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In Search of Trees: 365 Days into Tinubu’s Government

In Search of Trees: 365 Days into Tinubu’s Government

Written by: Oluseun Onigbinde


Nigeria has been dealing with a long-running crisis of high inflation, a weak exchange rate, crushing poverty, and food insecurity. This is the expected outcome after the country failed to take hard decisions focused on productivity and fiscal discipline over the years. During the boom years – when the country might have invested in its strategic advantages (oil and gas) while simultaneously exploring new prospects in non-oil exports – the Nigerian political class decided to be extravagant, detaching themselves from the slipping development indications. While corruption continued to drain its immediate resources at all levels, Nigeria slipped into economic ruin under Muhammadu Buhari. The country increased its deficits to inconceivable heights, resulting in a dual exchange rate that favored a select few. This was done without addressing any meaningful societal pillars other than carrying the label of untargeted ‘infrastructure.’ It was evident that whoever took over power had a hard job ahead of them. 

Elections happened, and a new government took over, promising to continue from where the other stopped. Before Nigerians could blink, the Tinubu government ‘removed’ fuel subsidies and attempted to achieve parity in the exchange rate market. How is that going? These swift actions aimed to free the country from the burden of corruption while pledging commitment to a liberal economy. Where have they led us?

The attempt to eliminate the currency rate, energy, and fuel subsidy all at once has encountered troubling hurdles that appear to exacerbate the problems. Nigeria continues to pay fuel subsidies, the exchange rate has taken a deep dive, and electricity has become a caste system. These are the symptoms of the Tinubu government and explain why it has failed to meet expectations.

To appreciate the Tinubu government’s shortcomings, one must honestly assess its cabinet. As a true politician with an overabundance of interests, it was only natural for him to repay favors with political posts and prioritize interests over future prospects. It is clear that the Tinubu government, particularly its cabinet, lacks a technocratic core for producing outcomes. The cabinet evokes the haunting past of Muhammadu Buhari’s team, which lacked victors or individuals with a sense of legacy. Except for greenlights in Interior, Communications, Foreign Affairs, and Health, the whole cabinet begs for a drastic review if the government earnestly yearns for impact. 

The lack of a strong technical foundation also explains why most of its concepts have not been sequenced, nor has adequate scenario analysis been considered. There have not been discussions about the minimum wage, food inflation, public transportation systems, or other ways to mitigate the effects of its liberal policies. As it would appear, the administration moved from the campaign stall to the governance stool, implementing policies without considering the larger context. 

While Nigerians continue to lament the pangs of inflation and a weak currency, the leadership has not provided a personal example of probity and frugality, which should be wrapped around our economic situation. The absence of deft political abilities to dissuade National Assembly members from purchasing exotic cars, reducing the length of convoys, the size of cabinets, and many assistants has not indicated that the Tinubu government is aware of the sacrifices and perceptions desired by Nigerians. The large delegations to international conferences and the rising cost of governance have not demonstrated why government policies have escalated the cost of living to stratospheric levels, its officials continue to live in luxury without solidarity.

While the National Assembly got its benefits, the public budgeting showed that the government did not understand why it needed to balance its monetary control with fiscal conservatism. National Assembly members not only raised their budgets, they also rewrote the budgets in their favor and added retail projects, reaching over N2 trillion,  from town halls to solar lighting to extend their political mileage. With his famed political skills, the president did not push back but appended his signature, opening the space for needless and profligate spending, reminiscent of the Buhari administration. The government has failed to apply fiscal prudence and exert pressure on capital efficiency, so efforts on the monetary component continue to seem inadequate.

Ultimately, the Tinubu government needs to imbibe a culture of service that combines fiscal discipline with long-term ideas that foster production. While the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) claims that oil production has reached 1.7 million barrels per day, other ideas, such as export promotion and trade facilitation, need to happen. If anything should keep him awake day and night, it should be fixing power, accelerating investment in the gas sector, expanding export infrastructure, growing non-oil exports – primarily through agriculture, mining, and services – and expanding the social sector in health, education, and digital access. Tinubu has the best example with the Lekki Free Trade Zone, which was planted in his time as governor of Lagos State but boomed decades later. As the proverbial old man who plants trees with shades that he might never sit in, President Tinubu must honestly seek long-term answers to Nigeria’s issues to mark his legacy, despite the current pressure.

Not the easiest of times, but the Tinubu government must take a moment to reflect on its legacy because the occupants of the national leadership have not covered themselves in glory in recent times. He has shown promise in recent progress on gas pipelines, broadband opportunity, AI frontier participation, passport collection reform, clarity in foreign policy, and system-wide approach in health and FCT infrastructure. However, it is in this same government that journalists are blindfolded and arrested for days without charge while expending a lot of its political capital on the Lagos-Calabar coastal road in a period that requires other priorities. Insecurity is still rife, and despite having the fortune of weak opposition, a pliant legislature, apathetic citizens, and spineless union leadership, his leadership has failed to advance critical national policies for a true federated state.

While the Tinubu government continues to exuberantly announce premature results that have left it walking back from positions and investment news, it must understand that its policies have created a cascade of challenges. Still, Tinubu will need grit and brinkmanship rooted in service to stand a chance in the convoluted challenge that Nigeria offers. He has created a service delivery performance unit, and he needs to see it through and show citizens the power of a public example that he’s here to serve and is not only interested in oiling the wheels of patronage or assuming disinterest, an attribute of his recent predecessors that has left the country with suboptimal outcomes.


Content provided by EiE Nigeria


 – Oluseun Onigbinde is the co-founder of BudgIT, a civic organisation focused on strengthening civic engagement and institutional accountability.

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