Tinubu on the familiar turf

Ogunsakin Mustapha
11 Min Read
Ebun Olu Adegboruwa SAN

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

This is the way it has always been when a new leader assumes the mantle. In 2015, all that many Nigerians wanted was anything but Goodluck Jonathan, the former President. President Muhammadu Buhari was presented as a preferable alternative and the Messiah that Nigeria needed at the time. Strangely, the arrowhead of that campaign would later take over from Buhari in a twist of fate. Immediately Buhari was sworn in, the goons went to town and they regaled us with catalogues of woes that the political party they took over from had committed, as if that was not the very reason they were elected into office. Even till his last days in office, Buhari’s handlers were still talking of 16 wasted years of PDP. In those days of the commencement of his tenure, Buhari was said to be the best thing to have happened to Nigeria after independence. We were told that his body language alone had restored stable electricity and wiped off corruption from Nigeria. But we became wiser with time. As they say, when people have been subjected to years of neglect and poor leadership, any little effort from a new leader would be misinterpreted as revolutionary. But we are wiser now, as a people. Or so I believe.

On May 29, 2023, His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ostensibly to fulfil his lifetime ambition. He immediately committed himself to the abolition of the fuel subsidy regime and also promised the unification of the exchange rate regime. He subsequently dissolved the security chiefs and also sacked the boards of all federal government agencies and parastatals. This is the usual stock in trade, at times to raise the consciousness of the people and at other times to buy support and loyalty. These positions have to be filled one way or the other. The judiciary is key to the success of any government and so it was not surprising that he quickly assented to the Bill for the unification of the retirement age of all judges of the superior courts across board. The appointments made so far are clearly predictable; the Chief of Staff, the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Central Bank Governor, the Comptroller-General of Customs, etc, all from the same region. When taken side by side the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman of ICPC and the Comptroller-General of Immigrations, we can well define the real meaning of nepotism. Take it or leave it, the majority ethnic groups would take no prisoners; so it was under Buhari, so it is now under Tinubu and so it will be, even under His Excellency, Peter Obi. There is nothing new. People should not delude or deceive themselves to think that any leader has come to their rescue.

The main three-fold planks of the Buhari administration were security, anti-corruption and the economy. The seemingly stable electricity supply that was contrived as a product of his body language at the commencement of his tenure later turned out to be the worst in the history of Nigeria with 99 national grid collapses, the anti-corruption war so consumed the government that even the symbol of that struggle (EFCC Chairman) was himself swallowed by it. In a way that jolted Nigerians, some of those who were convicted by the court of corrupt practices were granted state pardon by Buhari and some others that had corruption cases or charges pending against them were smart to join the political party in power to have the cases dropped or abandoned. It is not different from what we are currently witnessing, wherein the EFCC Chairman has been accused of corruption and abuse of power without a charge filed against him in court. It is the style of new administrations in order to be seen as doing something and to have enough time to settle down, before baring their fangs. President Buhari actually canvassed for judicial independence by signing the law granting financial autonomy to the judiciary but in the same vein, no other administration has victimized, intimidated and humiliated the judiciary as much as the Buhari administration, when we remember how security agencies stormed the houses of judges and how the head of the judiciary was booted out of office through unconventional ex-parte orders.

The euphoria of fuel subsidy removal by President Tinubu, the commendations from the foreign nations about the exchange rate unification and the devaluation of the Naira would seem to have driven the President into some kind of inaction, whereby one month after his inauguration, there is no cabinet in place, just as it happened under the Buhari regime. Initially when he started, President Buhari had promised to take the battle to the insurgents and the bandits but in the end, we were later to be informed that even in Aso Villa in Abuja from where he operated, the President was in mortal dread of #EndSARS protesters, whom he thought were sponsored to overthrow his government. In the end, Nigeria suffered the most heinous pogrom ever, with thousands of lives lost to herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits, in which human lives were wasted like common chickens. In the same place where President Tinubu scooped out the Electricity Bill are also the Hononourable Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais Report on Electoral Reforms, the Orosanye Report on the merger of government agencies to cut corruption and wastages and indeed the 2014 National Conference Report for the integration of Nigeria. In that same Aso Villa, there are reports of the Judicial Panels on Police Brutality from across the States and most importantly, there is also the Governor El-Rufai Committee Report on Restructuring, all gathering dust.

President Tinubu is not new in the saddle. For the period when he was in the opposition, he championed true federalism and restructuring, he fought for the rule of law, devolution of powers and state police. Several Bills passed by the 8thand 9th National Assemblies concerning devolution of powers which the Buhari administration ignored are staring at President Tinubu in Aso Villa everyday. Are we now to preach restructuring to the President, or are we to embark upon a fresh campaign on the need to amend the 1999 Constitution or to write a fresh one?
On national television recently, a former governor exposed the gargantuan corruption within the oil and gas sector, especially as it relates to fuel subsidy. Aso Villa has been mum ever since, carrying on business as usual. There is a pending judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria directing the increment of the salary of judicial officers, there is judicial authority for the release of Nnamdi Kanu from custody and another judgment for the payment of damages to Sunday Igboho. Policy decisions which do not address the real issues plaguing our land amount to nothing but mere tokenism and in like manner, occasional pronouncements made to curry favour and to buy loyalty all suggest opportunism. The President should address fundamental changes, which should begin with the leadership. When Nigerians see genuine repentance from our leaders, they will not require long sermons to embrace true change. With the drama of the convoy of the President during his last visit to Lagos, no sincere message of change can be preached to our people.

It is not too early for the President to unveil his cabinet, to cut the budget of the executive and remove the subsidies that promote isolated luxuries for leaders in the midst of abject poverty, want, and sufferings for the people. If it is not the case that the President is walking on the familiar turf, he should walk the talk, rediscover the Tinubu that was part of NADECO, obey all extant decisions of the Courts and give the people true leadership. All the sweet things said about the President, that he is his own man, that he would dare the owners of Nigeria, that he would rule in the interest of the masses and that he would turn around the economy of Nigeria, should begin to manifest even from the first month of his leadership. If we have to organize press conferences to remind the President that Nigeria is in dire need of restructuring, if we have to embark upon any form of protest to get the President to support the agitation for resource control, gender parity, state police, devolution of powers, local government autonomy and true federalism, then it would mean that we still have a long way to go.

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