Thursday, 30th November 2023

Nigeria@63: Mixed reactions trail Tinubu’s anniversary speech, post-subsidy measures

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) and Gloria Nwafor (Lagos)
02 October 2023   |   4:15 am
Though yesterday’s 63rd Independence anniversary had earlier been advertised to be downgraded as a low-key affair owing to the current hardship citizens were enduring, President Bola Tinubu’s broadcast to the nation where he announced that Nigerian workers...

President Bola Tinubu

• President’s address sidelines private sector, no definitive timelines on palliatives, says NECA
• PDP: Independence anniversary speech exposed Tinubu’s unpreparedness
• Tinubu’s speech filled with lies, renewed hopelessness, says Atiku 
• Nigerians suffering, nothing working since you came, Kokori, Nwosu, Olajide, Yoruba group blast Tinubu

Though yesterday’s 63rd Independence anniversary had earlier been advertised to be downgraded as a low-key affair owing to the current hardship citizens were enduring, President Bola Tinubu’s broadcast to the nation where he announced that Nigerian workers will receive an additional N25,000 for six months as part of measures to cushion the effect of subsidy removal, did little to lift the cheer across the land.

Shortly after the broadcast, President Tinubu, joined by Vice President Kashim Shettima, led the nation’s Service Chiefs and other top government functionaries, as well as members of the diplomatic corps to mark the nation’s 63rd Independence anniversary in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
However, the event was devoid of the regular glamour though guests were still treated to a potpourri of military drills, colourful parade and a Presidential change of guards performed by officers and men of the Brigade of Guards. 
Highpoint during the no-speech-making ceremony in the Villa, was the signing of the anniversary register by the President. President Tinubu thereafter proceeded to cut the anniversary cake as well as release the anniversary pigeons to symbolise peace. 
The ceremony in Aso Villa was the first Independence Day celebration under the leadership of President Tinubu. The occasion in the forecourt replaced the regular full military parade, drills and other sundry entertainments, which used to be held at the popular Eagle Square in Abuja.
Since October 1, 2010 when the anniversary celebration witnessed bomb blasts at Eagle Square, former President Goodluck Jonathan marked all subsequent anniversaries under his administration in the forecourt at the Presidential Villa. But former President Muhammadu Buhari broke the jinx by marking the 58th Independence Anniversary at Eagle Square in 2018. 
In what looked like an afterthought or latest trick in the bag to thwart the indefinite strike beginning tomorrow, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, last night announced that the N25,000 earlier announced by the President for low-grade federal workers as intervention, will now cut across all levels of workers.

MEANWHILE, reactions yesterday trailed President Tinubu’s second national broadcast, with knocks heaped on the administration by the major opposition party and some other stakeholders.
The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) said President Tinubu’s Independence anniversary address on palliatives was without realistic timelines for implementation and consideration of organised businesses.
Director-General of NECA, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, in a statement, yesterday, said the N25,000 wage award for a section of the public servants, provision of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses and further increase of the social safety nets investments to cover another 15 million households, doesn’t take into cognisance the fact that all Nigerians, including organised businesses are affected by the fuel subsidy removal and also need some measure of support. 
Oyerinde said having mentioned the procurement of the CNG buses in his August address to the nation, he had expected a more definitive and time-bound pronouncement on when the buses would be procured and put to use.
According to him, the procurement must be accelerated to aid the populace and reduce transportation pressures.
Noting that private sector engagement could not be over-emphasised, he said there was a need for wider consultation.
The NECA chief maintained that it was not enough for the Federal Government to dole out money in the name of palliatives to state governments, rather, a more innovative, effective and trackable distribution and monitoring mechanism should also be put in place to measure the impact and efficiency of the implemented schemes.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tagged the President’s address as “empty, bereft of ideas and merely aspirational in the wrong direction, especially in the face of the harrowing and life-discounting experiences being encountered by Nigerians under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.”

The PDP in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said: “Tinubu’s admission in his speech that his administration is responsible for the current excruciating hardship in the country validates the position that the Tinubu-led government lacks the competence, capacity, required skills and humaneness to effectively run the affairs of the nation.”
PDP insisted that “Nigerians do not need to pass through agonizing hardship as being excused by President Tinubu if the nation is run by a government that has the required vision and skills to harness and manage our economic potentials, national comparative advantage and expanded value chain that abound in our vast but dormant productive sector.”
The opposition party also stated that “the expectation of Nigerians on a day like this was for a Presidential speech that will provide concrete solutions to critical challenges of the nation including security as well as the crisis in the electricity and petroleum sectors.”
The party lamented that the ill-planned policies “led to the closure and mass exodus of many multinational companies from our country, disabled millions of Small and Medium Enterprises and resulted in massive loss of jobs across the country.  
 “It is troubling that President Tinubu’s speech also had no clear-cut measures to revamp the critical sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, food production, transportation, healthcare, education and other pivotal sectors of life in the country,” the statement stressed. 
According to the PDP, “the President’s speech articulated no solutions to the fall of the Naira from N187 to the U.S. Dollar under the PDP to over N1,000 under his watch; no answers to the alarming unemployment rate and the fact that Nigerians are now daily fleeing the country in droves.”
Similarly, the President’s broadcast got other thumbs down from his major challenger in the February 25 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who described the speech as “insipid, uninspiring and empty,” adding that it exudes “renewed hopelessness.” 
According to a statement by the former Vice President’s Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, Tinubu had failed to increase the minimum wage after decimating the naira and removing petrol subsidy, which ultimately pushed inflation to over 25 per cent.
He said: “Many workers were hopeful that minimum wage would be announced on Sunday. However, what Tinubu decided to do was to add an allowance of N25,000 ($25) to the lowest paid workers for six months only. This is a man who is not in sync with the current realities that the people are living in.” 
According to Atiku, “Tinubu claimed he refused to increase the minimum wage in order not to worsen the inflation rate. If he cared so much about the inflation rate, he ought to have planned properly before removing the petrol subsidy and forcing the Central Bank to embark on a failed exchange rate unification policy, which has not been backed by a corresponding boost in exports.

