February 25, 2024

One Hundred Days Of Jagaban

One Hundred Days Of Jagaban

Grabbing two of the menacing bulls by the horns, he removed the petrol subsidy and floated the naira. Petrol subsidy had become a lavish feast for West Africa by a bankrupt Giant.

In contrast, the dollar subsidy was an expensive egotistical farce that fattened crooked public officials, their girlfriends and opportunistic cronies in banking and business. Jagaban had looked like a crusader. Now, Mattawalle of Zamfara is Jagaban’s best choice for minister from the mineral-rich that has more bandits than students.

Jagaban picked him to renew the hopes of famished Zamfara children. The former governor who was rejected at the polls for poor performance is the new junior minister of defence.
Jagaban showed courage at the outset. Despite the foreseeable long-term gains, the immediate consequences of the initial headlong lunge could be unpredictable social turbulence.

Sustained human suffering is rarely justifiable. That was why past governments fidgeted with both corrective ideas, but developed cold feet. The masses always fret at sweeping austerity measures, but are willing to reward courage. Jagaban jolted them, but they understood the complexity of their predicament and gave him the benefit of the doubt.

So they braced for more misery in the hope that Jagaban and his party understood their pain and suffering and would show empathy, not by tokenism or sophistry, but through a purposeful moral leadership that would yield security, unity and prosperity. Time is running out.

Now, it looks like Jagaban chose his bulls. The other bulls of profligacy and corruption have been left to roam. Perhaps, he didn’t want to bite more than he could chew. All governments across the country lack a moral compass. This discordance between slogans and actions drains hope.

The only sacrifice being demanded is that from the public. All the governments seem aloof at the cry to institute frugality and cost-cutting. The Federal Government isn’t leading by any examples.

It is willing to squeeze the poor to extract more revenue, but it hasn’t bothered to be ruthless with rogues and hasn’t aspired to any moral high grounds. The EFCC looks castrated.

The EFCC chairman has been detained for two months without trial. Yet the government is headed by a former NADECO activist.

Loquacious governors with flabby morals, blacklisted by that agency, have been patted on the back and sanctified with high positions. Such promiscuous patronage creates moral confusion and anomie.

The bulls of impunity and mediocrity are alive and kicking. Young and old political buccaneers are returning to the centre stage. At best, the message is confusing.

Since Jagaban took the reins and cut off the petrol subsidy, states have had more money to share. FAAC has tripled, and the federation has started to save, but the Naira is turning into chaff. The accruals have come at an expected exorbitant social cost. Many people trek to work.

They can’t fuel their cars. Petrol prices have tripled and are soaring. Food prices have hit the roof. The naira has tumbled against the dollar. In an import-dependent economy, that is collective strangulation. The poor cannot breathe. Businesses are bleeding. People are bleating.

Young people are fleeing to foreign lands. Yet, there is no urgency. The labour union and the government can’t find a new minimum wage in 3 months.

It’s still early, but Jagaban cannot start with a bloated government.
Jagaban came with great expectations. He was the meticulous politician, the master strategist who didn’t make sloppy mistakes. He didn’t provide cushions before triggering the storm. It didn’t matter. Surprise was needed. But the old demon of policy incoherence has reappeared. The rollout of the palliatives couldn’t have been more disorderly.

Initially, he had wanted to hand 8000 naira monthly to 12 million households for six months. That was evidence that lessons hadn’t been learnt. Cash handouts distributed by politicians is tragic prodigality. But jolted by public consternation, Jagaban retraced his steps.

It’s good to be a listening president, yet it’s better to be a surefooted leader who looks before leaping.

However, only a few politicians see frivolity in its true colours. The money has now been handed to governors to share. Politicians can’t hold themselves back from tokenism.

To renew hopes, Jagaban needs to inspire the youths. But there has been no attempt to create a new national consciousness. Perhaps, it’s still early. But once a new government settles into old lazy routines, it drifts into shiftlessness. If a change of attitude must happen, it must start now. Our politicians still lack sobriety.

