By Ike Abonyi
“The Titanic did not hit the iceberg because they did not see it coming but because they could not change direction.” — Dean Devlin
The most challenging aspect of Practical Politics (PP101) is ruling against popular will. The 16th President of America, Abraham Lincoln, aptly captured it in these words: “No man is good enough to govern another without that other man’s consent.”
If it ever happens as is often the case with the pseudo-democracies of Africa, the usurper-ruler will just be operating like a community thief trying to impress the people with his loot while holding his gun in one hand. The more he tries to impress, the more he enrages and blood boils the people. It’s like shouting “in Jesus’s name’ at a church gathering and not getting “amen” in response. At this point, one need not be told that one is in the wrong place.
These scenarios are similar to what Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency has been struggling with in the last 100 days after he was sworn in amid protests of a stolen mandate. His controversial victory declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission remains unpopular and is being challenged by the two other leading presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and the only lady among the 18 who contested the February 25 polls, Princess Chichi Ojei of the Allied Peoples Movement.
In the last 100 days, Tinubu and the APC have been trying hard to impress the people while clutching an illicit and interdicted mandate. But when the gods are unhappy with you, all your steps will be wrong and even your sweet gifts will be bitter to the people. To political watchers, that picture captures Tinubu’s first 100 days in office.
So, how does one start assessing a presidency that emerged under such circumstances? Can there be any preaching or quoting of the Holy book by a criminal that can be persuasive and smooth-tongued? The core foundation of democracy is the rule of law and respect for the people’s will as freely expressed at elections. Where these two ingredients are missing, no amount of solid block placed on the wrong foundation will make the building stand. Even if the building does not collapse immediately, it’s just a matter of time. That explains why American musician, David Allan Coe, admonishes: “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”
Therefore, if the foundation of Tinubu’s presidency is defective, expectations for a democratic superstructure for good governance in his 100 days in office are not to be envisioned. And that is exactly what the country is experiencing at the moment.
In his ebook, First 100 Days: How to Make Maximum Impact in Your New Leadership Role, America’s Leadership Advisor, Niamh O’Keeffe, says, “The primary task for the executive targeting the first 100 days success is to set out the right strategic priorities and stay focused on them.”
Looking back at the last 100 days of Tinubu’s presidency, will it be safe to say that he has set out the right strategic priorities that he has stayed focused on? Taking a critical look at the presidential directive since May 29, 2023, can we justifiably say that the opening of the presidency is standing on good blueprints and a master plan looking ahead?
The first step of a dancer can give you insight into what is in the offing. This is applicable in every human endeavour, including but not limited to, politics and governance.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency was going to be turbulent and uneasy for many reasons, including his ugly baggage and the integrity-challenged process that threw him up. Even as he has proved over time to be a political principality in the ninefold celestial hierarchy, the weight of his baggage is also proving gargantuan for him to carry going forward. After 100 days in office, how has it been, in a score of 100 percent what can he get from a strict and impartial marker? Does his 100 days of the 1,461 days if he eventually scales the judicial hurdle provide any hope that the journey will be smooth or rough and that the driver is in complete control of the steering?
To critically examine this objectively, we have to take a look at various sectors of governance and how he has fared so far. One thing not a few are in agreement with is that Tinubu will do well in the area of politics. He has not been disappointed in that area, especially in political intrigues. Unlike Muhammadu Buhari who was visibly bereft of politicking, Tinubu comes in as a guru, politicking even when not needed.
In the last 100 days, all the actions and inaction of the presidency have been tailored towards politics. With a close look at most activities, especially appointments, you will think that the election will be next year.
The rush in appointments, the opening of positions the inclusion of ex-governors of all parties, and the rush to fill every vacant position in government, military, security, and diplomatic posts has a touch of politicking in it with electoral viability in mind.
The continuous Esau-and-Jacob hands in the various crises rocking the three main opposition parties (PDP, LP, and NNPP) resemble the type of game Tinubu the politician is a master in. Even his party has not been left behind as he strives to pocket it for his full and unhindered control.
The signs of external politics in the Nigerian Guild of Editors conference, Nigerian Bar Association conference, and the various labour unions in the first 100 days give a glimpse of what is coming in the Tinubu presidency if the judiciary endorses his present occupation of the Aso Rock Villa. Disregard for the rule of law is no big deal for a government that came to power clap-trapping and hogwashing due process. In trying to portray his government as fighting corruption which every discerning mind knows he is incapable of doing, the rule of law has been set aside. The suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who remains incarcerated despite a court order against their detention are ready examples. A serving youth corps member he appointed as a minister in breach of the National Youth Service Corps Act is still lingering and moves are on to amend the law for her sake.
In international relations, the regime has bluntly failed while trying to use the platform to reverse its legitimacy challenge. First, was the clever by-half move the President made immediately after inauguration to take the chair of the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, despite the numerous socio-political and economic challenges before him. The challenges include the pending petition against his win by those who feel it was stolen.
The ECOWAS gamble paid off for him as it made it possible for the West to relate with him when the Niger Republic military coup became unpopular. As the ECOWAS chair, both America and Europe now found the hitherto pariah leader handy notwithstanding his questionable past for their selfish interest.
The excitement of relating with the Western powers pushed him to want to begin a proxy war to satisfy them. But this brought him against Nigerians who felt he lacked the democratic credentials to fight a military coup since he came to power via a patently rigged election. While the Niger military used guns to seize power, so the argument goes, Tinubu used money, freebooters, and brigands.
In 100 days, corruption has rocked his government with allegations of exchange of money for appointments, and curious minds link it to the last-minute dropping of minister designates, and rescheduling of the cabinet even before swearing-in.
What has been very apparent in the first 100 days is the incoherence in the administration. The emerging cabals have not been able to harmonize their interests. The front-and-back decisions picture the regime as confused and not grounded in the seriousness the position deserves.
In all this, the populace bears the brunt as the hardship arising from the unprecedented inflation rate, the collapsing national currency and the removal of petrol subsidy hits hard on the people. And for a government that talks before thinking, the consequences rest on the people as insecurity deepens and many more people move into multidimensional poverty added to the over 133 million that the government of Muhammadu Buhari left behind.
However, the insensitivity of the regime to the pitiable plight of the people is not surprising because the President did not offer much to the people during the electioneering. He avoided debates or talk shows during campaigns and danced at rallies, saying nothing outside the ‘Bala Blu’. Unfortunately, he did not reckon with the people; he came to power without them and is going ahead in government without them. The concern of the government appears to be how to make more money it will need for politicking, not necessarily for the people’s welfare or structural development.
The greatest challenge of Tinubu’s presidency in the last 100 days is not much of what positive thing it achieved in the short period but more in how he is coping with the baggage of legitimacy and integrity challenges of his government. There are so many things a President can do in 100 days, even overnight, but there are also things he cannot do overnight or even in 1,000 days and that’s legitimizing a questionable mandate. Why? Because it’s the people not even the court who does that. In every democracy political power belongs to them but for Tinubu as can be attested to in the last 100 days, the people are not with him.
America’s founding father and third President, Thomas Jefferson, saw the importance and benefits of the legitimate government in the level of the people’s participation and noted, “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.” After 100 days in office, can Tinubu in all sincerity say that Nigerians feel themselves part of his government? God help us.