In defense Of Tinubu: Balancing official responsibilities and personal time

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

By Gidado Ibrahim

President Bola Tinubu’s recent private trip to France has sparked public debate, with critics like Atiku Abubakar and Femi Falana questioning its timing amidst national challenges. While their concerns deserve consideration, a balanced perspective acknowledges the president’s right to personal time and the potential benefits of international engagements.

First, the Nigerian Constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid private travel by the president. While demanding dedication to duty, it doesn’t restrict personal liberties entirely. It’s crucial to remember that presidents are also individuals with families and personal needs. Denying them the right to private time could set an unreasonable precedent.

Second, framing the trip purely as “fiddling” or “embarrassing” ignores potential diplomatic or personal gains. International engagements can foster crucial partnerships, gather insights, or simply allow for cultural exchange. Without details, judging the trip’s value solely on its private nature is unfair.

Third, comparing President Tinubu’s travels to former President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical visits is misleading. While concerns about leadership availability are valid, conflating private trips with medical absences creates an inaccurate narrative. Transparency regarding the purpose and duration of private trips can address concerns about dereliction of duty.

But what the critics fail to understand is that President Tinubu’s foreign travels are dwarfed when compared to some presidents of other African countries. For instance, President Paul Biya of Cameroon has been in power since 1982 – 35 years in total. 

But the 85-year-old leader is said to have spent less than 30 of those years in Cameroon itself. Biya likes to travel abroad. As a result, he has missed some far-reaching events in the country he rules from afar. According to an investigation by the OCCRP, an anti-corruption NGO, in 2006 and 2009, Biya spent a third of the year abroad.

However, President Tinubu’s critics raise valid points. The timing of the trip, amidst security concerns and economic woes, warrants scrutiny. Public perception matters, and addressing optics is crucial. Perhaps a shorter trip or clearer communication about its purpose could have mitigated criticism.

Furthermore, ensuring the country’s well-being remains paramount. While private trips are permissible, they shouldn’t become excessive or undermine the president’s core responsibilities. Striking a balance between personal time and effective leadership is key.

Judging President Tinubu’s trip solely on its private nature is unproductive. While transparency and responsible timing are crucial, denying him personal time infringes his fundamental rights. A balanced perspective acknowledges both the right to personal liberty and the need for effective leadership, particularly, during challenging times. Open communication and responsible use of private time can help ensure both are met.

In the United States of America, it is unclear how the White House designates travel that is not directly related to a governmental or political function, because of traditional reluctance to address this matter. It appears that, in most cases, such travel is treated as official, on the assumption that the president and vice president are always on duty. Vacation trips, for example, fall under the official travel category. 

Yet, in the midst of the hues and cries over the president’s foreign trips are enough positives to show under the renewed hope administration. Suffice to defend the achievements of Tinubu’s first nine months in government. The president does not go to frontline, but he ensures that the security agencies get all the needed support to keep the country safe. He has been delivering maximally on his campaign promises in this regard.

Let me mention quickly that Tinubu has increased military funding: Boosting military funding and acquiring new equipment aims to strengthen the fight against terrorism and banditry. However, addressing underlying socio-economic factors fueling insecurity is crucial for sustainable peace and this has attracted most attention from the president. That is why he is not taking the Ministry of Humanitarian Services lightly.

Community Engagement: Initiatives like engaging local communities in intelligence gathering and fostering dialogue has also taken the front burner. The effectiveness of these programme depends on building trust and addressing root causes of conflict.

Regional Cooperation: Collaborating with neighbouring countries is vital for tackling cross-border security threats. The success of such cooperation hinges on effective intelligence sharing and coordinated operations. Tinubu has identified this and doing everything to get the buy-in of Nigeria’s neighbours.

To ensure the underlining causes of insecurity like poverty is being addressed. The president has increased the tempo of anti-corruption, economic reforms, and security efforts. It is on record that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is making huge recoveries of looted funds under Tinubu than other anytime in the country’s history.

The government has recovered billions of stolen funds from previous administrations, demonstrating progress in retrieving misappropriated public resources. Continued focus on repatriation and transparent utilisation of recovered funds is vital. Last week, the EFCC announced to the applause of Nigerians that it has recovered N30 billion from the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Sadiya Umar-Farouq.

The sacking of former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, on corruption allegations sends a message of zero tolerance for corruption and misconduct within the administration. Recently, a report by the Auditor General of the Federation exposed the disappearance of $3.4 billion IMF loans during the last administration. 

Economic Reforms

Diversification Efforts: Initiatives like promoting non-oil exports and boosting agriculture aim to reduce dependence on volatile oil revenues. The success of these programmes hinges on effective implementation and tackling infrastructural bottlenecks.

Ease of Doing Business: Streamlining business registration processes and reducing bureaucratic hurdles are positive steps. Continued streamlining and attracting foreign direct investment are crucial for long-term economic growth. These achievements are still young and their long-term impact remains to be seen.

Implementation challenges, bureaucratic hurdles, and vested interests can hinder progress but Tinubu is on top of his game. Open communication, transparency, and accountability are crucial for building public trust and ensuring the sustainability of these initiatives.

President Tinubu’s first nine months in office have been eventful, marked by both challenges and progress. While criticisms regarding his frequent private travels and communication strategies exist, it is crucial to evaluate his administration’s achievements in key areas like anti-corruption, economic reforms, and security.

In conclusion, while challenges remain, the Tinubu administration has shown progress in key areas like anti-corruption, economic reforms, and security. Recognising these achievements while acknowledging the need for continued improvement and transparent communication can foster a more constructive dialogue about the government’s performance.

The truth is that you will learn a lot more about people in tough times than in good times. We are in a society where people get angry when you don’t let them destroy your target, which is to loot public funds and cause civil unrest. It’s high time the army of critics of the renewed hope administration joined hands with Tinubu in the fight against these looters of public funds and the prosecution of corruption culprits. This will create the enabling environment to wriggle Nigerians out of manufactured poverty created by syndicates of corrupt practices. 

Our country is in dire need of more economic development solutions to alleviate the suffering of the poor masses, but some group of propagandists are trying to avail themselves of the nation’s economic challenges to instigate tension among the citizens. This is where the NIA, DSS, Police, ICPC, EFCC, CCB and the Nigerian Immigration Service, as well as other relevant stakeholders should step in and assist in efforts to actualise the renewed hope agenda of President Tinubu. May the Almighty God bless our beloved country.