May 26, 2024

Tinubu 1st Anniversary: It’s been a year of shattered hopes — Ibe

Tinubu has something to hide about Chicago University records - Atiku’s aide

By John Alechenu, Abuja

Media Adviser to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Paul Ibe, in this interview, describes the almost one year in office by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress administration as a waste.

President Bola Tinubu is almost one year in office. What do you make of it?

It’s been one year of waste and shattered hopes. There is nothing to celebrate; even the process of rendering of account by ministers is a waste of resources. You can see Nigerians don’t need propaganda; if there was anything tangible it would be visible in their lives.

They claim it is renewed hope but what we’ve seen in the last one year is renewed hopelessness. The hopelessness that started with the Muhammadu Buhari administration it’s a continuation of that government.

The President promised to fix the battered economy he inherited from his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari. 12 months down the line, what can you say about the management of the economy?

Well, talk is cheap. There is nothing to show that President Bola Tinubu was prepared to govern. All he was willing to do was to grab, snatch and run with power and having done that, he’s been unable to govern. He has continued to play politics, that’s all he has been doing since May 29, 2023. What economy are we even talking about? Is it the economy that today the inflation rate is over 34 per cent or the one that food inflation is about 48 per cent? Currently, Nigerians have to pay over 130 per cent more for a bag of rice, 150 per cent more for a bag of flour relative to May 2023 when he took over.

In some parts of this country, Nigerians have to pay over 300 per cent more for a litre of fuel. And still they are debating on a $23 minimum wage; looking at the current exchange rate, who can survive on that paltry sum in a month? So, he has never thought through policies before implementing them. Look at what he did with the National Assembly Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) he approved for purchase for lawmakers amidst the multi-dimensional poverty most Nigerians are suffering from. They are spending money on things that are not our priority, spending money on things that can wait. The same government finds it difficult to pay the wages of civil servants while they continue to do everything possible to live in luxury. You begin to ask yourself, this power that they were seeking, was it to serve the interest of Nigerians or their personal interests? This government appears to be a government for Tinubu and his family.

This is what it is beginning to look like; if not, how do you explain that his biological children who were neither elected nor appointed travelled as part of government’s official delegation to Dubai on state visit? They were number one and two with the Foreign Affairs Minister as number three on the protocol list during the welcome party that was held during the visit by the government of that country.

That’s the nepotism that has defined the administration of President Tinubu, it’s a continuation of the nepotism which defined Buhari’s government. How do you explain the hurried multi-billion dollars contract for the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road? The contract is worth N15.6 trillion and allegedly awarded without open bidding and there is no record of environmental impact assessment. Only recently, it was announced that government has reverted to the originally planned route along the shore line.

They just realised that they have made a blunder after destroying people’s businesses and rendered several people jobless. They didn’t do the necessary thing before the project which is to carry out an environmental impact assessment and then secure the right-of-way. That right-of-way, which they are doing now after the fact, is to ensure that contractors don’t have any obstacle to hinder their job. Those cables they are talking about now have always been there and they know. If they did their job, they would have known this was an impediment.

The objective is not that road, the objective was to link the road with the Atlantic City, to link it with the Lekki Deep Sea Port and extend it to the Eko Atlantic City where you have Landmark; so they have achieved that objective. Why will they just wake up and destroy people’s investments for nothing? Landmark, for example, lost over $200 billion in investments not to talk about the jobs and livelihoods destroyed.

It’s a contradiction to say that you want to attract foreign investments and you’re destroying the investments that have been put up by locals.

How will you attract foreign investors when they see how badly you’re treating your local investors? Life is getting more difficult for Nigerians. Now, we have energy crisis, the cost of fuel is high, electricity tariff is high, we can’t tax our way out of this situation, it is impossible.

How do you take blood from somebody who does not have blood? The citizens that they are taxing directly and indirectly don’t have enough to run their businesses because their policies lack direction and would not allow for prosperity for the people. Tinubu inherited an economy where one US dollar exchanged for about N256 but, today, just one year with Tinubu in the saddle it is struggling to stay at N1,500 to the dollar. We are not taking about other currencies. They can claim to have performed economic miracles but Nigerians have not felt the impact in a positive sense.

Let’s look at his style of governance and approach. Do you think Tinubu has really demonstrated a clear understanding of the enormous problems in the country?

I don’t think he has. Forget all he said about building Lagos and all that. Lagos was the federal capital for several decades. Lagos had attracted huge resources and infrastructure development from the Federal Government; so, I don’t see what he built.

And for him to think that the template of the Lagos he claimed to have built can be used for the whole of Nigeria is also laughable. The situation that prevails in Lagos is not what prevails in Sokoto, in Ebonyi, in Osun, Kaduna and several other states in Nigeria.

The situations are peculiar to each state. Lagos is the financial capital of Nigeria and it boasts of several businesses that can be taxed to generate revenue, you don’t have that in other places. It is wrong to assume that what has worked in Lagos will work all over Nigeria.

