For a man who campaigned with the above quote, it’s natural to measure the mileage he has covered ever since he hit the ground running on the 29th of May. Tinubu’s presidency is one month old today. Obviously, my proboscis got disconnected. Otherwise, one couldn’t have failed to notice how fast things have changed in the past month- for good or bad depending on the part of the divide you belong.
Let’s take for instance, the newly elected leaders and their appointees, compared to the rest of us who are currently grappling with hyper-inflation. These men have suddenly acquired new air of importance and affluence even before their first pay cheque. Not surprising at all. It’s public knowledge, that, the only responsibility the government has constantly fulfilled, is its obligations to the political class. That’s why a constitutional matter like election or swearing in cannot be shifted. But, those unconstitutional ones like population census and workers’ welfare can be handled only when convenient.
Don’t get me wrong, like every other business, politicians must recover expenses on investment. Otherwise, political office becomes bad business for them and their followers. If you noticed, from the first to the tenth assembly, there was allegedly none of them that began without paying serious attention to salaries and emoluments of members, as part of their first national assignment. It’s surprising that the new Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives are yet to present their budget for the renovation of the Chambers. In any case, they will. It’s part of the ritual.
Within this one month, this government allegedly made two laudable decisions. I said allegedly, because, I’m not sure of anything in this country any more. If you go to court and see how lawyers ‘put it’ to people, you will avoid both police and the courts. The federal government devalued the currency and then opened the border. The essence of the devaluation is to discourage importation and encourage local industries. On the other hand, opening of the borders will also enhance free flow of goods and persons into the country. Powerful!
I have immense respect for men who keep to their words. Recently, Jagaban has begun to fascinate me as someone who walks his talks, irrespective of the inconveniences. He said emilokan and many of us didn’t like it. So, we said our lokan, but, he got it. Also, he announced the removal of subsidy in his inaugural speech. Fiam! Subsidy was gone, without regard to the provision in the budget that runs beyond May 29th. That’s phenomenal! The approach to the announcement, ‘subsidy is gone’ was most fascinating.
That was how Tinubu announced himself as the new president. No Nigerian president would have been that bold. This is not the first time subsidy removal will feature in inaugural speech, but, none could jagaban it like the Jagaban himself. Perhaps, no well-meaning Nigerian is opposed to subsidy removal, but, the process and consequences.
Ever since that announcement and the slowdown it caused me, I had little time for the news nor participation in public affairs. A man who answers every call by the town crier will not plant agbado in his farm. I had to struggle harder to be able to afford school fees for the kids, since the government has made quality life and education the exclusive reserve of the rich. Let’s not talk about the students’ loan… please!
Whatever kept me away, was interrupted by the citing of the president’s convoy on social media. There were about 120 vehicles in all or even more. Those were expensive and luxurious vehicles, something that evidences how buoyant the country has become recently- for some. You must see why I insist that the hardship in the country is dichotomized. It affects specific persons only.
Considering the cost of fuel, if we can still find those number of SUVs on a convoy, it says a lot about the level of poverty in this country. This display must be juxtaposed with the near absence of the usual Lagos traffic. I just hope that Mr President didn’t fail to notice that the usual Lagos traffic has diminished considerably. Don’t praise the Lagos governor for it. On the contrary, Governor Sanwo-Olu would do anything to increase the number of vehicles on the road, because, that’s a major source of revenue for his government.
Enough on this one-month baby for now. After all, no government comes to power with the aim of oppressing the entire society. It is just our reality- Nigeria’s reality. I guess that some people had to park their cars in order to save enough for the Sallah. On the Sallah day, at chicken republic and other eateries, I saw how customers masticated full spiced chicken. Who affords full chicken these days? Those guys must be ritualists! Also, I, wondered if there were Nigerian workers under the current minimum wage regime among them?
What my eyes saw that day explains why those young security boys were captured dancing at the entrance. Perhaps, the aroma of spiced chicken of different sizes and shapes was all that was needed to quench their appetite or even make them forget that entertainment wasn’t part of their duty. I observed those eateries from afar, that’s what a financially conscious public servant should do. Dominican University just paid salary and the new month has not even started. How am I to cope till the end of the new month, if I stand and fantasize over everything money can buy? Imagine eating chicken on Sallah day and not being able to send the kids to school the following day? It’s enough that many kids are no longer driven to school, because of the hike in the price of petrol. Any further punishment, can cause serious collateral damage on them.
Yes, it’s true that the public servants are the greatest hit by the subsidy removal. But, the pain is gradually healing. What will be bad is if President Tinubu reopens the wounds like Buhari by reintroducing subsidy through the backdoor. The politics of subsidy removal and or adjustment of fuel pump price, has singularly been responsible for the periodic but irreversible price hike in consumables that we have witnessed since 1999. Even if the government decides to adjust and reintroduce subsidy, prices of goods in the market will remain at the peak. International bodies and our brothers who had the opportunity of enjoying quality education and life abroad are currently sermonizing on palliatives and gradual removal of subsidy. Fantastic advice, if it came before the announcement, but not after. Those of us with local content, insist that no palliative can be better than putting a stop permanently to subsidy payment.
Dr Onyike is the Director of HND-BSc Conversion Programmes, Dominican University, Ibadan. [email protected]