Last week, we ended the first part of this treatise with the question whether Nigerians think the right thing to do is to go back to Egypt, as it were, because of the hardship occasioned by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s policies of “fuel subsidy is gone” and the floating (devaluation) of the Naira. “Going back to Egypt” here means being nostalgic, so soon, about the Muhammadu Buhari ruinous administration or even of the clueless, corrupt and incompetent Goodluck Azikiwe Ebele Jonathan administration before it. Life under those regimes appear today as “better” than what we are experiencing under Tinubu because Jonathan and Buhari not only neglected what they ought to have done but also watched the mindless and criminal plundering of the resources of the country, stripping it bare and leaving only its carcass for Tinubu to try and fill up again.
Human memory is very short, posits Adolf Hitler; so it is understandable that millions of Nigerians may have forgotten, so soon, the havoc visited on the country by the combination of Jonathan and Buhari. Otherwise, why did the Israelites forget so soon the risk to life taken by Moses and the great sacrifice he made to return to the same Egypt which he had fled as someone wanted for the crime of murdering an Egyptian? Remember that this was an offence committed by Moses in defence of an Israelite but which same people, unfortunately, turned the matter upside down for Moses, as a result of which he had to flee the palace, abandoning all its comfort and becoming a tender of his in-law’s flock in the backside of the desert of Midian?
Faced with existential threat at the Red Sea, the Israelites forgot the miracles that God wrought through the hands of Moses and his brother Aaron; they even forgot the God who mandated Moses to come to their rescue; they forgot that they were the ones who had cried unto God for rescue after 430 years of bondage in Egypt; and they also forgot the promise of the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey made to them. That is the nature of man! If the hardship and suffering in the land persist for too long, expect the people to likewise murmur and rise up against Tinubu. They are even doing so already! Expect push to become shoving if the situation does not improve fast enough and good enough. The renewed hope promised by Tinubu must surface fast, fast. The light at the end of the tunnel must become visible before it is too late.
Three things that Tinubu must do: The first is to increase the country’s sources of income. Our age-long dependence on rents from crude oil exploration will no longer do. Agriculture, mining and manufacturing must now come to the rescue. The various parts of the country must be put back to work as was the case in the 1st Republic. Restructuring has become a sine qua non. Secondly, we must plug all loopholes and wastages, such as crude oil theft; remove all obstacles to production activities preventing us from meeting our OPEC quota; resolve the insecurity problem that has driven farmers from the farm and businesses and investments from the country; and tackle runaway corruption. Third is the need to drastically cut the cost of governance. Do we still need a bi-camera Legislature? Can we in all honesty finance the expensive American-styled presidential system? Do we need the waste of resources that camouflage as Local Government administration?
The US cabinet has the president, vice-president and heads of 15 executive departments called Secretaries (or Ministers) but here, we have 48 Ministers, not counting the plethora of Special Adviser this, Special Assistant that. We even used to have another layer of Minister of state of, for, at, etc! In size as well as in population (332 million), the USA is bigger and by far wealthier than Nigeria but runs a leaner and more efficient administration. Here, too much resource is committed to the salaries, emoluments and upkeep of a minute segment of the society, leaving nothing tangible for development purposes.
Tinubu in his first 60 days in office has removed fuel subsidy in a move that has meant throwing the baby away with the bathwater; going after the subsidy thieves, securing our borders and preventing smuggling and round tripping of petroleum products would have been a better option. He has also stopped the foreign exchange round-tripping and racketeering that benefitted a few fat cats to the chagrin of real manufacturers. But the challenge that comes with that is the depreciation of the Naira and the attendant inflationary trend driving prices of virtually everything through the roof. We have seen efforts at fighting crude oil theft, even though the target for now appears as the small-time thieves; and the war against insecurity appears upbeat. Some fine-tuning may be needed here and there – same with the Student Loans Act – but these are steps in the right direction.
The problem that many have foreseen is the gestation period for these policies to mature and bear positive fruits. Will Tinubu be fast enough? Will he move in the right direction while avoiding gaffes and unforced errors? There has been too many of such in so short a time! Will the people be patient and supportive enough? Confidence-building is very important. Subsidy removal and Naira devaluation affect everyone, to be sure, but the rich are better able to adjust to its vagaries than the poor. And there is nothing in place for now to help the poor make the necessary adjustment. For how long can the poor bear this yoke unaided? Another sour point is that while the poor are being called upon to tighten their belt, the government people are not leading by example. Appeal to people’s sense of patriotism thus rings hollow and the platitudes of government sound like deceit.
In the midst of all of this, is going back to Egypt an option? Our people love the fire brigade approach to issues; they also love cutting corners. We tend not to understand that it is easier to destroy than to build. That must account for why we did not stir enough when Jonathan and Buhari were ruining the country. Those who shouted cried themselves hoarse to no avail. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. There is no shortcut to repairing the economy. There is no easy route either. My prayer is that we have learnt our lessons now and will never again – and starting with Tinubu – keep mute as if nothing concerns us when our governments ruin the polity. And this does not pertain to the Centre alone but also to states and local governments, some of whose conditions may even be worse than the Federal Government’s!
The Nigeria Labour Congress has suspended its strike action with a promise to resume again next week if the Tinubu administration does not play ball? What exactly are the demands of the NLC? They should tell us! What has the government offered? We need to know! This is not an issue that Labour should be allowed to keep to itself because we are all involved. And because we are involved (apologies to Ojukwu), we must hold Labour’s feet to the fire on this very sensitive issue.
Comrade Laoye Sanda: The last of the origins
On Wednesday, 26 July, 2023, I made the trip to Ibadan to honour our comrade, Dr. Laoye Sanda, whom we usually addressed as Comrade Sanda. Comrade had just dropped the baton and a symposium titled “Marxists, masses and nations: Way forward for Nigeria’s Left” was one of the events organised by his family, friends and Nigeria’s Left to honour him and mourn/mark his exit from this terrestrial plane. Comrade Laoye will be remembered for the many cadres he helped to raise at the Ibadan Polytechnic, where he held sway for decades and for the role he played, together with Comrade Ola Oni, Prof. Bade Onimode (of the famous Ibadan axis of the Nigerian Leftist movement) in the 1978 Ali Must Go student uprising against the commercialisation of education in Nigeria by the Olusegun Obasanjo military junta. The three, together with many other conscientious university lecturers, workers and students, were fired from their job and or were rusticated from school. As would be expected, polemics took the centre stage at the symposium. A topical issue was the place of nationalism in Marxist struggle which, in my view, has unfortunately been rubbished by some comrades as tribal or ethnic politics. They may have to revisit Marx, Lenin and even Stalin’s postulations on the national question. Everywhere we gloss over the national question, we do so at our peril. Witness Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia or even the old USSR! Continuity was also a sore point discussed at the symposium: Why is it that older and well-placed comrades see no need to support structures into which younger Leftists can graduate into and grow? Sanda, like Oni and Onimode, has dropped the baton for others to pick and continue the race. True, then, are the immortal words of Che that “Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms…” There is no denying the fact that Comrade Sanda’s battle cry reached many receptive ears and many hands reached out to pick up the baton that he dropped. Fare thee well, Comrade!
firstname.lastname@example.org 0807 552 5533
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.