Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BOLA AHMED TINUBU!

GREETINGS YOUR EXCELLENCY!

There is fire on the mountain!

As protest against your administration spreads across the country like wildfire, and Nigerians cry out desperately in search of food ,some of your supporters have taken to social media in your defense.

Tunde Ononuga , your Information and Strategy Spokesperson, and other government appointees argue that the economic downturn, the hunger in the land, and even the excessive insecurity to life and property in Nigeria are inevitable consequences of your positive developmental plans which will make Nigeria a better place bye and bye. Essentially, their position is that your good policy decisions will bare good results, if only the people would be patient.

A second group of your supporters: notably, Afenifere, a Pan – Yoruba Socio cultural organization and Lamido Sanusi, former Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank, posit that we should blame , Mohammadu Buhari and the immediate past administration, not you, for the hardships experienced in the country today!

A third school of thought in your support is the ethnocentric group. According to these people, there is really nothing wrong or unusual in the Nigerian society. They allege that protest against your administration is nothing but a secret plot by the Northern Power elite to regain control of the country, by getting rid of Tinubu, the heroic President of Yoruba extraction!

Mr President, the purpose of this letter is to remind you of your oath of office and to plead with you to take with a grain of salt what your apologists and employees are presenting to you as the true State of affairs in the country. In other words, sir, beware of praise singers composing poems of your indestructibility!

Nobody is listening to Mr. Onanuga and his associates counseling patience. Nine months is a very long time to be hungry. The people are demanding relief now, not tomorrow!

Those who are telling you that you are not to be held accountable for the deplorable conditions of today, and that Buhari and previous administrations are to blame are being disingenuous. They are most likely seeking favours or looking for protection from prosecution in the ongoing sweep , particularly of the banking sector.!

The school of thought which attributes criticism of your administration to hatred of the Yoruba race is the most dangerous of all. Their allegation that Hausa / Fulani hegemonists are presenting false images of hardship, and using propaganda to paint your successful administration as a failure are in self destructive denial. They are irresponsible purveyors of illusion. All they will succeed in doing is set northerners against southerners , deepening the rift between our peoples, make you an enemy of the North which gave you 62% of your vote tally in the 2023 Presidential Election, and reduce you to a Yoruba President; the president of South West Nigeria!

The truth of the matter is, as President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces, Chief Executive officer, Chief security officer, and the Nation’s number one Spokesperson and salesman, the buck stops with you. It is your pronouncements, your actions or inactions which determine the State of affairs in the country. And indeed, you have been a very active president whose commission and omission have had grave and direct consequences on the bodypolitic. Consider the impact of some of your policies:

ON THE ECONOMY!

Within hours of your termination of oil subsidy on May 29th 2023, the pump price of petrol jumped from 185 naira per liter to 500 naira per liter. The price of everything else; public transportation, housing, medicine, luxury items and ordinary essentials such as food also increased at about the same astronomical rate of 300% !

That singular announcement triggered a recession in the economy; decreased productivity, increased unemployment, decreased purchasing power, increased poverty and increased number of hungry citizens!

It was an outrageous policy announcement. You did it without proper consultation and without consideration of its implications.

In your eagerness to do the bidding of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the world Bank, you failed to realize that these international monetary bodies are only advisory. They cannot order you to do anything that you
believe is not in the best interest of your country.

Furthermore, IMF/ World Bank neither advised you to remove oil subsidy by Fiat nor suggested that you should do it unilaterally. The idea was to do a number of things simultaneously in order to stimulate the Nigerian economy. First , you must stop paying subsidy to the oil cartel which was abusing the program, then address the theft , waste and inefficiency of NNPCL , and then diversify the economy to add agriculture, lithium, bitumen, bauxite, gold, uranium and other minerals to oil as sources of revenue.

You failed to follow the program, for which reason the Nigerian society is in turmoil today!

The 2024 Budget provided an indication of your developmental priorities. In it, there is virtually no strategy for revenue generation, only plans to borrow and spend. By committing only 5% of the annual budget to Agriculture, you have further degraded this sector of the economy with the greatest potential for employment ; the sector which can alleviate the food problem bedeviling the Nation.

