Flowing with Tinubu’s 2024 New Year address

Which life: Abraham’s or Lazarus’s?
Bolanle Bolawole


President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must by now have addressed the nation on four solid occasions. The first was his inauguration address on May 29, 2023, which is best described as the “subsidy is gone” address. Democracy Day (June 12), Independence anniversary (October 1st) and now his New Year address were some of the other important occasions on which the President has addressed his “fellow compatriots”. The opening paragraph of the President’s last address, what we journalists call the “intro” or introduction, almost put me off. Any professional journalist or speechwriter knows the importance of an “intro”. It makes or mars any speech.

President Tinubu’s intro says: “It gives me immense joy to welcome each and every one of you – young and old – to this brand new year 2024. We must lift up our hands to Almighty God, in gratitude, for His grace and benevolence to our country and our lives in the year 2023 that has just gone by.”

That’s good. I have said it before and it bears repeating here that we must learn from God Himself! His first creation was light!

Why will it not give Tinubu and the people around him, who are the ones superintending over the “immense” wealth of this country, “immense joy” to welcome Year 2024? Can Nigerians who were not paid their salaries, who did not have the money to buy rice and chicken – can such folks welcome the brand new year with any joy at all, not to talk of “immense joy”? Can the families in Plateau state who lost loved ones, priced properties, their livelihood, peace and joy to terrorists – can these ones welcome the brand new year with “immense joy”?

Tinubu’s speech should have reflected that sordid event in its grave magnitude. If he started by declaring one-minute silence for the dead in Plateau and Kaduna states and elsewhere, it would not have been too much. It was an oversight not to have done so.  The intro should have read: “It is with mixed feelings of immense sadness and joy that I welcome each and every one of you – young and old – to this brand new year 2024…” For me – and I think for many other Nigerians – that would have been a more perfect intro; one that connects the President to a grieving nation.

The President’s homily continued: “Though the past year was a very challenging one, it was eventful in so many ways. For our country, it was a transition year that saw a peaceful, orderly and successful transfer of power from one administration to another, marking yet another remarkable step in our 24 years of unbroken democracy”. The nation is yet to heal, say so! Solicit healing! Do not relent in doing so! We play the ostrich when we hide that fact.

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“It was a year you the gracious people of this blessed nation entrusted your faith in me with a clear mandate to make our country better, revamp our economy, restore security within our borders, revitalize our floundering industrial sector, boost agricultural production, increase national productivity and set our country on an irreversible path towards national greatness that we and future generations will forever be proud of”. Yes, Nigerians gave you the mandate; I agree! What you will make of it remains to be seen.

“The task of building a better nation and making sure we have a Nigeria society that cares for all her citizens is the reason I ran to become your President. It was the core of my Renewed Hope campaign message on the basis of which you voted me as President.” We all know that! I have said repeatedly that I believe you won the election, and that you were the best candidate on offer. Now is the time to act! We are yet to see effective and affirmative action!

“Everything I have done in office, every decision I have taken and every trip I have undertaken outside the shores of our land since I assumed office on 29 May, 2023 have been done in the best interest of our country.” Many Nigerians will take these assertions with a pinch of salt!

“Over the past seven months of our administration, I have taken some difficult and yet necessary decisions to save our country from fiscal catastrophe. One of such decisions was the removal of fuel subsidies, which has become an unsustainable financial burden on our country for more than four decades. Another was the removal of the chokehold of a few people on our foreign exchange system that benefited only the rich and the most powerful among us. Without doubt, these two decisions brought some discomfort to individuals, families and businesses.”

Sir, that is an understatement! It brought more than discomfort; it brought misery, suffering, sorrow and tears. It brought death! As unavoidable as the policies were, the groundswell of opinion is that you were hasty in adopting them; and that you did not think them through and did not put in place a coordinated and workable remedial measures.

“Just this past December during COP28, Dubai, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and I agreed and committed to a new deal to speed up the delivery of the Siemens Energy power project that will ultimately deliver reliable supply of electricity to our homes and businesses under the Presidential Power Initiative, which began in 2018.”

What a subtle way of trying to justify the COP28 profligacy! Couldn’t we have still chalked up an agreement with Scholz with a leaner COP28 delegation? This President does not seem intent on committing to reducing the cost of governance – but he must, if he wants Nigerians to keep faith with him.

“My administration recognizes that no meaningful economic transformation can happen without steady electricity supply. In 2024, we are moving a step further in our quest to restart local refining of petroleum products with Port Harcourt refinery and Dangote refinery, which shall fully come on stream.”

That’s good. I have said it before and it bears repeating here that we must learn from God Himself! His first creation was light! It is also salutary that our comatose refineries are being brought back on stream by Tinubu– but will that result in reduced price of fuel? If it does, will it not result again in the smuggling of the product across our borders? The solution to this problem is not as simple and straightforward as it does appear.

“To ensure constant food supply, security and affordability, we will step up our plan to cultivate 500,000 hectares of farmlands across the country to grow maize, rice, wheat, millet and other staple crops. We launched the dry season farming with 120,000 hectares of land in Jigawa State last November under our National Wheat Development Programme.”

To start with, 500,000 hectares is like a drop of water in the ocean. And if I may ask, is the Jigawa 120,000 hectares part of the 500,000 hectares? From recent unpalatable experience, efforts must be made not to make the other parts of the country dependent on the North for their food needs. Also, the FG cannot do it all alone; what role will the States and LGs play in the food security project?

“In this new year, we will race against time to ensure all the fiscal and tax policies reforms we need to put in place are codified and simplified to ensure the business environment does not destroy value”. I felt elated that Mr. President is aware he is running a race against time. For no fault of his, time is not on his side at all.

“In my 2024 Budget presentation to the National Assembly, I listed my administration’s 8 priority areas including national defence and internal security, job creation, macro-economic stability, investment environment optimization, human capital development, poverty reduction and social security… We will work diligently to make sure every Nigerian feels the impact of their government. The economic aspirations and the material well-being of the poor, the most vulnerable and the working people shall not be neglected. It is in this spirit that we are going to implement a new national living wage for our industrious workers this new year…”

Wage-increase alone, desirable as it is, has not holistically solved any problem. What is the percentage of wage earners?

“For the new year to yield all its good benefits to us as individuals and collectively as a people, we must be prepared to play our part. The job of building a prosperous nation is not the job of the President, Governors, Ministers, Lawmakers and government officials alone…”

Wage-increase alone, desirable as it is, has not holistically solved any problem. What is the percentage of wage earners?

Stop passing the buck, Sir! We are not all equally responsible for the misfortunes of this country. Leadership, more than followership, is the bane. Fish rots from the head. The ruling class must own up and not spread or share the blame. They are the reason Nigeria is how it is today!

The President, for the umpteenth time, made no mention of restructuring! Yet, there is no way he can achieve his 8-point agenda without first restructuring the country. In 2024 and beyond, every part of the country – and not Abuja alone – must be put to work!

Happy New Year to my esteemed readers!

*Bolawole ([email protected] / 0705 263 1058), former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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