, in December last year, over 50 per cent of Nigerian youth are unemployed and unemployable. The report said that there was need to intervene quickly to halt the trend. It was contained in the company’s 38-page report titled, How Young People Survive without Jobs. If Nigeria is to truly become Africa’s economic giant, our youth population is definitely a huge advantage.
In the absence of jobs and social security buffer from the government, our youth depend on families and friends to survive. The ja-pa syndrome epitomises the loss of hope of Nigerians – especially the youth – in the future of the country. Let us renew their hopes as quickly as we can.
The meeting between the President–elect and Elumelu is an early indication that consequential decisions backed by action in the form of a revamped national youth empowerment programme will address this challenge. How will insecurity be addressed so that Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed? There will be short, medium and long term strategies but the Tinubu presidency must look out for quick wins in the short term.
How well killings by unknown gunmen, violent activities of non-state actors, banditry and kidnapping are tackled will be used as key performance indicators by anxious Nigerians who are fearful for their lives.
Quick-win efforts should also look at how we can address our revenue challenge while at the same time reducing the cost of governance. What we currently have is an over-bloated bureaucracy and inflated contracts that are glued together by layers of corruption that has become contagious.
Our healthcare and education sectors are in shambles. What kind of immediate reforms will the national and subnational governments – working together – introduce in the short term to address the misery index? This is also urgent due to years of neglect resulting in mindless decay in the sectors.
Finally, our lives should no longer depend on electricity generators to survive. Nigerians deserve 24/7 power supply just as it is in Côte d’Ivoire when I visited the country last September.
It’s possible. Let’s do it!
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)