Why Tinubu’s Economic Policy Is Failing

Why Tinubu’s Economic Policy Is Failing

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

I am one of those who supported and still support the removal of fuel subsidy and I even write a play on the subject sometime in 2012. I also believe that the idea to unify the foreign exchange is the best thing we could do as a nation. The truth is that, without these steps, Nigeria’s demise as a nation would be a matter of time, because we would, like President Tinubu rightly pointed out, be “building a skyscraper on a swamp”.

Both petrol subsidy and government’s constant intervention to keep the foreign exchange low were ruffled in corruption and had little or no direct benefit to more than 98% of Nigerians. Those who reaped from those policies are the 1% of the extremely rich and powerful in Nigeria and even non-Nigerians. Therefore, quashing those policies was necessary and also required the right dose of political will. However, we also needed good safety nets for the masses before such policies could have been implemented.

Given his antecedents and level of influence in the Nigerian power ecosystem, even before he became President, Tinubu remains the only Nigerian with the capacity to take some far-reaching decisions and embark on transformational policies that will save Nigeria, because he is one man who shouldn’t be afraid of some power blocs coming after him. But for him to succeed, he needed to come clean. One of the biggest reasons his otherwise, laudable policies are almost certain to fail is because he appears to condone corruption and has given the indication that there are people in Nigeria, especially, in his government who are untouchable.

To implement such policies that aim to completely overhaul the Nigerian economy and free it from some dangerous cabals who have held Nigeria on its knees for too long, the President doesn’t need to create a new cabal. He comes to equity and must come with clean hands. You cannot want to displace a Kano or Kaduna Mafia and replace them with a Lagos or Ibadan Mafia. If you are pursuing a free market economy, then you must be transparent and let market forces drive the economy without corrupt interference from political hawks.

President might have a lot of friends and political associates who might be involved in the economic sabotage that ruined Nigeria’s economy, hence, the reluctance to bring them to book. If this is the case, then, there is absolutely no hope in these policies because as long as the criminals are allowed to keep their loot and continue to play in the system, they will continue to use these resources to try to frustrate the reforms. It is common sense that you cannot leave a thief with his guns and expect to stop him from stealing.

For instance, you cannot tell ordinary Nigerians that they have to start paying over 1000 Naira for a liter of PMS because the subsidy regime benefited a few people and is riddled with corruption, without having arrested and made sure that those who stole the subsidy funds are made to return their loot. You don’t force more than 98% of your population to suffer for the atrocities of less than two percent of the population, especially, when this two percent are allowed to walk away with their loot and even to continue to operate in the same sector without hindrance.

With all his weaknesses, President Goodluck Jonathan still holds the record as the only Nigerian President with the most articulate blueprint for the removal of fuel subsidy, and this is largely due to the presence of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the driving seat of that administration. Before announcing the removal of subsidy, the Goodluck Jonathan administration already rolled out many social security programs, including the SURE-P and others. Also, moves were in place to prosecute oil marketers who were found to have diverted subsidy funds to their personal pockets. Also, licences were issued to about 20 private firms to build refineries and the process of importing petroleum products was liberalised. Ironically, Tinubu led the protest against that very laudable initiative, only to come back ten years to return to the same policy he vehemently criticised, without as much as having any social safety nets in place for the ordinary citizens.

The primary concern of any responsible government is to protect the interests of the highest number of people. Any government policy that fails to factor in the interest of more than 98% of her citizenry is an anti-people policy and there is no amount of revisionism that would take care of that. Hunger is a universal language and when the majority of those you govern can’t afford their basic needs and when the salaries you pay can’t take people to work, you would be wasting your time trying to make them understand the future benefits of your economic wonders.

It is already nine months since we got into this situation and people like us who held high hopes and even tried to convince others that the hard times would be but for a moment are already looking stupid to ourselves, because instead of things getting better, they are worsening by the day. Any economic policy that does not translate to tangible social security to the ordinary man on the streets is a failed economic policy and requires immediate review or possible trashing.

The President, if need be, should look beyond his Party and friends in getting economic ideas to pull Nigeria out of the mess she is in currently. The economy cannot afford to be a victim of our partisan patronage.


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