UNESCO recommendation to developing Nations is that at least 15% of their annual budget should go to Education. The reason is to ensure that for the present and the future, a literate work force that can develop the country, socially, politically and economically is in place. What you have achieved by devoting only 5.8% of the budget to Education is to compromise future growth, ensuring that today’s youth population will inherit a society which is even more hopeless than today’s bleak environment!

DEVALUATION OF THE NAIRA!

When you took office, the rate of the dollar to the naira was 1 dollar / 450 naira (bank rate), $1/450naira (import/ Export window,), and $1/750 (black market). Nine months later, on your watch, bank rate is $1/1,400naira., import/export window is $1/ 1,480, and black market rate, popularly called Aboki market is $1/ 1,570 naira. This exponential increase can be attributed to your strange belief that you can, by Presidential decree determine the strength of the currency. In your 2024 budget speech, you boasted that you had decided to peg the dollar at $1/750 naira. Two months later, the naira has further depreciated by over 100% to $1/1,570naira.

Again, your failure to do the right thing has virtually crippled international business, and foreign travel which depend on affordable exchange rate.

In your effort to strengthen the naira, you promised to do three things:
1) you would unify the foreign exchange rate by eliminating the black market ( the Aboki road side dollar traders)
2) you would mop up foreign currency in Private hands of wealthy Nigerians and compel them to deposit same in banks.
3) you would ensure that your government stops doing business within Nigeria in dollars.

Over two months later, there has been no attempt to engage wealthy Nigerians,, many of whom are notorious for hiding foreign currency in Private homes and offices when they find it difficult to launder such in the construction and similar industries.

Over two months later, there is no indication that the government is doing business in naira , or in fact can avoid meeting its obligations to foreign companies in foreign currency.

Just this week ; two months later, security operatives have started raiding Aboki road side dollar traders with a determination to shut them down. While this appears to be a proactive move, in reality it is another example of your administration’s superficial response to complex issues.

What is the point in driving Aboki road side dollar traders off the streets when you do nothing to the ‘big men’ whom the Aboki work for; those powerful and privileged people with access to large allocation of foreign currency. In any case, the Aboki foreign currency traders are back in business, plying their trade on the same street corners in broad daylight.

ON SECURITY!

During the 2023 Presidential Campaign,, Vice President Shettima touted his security system credentials, promising to keep the country safe. Under your watch, however, cases of abductions, kidnappings, ritual killings, armed robberies, farmer/ herders clashes, illegal mining operations, land grabs/ deadly community clashes over land ownership , and terrorism have all been on the rise.

The old battle between farmers and herders in Benue State has had a new lease of life since you took office, and for the past six months in particular, the entire country has felt like a country under siege as abduction for ransom is reported happening everywhere at any time of the day on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, while Nigerians are locked down in fear, your administration has issued no clear policy statement, nor taken any coordinated action against insecurity. On the contrary, Vice President Shettima, your man who vowed to secure the Nation is conspicuously missing in action. And more ominously, the vice president is himself suspected of aiding and abetting insecurity.

Recently, on National Television, Hajia Najaatu Mohammed, a former Senior member of your Presidential Election campaign reminded Nigerians of shettima’s past cordial relationship with one Kabir Sokoto, a notorious Boko Haram kingpin, and alleged that the Vice President might in fact be providing cover for some of the evil criminals who are currently terrorizing the country.

The Vice President’s silence in the face of these weighty allegations does not help his image , particularly in light of his own confession that he is afraid to go home to his village for fear of reprisal from angry citizens.

ON FOREIGN POLICY!

Your first foreign policy statement, like your first economic statement, was a disaster because it was a rash decision uttered without proper consultation.

Your immediate response to the news of a military coup detat in Niger Republic was to issue a threat of war against that sovereign nation if it did not reinstate its ousted President. Gladly, the National Assembly rejected your call to arms. Nevertheless, a great deal of damage has been done.

It has tainted your position as chairman of Economic Organization and of West African Countries (ECOWAS). Within nine months of your leadership, Niger, Mali, Borkina Faso, and Guinea have opted to leave the Union. ECOWAS is falling apart, and so is the image of Nigeria as the giant of Africa!

To bring the matter closer to the unstable socio- economic conditions in which Nigeria finds itself today ; the punitive actions you have taken against Niger may hold more adverse consequences for Nigeria than they do for Niger Republic .

