how to run a government

By Dele Sobowale

“Standing on the foundation emplaced by the current [Buhari] administration, we shall build a Nigeria…” – RENEWED HOPE 2023: ACTION PLAN FOR A BETTER NIGERIA, p 3.

Whenever there is a document promising to make Nigeria a better place, I am ready to get it; read it; analyse it and publish my findings. I now have a copy of what might be regarded as the Tinubu/Shettima/APC Manifesto for the 2023 Presidential Election. The full analysis is almost finished; but, it is too long for this column. So, the reader should not expect the details here. I might add in passing that I also intend to obtain; read and analyse every manifesto published – providing the owners arrange for me to get them. “Men make history; but, not just as they please” – Karl Marx, 1818-1883.

That said; we now turn to the matter on hand. Let me start my stating that Asiwaju Tinubu has my sympathies. Those of us who were intimately involved in the struggle for the actualisation of the late Chief MKO Abiola’s mandate from 1993 till 1998, when the man died, can never forget his contributions. But, for his sagacity and street wisdom, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo deceived the leaders of Afenifere, and the Alliance for Democracy, AD, decided not to field a presidential candidate in 2003, the entire South-West would have been captured by the PDP.

The revival of progressives in Yorubaland can only be credited to him. Every AD governor elected in 1999 lost re-election. Tinubu, in Lagos, was the last man standing. From that position, he patiently re-built the progressive movement in the SW and in Edo State as well. The history of Nigerian politics can never be accurate or complete without several mentions of Tinubu’s contributions from 1993 till today.

Despite the feeling of gratitude on behalf of progressives, politics is dynamic. Interests change; and that is why there are no permanent friends or enemies – only permanent interests. That notwithstanding, I still have a great deal of anxiety for Jagaban; particularly with respect to the situation in which he finds himself now. It was no news to me when he announced that he brought Buhari out of well-deserved retirement.

The two men hatched a deal, unknown to other APC members. It was going to be a “turn-by-turn” affair in Aso Rock; with Buhari going first. Buhari went first; and instead of openly backing Emilokan for the job forced Asiwaju to fight for the ticket. Even now, the APC President has been largely absent from the campaign effort; unlike Obasanjo who imposed Yar ‘Adua and led the campaign in 2007. Buhari is in London now until mid-November. Only Allah knows where else he will go next. Indifference cannot be better demonstrated.

HORNS OF A DILEMMA

“Some great misfortune to portend; no enemy can match a friend” – Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745

To be quite candid, Buhari and Tinubu were not friends before Asiwaju initiated their political marriage of convenience. It is even doubtful if they have become closer since the formation of the APC. For both of them, that was a strategic alliance which has so far paid off for Buhari. Whether Tinubu will also benefit remains to be seen. He definitely has a mountain to climb; made more rugged by the President he aims to succeed.

To be sure, Emilokan has already committed his own blunders; but, his greatest “enemy” is Buhari government’s performance. That is simply atrocious. Unfortunately, Tinubu is caught on the horns of a dilemma. He needs Buhari’s support for the Northern vote. But, even most of the Arewa elite appear to be disenchanted with Buhari. Their people feel the lashes of Buhari’s rule and cannot wait to see him go.

It is just like what is happening in the US now. None of the Democratic Party members up for election wants President Biden to campaign for them; because his ratings are low. But, as party loyalists, they cannot openly criticise their party leader. Similarly, neither Tinubu nor other APC candidates for office can denounce Buhari. That has given the other candidates a wicked advantage. They know that most Nigerians are sick and tired of Buhari; and the opponents are saying what Nigerians want to hear.

CONTINUITY OF WHAT EXACTLY?

“Rowing harder is not an option when the boat is heading towards a waterfall.”

Tinubu also has my sympathies with respect to the issue of continuity. The more he repeats it, the more fears he raises in the minds of sensible Nigerians. Again, since this is not a comprehensive analysis of the manifesto, I will limit myself to a few running disasters and then ask Asiwaju if he wants to continue with those.

One, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, recently published a report stating that the population of Nigerian out-of-school children is now 20 million. It was 6 million in 2015. Under Buhari two million more kids have been added to the dreadful number every year. Will Tinubu continue to add 2 million a year?

Two, debt burden has risen from under N15 trillion in May 2015 to almost N42 trillion in August of 2022. That means additional debt burden of N4 trillion annually. Every economic and financial expert, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the African Development Bank, AfDB, are unanimous in proclaiming the debt repayment unsustainable. Yet, Buhari is set to add about N10 trillion more debt before departure from office next year. Will this “borrow-and-spend” fiscal policy be continued under Tinubu?

Three, on May 29, 2015, the official exchange rate was about N199/US$1; parallel rate about N250/US$1. Today, November 4, 2022, the rates are N440/US$1 and N890/US$1 respectively. Given a highly import-dependent economy, and the devastation of the Nigerian economy brought about by the upward-bound exchange rate, will a Tinubu government take us to N800/US$1 and N2,000/US$1? If not, why not?

Four, because the CBN was successfully targeting inflation; and because Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a world class economist, was Minister of Finance, Buhari inherited single digit inflation. Today, we are getting closer to 21 per cent, may eventually reach 30 by the time Buhari goes. Are we to expect that Tinubu will take us beyond 40 per cent as part of the continuity programme?

Five, another rainy season is coming next year; so is another flood. Buhari, through outright negligence, like most world leaders, ensured that Nigeria was ill-prepared for the devastation which occurred. Trillions of Naira worth of properties was lost; so were lives as well as a lot of food meant for next year. Will Tinubu also turn deaf ears to the global clamour for governments to be pro-active and plan to reduce the carnage when the next flood occurs; or will he jet out to a conference when disaster strikes as part of the continuity?

There are so many aspects of our lives which Buhari will leave in shambles when he leaves – six years after and the 40 per cent of Lagos-Ibadan expressway remains unfinished, ASUU is waiting; bandits are still ferocious; herdsmen continue to destroy farms and food supply, and more universities are graduating more unemployable people, APC corruption has trumped every previous ones, etc; which of these will be subject to continuity?

Tinubu cannot disregard the Buhari administration woeful record without paying the penalty for it. He needs Buhari like he needs a shot in the head.

AFENIFERE: A COUP THAT FAILED

“It is quite impossible for those who want to gain power, to avoid getting rid of those people who are most likely to form an opposition” – Critias, 404BC, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 196

There was nothing surprising to me about the Tinubu Campaign Organisation’s, TCO, attempt to break the ranks of the Afenifere. In fact, it would have been absolutely negligent of them not to do it. With the Acting Chairman, Chief Adebanjo, adamantly opposed to any Yoruba candidate contesting; and canvassing for Igbo presidency, the die was cast for a classic confrontation. Pa Reuben Fasoranti, also totally in support of another Yoruba shot at the position, was caught in the middle. TCO went for Pa Fasoranti whose forgiving spirit must be Christ-like given Tinubu’s attempt to downplay the role of herdsmen in his daughter’s murder.

Certainly, Tinubu and his entourage must have been congratulating themselves after leaving Pa Fasoranti for the success of their coup. Chief Adebanjo, as intended, has, apparently and finally, been isolated and Afenifere was once again in TCO’s grasp. They were dead wrong. Chief Adebanjo has always been a deadly political fighter. Pa Fasoranti is no match for him. The TCO scored a short pyrrhic victory; but Chief Adebanjo is still the de facto Acting Chairman of, an admittedly divided, Afenifere.

With this humiliation, it is unlikely that Pa Fasoranti will again comment on presidential politics of 2023. I feel sorry for Pa Fasoranti; who, like the comedians, dressed as Bishops, has inadvertently walked into a political mine-field created by TCO. He should remember what Afenifere suffered in 2003. In the end, one is often sad when long and close comrades fight openly. There is no fight as heart-rending as the fight between the closest of comrades over notions of betrayal. I respect the two old men. I feel bad about this matter. Pity.

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