Unless drastic, coherent and proactive measures are taken, the chickens may soon be coming home to roost for the fledgling Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. I state this with the highest sense of responsibility and advised by recent tragic events and ominous auguries.
For the first time, and on his watch, we have thus far had a rash of peaceful demonstrations against hardship. Nigerians, in their numbers, protested in Kano, Minna and Suleija. It is noteworthy that even before he departed Lagos for Abuja, after the Christmas and New Year breaks, Lagosians shouted at his convoy that Nigerians were having a hard time.
The Naira plunged to its lowest point some two weeks ago, exchanging at not less than 1,500 to an American dollar. This precipitous nosedive further increased the prices of products – from foodstuffs to building materials. Little wonder, the protests we saw in Minna and Suleija came hot on the heels of the further collapse of the Naira which resulted in spiraling inflation and worsening living conditions. On the security front, we witnessed an uptick. Insecurity not only heightened, it escalated to an all-time high. It was hallmarked by the killing of three monarchs in Ekiti and Kwara states, many acts of terror, kidnappings and criminality.
Even as the country was literally on fire, the President jetted out of the country, claiming he was paying a private visit to France. The visit which lasted 13 days, and which is alien to our laws, smacked of insensitivity and abdication of responsibility of the reckless variety. It is tantamount to a head of family who deserts his home as it is ablaze and relocates to the cosiness of a placid abode in another district, leaving his family to its devices. Worse, and grating to the sensibility of Nigerians, was that political jobbers visited the President in France and had photo opportunities with him. As if that were not insulting enough, they proceeded to regale us with how our President cared for us.
It is horrendous that in the midst of these insults and in spite of the cacophony of laments recently issued by bigwigs of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and their sympathisers, that the economy was in a terrible place, government has not deemed it wise to come clean and tell Nigerians, in crystal clear terms, how bad it was. This writer had argued that such an accounting was in consonance with democratic ethos which put premium on transparency.
He also argued that such openness would elicit the support and understanding of Nigerians who are being daily exhorted to make sacrifices. It is heartwarming that one’s clarion cry is not a lone one in the wilderness. Acclaimed economic pundits, such as Bismarck Rewane, have joined the bandwagon of the clamour for full disclosure regarding the parlous state of the economy. Mr. Rewane has also underscored what all right thinking Nigerians had previously observed: that President Tinubu’s economic team is not stellar enough and that his Central Bank leadership may not be well credentialed and savvy for the task at hand.
This assessment may appear unflattering and disapproving. But it is adjudged by the reflexiveness of government policies, government’s lack of coherence and constancy, the continued exodus of multinational corporations and government’s frequent resort to summoning the fire brigade to put out fires. Given the headwinds which confront us on the economic front, what we require is a solid economic team at par with, if not surpassing, the one which former President Olusegun Obasanjo constituted during his civilian tenure.
Apart from coming clean on the economy, President Tinubu must be forthcoming on his frequent visits to France. It appears quixotic and unserious that a man whose ambition is to transform our economy into a trillion dollar one can leave the country and his exalted office on a whim and pay a private visit to another country. This writer is yet to hear or learn, in the modern age or era, of a President of the type of country Tinubu aspires Nigeria to attend, who has paid a private visit to some other country and for 13 days without just cause or compelling reason(s).
American Presidents and British Prime Ministers travel abroad. But they do so either in the line of duty or official vacation. An extreme case was Bill Clinton who travelled to far-flung Australia and Africa to play golf and to go on a safari. But he did those when he was on official vacation and America was at peace. And to say that President Tinubu’s visit to France came shortly after a vacation in Lagos, and at a time of heightened insecurity, smacks of insensitivity of the highest order.
It is true that during the campaigns, the media organisations were awash with lurid speculations about the President’s health. But these speculations, which animated the media space, were thought merely to be the handiwork of his political opponents who were keen on undoing him. Assuming that these speculations were valid after all. And assuming that the President were suffering from one ailment or the other, and he needs medical treatment abroad, what stops him from opening up and telling Nigerians rather than using private visits as veneers or covers?
The President, after all, is human. And as humans, we have frailties and we can fall ill. In fact, few persons, who are above 60 years, can be said to be free or immune from one health challenge or the other. It will, therefore, not be surprising, if at his age, the President is suffering from an ailment. If that is the case, what is wrong in leveling with Nigerians? Besides, democracy as we have often stated, thrives on transparency. The more leaders are open, especially about their health, the more they get the respect and empathy of their citizens. Openness also demystifies these ailments and encourages fellow sufferers or those with similar health challenges to come forward and obtain help. Their first thoughts will be: if the President is getting help, why not us, ordinary citizens?
It is ennobling that even monarchs, who ordinarily have no obligation to disclose their health statuses, because they are not elected, are coming clean with their subjects. A notable and most recent one is King Charles III. In respect of coming clean on his health, King Charles has carried himself splendidly and to the admiration of the world. He first announced he was going to the clinic to treat a benign prostrate. When, however, his diagnosis revealed cancer, he, rather than allow some nosey reporter to out him, was forthcoming. He announced to the world, via an official statement issued by Buckingham Palace, that he had cancer and that he was proceeding, with alacrity, to treat it. His prompt announcement accomplished three salient things: it endeared him to Britons, it earned him the empathy of leaders and ordinary folks around the world and it strengthened and comforted more than three million Britons who live with cancer. They now know they are not alone in their travails.
President Tinubu must be forthcoming, both with the economy and his visits to France. It is by so doing that he will show respect for Nigerians, put our democracy on a transparent pedestal, invest the presidency with dignity and get the sympathy of Nigerians.
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