When you cut off the power supply which Nigeria has made available to Niger Republic since the days of General Gowon, instead of throwing the country into confusion, Nigerien citizens came around the military junta in solidarity. You, on the other hand, by that act became an enemy of the people of Niger, and people around the world who saw the new Nigerien leaders as heroes of the 21st century resistance against European colonialism.

When you blocked the Nigerian border against Niger, you thought you would starve the people of Niger, instead the cost of food escalated in Nigeria. Today , it is not Nigerien citizens who are protesting on the streets crying of hunger, but Nigerians.

When you cut off diplomatic relations with Niger Republic, you thought Niger would become a pariah Nation. On the contrary, other nations have joined Niger to call your bluff by withdrawing their membership of ECOWAS.

The consequences of alienating these neighboring countries have been devastating not only to Nigeria’s food supply and trade, but also to this country’s security. Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and now Guinea no longer feel obligated to protect their borders against Nigeria’s enemies. This accounts for the dramatic increase in the number of bandits and terrorists entering Nigeria from the north since you took office!

GOVERNANCE!

In nine months of being in office, you have borrowed more money than the notorious Muhammadu Buhari borrowed in four years. Nigeria’s external debt has risen by over 30%. Just like the previous administration, your government will be using over 80% of the county’s reserves to service debts. Essentially, you are spending the money you borrowed to pay for the money you borrowed!

Under the circumstances, the most sensible thing to do would be to reduce spending, even if you are unable, and increase revenue.

Rather than financial restraint however, you went on a spending spree. The size of your cabinet, the largest in Nigerian history, is also the most costly the country has ever seen. At 160 million naira each , cost of providing vehicles for National Assembly Members runs into billions of naira.

In addition, you’ve approved billions of naira worth of personal allowances for yourself, the First Lady, Vice President Shettima as well as for your Chief of Staff, Mr Gbajabiamila.

Apart from cases of wasteful spending, the quality of your appointments has called your sense of judgement into question. Many of your ministers are known corrupt politicians, and former governors who have been rejected at the polls by their people. An example of these dead wood appointees is Atiku Bugudu, a notorious money laundering baron, still wanted in the United Kingdom for his role in hiding away billions of dollars stollen from Nigeria by former military ruler, General Sanni Abacha.

Arguably, nepotism was the worst characteristic trait of Buhari’s deplorable administration. With wanton disregard for merit, Buhari appointed his kinsmen to every position imaginable. Disappointingly, you have replicated Buhari’s ethnocentric behavior. Like Buhari, you have appointed your old cronies and family members to positions , regardless of their qualifications.

Your latest such appointment was in February when you made your son in law , Director General of Federal Housing Authority, and followed the appointment with a generous allocation of 200 billion naira.

National reaction to these nepotistic and self-serving appointments has been to aggravate distrust for the Yoruba, your ethnic group. This is the same way Buhari’s ethnocentric behavior turned the rest of the country against his people, the Fulani.

A SERIES OF BROKEN PROMISES!

Among other things, your integrity has been called into question by Nigerians due to your failure to keep the promises you make.

Consider your string of broken promises:

a)Federal Government workers would get a Wage Award of 35,000 naira by December 2023.

b) A National Minimum wage Committee to decide on a minimum wage increase will be set up , and the decision of the Committee will be implemented by the government with immediate effect.

c) 25,000 naira cash transfer will be made to 15 million poor households.

d) Workers and Small businesses will be given Tax waivers.

e) Buses which run on gas (CNG) buses with 55,000 Conversion kits will be provided to the Transportation sector.

f) The Port Harcourt Refinery will be fully operational by December 2023.

g) State Governments and Private Sector Employers will be compelled by the Federal Government to give Wage Award to workers.

h) Fertilizer will be provided as palliative to farmers across the Country.

I) The Student Loan Scheme would be launched and fully operational by October, 2023.

j) The Student Loan Scheme would be launched in January, 2024.

These are some of the promises you made to the Nation in deliberations with Nigerian Labour Congress . The purpose of the agreements being interventions to alleviate hardships caused by the current harsh economic climate. Unfortunately, when NLC complained about your failure to honor these agreements you lashed out in anger , accusing the Labour Congress of plotting to discredit your administration ahead of the 2027 Election!

Like the notoriously unpopular Muhammadu Buhari your actions have not only damaged the economy and undermined the people’s security, they have also escalated ethnic division and mutual distrust amongst Nigerians!.