And unlike in 2015, when Buhari came in shouting ‘Change’, nobody even bothers to talk about change or rebirth. The predominant talk is about improved taxation, an aggressive gathering of revenues and then Niger Republic.

These are all good discussions. Yet without a change in attitude and political culture, we could be gathering into a tattered basket and playing Pharisee before the international community

THE CABINET

The cabinet has more mercenaries than change agents. Smart politicians always have one eye on elections, but this country needs a revolutionary government. The cabinet Jagaban constituted is a mishmash of competence, mediocrity and political opportunism. The size of the cabinet is unjustifiable. Preaching austerity and living frivolosly is chralatanism.

On any scale of competence and moral capacity, this 2023 cabinet is of a lower quality than Jagaban’s 2003 cabinet. That is a tragedy. This was supposed to be his strength. In Lagos, he didn’t compensate political hustlers with cabinet positions. So filling a cabinet with former governors with tired morality couldn’t be more unJagaban.

The selection process was so tardy and untidy that a nondescript nominee from a major state was withdrawn while she was at that National Assembly waiting for her confirmation hearing. After weeks of security vetting, the National Assembly withheld the confirmation of three nominees for security reasons. Yet nominees with crippling moral hunchbacks were cleared.

It is hoped that a kitchen cabinet of his closest aides will seize the broth and save it from contamination from leprous hands. The public is watching. The reformation that will birth new hope must start from the corridors of power. So far, political expediency appears the ruling principle.

THE ECONOMY

The early steps are promising. Jagaban’s economic blueprint is sound on paper. But principled consistency is required. The economy needs a massive blood transfusion in foreign investments. Huge naira savings have started, but productivity has declined. Our foreign reserves are depleted.

The floated naira has taken a disastrous tumble, throwing inflation into a vertiginous spiral.

Unscrupulous banks are sabotaging the process with impunity. Abiding crude oil theft means oil production is at less than half of output in 2012. The Navy and militants protecting the pipelines are perpetually squabbling over who is aiding the grand theft.

All our revenues can barely service our debts. Without an injection of foreign investment or loans, our decline could become steeper. If the naira degenerates calamitously, there could be a social upheaval. Unfortunately, our politicians are still aloof. Agricultural output is low, and they have no tears in their eyes. A few years ago, the country was ambitiously pursuing import substitution on all fronts. Now the farmlands are now occupied by terror and terrorists. Without a conscious and concerted effort to generate massive exports of goods and services, the naira will fade into oblivion. The government must concentrate.

A social upheaval must be avoided. Yet a partial return of fuel subsidy through the backdoor must be avoided. The best way to sustain public confidence is through transparency, probity and empathy. The president must reprioritize governance above politics and elections. Integrity is principled consistency. A radical surgery to reduce size and cost of governance should have started.

INSECURITY

Security chiefs have been changed. But nothing will change until the government finds a new security plan. Bandits still occupy farmlands in the northwest. Their locations are public knowledge. Orsu in Imo is still desolate. Government agencies don’t go to the den of these criminals. The federal government has no new ideas. It now appears comfortable with sharing sovereignty with sub-state groups. Asari Dokubo is the testimony of government’s impotence. The apparent willingness to cohabit with nuisance and terror tells of a deep rot.

Insecurity hinders growth from all sides. Farms are now moribund yet the few we gather will be wasted on arms and canker-worms in the system. Insecurity has become so lucrative to many in high positions. Timidity compounds the matter.

The government must find the courage. A new bold plan must include telling the public the whole truth. That plan must seek to defeat insurgents, terrorists and troublemakers from the roots. It must be a joint military and political strategy that places a premium on national unity. The president must go to the geopolitical zones and sit with political, traditional, religious and business leaders to fashion political solutions for terrorism and banditry of all shades. The earlier this begins, the better.

CONCLUSION

It’s still early days. Jagaban started well. But some of his appointments have cast doubts on his ability to defy politics and reform the country. The only palliative that works is sound moral leadership. The president must lead by example. Principled actions speak louder than hollow propaganda. Jagaban must rise above politics and aim for posterity.

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