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June 22, 2024

The renewed hope promises: A soft reminder to President Tinubu, by Ugoji Egbujo

The renewed hope promises: A soft reminder to President Tinubu, by Ugoji Egbujo

Tinubu promised to recharge Lake Chad. Some had thought he had misspoken, but he knew what he was talking about. Lake Chad was drying up. The people of that region, who had been perennially marginalized by their three countries and had lived on the lake, were facing an existential crisis. To compound the wretched situation, an insurgency had latched on to the people’s discontent. Tinubu has been around for just a year. Soyinka thinks it’s too early to assess him. But the Igbo say those who act timorously avoid calamities.

Tinubu promised to combat insecurity by employing millions of youths in the security agencies to stamp it out. Since Tinubu came, banditry has continued to flourish. In 2023, 3841 innocent Nigerians were reported killed by non-state actors, and 4243 were reported abducted. The dead included 200 soldiers and 116 policemen.  In November 2023 alone, 488 people were reported killed and  554 kidnapped. Swathes of farmlands remain abandoned and desolate. There have been no new inspiring initiatives to address the root causes or break the spree. The youths are available.

Over 50 million of them. What, then, is the president waiting for? Katsina state is besieged. Zamfara state is infested. Niger state is troubled. Plateau state is bleeding. Benue is afflicted. Insurgents and bandits have been relentless. No zone is spared. The Southeast suffers ritual bloodletting in the hands of gun-toting youths seeking Biafra by killing their brothers and law enforcement agents wantonly. Some of these issues require a combination of military efficiency and political dexterity. The federal government has shown no urgency and no thoroughness beyond haphazard and knee-jerk reactions and seducing propaganda.  So those who believe the president is sleepwalking can’t be faulted. 

Tinubu promised to renew hope. But since he came, hope has receded.  The cost of living has reached punishing limits, and the masses are being squeezed to death.  Yet, at every turn, the president demands more sacrifices of the citizens. The beleaguered citizens watch their leaders live affluent lives. The president doesn’t think that sacrifices must start from the leaders. The president runs a bloated cabinet. The government’s expenditures have skyrocketed. Nobody in government espouses frugality.  The government lives hypocritically lavishly and wants the citizens to pay for it.

Little wonder the youths are fleeing. They have been given no reason to believe that their tomorrow in their fatherland will be better than their miserable today. Youths of one of the most endowed nations in the world fleeing to literal anonymity, anomie and perhaps servitude in foreign lands. And nobody thinks the country is in peril.  In the dark days of military rule, the junta had the insight to recognise that Japa was ruinous to the nation and tried to rally the citizens to stop Andrewfication. Even such acts of political gimmickry are better than absolute ignorance, denial and indolence. 

In his 8-point agenda,  Tinubu promised to tackle corruption.  The public didn’t believe him. They had placed their hopes on Buhari, the retired General, and were left to rue their naivety. So they couldn’t but doubt Tinubu, the astute wheeling and dealing politician.  But any residual hopes that Tinubu might, in his twilight, surprise the sceptics have now vanished. In his first year in office, he removed the EFCC chairman and allowed him to be detained for four whole months without a trial. After detaining him, Tinubu quietly released him without bothering to tell the nation why his Anti-corruption Police Chief was detained for so long and why he wasn’t charged.

Such prolonged detention and non-prosecution cannot coexist where the rule of law and human rights are sacred. Nothing fosters corruption better than executive recklessness and arbitrariness. If Abdulrasheed Bawa wasn’t corrupt or culpable, why was he detained for four months? If he was corrupt, why was he released without a charge? Bawa’s case isn’t the only baffling case. Tinubu handed over one of his ministers to the EFCC after the anti-corruption agency established a prima facie case against her following a loud corruption scandal. Betta Edu was suspended in January 2024.

Six months after she was handed over to criminal investigators, neither the EFCC nor the president has said where the case is headed. No minister has been appointed to replace her. If the FG needs more than six months to investigate a minister who was in office for about three months, then where is the Federal Government’s trumpeted determination to fight corruption? The case of Yahaya Bello, who has openly defied law enforcement, should bother the president. The international community and foreign investors are watching. 

Tinubu has started the student loan scheme, and that’s commendable. But other transformative ideas have been lacking. In his renewed hope policy document, Tinubu promised to make Nigeria “a prime global  investment destination.” He might claim that the first year is the gestation period. But the Igbo say a dog can deduce the flavour of the faeces from the smell of the fart. Tinubu’s first year has left many worrying signs of policy reversals, investor confidence depletion and paucity of FDIs. In Tinubu’s first year, more multinationals closed their shops and left the country.

The Rewed Hope Agenda was sold as a tonic for businesses and a covenant between the people and the government. It was supposed to bring creativity and innovation to solve intractable social and economic problems. But so far, the biggest statement the government has made is that it inherited a mess. The nation lacks the requisite power to drive industrialization and improve the well-being of ordinary people. The country lacks the security to ramp up agricultural production to ensure import substitution and food security. Yet the federal government has shown neither speed nor imagination. 

Nigeria is a potentially great country. It needs committed and transformative leadership to drive its progress. Tinubu promised transformative leadership, but his first year was run in ‘Business as Usual Mode’. He rewarded cronies with important offices and didn’t strive to avoid conflicts of interest in government business. He has embraced neither frugality nor foresight to govern his actions. Politics and political conquests appear to be his main priority.

Some of the characters he has surrounded himself with are the living antitheses of Hope Renewal. Once again, political promises have proven to be gifts that must be stored in perforated bags. Nevertheless, all good citizens must do all they can to awaken the president and his governors to the stark realities of the country. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 “…Behold, now is the time of salvation.” Because as Nigerians say, one day monkey fit go market and e no go return.