VILLA BEAT with Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
That President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has ramped up the engine of governance in Nigeria and hit the waves immediately he was sworn in on May 29, 2023, is not news anymore. From Abuja to Zurich, the story is the same: a new sheriff is in town and he is in a haste to give the giant of Africa a new lease of life.
In the seven weeks he has been on the saddle at the Presidential Villa, President Tinubu has made those who stuck out their necks for him proud. He has also put to shame those who wanted anyone but him. Those who sold a grotesque caricature of the man in a bid to stop him are embarrassed. Doubters and naysayers who were either skeptical or outrightly opposed to a Tinubu presidency are being converted not by propaganda but by the weight of the man’s actions.
Just as I was settling down to work on this piece a cerebral friend, who I know as not generous with praises, called me to confess how he was “happily disappointed” by President Tinubu’s leadership skills. He has now been converted to be a BAT cheerleader.
For my friend and many others, there are myriad of things that President Tinubu has done or traits he has exhibited in the past seven weeks that they never thought he could do. Some of us are not entirely surprised having had the opportunity to see the President at close quarters.
In the run-off to the election, the opposition threw spanners in the works, pulling the wool over the eyes of many Nigerians. But with President Tinubu now at the centre stage, at a vantage position for all to see the stuff he is made up, most Nigerians are now wiser.
In public and in small group chitchats, the talk now is how the President has been performing wonders to the surprise of many. Here I curate a few of the talking points on the lips of many Nigerians.
1. ENERGY, SHEER ENERGY: One of the first wonders for many people who were brainwashed into believing candidate Tinubu was some walking-dead person was the energy they now see him exude effortlessly. Some of us who were in the campaign had seen the real Asíwájú on the hustings, different from the insinuations and fake news they peddled out there. In a piece just before the election, I wrote that Candidate Tinubu worked more than any other candidate. It was no exaggeration. The man visited all states, some of them more than once. He never rested. In fact, some times, he would have to be begged, cajoled or even compelled to take a rest as he worked even into the morning hours of the next day.
Nigerians began to see this energy from the inauguration day where President Tinubu stood through the long inauguration ceremony. Immediately afterwards, he moved to the State House for another long ritual of standing to receive the retinue of world leaders for pleasantries and photo opportunity. From that moment, governance began and it’s no stopping. For many State House staff it was strange that the President would be in the office everyday of the week till late hours. Often very late. Many would have to quickly adjust to the extended schedule of the new Sheriff.
2. DECISIVENESS: In the weeks since coming on board, President Tinubu has demonstrated that important attribute of a leader: Decisiveness. It was the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who said while a leader should always target the right thing in moments of decision, the worst thing to do is to do nothing.
Like all great leaders in history, President Tinubu has demonstrated that he is no fence-sitter in the business of governance. With him, there is no beating about the bush or procrastination in matters that require expeditious attention. Thus far, the President has left no one in doubt that he is fully in charge and responsible for decisions taken by his administration. No shadow president somewhere or some clearing houses outside of the precincts of the President’s office.
With uncommon courage, President Tinubu has taken a number of decisions, which surprised many observers. Some of these decisions were on mattees hitherto considered too hot to handle. The gist in town is the feeling that the country is not on autopilot. One may disagree with the direction he goes but no one will accuse him of taking no decision at all. Yet, in taking these decisions President Tinubu has proven to be an inclusive leader who consults widely and falls for the wisest of counsel. His mantra is “open door policy”.
Among other many voices home and abroad, the Oba of Benin, Omon’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Ewuare II, expressed awe at the President’s energy and decisiveness when he visited him last week. “We’ve predicted that you will hit the ground running and you have done so, even faster than we thought,” the monarch said, wondering where the President tremendous energy comes from.
3. KILLING THE SUBSIDY LEECHES: It was a shock to many when on May 29 President Tinubu pronounced the subsidy leech dead. It was one decision that generated a lot of positive reactions home and abroad. Yes, it comes with some pains in form of inflationary trends but it is a concensus that it is the least pain to bear compared with the crumbling effect of continuous payment of subsidy on the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
In later speeches, President Tinubu would liken the current situation to the pains of labour and the happiness that comes with childbirth. We are currently experiencing labour pains but in the end, Nigerians would smile, like a mother who is comforted the sight of a new baby.
