On May 29th, 2023, when Tinubu was inaugurated as the President of Nigeria, he spoke off script and announced the withdrawal of fuel subsidy. The following day, the price of petrol increased astronomically. Not just the price of petrol that went up but also because all sectors of Nigerian economy are rooted in petroleum energy, the cost of living of every Nigerian also went up abruptly astronomically. To Tinubu and his political colleagues, this is an audacious act that the past administrations could not handle and Nigerians have been taught to swallow the bitter pill because of the benefits they are going to reap from the act almost immediately. As hopeless as the situation is, it seems the President has garnered the confidence of many Nigerians who are suffering the pangs of the outcome of his action, especially because of the propaganda that only a few corrupt people benefitted from the fuel subsidy. Thus, fuel subsidy removal has been recorded for President Tinubu as the first and the most important achievement. Congratulations!
A first and the most important achievement that bites and is associated with hopelessness should indeed, have been given a second thought. If President Tinubu knew that he would carry out an achievement that would provide immediate hopelessness to Nigerians, would he not have thought of one thing that could provide hope to Nigerians the same way hopelessness was provided, so that Nigerians would think, balance the situation and draw better conclusions for themselves? As a matter of fact, Buhari left many ugly legacies that I thought that President Tinubu would take advantage of and draw the trust of Nigerians to himself. One of such ugly legacies is the eight months’ salaries of university lecturers that Buhari administration refused to pay last year. If /when Tinubu spoke off script to remove fuel subsidy, he used the other hand to command the payment of the salaries of these lecturers, one would have been less hopeless, believing that he knows the pains Nigerians are going through.
Tinubu while speaking off script, also forgot that measures to mitigate the spiral effects of fuel subsidy removal should be emplaced side-by-side the subsidy removal. It was after the reactions by the organized labour that the government invited them for discussion. One month has gone past, no Nigerian has heard any message of hope yet the suffering continues every minute of the day. Who leads Tinubu’s side at the negotiating table? Gbajabiamila. The man who negotiated between Buhari and ASUU and gave ASUU all the hopes that everything was going to be done well in favour of ASUU but later denied he ever gave such assurance. I pray the present situation from the government would not be as hopeless as the government handled ASUU’s predicament because by the time the back-and-forth discussion has taken place, Nigerians would be better watching or listening in pains while the suffering continues.
The irony of the situation is that while Nigerians are groaning in pains, we have heard that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) proposed an increase of 114% in the wages of political office holders across the country, from the president to state house of assembly members and for judges. Reactions from Nigerians have made the government deny this move. That government has denied the move does not erase the kind of hopelessness in the minds of the citizens that nothing may be different with this administration from Buhari administration, if while the citizens are informed that they should bear with the government, those who have been given the social contract to handle the citizens’ affairs will continue to impoverish them. Similarly, the reckless show of ostentation even by the way the President has depicted his convoy, provides citizens with nothing but with the same hopeless resignation of the eight years of Buhari administration.
Emefiele and Bawa are with the DSS and Nigerians are eagerly waiting for the explosion that is likely to accompany their arrest. Maybe, since the government does not know anyone associated with the fuel subsidy fueled corruption, the arrest of these two personalities will reveal corrupt persons to the administration. This is when President Tinubu’s achievement will be tested against Buhari’s mouthed-fight against corruption but the most corrupt era in the history of the country’s governance. Remember that there was a rumour a couple of days ago that the former president had urged his successor not to probe him. This also, has been denied by the former president through his media aide, Garba Shehu.
It does not also give us the hope that there will be something different in favour of the citizens that while the citizens are suffering the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy, electricity tariffs are increased. Why are all the measures taken by Tinubu administration are such that take the meagre earnings from the citizens, instead of providing them with reliefs that they can hopefully say there is hope without being taught how to be hopeful? In all the difficulties, Nigerians are told to be hopeful and give the new administration the cooperation that will help it to deliver. As it looks, Nigerians have started offering their goodwill to President Tinubu. They did so to Buhari in a very overwhelmingly way but were deceived and disappointed for eight years. The question to ask is: must we begin with hopelessness to have hopeful hope as the government wants us to do? The antecedent as the past administration wont to, is awful. Because we wear the shoe and know where it pinches, if Tinubu administration wants Nigerians to be hopeful of a better Nigeria, the administration must introduce and implement policies that mitigate the added pains that citizens are going through since the day of the President’s inauguration.
Udoudo is Professor of Journalism and Media Studies, University of Port Harcourt.