President Bola Tinubu
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s President since May 29 2023, once said that his lifelong ambition was to become the President of Nigeria. He was lucky that his dream came true. Though the outcome of the election remains contested, he has been Nigeria’s President the past one week. So what are the takeaways from his one week in office?
One, there was a bounce from his inauguration. Though Tinubu came to office with a huge legitimacy crisis and is one of the most scandal-ridden African Presidents, no fewer than 20 Presidents from around the world attended the inauguration according to some media reports. American President Joe Biden sent a delegation as did the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. And these were despite the damning reports of most of the international election observers of the Presidential election in which INEC declared him the winner and the campaign by the opposition for world leaders not to legitimize Tinubu’s ‘victory’ by congratulating him.
One Week After Tinubu Take over
The unintended consequences of Tinubu’s declaration on the day of his inauguration, stating “fuel subsidy is gone,” overshadowed the bounce from the inauguration.”. That speech immediately led to the panic buying of fuel, the return of queues in petrol stations across the country and the jumping of pump prices in some filling stations to as much as N700 per litre.
While everyone expected the removal of fuel subsidy, the three leading presidential candidates – Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, and Peter Obi – had promised to eliminate it if they won the election. However, Tinubu’s approach to removing the subsidy turned out to be more dramatic than anticipated. Those who argue that the outgoing government forced the decision upon Tinubu overlook his authority to reverse it. He had the option to send a supplementary budget to the National Assembly, where he could request the maintenance of funding for the subsidy while he gathered his team and the necessary infrastructure to mitigate the impact of the policy.
My feeling is that by announcing the ending of the fuel subsidy regime the way he did he wanted to convey a message that he would be a decisive President who would not bulk at taking tough decisions. This is particularly true if we relate his statement of “fuel subsidy is gone” to his pre-inaugural speech. In that speech, he declared that he did not want anyone to pity him due to the immense challenges facing the nation because he actively pursued and campaigned for the job.
The third point is that the nationwide unrest arising from the announcement of the subsidy removal reveals that hardship does not align with any particular ethnic, religious, or political party affiliation. In fact, the argument that fuel subsidy benefits only (or even mostly the rich) is motor park economics as everyone – rich, middle class, the poor and businesses – seems overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding following the nearly 300% hike in the pump price of fuel in this largely generator-dependent economy.
Fuel Subsidy Removal: Tinubu one week takeover
Suddenly, the perpetual online conflict between the ardent supporters of Tinubu and others, often erroneously grouped as ‘Obedients,’ appears to have subsided. Now, everyone seems concerned about how the policy will affect them once it permeates the entire value chain.
While a new price template of N488 per litre in Lagos and N537 and N557 in Abuja and Borno state respectively announced by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)led to the disappearance of queues in most filling stations, it would take a while for the effects of the huge price hike to fully work themselves through the country’s various value chains. In my view, if the anticipated hardships resulting from this policy become intolerable and do not see relief within a reasonable timeframe, even a portion of Tinubu’s staunchest supporters will join the ranks of those who desire the court to overturn his declaration as the victor of the 25th February 2025 election.
Four, just a few days after his inauguration, some putative centres of power in the Tinubu government had begun to emerge. One of the President’s children, Folasade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja (“Mother of the Market”) of Lagos markets, crowned herself the First Daughter of Nigeria and also elevated her position from the Iyaloja of Lagos Markets to Iyaloja of Nigeria.
She also announced the launching of what she called Friends of Iyaloja Initiative, which she said will “channel her experience, connections and human resources” towards supporting her father’s administration. Similarly, just a few days after his inauguration, there was a viral video of the First Lady, Senator Remi Tinubu, sitting in a purported economic meeting with President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele and the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited NNPCL, Mele Kyari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While some argued that the First Lady sitting in such a meeting was a violation of protocol, her supporters counter that as head of the Senate committee on NNPC during Saraki’s era as Senate President, she sat at the purported meeting as a politician, not as First Lady. The point here is that one of the issues used against Tinubu during the campaigns was that different members of his family (Remi, Seyi and Folashade in particular) might constitute themselves into independent centres of power if he won the election.
Five, in the one week of his presidency, Tinubu has started assembling members of his kitchen cabinet. On June 2 2023, just five days after his inauguration, he appointed the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as his new Chief of Staff, former Deputy Governor of Jigawa State, Sen. Ibrahim Hadejia, as Deputy Chief of Staff and Former Minister of Special Duties, George Akume, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
While his appointments so far mirror the tendency for Chief Executives to populate their kitchen cabinets with long term allies and loyalists, he has so far not included very controversial individuals that would make the task of post campaign reconciliation more problematic. For instance, if they had appointed former Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai, as rumored, to the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), it would have complicated the process of reconciliation.
This is because El Rufai not only championed the Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna, he sought to institutionalize that anomaly by ensuring that his handpicked successor retained the same Muslim-Muslim template. Similarly, achieving reconciliation would have been more challenging if the government had given front row seats to Bayo Onanuga and Femi Fani Kayode, who actively fueled ethnic hatred, promoted provincialism, and propagated Igbophobia.
Overall, Tinubu started with a fumble as many newly elected leaders often do. This is because while politicians are said to campaign in poetry, in governance, they will be forced to rule in prose. They will not only discover that the devil is in the detail but will also find out that every policy or even major pronouncement, has unintended consequences.
About the Author
Jideofor Adibe is Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Nasarawa State
University, Keffi and Extraordinary Professor of Government Studies at North Western
University, Mafikeng South Africa. He is also the founder of Adonis & Abbey Publishers and can be reached at 0705 807 8841(Text or WhatsApp only).