“In effect, Tinubu put the cart before the horse, and now that the horse has trampled on the cart, he is making excuses for his own incompetence. This is shameful.”
Atiku’s aide said the industrial action by the organised labour was evidence that Tinubu had failed to carry along the average Nigerian.
“He told the organised labour and Nigerians at large to be patient. While they gave him the benefit of the doubt and delayed a bit, he decided to proceed to court to obtain a court order barring them from going on strike. This has become the stock in trade of the APC.

“However, now that Nigerians are drowning from Tinubu’s ill-conceived policies, the organised labour and even the majority of Nigerians are threatening to disobey the court order. This is the sort of chaos that Tinubu’s illegitimate administration is about to push Nigerians into.”
 Atiku said Tinubu must note that the removal of petrol subsidy is not an achievement. Rather, it is what is done with the money that is saved from the removal of subsidy that would determine if the regime is a success or not.
Atiku’s aide noted that Tinubu was one of the loudest voices against subsidy removal back in 2012 when the Goodluck Jonathan administration decided to remove it.
Shaibu said: “Tinubu should bury his face in shame for criticising former Presidents for retaining subsidies. Here is a man who described petrol increase back in January 2012 as ‘Jonathan tax’ when subsidy was removed at the time.
“Tinubu told Jonathan to go after the oil thieves rather than Nigerians. Let Tinubu also be brave enough to expose and prosecute the so-called subsidy thieves he loves to reference in every speech. Let Tinubu also be man enough to apologise for sponsoring protests in Lagos back in 2012 over subsidy.”
Atiku’s aide also knocked Tinubu for claiming in his speech that he had been fair to all segments of Nigeria. He said Tinubu was only being clever by half as his appointments had shown that he was only bent on rewarding a section of the country with the juiciest appointments.
 “Tinubu’s claim that he has been fair to all segments of Nigeria is another lie that is as palpable as the claim that he was the first African leader to ring the NASDAQ bell. This is a man who appointed only five statutory ministers from the Southeast because they didn’t vote for him and then appointed 10 from his own region.
“He has also put almost all key revenue generating agencies in the hands of his kinsmen including customs, FIRS and the CBN. The NNPC is the only one that remains outside of the southwest for now,” he said.
 An umbrella body of different pro-Yoruba groups agitating for the good of Yoruba people within the Nigerian federation, the Coalition of Yoruba Self-determination Groups, has said some of the steps taken so far by President Tinubu were not well thought out. 
Dr. Steve Abioye, Secretary-General of the Coalition, in a statement, lamented that Nigerians are suffering, adding that the last four months have not been palatable. 
“We of the Coalition of Yoruba self-determination groups want to state that the last four months have shown that nothing is working and it is not likely anything will work until the country’s current leadership does the needful by heeding the call for ensuring a people’s Constitution.
“A state of emergency, we believe, should be declared on the nation’s economy. The government cannot be urging people to endure hardship and sacrifice while those at the corridors of power are not ready to sacrifice and are living in opulence.”
According to him, there are two ways to go about this; either we go back to the 1963 Constitution or we bring out Jonathan’s confab report from the dustbin of history, which former President Buhari consigned it to.

SOME prominent Nigerians, yesterday, expressed mixed feelings whether Nigeria’s 63 Independence anniversary is worth celebrating. While some agreed that the fact God kept the nation United in the last 63 years despite the three years Civil War, the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential Election debacle and the lingering Boko Haram, armed herders and socio-economy difficulties, others said the leadership Nigeria has produced under the Fourth Republic, have put the nation on a keg of a gun powder that could explode any moment.
In separate telephone conversations with The Guardian, former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, said, it was painful that those who were part of the struggle to send the military back to the barracks for the birth of democratic governance but are themselves in government now are doing worse than what the military did.
Kokori noted that apart from celebrating we are still united as a country, every other area of developments are complete failure and disappointment. 
 He however appealed to Nigerians to give President Tinubu more time to fix the economy, saying, with the enormity of what the incumbent president met while he assumed office on May 29 2023, there was no miracle he could have done to fix the country for now.

In his remark, elder statesman, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said whatever the challenges, there are still reasons for celebration. He recounted how God has made it possible for Nigeria to survive many hurdles that would have buried it or similar ones have destroyed other countries “but here Nigeria is still standing.”
Olajide, who is the immediate Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), urged for prayers for President Tinubu to direct the nation appropriately.
National Chairman, African Democratic Conscience (ADC), Ralph Nwosu, wondered what Nigeria is celebrating at 63 when virtually everything has been destroyed by politicians.
He said the only set of people that deserves commendation are the founding fathers of Nigeria who fought to get us independence. “Other politicians that came behind them do not have the interest of Nigeria at heart.”
Also expressing mixed feelings about celebrating Nigeria at 63, Chairman Kaduna chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, Joseph Hayab, said the country has a long way to go. He described the country as a struggling nation that is still looking for a way out economically, politically and socially.
Hayab described the set of people ruling the nation as Shylock, who built death traps called roads, epileptic power and an education system that could not match modern standards. According to him, “To celebrate we will thank God for our co-existence but in other aspects we are not there yet.”