Tinubu’s scorecard so far

8

By Usman Yusuf

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s year in office has been one like no other. He has willfully turned Nigerians into destitutes in their land of plenty. In a country that is officially not at war and has not experienced the failure of rainfall and drought, it is very painful to see citizens, predominantly women and children, go through the humiliation of queuing up for cups of rice, as one sees in war-torn Sudan or the Gaza Strip.

This harsh and intolerable condition is a result of President Tinubu’s inhumane, World Bank-prescribed economic policies of sudden removal of fuel subsidies, massive devaluation of the naira, and interest rate and electricity tariff hikes. These misguided policies have resulted in galloping inflation, now at a 28-year high of 33 percent, and a food inflation rate of 40 percent.

In a country with 133 million citizens, or 65 percent of its population, already in multidimensional poverty and over 20 million children out of school, these policies have added millions more citizens to multidimensional poverty and millions more children out of school because their parents cannot pay for their school fees.

Millions of Nigerians, predominantly women and children, go to bed hungry with no certainty of anything to eat when they wake up. Heads of households are absconding from their homes, abandoning mothers with children because they cannot feed their families.

The government’s answer to this self-imposed hardship is to provide food palliatives. On February 8, 2024, President Tinubu directed the release of 42,000 metric tonnes of grains from the strategic grain reserve to be distributed free of charge to vulnerable Nigerians. It has been almost 4 months, but no vulnerable Nigerian has received anything.

The truth is that the federal government knows fully well that all its silos are literally empty. A Northern governor who was co-opted into this ruse went as far as declaring five work-free days for distributing what he very well knew were non-existent palliatives. It is depressing that, 64 years after independence, Nigerians are being turned into beggars by their leaders.

Our children’s education has never been more imperilled than now because of the return of mass school abductions by terrorists. Ten years after the tragic abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents, Nigeria witnessed five mass school abductions (in Gusau, Dutsinma, Gada, Ekiti, and Kuriga) in the first eight months of this administration. In spite of these school abductions, neither the state nor federal governments are doing anything to secure our schools because only the children of the poor are at risk.

Nigeria’s healthcare system is in shambles, with many hospital wards across the country looking distressingly like abattoirs and primary healthcare clinics abandoned. The healthcare financing system has been hijacked by “middlemen” called Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to the detriment of patients and healthcare providers.

The recent hike in electricity tariffs poses an existential threat to the survival of healthcare services in Nigeria. Many hospitals will not be able to pay the new tariffs, as exemplified by a video clip of a doctor lamenting after receiving an electricity bill of N25.3 million.

There is a mass exodus of healthcare workers out of Nigeria because of the conditions of our healthcare facilities, a lack of work tools, and poor pay for healthcare workers. A recent report by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) revealed that there are 130,000 registered doctors in Nigeria serving a population of 200 million, giving a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 doctor serving 1,500 patients (1:1,500).

The WHO’s recommendation is that one doctor should serve 600 patients (1:600). This ratio is much higher in many states, signifying that all Nigerians, regardless of their station in life, live in a very high-risk medical environment.

Millions of Nigerians have simply stopped taking their medications because they cannot afford them and have resorted to traditional medicines and prayers, resulting in increased disease-related complications and deaths.

Recent data from the Nigerian Hypertension Society suggests that of the 70 million Nigerian adults with hypertension, half (35 million) are not on treatment due to the skyrocketing drug prices; consequently, doctors are now seeing more and more hypertension-related complications like stroke, kidney failures, heart failures, and deaths.

In the last year, hospitals all across the country have been seeing an exponential rise in the number of children admitted with diseases of severe malnutrition (Marasmus and Kwashiorkor).

Children of the poor continue to die needlessly from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, diphtheria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and meningitis due to a lack of access to healthcare.

Contrary to the official propaganda and half-truths about improvements in Nigeria’s national security, the reality on the ground, particularly in the Northwest and North Central parts of the country, says differently. Terrorists still control a large swath of the country’s rural areas fifteen and nine years into the wars against Boko Haram and Bandits, respectively.

The land is still drenched in the blood of the innocent; villages are being ransacked and pillaged; villagers are being chased off their homes or abducted for ransom. Farmers are chased off their farmlands or levied on their harvests. Major highways still remain unsafe from terrorists who attack travellers, killing and abducting passengers at will for ransom. Ethno-religious conflicts and killings continue unabated.

The 400 women and children abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from IDP camps in Gamboru Ngala, Borno State, on March 3, 2024, have been forgotten by the government.

The morale of members of the military is at its lowest because active-duty personnel are increasingly being ambushed and killed by terrorists all across the country. In the last 8 months, over 500 officers and soldiers have been reported killed in such attacks.

Recent hurried, unplanned withdrawals of the military from two bandit-infested areas in Maru LGA, Zamfara State, and Shiroro LGA, Niger State, where the military sustained unfortunate losses, could very well be a sign of frustration and battle fatigue in our soldiers.

