Nigerians still face most of the challenges that his party promised to fix eight years ago but President Tinubu says no more excuses.
May 30, 2023
Reading Time: 5 mins read
A few days ago, Vice President Kashim Shettima warned expectant Nigerians that the beginning of the new administration might not be “rosy”. Mr Shettima’s remarks signalled he is aware of the challenges ahead and the bruises on Nigeria’s economy that may take time to heal.
“The starting point might not be rosy, let me be very honest with you,” he said. “The oil subsidy has become an albatross around our necks. The multiple exchange rates system is a drain on the national economy and creates a dual economic system.”
In a short video that went viral recently, President Bola Tinubu admitted there were high expectations from Nigerians. He was responding to a former governor of Borno, Ali-Modu Sheriff, who asked him to perform “the Lagos magic” at the national level.
Mr Tinubu has prayed to God to help him carry the burden of Nigeria’s leadership. Here are some of the biggest challenges his administration faces.
A divided Nation
How can a people divided on ethnic and religious grounds during elections and electioneering live together without chaos? This is a riddle that the Tinubu administration must solve. More than ever before, the presidential elections left Nigerians divided. Many friends became foes because of their choices of candidates during the campaigns.
Election observers and critics blamed the three leading presidential candidates for this division. Mr Tinubu was believed to have sent a wrong signal when he chose a fellow Muslim as his running mate. His rivals took the cue from him in designing a divisive campaign stratagem. The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, ran a campaign that appealed to his kinsmen in the North while Labour Party’s Peter Obi targeted Christians and the Igbos.
A few months after the elections, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Muhammadu Sanusi, said Nigerians have never been this divided since the civil war ended in 1970. He said the elections “dangerously” divided voters “along ethnic and religious lines”.
“I don’t think Nigeria has been in a place as difficult as this since the civil war,” Mr Sanusi said. “We have a challenge of nation-building.”
However, Mr Tinubu said he would prioritise a government of “national competence” over “national unity”. As the former governor of Lagos, he was reputed to have appointed people of diverse backgrounds into his government.
“As your incoming president, I accept the task before me,” he said. “There has been talk of a government of national unity. My aim is higher than that. I seek a government of national competence.
“In selecting my government, I shall not be weighed down by considerations extraneous to ability and performance. The day for political gamesmanship is long gone.”
Nigerians will hope that he lives up to that promise and lead the healing of their nation.
Nigerians expect a huge improvement in the economy and standards of living from a man who has many times boasted of boosting the economy of Lagos amid federal financial suppression. On many campaign stops, Mr Tinubu has bragged about his ability to fix the economy and build wealth for the nation and people.
In a recent analysis, PREMIUM TIMES reckoned that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government failed in the economy. Since Mr Buhari took power in 2015, inflation kept rising, making life more difficult for the people. The inflation rate hit a 16-year high amid an increase in prices and poor purchasing power, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.
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But Mr Tinubu has raised the hope of Nigerians on economic matters. In the few interviews he granted, he talked about how he rejuvenated the Lagos economy and built a state that can be a country on its own.
“I have led an administration that is so prudent — from six hundred million naira internally generated revenue to five billion naira a month,” he told a BBC journalist in an interview. “That’s a record nobody else can brag about. I have treated and tamed the Atlantic Ocean surge in Nigeria that would have perished many people in Lagos.”
Security and Stability
When Mr Tinubu, in an open forum, suggested that Nigeria should recruit “50 million youths into the army”, he probably understood that insecurity is one of the biggest challenges setting the country back. Although the figure was erroneously exaggerated, he showed commitment to recruiting more security officers to fight terrorism and other forms of insecurity in the country.
Under Mr Buhari, insecurity rose drastically, especially in the northern region. The fractured Boko Haram terror group crossed into the North-west and North-central zones of the country, joining already existing armed groups there. As armed bandits operated in the northern region, other violent groups, including the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), a self-determination group, wreaked havoc in the South-east and South-south regions while kidnapping, ritual killing and other crimes gripped the Southwest.
But being a former governor of Borno, the Vice President, Mr Shettima, said he would use his experience in fighting the menace in the state to tackle insecurity in Nigeria.
“I have been in the theatre of conflicts for 18 years, I will lead the troops. My principal is an economy wizard who has transformed Lagos into the third-largest economy in Africa,” he said.
“He will concentrate on the economy. By God’s grace, I will handle the security, and not only handle the security, but I will also lead the troops to battle across the length and breadth of this country.”
Education Sector And All That Matters
One of the major failures of Mr Buhari’s administration was its inability to end industrial strikes by Nigerian university teachers, despite promises made while seeking power in 2015 and 2019 respectively. Adamu Adamu, the immediate past minister of education, used to be a major critic of the government on matters affecting the education sector in Nigeria. But at the ministry, Mr Adamu failed woefully, especially in the aspect of curbing the incessant strikes in higher institutions.
At a valedictory session with officials and heads of parastatals in the ministry, Mr Adamu confessed to having no experience in education management before being appointed to serve as minister of the sector for eight years. “I didn’t know anything about the education sector when I was appointed minister except superficially,” he said, a few days to the end of the administration. “But when Buhari decided to make me Minister of Education, I called some people to assist me work on a policy document on education because I was a novice in the sector.”
While campaigning for Mr Buhari in 2015 and 2019, Mr Tinubu, on different occasions, promised Nigerian students stability in the education sector, assuring them of no strike. That promise was not fulfilled by Mr Buhari’s administration. Mr Tinubu reiterated this promise as the presidential candidate of the APC, saying: “Four-year course will be four years.”
If it can be argued that he was not the president in the last eight years of repeated strikes in Nigerian higher institutions, there would be no room for such an excuse now that he is the president.
Nigeria’s Health Crises
Former President Buhari appears to have spent more time abroad for medication than any Nigerian president. Nigerians expect the next president to fix the country’s hospitals to avoid a repeat of Mr Buhari’s medical tourism. Unfortunately, Mr Tinubu is also notorious for flying abroad to receive medical treatments.
Where is then the hope for fixing Nigeria’s health sector?
But during his campaigns, Mr Tinubu flaunted his track record in Lagos in the area of healthcare. He pledged to put in place a fully functional healthcare system for the country.
“You are going to witness a lot of innovation, the National Health Insurance Act signed into law by the present administration is part of those things,” he said in a town hall meeting held in January. “It is not only to reverse medical tourism, but it also is not rocket science. It is just a function of identifying the facilities you have based on what is on the ground and making sure that there is a match between those facilities, your funding and the personnel.”
‘Don’t Pity Me’ — Tinubu Speaks Over Challenges Ahead
At an event held on the eve of his inauguration, Mr Tinubu assured Nigerians that he is ready for the challenges ahead. He vowed never to make excuses.
“Here is a country that has stumbled a number of times, but has never faltered. We can be squeaky like old mama’s car, but we will never break apart. We are just a unique country,” he said.
“We must fight corruption, poverty, inconsistencies in policies and many other problems confronting us, but don’t pity me, I asked for the job, I campaigned for it, no excuses, I will live up to the bill delivered. I promise you.”
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