The wisdom is already glaring. Two videos hit the social media since that decision. One was of a group of young people in one of the neighbouring countries lamenting the subsidy removal in Nigeria. The latest I watched showed a large number of fuel kegs and drums at a village along the border that have been rendered fallow by the subsidy removal. The village bristled with Nigeria’s smuggled fuel until May 29.
The magic reflected in the numbers as well. The regulator reported daily fuel consumption figures falling by a whooping 35 percent.
4. SAVING THE NAIRA FROM THE RENT-SEEKERS: For years, experts and economists have warned that the hitherto way of managing our forex was unsustainable. Buoyed by permissible Central Bank management, rent-seekers had taken over, cashing out at the expense of our collective misery. While it was increasingly difficult for ordinary Nigerian to get a few thousands of dollars to meet essential needs, a few people got huge allocations at unrealistic rates from the source. They then round trip it to the parallel market where they cash out bigly with no sweat!
Speaking at a civic reception in his honour at the Lagos House, Marina, during the Eid break, President Tinubu told the audience that the arrangement he met was tempting that he could choose to keep it and benefit from it. The multiple forex window had for a while served as an avenue of dispensing favours to family members and friends. His own family and associates could have been smiling to the banks, but “God forbid!” he said.
The decision has since restored confidence in the Nigerian economy with the Nigerian Stocks recording all time highs, and investors betting on our market.
5. HALTING A LOOMING STRIKE: The atmosphere was charged as the organised labour charged at the government for President Tinubu’s bold decision to stop the fuel subsidy hemorrhage. Typical of its default mode, organised labour saw the decision as an affront on the poor. They wanted the decision reversed and issued a notice of strike. It was President Tinubu’s first leadership test.
The skillful manager of men and materials he is, the President immediately swung into action inviting the labour leaders to negotiation table. Using facts and figures, he made them see the reason for the decision.
6. GETTING NIGERIA’S MOJO BACK ON THE GLOBAL STAGE: There is no gainsaying Nigeria’s respect and leadership role in the subregion and beyond are renewed. At his first outing with ECOWAS, President Tinubu was unanimously elected by his colleagues as the new chairman of the regional body. He has since gone on to demonstrate leadership at that level as well as evidenced by his inaugural speech after taking over. “Nigeria is back” he roared. The dignifying address was reminiscent of Murtala Muhammed’s January 1976 address in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Like General Muhammed, President Tinubu is a pan-Africanist who believes in the continent’s ability to tackle its own challenges and equal treatment at the global stage.
Beyond the West Africa and the larger continent, President Tinubu is coveted by all. Recall the warmth and affectionate welcome by President Macron?
7. BRILLIANT OFF-THE-CUFF SPEECHES: President Tinubu has been regailing his audience with off-the-cuff straight-from-the-heart speeches. For a man with original ideas and clarity of vision he needed no cosmetic scripting. This has enabled the President to speak from the heart and connect more intimately with his audience. The brilliance of these speeches did not only draw applause, though claps can be for eye service, their deeper meanings also excite much after. The speeches change opinions about the President and turn the heart and minds. They draw respect.
A Labour Party lawmaker from Abia State, Hon. Amobi Oga, is one such person mesmerized by the President’s hearty address when he met lawmakers-elect on June 8, ahead of the National Assembly inauguration.
“Today is my best day. Today, I’m so happy that I’m an elected member seeing my President talking. In fact, I’ve never known that this man is so intelligent,” Oga told reporters at the end of the close door session. “I never knew that this man is so prepared to serve this country. I saw the love, character, and charisma — the belief that Nigeria can be a better nation.”
Indeed with the demonstrated leadership of President Tinubu “Nigeria can be better again”, to borrow the phrase of Rep Oga.
Abdulaziz, a presidential media aide, writes from Abuja