Those policies which revolved around him taxing people in Lagos cannot apply 100 per cent nationwide. He was not prepared for office, if he was he would not instantly announced the removal of fuel subsidies without a corresponding strategy on how to mitigate the fallout, which has led to the unimaginable inflation we are experiencing.

Before the President appointed his ministers, expectations were high that he was going to assemble a star-studded team. But that wasn’t the case. Would you say that his team has disappointed critics with their performance in the last one year?

You can count on your fingertips the ministers who are working, who fit into the role of the positions they are occupying. First of all, he talked about right sizing and reducing the cost of governance, but the first thing he did was to balloon the number of ministers to 48, the highest we have ever had since independence.

He increased the number of public resources that will be spent on them. Most of these ministers have shown gross incompetence. You are as good as those who you surround yourself with as a leader. It is the people you appoint to drive your vision that will determine whether you succeed or not. Where are these ministers? They have failed to demonstrate any knowledge about how to run a government. The fact of the matter is that most of them were appointed based on political considerations and not competence. That is why we continue to be where we are that is why we cannot expect any magic from them.

His supporters claim that the magnitude of the mess the President inherited isn’t what makes Nigerians expect a quick turnaround in key areas. Do you agree?

That’s bull sh..t! Tinubu foisted Buhari on Nigerians. He supported him, empowered him and when Buhari was leaving he said during his campaign that he was going to follow the path of Buhari. The path of Buhari is the path of destruction; it is the path of taking of loan after loan. It is the path of lack of inclusiveness, parts of the country were shut out and Buhari forgot and Tinubu is forgetting also that inclusivity is key to national unity and stability. You accommodate people from diverse backgrounds and they contribute to development; that is how great nations are built. Tinubu created Buhari.

He was part of that government, he knew all that happened and this government is a continuation of the APC government. What we have today is a continuation of the mess created by Buhari. What was the exchange rate when Buhari left office and what is it today? What was the price of a loaf of bread? What was the price of a bag of rice when Buhari left and what is it today? Let us not even talk about when Buhari took over in 2015? How can he blame Buhari? He enabled Buhari and his rule, Buhari and Tinubu are conjoined twins, you can’t separate one from the other.

Many Nigerians feel that some policies of the Tinubu administration, especially as they affect the lives of the citizenry, lack empathy. They include subsidy removal, increase in electricity tariff, high cost of importation/Custom duties and taxes. What’s your take?

Look at the issue of fuel for example. Yes, we have decided that there was something wrong with the subsidy scheme and it needed to be addressed. But you need to remove it methodically.

There should have been a carefully thought out strategy to cushion its effects on the masses. All of the things they promised Nigerians they would do to mitigate the effect, none has been accomplished. It is true that all of the policies he has so far introduced and implemented have further impoverished Nigerians. The confusion in this government is also legendary, you announce a policy today, tomorrow you withdraw it. Whose interest was the Cyber Security Tax going to serve? Is it the interest of my poor uncle in the village or the farmer in Kaura Namoda? That is why I think that the mindset of Lagos will not serve the interests of Nigeria.

In its defence of the reforms that have made life very difficult for Nigerians, government said the policies were necessary for the country to survive. Do you think there could have been better ways of keeping the country going without inflicting pains on the citizens?

Of course yes. Take the issue of fuel subsidy removal for example; the administration should have taken the issue of transportation, which is a major component of inflation, seriously. Like I told you earlier, the cost of petrol has increased by over 205 percent in some areas and this has led to over 200 percent increase in the cost of transportation for humans, farm produce, goods and services. These are the things that should have been tackled before subsidy was removed. The impact of the fuel subsidy removal on the daily lives of Nigerians is undeniable. We practically run a generator economy which is not sustainable.

We have seen the administration scoring itself high on security. What’s your assessment of the handling of security nationwide in the last one year?

Which one have they done on security? Just last week, 62 persons were killed in two local governments in Plateau State. There are local governments in the North where citizens still pay tax to bandits. What security are they talking about? Banditry is rife, terrorism is rife, people are being killed in the Benue/Plateau axis.

People are being abducted all over the place. Their strategy for security hasn’t worked, they need to rejig the security architecture, it has not worked and it will not work as long as they keep applying old strategies to tackle modern challenges.

Even the restructuring they promised is nowhere. What we are seeing is that they are giving priority to the National Anthem that was sung in 1976. What will that do to the rest of Nigeria? Will that improve security and put food on the table? Nigeria is becoming a joke under this administration.

In your capacity as a member of the leading opposition party in the country, what advice would give this government to succeed in areas where it is struggling?

Let’s take the issue of infrastructure. Instead of endless borrowing to fund the luxury lives of a few people in power, why not have a handshake with the private sector? When you don’t have money, you have to be creative by making policies that will attract genuine investors who will invest in projects which can be mutually beneficial. Open up the bidding process to international firms as well as local companies who have shown capacity.

Let those who are willing to invest in Nigeria come in; that would have been the best way to do it. It doesn’t make sense to borrow money to pay interest on already borrowed money. This government must stop and reflect and take advice from Nigerians, we are stakeholders in the project called Nigeria irrespective of our political differences.