Mr President, calling attention to policies and actions which impact the people negatively is not an indication that your critics love you less, it is simply that they love Nigeria more.

Every administration must answer for its actions and inactions in real time; that is during the life of the administration. It was your decision to remove fuel subsidy by fiat. It was your decision to float the naira, and it was your decision to Institute punitive action against Niger Republic. The cumulative effect of these decisions has been a weakened economy, aggravated poverty, escalated insecurity, a frustrated citizenry,and angry citizenry!

The personal approach of a leader to governance also contributes to the response of citizens to his government. It’s sad to say, but the truth of the matter is that your approach has done nothing to endear you to the Nigerian public.

Unlike your predecessor, Mohammadu Buhari who told Nigeria’s not to expect too much because he was a slow old man, you announced your coming as a show business personality. You flaunted your academic and professional credentials, only for us to discover that you are not a certified accountant as you claimed, but more of a store keeper; a tax collector at best. You road around in bullion vans boasting that you were so independently wealthy that you could finance the country, only for us to discover that you are still looking for money: allocating oil wells to your family and friends as proxy for your self enrichment. You came into office, boasting of how you will develop Nigeria as you developed Lagos State. Your lackluster performance as President has led to an inquiry of the claim by pundits, and it has come to light that actually, you achieved little during your tenure as governor of Lagos State.

By rating of contribution to the development of Lagos, Governors Lateef Jakande would score 75%, Raji Fashola 65%, and Akinwunmi Ambode 60%. You would come a distant last with 40%.

In conclusion, a government may be impacted by some extraneous circumstances during its tenure. In that regard, it can be said that the woeful immediate past administration of Buhari had prepared the current atmosphere of economic and social dysfunctionality.

That said, the fundamental reason why your administration is overwhelmed, and Nigerians all over seem disenchanted is that the country cannot be effectively governed under the over centralized system of government. As a matter of fact, the result of governing Nigeria in a Unitary manner since 1999; the current political dispensation, has been virtually the same for all the administrations: a weak economy, deepening insecurity, disunity, mutual distrust, and growing ethnic tension.

What we are witnessing during your tenure in office is the coming of age of an idea which Nigerians have nursed since the end of the Civil war and the beginning of succession of military dictatorship: a return to Geopolitical semi autonomy.

In 2014 , the idea was given a new lease of life by President Good luck Jonathan and his 2014 National Conference .

Essentially, what the Conference recommended is that for the country to function effectively, the government must embrace the tenets of real Federalism; a decentralization of federal government authority , devolution of fiscal, and security powers to states as Federating Units.

This idea, popularly termed “Restructuring,” and recently referred to as “Reconfiguring ” by Professor Wole Soyinka has been embraced by all of the country’s leading sociopolitical groups; Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum,and Northern Elders Council. Virtually all of the Nation’s Leaders of Thought are also in line with the general public on this ever popular proposition.

Recently, you were reported as saying you will Restructure Nigeria in your own way, at your own time. I put it to you sir, that the project is bigger than you, or any President. It is the defining notion of our time, propelled by the spirit of the people. You cannot dictate its timing nor its character.

Restructuring has taken a life of its own. Notice how State Governors are coming up with all sorts of ways to tackle the problems of food shortages, an ailing economy, inadequate power generation, and insecurity. In order to avoid what may turn out to be a chaotic and lawless declaration of State independence, the Federal government and the National Assembly, should institutionalize the notion of Decentralization of federal government powers and increased autonomy of States. The process can begin with a repeal of the 1999 over centralized Constitution , and the establishment of a truly democratic constitution!

Mr President, it is
becoming increasingly evident that Nigeria as presently configured is ungovernable. Your honest and unalloyed commitment to the people’s yearning to Reset the structure of government will tell Nigerians whether you are interested in presiding over a Nation: “The United States of Nigeria, ” or whether you are satisfied with mere appearances: a President for the sake of being called president; the Head of a Geographical Expression in the last stages of Disintegration. The choice is yours!

Mr President, have a blessed Ramadan!

 

Yours Sincerely,
Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, PhD, Public Affairs Analyst, Convener Reset Lagos PDP.

Sunday,17th March 2024.

 

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the publisher or staff of The Lagosian Magazine.

 

 

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