“Friends speak the truth to each other. Good friends speak the bitter truth” – Israel’s President Herzog, in address to the US Congress, July 19, 2023.
Herzog stunned the US Congress (National Assembly) by confessing that his country is now practising the same apartheid for which South African whites were globally condemned in the last century. American elected officials who had gathered, expecting another denunciation of Palestinians as terrorist, were shocked into silence. That took courage. Nigeria needs that sort of courage from anybody seeking to advise you on how to run your government – if the courts give you the go ahead.
But, you should be full of prayers. Pray for your victory in court. Otherwise, any decision calling for a national run-off election will mean the end of your presidency. Not because most of the voters actually believe that whoever emerges will save Nigerians from facing the harsh consequences of corrupt management of the presidential form of government since 1999; but, because you are the one left holding the bag. You are the one now administering the more painful therapy; which your cowardly predecessors avoided in bids to win the next election. I have one definition of corruption which is in a book that will soon be published.
LEADERSHIP AND CORRUPTION
“Corruption in this context is disloyalty to purposes for which an institution was set up” – Emeritus Professor Edward ‘B Attah, OON.
Professor Attah is the senior brother of Obong Victor Attah, a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State; and a human library. No matter how much you read, you will find your match in Prof; and, with the memory of an elephant, he remembers everything – not just Pathology. Six planned interviews have left me feeling badly educated. He is one of three Nigerians who induced that feeling each and every time we met. Prof, Pathologist, has played a major role in our national life. He participated in the autopsy of the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola to determine the cause of death of the generally-accepted winner of the June 12, 1993 election. But, he had given us a working definition of official corruption which we can adopt to examine the conduct of our leaders – Presidents, Governors, Senators, Representatives, Ministers, Governors of Central Bank, Justices etc.
All these officials represent institutions which were created by statute – constitution, laws, precedents and conventions. Invariably, they have been established in order for the every transient occupant of the position to serve the national interest. They were not created for a President to refuse to do the right thing; if it means that his political party will lose the next election. That is sabotage bordering on treason.
Since 1999, we have experienced a series of economic policies and programmes embarked upon by all the governments which were anchored on payment of fuel subsidy – even when Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari knew it was not in the national interest to continue the unsustainable and, ultimately, ruinous policy. No army of foreign invaders could have worked for so long to wreck the Nigerian economy as the Presidents before you had done. Follow me down very recent history.
NIGERIA’S BEST KEPT SECRET FOR 50 YEARS
“A secret is best kept; if it is between two people with one dead” – Anonymous American satirist.
We can forgive the American homourist for his statement. He was living in a more decent society than our own. Nigeria is the only country known to me where more than eight Heads of State, military and civilian, have ruled, paid more in fuel subsidy than most of our national debt – and the people have never been told who were the recipients of the trillions of naira that had been paid out.
President Tinubu, if you are ever going to rescue your government and yourself, the first thing you should ask for is an annual list of those who collected the funds paid out for subsidy, how much they supplied, when and why? Fuel subsidy payment accounts for a great deal of debt you have inherited from Buhari; which you will spend the next four years trying to repay. Before you assume responsibility for repayment of the debts incurred, find out how much of fuel subsidy payments were justified. You will be shocked to know how many trillions were pure “authority stealing” approved by all your predecessors to be paid.
Garba Shehu, Buhari’s Senior Special Adviser on Media, recently gave a hint of how deliberate the Buhari era scam was. According to him, Buhari postponed subsidy removal because there was an election coming; and the All Progressives Congress, APC, would have lost if the right thing had been done. Economic sabotage and corruption of governance, by a President, could not have been more openly admitted. The Presidency is an institution; and its occupant is elected to work in the national interest – not in party interest. Buhari, obviously, subverted the national interest, which he swore to uphold, in order to get you elected. Unfortunately for you, he only piled more debt on top of what was there before for you to come and pay. And, he dug a pit for you to fall into as well.
That alone would have been dishonourable enough; because it reveals another slice of Buhari unknown to us. The long delay, by Buhari, in ending subsidy, allowed members of the cabal in his Aso Rock to clean up on fuel subsidy. Buhari was never interested in you as his successor. You forced your way into the Presidency. The man remains Fulani, Muslim and hegemonic till today. Fuel subsidy was retained for two reasons.
THE LAST SHARE OF THE CAKE
“O What a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive” – Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832
One, Buhari delayed the right decision in order to allow his cronies, who had become the largest beneficiaries of fuel subsidy, to have more pieces of the national cake. If you doubt that statement, just ask for the list of beneficiaries of fuel subsidy from 2015 to 2023.
Two, Buhari might be called a Major-General, but he was a paper tiger and a coward. He was obviously not very brilliant. He nevertheless must have been told about the social and economic repercussions of subsidy removal; unless a robust and comprehensive set of palliatives was ready to be implemented. He was keenly aware that his cabinet, full of incompetent economic managers, could never come up with such a fiscal programme. Hell would break loose.
Our Major General chickened out. He passed the buck to the next President. It was a mere coincidence that you are now the victim of that duplicity. In fact, if the managers of the PDP campaign had not committed a serious blunder, by allowing the five Governors to walk away, you would not be siting in Aso Rock now – holding the bagful of atrocities which Buhari left behind.
At any rate, the election was in February. Why was subsidy removal not started in March to save us three months’ payments? So, don’t believe the nonsense Garba Shehu uttered about why Buhari waited until May for subsidy removal.
A RAGING STORM IS IN THE HORIZON: WHAT DO YOU DO?
“You can get in more trouble with good ideas than bad ones; it is so much easier to push a good idea to excess” – Ben Graham
You have not only inherited the disasters left by Buhari and former Senate President Lawan, you alone will now face the horrors of the national storm now building up. You are also the victim of all those erudite columnists urging you to “hit the ground running”. Well, you hit the ground, took three strong steps – fuel subsidy removal, exchange rate unification and University Students Loans Bill signed. There was applause. But, it was brief. Now, you have stumbled very badly; and a fall might occur – unless you can take four urgent corrective measures. They will not totally erase the hostility which has been directed at you – even by people who voted enthusiastically for you. But, they will distribute the burden of antagonism to others deserving them.
First, develop revenue-generating ideas and pursue them immediately. You can still improve on expected revenue for the last four months by as much as N0.5 trillion – if you want. Thereafter, your 2024 Budget should emphasise revenue-generation; not deficit spending and more borrowing. In 2024 you should almost double Buhari’s best record – again, if you want.
Second, publish the names of the subsidy recipients; and invite them to justify the funds collected in an open probe. Otherwise ask for refund with interest.
Third, institute a deep probe into the Social Investment Programme, SIP, the cash transfers and School Feeding during COVID-19; the N52 billion allegedly paid to youths by the Ministry of Labour and, finally, institute an inquiry into the assets forfeited to the FG through the EFCC and how they were disposed of by Mr Abubakar Malami, the former Attorney-General of the Federation.
Believe me, more than N5 trillion is waiting for you to be collected.
Fourth, address Nigerians. Tell them the truth about the past 24 years. Let them know that you are not responsible for their woes. Then, plead for time.