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A friend called the other day from Germany to get a true picture of situations in the country. The initial attempt was to pretend that all was well; that apart from the dust of the February/ March general elections, there was not much to worry about. But that seemed a big error; in fact, a terrible one. He blurted; “Old Boy (as we address ourselves), you got it wrong on this. Reports I get every day from people at home indicate that things are not working. The emergence of Bola Tinubu has not helped matters. Except those at the corridors of power, every other citizen is panting. What I get is that, for Nigerians, it’s jumping out of the from frying pan into the fire.”

There was nothing further to argue with him. He was in order. Perhaps, at no time had Nigerians had it as rough as they are going through currently. And to think that this is a country that is not at war, yet the citizens are literally passing through hell in the hands of their leaders rankles exceedingly. The cost of every basic item in the land has hit the roof top. Nigerians are hungry. And indeed, angry! Major roads and streets in the cities look deserted these days as if the country is in perpetual public holidays. Minor issues that would have been overlooked can now result to fisticuffs. People wear frowns on their faces, as if they woke up to continue with unfinished quarrels.

This appears to be the only system where the past is reminisced over the present. You would hear the people constantly cite instances of the ‘better’ days that have gone. In Nigeria, things don’t seem to improve, they get worse. Look at the leadership profiles of successive administrations. It took the lethargy and cluelessness of the Goodluck Jonathan administration for the people to reference the misguided Olusegun Obasanjo government as one that gave the country focus. The ululation that accompanied the Muhammadu Buhari government in coming to power soon gave way for despair and the people realizing that they had elected a parochial and narrow-minded president to govern them. It did not take up to two years for Nigerians to realise that even in his utter lassitude, Jonathan was by far a superstar compared to Buhari. That was when it dawned on the people that the assumed taciturnity of Buhari was not a matter of concern over the direction the country but a dummy-sheer concealment of inaction and acute situation of not knowing what to say or do.

Tinubu has worsened the situation. Painfully, he is on the way to lionizing Buhari with his litany of errors. Karl Meier, former West African Correspondent of the Independent of London, could not have chosen a better title for his book on Nigeria than, “This House Has Fallen”. Nigeria is currently on its fours, truth be told.

It could only take a president of Tinubu’s hue to make a weighty announcement of removing fuel subsidy and harmonizing the foreign exchange market on his first day in office without cabinet or without any contingency arrangement. Since that declaration which he admitted was based on the spur of the moment rather than any pronounced agenda, Nigeria has not been the same.

Four months to the February 25, 2023 presidential election, we had argued here, that Nigerians needed to know the candidates they were voting for. Knowing them went beyond merely knowing their names, identifying their faces or the political parties they were representing. The voters needed to know their thinking, their level of sophistication and emotional intelligence. They needed to know what they had in ideology and programmes at repositioning the country. For a system that has been maliciously held down by a chain of rapacious leadership in the greater part of its 63 years of statehood, having such details on those aspiring for the highest office in the land, mattered.

Being the standard-bearer of a political party is a big deal. It is not a position for the boys but for serious minds. The office itself – the presidency – demands a lot. Gerald R. Ford (38th U.S. President) captured it that the presidency is not a prize to be won, but a duty to be done. It is the hardest job in the world, says American essayist, John Dickerson, in his piece on the White House.

For obvious reasons, the handlers of Tinubu shielded him from interrogation and ensured that his supporters did not know the candidate they were queuing behind adequately. A gathering at the British Foreign Institute, the Chatham House, days to the election, provided him the opportunity to advertise himself, tell the world how ready he was for the job, sell himself and his programmes to the international community

It gave him the chance to address nagging questions on his health, his past, his academic records and his real identity – issues that his opponents have serially feasted on in mocking him. Rather, he ducked and parried the questions thrown at him at the gathering to his stooges. By evading the questions and assigning them to surrogates, Tinubu unwittingly confessed his lack of capacity and preparation for the presidency

Now, as they say, the chickens have come home to roost. He has happened on Nigeria, irrespective of his breezy paths to power and accompanying disputations. Nigerians are bearing the brunt. From his very first day in office, it was certain that Tinubu had no precise programme for the country, despite his claims that attaining the position had been his lifelong ambition. In removing the fuel subsidy and unfolding a phantom palliative regime that is barely scratching at the problems, the entire thing looks vacuous. Tinubu is yet to explain to Nigerians how distribution of rice and maize as well as paltry N5 billion to the states would cushion the impacts of the outrageous pump prices of petrol, rising inflation and youth unemployment due to closure of small and medium scale businesses that his hasty withdrawal of subsidy and forex market harmonisation have caused.

Governance is not about catering for the interests of cronies and hangers-on. That is the major challenge of the Tinubu administration. He is so much surrounded with sycophants who daily feed him with the impression that things are normal, when in fact, the country is going down the hills. Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson, authors of the encompassing book, ‘Why Nations Fail’, summed it that the most common reasons why nations fail is because of parasitic political and economic classes. Nigeria has had these extractive elite over the years. For them, what matters is what they derive from the system, not what they add to it. The Tinubu administration is furthering this odious culture at the detriment of the people.

Things must change for the better. It is high time the President climbed down from his axiomatic white horse to address the challenges in the country. While his presidency lasts, let him reach out to people with the relevant know-how to assist him in running the country. They must not be his party men or cheer men but those who can look at him in the face and tell him that he is not getting his acts right.

Duru, a journalist, writes from Lagos via [email protected]


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