By SKC Ogbonnia
Anyone familiar with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu knows he is profoundly dogged and has consistently shown the courage to endure throughout his ageless quest for power. While critics, including this writer, are wont to equate the doggedness to selfish interest, the dire economic condition in the country finally offers him the opportunity to prove otherwise. Said differently, as it was once Tinubu’s turn to become president, now is ultimately his turn to lead by example and suffer like the ordinary Nigerians.
The perplexing conundrum, however, is that the former Lagos State governor has remained in his typical campaign mode—dogged, desperate, and deceptive. He keeps saying and doing things with reckless abandon.
Such agony informs why he threw the concept of Evidence-Based Policy out of the window and hastily adopted and implemented a far-reaching scheme like the Removal of Fuel Subsidy without any practical plan.
The irony is that real solution is not in sight. Even the very armchair economists who dominated every media space professing the subsidy removal have suddenly disappeared. Sadly, the Asiwaju—a dogged opponent of the subsidy removal during the “clueless” Jonathan era—is suddenly grandstanding as the messiah.
The result, of course, has been a monumental mess. Today, barely two months into the Tinubu regime, the condition in the country has become worse than ever imagined. It is said that President Muhammadu Buhari drove the Nigerian economy to the rock bottom, but his successor has already shattered the very rock of the bottom to crash the country to the deepest low.
The most hypocritical is Tinubu’s response to the crisis. Please hear him: “I understand that our people are suffering yet there can be no childbirth without pain. The joy of childbirth is the relief that comes after the pain.”
The relief so far is N500 billion as palliative for the fuel subsidy removal. Of this amount, Mr. Tinubu has the audacity to dole out a whopping N35 billion for judges; and N110 billion to 465 federal lawmakers, of which N40 billion is to purchase exotic foreign vehicles while “12 million” low-income Nigerians are to receive meagre N8,000 monthly per household for six months.
It has become vitally important to reveal here that the former Lagos Governor himself enjoys a total of over N148 billion allocated to the presidency from the 2023 national budget.
Now, let us circle back to his adage on mother and childbearing with regards to suffering. Yes, “there can be no childbirth without pain,” as Tinubu rightly reminded us. But he must not forget the genius of a relative adage which asserts that only a foolish mother feeds fat while her child goes hungry.
Like a caring mother, it has become Tinubu’s turn to suffer like the ordinary Nigerians. Like the caring mother, he needs to lead by example by enduring as he did to grab power.
A staring point is true change, beginning from himself. A stupendously wealthy man, who once revealed that he is richer than entire Osun State, Mr. Tinubu can dig deep into history and trace the style of a 400 BCE Napal Prince, Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as Buddha, who endeared himself to his followers by forsaking his wealth and luxury for the common good.
The gist, if it not already manifest, is that Tinubu should rise to the occasion and do away with his ostentatious lifestyle as well as the lavish culture at the presidency. He must not dare continue the habit of holidaying abroad while at the same time appealing to Nigerians at home to suffer. He also needs to understand that these suffering Nigerians remain outraged at his endless hobnobbing with the very corrupt politicians who looted their commonwealth dry.
Of course, the other arms of the government do not need to be told that the era of jumbo salaries must be over. Their remuneration should reflect the realities on the ground. On no account should the total compensation package of a legislator or judge exceed 100 times the minimum wage in the country.
Further, any thought of exotic foreign cars for Nigerian public officials is offensive. Now is the time to emulate the past military regimes which demonstrated austerity, as well as patriotism, by using Peugeot cars, which were then assembled in Nigeria. Today, the country is blessed with the Innoson brands, which are not only made in Nigeria, but also perform far better.
All told, the level of hardship under the Tinubu regime is grossly untold. People are suffering. People are dying. Things cannot continue this way. In short, any failure by the leaders to demonstrate austere lifestyle themselves is to risk a mass response of an uncommon proportion.
SKC Ogbonnia writes from Houston, Texas, USA.