Home Opinion Presidential jet saga and Tinubu’s ‘Animal Farm’ economy

Presidential jet saga and Tinubu’s ‘Animal Farm’ economy

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In October last year, former Vice President and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, took a dig at President Bola Tinubu’s management of the nation’s economy and described the administration as incompetent and clueless. Part of what informed Atiku’s outburt was the extravagant life style of the leaders while Nigerians wallowed in poverty.

Peeved at what the citizens were going through amidst the flamboyance of the leaders, Atiku accused Tinubu of running an ‘Animal Farm’ economy, while Nigerians were getting poorer. The analogy was deep and instructive.

Animal Farm, for illustration, is a fable, a satirical novel, by an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic, Eric Arthur Blair, who preferred a pseudonym, George Orwell in his writings. It tells of a group of farm animals who rebelled against their keeper, in the hope of creating a society where all would be equal, free, and happy.

In launching out the rebellion, their battle cry was ‘all animals are equal’. But at the attainment of victory, the struggle was betrayed and a dictatorship that was worse than they had earlier experienced was unleashed on them, with some of the animals lording it over others. The mantra shifted from ‘all animals are equal’ to ‘all animals are equal but some are mor equal than other’. While the lesser animals were admonished to work harder, the privileged ones lived in opulence. The Farm ended up in a state worse than it was before the revolt.

If you do a critique of the Tinubu administration in the last one year, especially its selective dispensation of favour to core loyalists while keeping other citizens in the lurch, you would notice its similarity with the Orwellian Animal Farm.

At his inauguration on May 29, 2023, Tinubu pledged to be the president for all and not to any particular section or group. But barely a year into the administration, Nigerians are seeing him for what he is. The President is receding to a champion of his native Yoruba South West interests, in his strategic appointments and key policies.

The economy has plunged further south and cost of living, beyond reach. While Nigerians scavenged the bins in the past for food, there are no more dumps to rummage.

The most striking in the manifestation of insensitivity by the President is in constantly admonishing Nigerians to continue making sacrifices for the good of the country, while the leaders, elected and appointed, continue to live large.

At the time Atiku made the Animal Farm analogy, inflation rate was at 26.72%; food inflation estimated at 30.6%. The situation has degenerated further. According to the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Inflation report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigerians are finding it more difficult to feed themselves, with food inflation rising to 40.66 per cent in May, last month, from the 25.25 per cent figure posted in June 2023. NBS equally disclosed that headline inflation moved by 0.26 per cent to 33.95 per cent from 33.69 per cent recorded in April.

Atiku had then observed that, “Even at a time when he (Tinubu) was calling on all to tighten their belts, he inaugurated the largest cabinet in Nigeria’s history and was set to plunge Nigeria deeper into more debt”. The trend continues, with the House of Representatives committee on national security and intelligence proposing a new aircraft to be bought for President Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima. The committee’s recommendation was contained in a report released after it investigated the status of the aircraft in the presidential air fleet.

But Nigerians are not finding the agenda funny. Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate in 2023, Peter Obi, is among those faulting the purchase of the aircraft this time. Obi described the move as unacceptable and a clear show of insensitivity to the suffering of the Nigerian people. He said, “This demonstrates extreme insensitivity to citizens’ struggles. With rising insecurity, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, this decision highlights the disconnect that is apparent between the government and the people. It is unacceptable as the situation in the country today more than ever demands a more compassionate use of resources, prioritising citizens’ welfare.

In reaction, the special adviser to the President on information and strategy, Bayo Onanuga, asked, “Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the VP of Malawi and Iran President?”

Now, these are serious issues that border on the well-being of the country. Nobody, of course, wants the President dead. It is also expected that the President, knowing what the times are and what he represents, should not watch his compatriots die while he cruises around in luxury. It is a two-way traffic; a social contract of sort.

What is required at this point is realistic reasoning and affordable lifestyle by all. Leadership is about sacrifice. Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, captured it at the Albert Luthuli Centenary Celebrations, on April 25, 1998, that “real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”.

Let Tinubu and his fellow leaders be more prudent in management of the country’s scarce resources. Projects that do not add immediate and direct value, should be discarded or put in abeyance. The purchase of the presidential aircraft I one of such. Those calling for moderation, do not mean harm for the President. They are rather his real friends, not the likes of Onanuga, hired hands, who only humour him with what they think he wants to hear, not borne of genuine concern but to secure and sustain their jobs. That is a point that should not be lost on Tinubu.

No matter how the presidency tries to paint the picture, the story about Nigeria out there, is not juicy. In its feature story titled “Nigeria confronts its worst economic crisis in a generation,” published on June 11, the New York Times, a leading American publication, highlighted the severe economic challenges facing Nigeria.

“The pain is widespread. Unions strike to protest salaries of around $20 a month. People die in stampedes, desperate for free sacks of rice. Hospitals are overrun with women wracked by spasms from calcium deficiencies”, the medium stated.

Though the presidency dismissed the report as predetermined, reductionist and derogatory, the facts are clear – Nigerians are poor and hungry! This is therefore, not the time to mock the citizens with the costly advertisement of intention to purchase a presidential jet. There is, in fact, the need to halt that blue joke that reminds of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

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