While their house is on fire, 10 Northern Nigerian governors went to America looking for solutions to problems they are complicit in creating because they control the drivers of insecurity in their states. I have said it again and again that all our security problems are local, and their solutions must be found locally, not in Abuja, New York City, Washington, DC, or anywhere else. The armed militias created by some of these governors in their states have done nothing but worsen the bloodshed.

It is no secret that both the American and French governments have been lobbying the Nigerian government to open bases and station their troops on Nigerian soil following their expulsion from Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. The real concern is that the timing of the invitation to the 10 Northern governors by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) may not be unconnected with this lobby.

Addressing Nigeria’s intractable security challenges will require a sincere, strategic, and holistic approach involving all stakeholders instead of the disjointed fire brigade approach currently employed.

President Tinubu’s economic policies have caused a cost of living crisis in Nigeria, resulting in unbearable hardships for all citizens. Workers’ salaries cannot pay for rent, water, food, clothing, school fees, transportation, and other basic necessities of life.

Runaway inflation has pauperized citizens and worsened hunger in the land. Managers of the economy are at a loss as to what to do. Their attempt at borrowing and hiking interest rates to artificially prop up the value of the naira against the dollar has not and will never work.

It is voodoo economics to think that taxing citizens beyond their capacity to pay will revive Nigeria’s comatose economy. Taxes do not grow economies; production does.

The federal government has quietly resumed paying for the same fuel subsidy it removed on May 29, 2023. The simple questions to ask are: why is the pump price not going back to where it was before the removal of subsidies; were these payments provided for in the 2024 budget; and who are the new Cabals benefiting from these payments?

The attempt by President Tinubu’s administration to impose this so-called cyber security tax on citizens is nothing but a desperate effort to elevate the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to a level that was never intended by the authors of our constitution.

The National Assembly saw through this desperation when it defeated a bill presented to the Senate seeking to grant additional powers and create armed agencies under the National Security Adviser (NSA).

The attempt to create a taxpayer-funded cybersecurity fund appears to be a continuation of this effort that would make the ONSA far better funded than the Ministry of Defence, the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the Nigerian Police, and the Nigerian Intelligence Services. This will be a very dangerous development that will be fatal to our democracy.

We cannot elevate or give power to an appointee way beyond a representative elected by the people. So, to create a fund in the name of whatever aspect of national security is to arm and empower an appointee of the President.

History should teach us the dangers of allowing appointees of the President to amass so much unchecked power, as was the case with J. Edgar Hoover, who became the most powerful FBI’s chief, serving as chief for 48 years under eight United States Presidents.

Never in the 25-year history of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule have we seen such a brazen and reckless act of impunity as was exhibited by President Tinubu in unilaterally awarding a N15.6 trillion Naira contract for the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway to his longtime friend and business associate in violation of all procurement and due process laws and procedures. Such an amount could complete all the inland roads in the country with some change to spare.

This is a classic case of the term state capture, which is defined as a type of systematic corruption where narrow interest groups take control of the institutions and processes through which public policy is made, directing public policy away from the public interest and instead shaping it to serve their own interests.

President Tinubu is already setting his sights on his re-election bid in 2027. This explains why he is aggressively amassing a formidable campaign war chest through overtaxations and levies on citizens.

Consequently, he is aggressively cultivating five major constituencies: Members of the National Assembly, who refuse to ask the right questions as representatives of their people; Governors, who keep their people quiet by throwing at them palliatives of cups of rice; Religious Clerics, who support his Muslim-Muslim ticket; and the Security Services, who he thinks will protect him from citizens’ anger. The last constituency is Hausa Praise Singers, who have been contracted to sing his praises and songs that would distract restive northern youths from their daily sufferings.

It is unfortunate that, through his actions and inactions, the lives, livelihoods, and welfare of Nigerians do not matter to this president.

President Tinubu’s impulsive and amateurish handling of the aftermath of the July 2023 coup in Niger is largely responsible for the exit of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso from the ECOWAS, thereby jeopardising the survival of the organisation created 49 years ago. The exit of these 3 countries from ECOWAS, the acceptance of Russian troops on their soil, and the frenzied lobby of the French and Americans to relocate their military bases to Nigeria are all harbingers of bad things to come.

It is concerning that while many Francophone African countries are breaking free from the shackles of oppression and exploitation by their colonial masters, President Tinubu is dragging Nigeria blindly into the embrace of France.

Nigerians have lost faith and trust in President Tinubu’s government due to continuing hardships, increasing costs of living, insecurity, corruption in government, youth unemployment, and hopelessness. Leaders continue to live lives of vulgar opulence, corruption, and impunity while citizens live in penury.

President Tinubu’s tenure has thus far been a catastrophic failure in governance. His policies have plunged the citizenry deeper into poverty, imperilled our national security, and compromised the integrity of our institutions. Tinubunomics, under the guise of reforms, is only intensifying hardships in the land. The misallocation of resources and corruption reflect a leadership style that prioritises personal enrichment over public interests.

This administration’s actions are disappointing, morally reprehensible, and go against the principles of democracy and good governance. We cannot and will not remain silent.

Usman Yusuf is a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation