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One Year of “Governing” through Gimmicks

To distract Nigerians from the first-year poor performance in governance, the president and his cronies in the National Assembly decided to divert attention from on-going…

To distract Nigerians from the first-year poor performance in governance, the president and his cronies in the National Assembly decided to divert attention from on-going criticisms by passing and signing the bill on reverting to the old National Anthem. Yes, another gimmick as Nigerians complain bitterly about deepening poverty, growing hunger, rising insecurity and general non-challans of the governing class. The old anthem would allegedly promote peace, unity, and prosperity more effectively than the one in use. Lawmakers claimed that the current anthem, introduced during military rule, does not fully reflect Nigeria’s democratic values and commitment to nationhood.

The anthem, which speaks of native land populated by different tribes and tongues, is the answer to the current Nigerian crisis they want us to believe. As my good friend Modibbo Kawu argued, this anthem is an: “Unacceptable, racist characterisation of colonised people that emerged from 19th-century colonial anthropology. What would be the relevance of having fought for independence if our lawmakers would be hankering for an empty and meaningless return to a past anthem that’s steeped in a very colonial anthropological source? Don’t they know? Can’t they see? Are they not thinking?” The sole purpose is to distract people from the non-performance of the Tinubu administration. What is even more upsetting is that Nigeria is a very young nation where 75 per cent of the population was not born when the old anthem was in use. How can we be so crass and inconsiderate as to impose colonial phraseology on them without even introducing them to the words and finding out whether it is as pleasing to them as it is to those of us that were born during the colonial era. We await their response.

President Tinubu avoided an assessment of his achievements after one year in office because he has none. The fact of the matter is that he does not even have a programme of action or work plan for his government. That is why we were subjected to long boring presentations by his ministers claiming great achievements because they organised a series of meetings about grandiose ideas that will regenerate the economy and lead to trillions of naira production without any information on what, how and when such projects would be implemented. The claims appear to have been directed at pleasing Hadiza Bala Usman, President Tinubu’s stern monitor on performance monitoring who would issue a report card that will determine which minister will face the sack or stay on the job. 

For me, the marker of the first year of the Tinubu presidency is the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu, who admitted a December 20, 2023 memo which shows that she requested the Accountant General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer public fund – N585.2 million – into a private account of an official in her ministry. The transfer contravened various sections of Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2009, which are meant to prevent fraud and other forms of corruption. It turned out that in her first few months in office, she simply transferred billions of naira in the ministry’s accounts into her and her cronies’ private accounts. That’s not the story. The story was that when all hell broke loose over the extent of her crimes, she was simply suspended from office and nothing more was said about the case. In other words, the decision taken was not to make an example of her excessive corruption and allow the matter to quietly fade out of the news hoping Nigerians would forget. As we say it in Nigerian English, the body language of the administration is that the corrupt would not suffer. They will thrive.

This message is even clearer from the infamous construction of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, which began amid a myriad of fiscal and due process irregularities. The 700-kilometre stretch of road infrastructure, which will take eight years to complete, will gulp a staggering N15 trillion. This figure is actually mythical because the project started without the contract being written, not to talk of being signed. It was given to the president’s buddy without a bidding process and the mystery about the whole affair is still unfolding and we shall learn more.

Meanwhile, the pilot phase of the construction started at the Eko Atlantic City and it will terminate at Lekki Deep Seaport, for which N1.06 trillion has already been released. It is a highway of 10 lanes, which will cost N4 billion per kilometre, and would be the first of its kind in Africa, said the Minister of Works, David Umahi. His zealousness in its implementation brooks no dissent, and sometimes it gets spiteful. The first set of victims such as the Landmark Hotel, whose properties were demolished to pave the way for the construction, have been weeping and gnashing their teeth.

The project did not go through a competitive bidding process, which is imperative for such a huge venture, in line with the 2007 Public Procurement Act, as enunciated in Section 16 (1) (1) and (d), to create transparency, accountability and value for money. The minister admitted that the award sidestepped the public tender competitive bidding process. This raises the question – is the government bidding farewell to the transparency and accountability of public tender and the competitive bidding process? In addition, why was the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) phase of the project not done before work began? We now know for sure it was a “project disaster” because after construction started, the government learnt it was impossible because it would destroy the communication cables in the sea by the shore line. It’s a very disturbing message about the future of programme implementation under the Tinubu administration. 

The other element about this government is the recurrent use of lies as a governance management policy. So many things are said that turned out to be false and too many achievements about massive amounts of foreign investments coming in from different countries, only for the said countries to deny the claims. Let me be clear; governance is serious business and cannot be conducted on the basis of gimmicks and lies. Reality is persistent and will continue to show itself so the earlier this government sits up and does its work the better for it.


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