Monday, 20 May 2024 04:12

Tinubu’s reign of deception, destitution and hopelessness - Usman Yusuf

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Usman Yusuf Usman Yusuf

President Bola Tinubu’s first year in office has been one like no other. He has willfully turned Nigerians into destitute in their land of plenty. In a country that is officially not at war and has not experienced failure of rainfall, and drought, it is very painful to see citizens, predominantly women and children, go through the humiliation of queuing up for cups of rice as one sees in war-torn Sudan or Gaza Strip.

This harsh and intolerable condition is a result of Tinubu’s inhumane, World Bank-prescribed economic policies of sudden removal of fuel subsidy, massive devaluation of the naira, and interest rate and electricity tariff hikes. These misguided policies have resulted in galloping inflation now at a 28-year high of 33 per cent, and food inflation rate of 40 per cent.

In a country with 133 million, 65 per cent of its population, already in multidimensional poverty and over 20 million children out of school, these policies have added millions more citizens into multidimensional poverty and millions more children into out-of-school kids because their parents cannot pay for their school fees.

Millions of Nigerians, predominantly women and children, go to bed hungry with no certainty of anything to eat when they wake up. Heads of households are absconding from their homes, abandoning mothers with children because they cannot feed their families.

The government’s answer to this self-imposed hardship is to provide food palliatives. On February 8, 2024, Tinubu directed the release of 42,000 metric tons of grains from the strategic grains reserve to be distributed free of charge to vulnerable Nigerians. It is now almost four months but no vulnerable Nigerian has received anything.

The truth is that the Federal Government knows well that all its silos are literally empty. A Northern governor that was co-opted into this ruse went as far as declaring five work-free days for distribution of what he very well knew were non-existent palliatives. It is depressing that 64 years after independence, Nigerians are being turned into beggars by their leaders.

Our children’s education has never been more imperiled than now because of the return of mass school abductions by terrorists. Ten years after the tragic abduction of 276 school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents, Nigeria has witnessed five mass school abductions (in Gusau, Dutsinma, Gada, Ekiti and Kuriga) in the first eight months of this administration. In spite of these school abductions, neither the state nor federal governments are doing anything to secure our schools because only the children of the poor are at risk.

Nigeria’s healthcare system is in shambles, with many hospital wards across the country looking distressingly like abattoir. The Primary Healthcare Clinics have been abandoned. The healthcare financing system has been hijacked by “middlemen” called Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to the detriment of patients and healthcare providers.

The recent hike in electricity tariff poses an existential threat to the survival of healthcare services in Nigeria. Many hospitals will not be able to pay the new tariffs, as exemplified by a video clip of a Doctor lamenting after receiving an electricity bill of N25.3 million.

There has been a mass exodus of healthcare workers out of Nigeria because of the conditions of our healthcare facilities, lack of work tools and poor pay for healthcare workers. Recent report by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) revealed that there are 130,000 registered doctors in Nigeria serving a population of 200 million, giving a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 Doctor serving 1,500 patients (1:1,500).

The WHO’s recommendation is that one Doctor should serve 600 patients (1:600). This ratio is much higher in many states, signifying that all Nigerians, regardless of their station in life, live in a very high-risk medical environment.

Millions of Nigerians have simply stopped taking their medications because they cannot afford them and have resorted to traditional medicines and prayers, resulting in increased disease-related complications and deaths.

Recent data from the Nigerian Hypertension Society suggests that of the 70 million Nigerian adults with hypertension, half (35 million) are not on treatment due to the skyrocketing drug prices, consequently, Doctors are now seeing more and more hypertension-related complications like stroke, kidney failures, heart failures and deaths.

Last year, hospitals across the country recorded an exponential rise in the number of children admitted with diseases of severe malnutrition (Marasmus and Kwashiorkor). Children of the poor continue to die needlessly from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, diphtheria, diarrhea, pneumonia and meningitis due to lack of access to healthcare.

Contrary to the official propaganda and half-truths about improvements in Nigeria’s national security, the reality on the ground, particularly in the Northwest and North Central part of the country, is different. Terrorists still control a large swath of the country’s rural areas years into the wars against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

The land is still drenched in the blood of innocent people. Villages are being ransacked and pillaged while thousands of the villagers have been chased out of their homes or abducted for ransom. Farmers are chased out of their farmlands or levied on their harvests. Major highways still remain unsafe from terrorists who attack travelers, killing and abducting passengers at will for ransom. Ethno- religious conflicts and killings continue unabated.

The 400 women and children abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from IDP camps in Gamboru Ngala, Borno State on March 3, 2024 have been forgotten by the government.

The morale of members of the military is at its lowest because active duty personnel are increasingly being ambushed and killed by terrorists all across the country. In the last eight months, over 500 officers and soldiers have been reported killed in such attacks.

The recent unplanned withdrawal of the military from two terrorists-infested areas in Maru Local Council, Zamfara State and Shiroro Local Council, Niger State, where the military suffered unfortunate losses, could very well be a sign of frustration and battle fatigue in our soldiers.

While their house is on fire, 10 northern Nigeria governors went to America looking for solutions to problems they are complicit in creating because they control the drivers of insecurity in their states. I have said it again and again that all our security problems are local, and their solutions must be found locally, not in Abuja, New York, Washington DC or anywhere else. The armed militias created by some of these governors in their states have done nothing but worsened the bloodshed.

It is no secret that both the American and French governments have been lobbying the Nigerian government to open bases and station their troops on Nigerian soil following their expulsion from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. The real concern is that the timing of the invitation to the 10 northern governors by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) may not be unconnected with this lobby.

Addressing Nigeria’s intractable security challenges will require a sincere, strategic, holistic approach involving all stakeholders, instead of the disjointed fire brigade approach currently employed.

Tinubu’s economic policies have caused a cost of living crisis in Nigeria, resulting in unbearable hardship on all citizens. Workers’ salaries cannot pay for rent, water, food, clothing, school fees, transportation, and other basic necessities of life.

Runaway inflation has pauperised citizens and worsened hunger in the land. Managers of the economy are at a loss as to what to do. Their attempt at borrowing and hiking the interest rates to artificially prop up the value of the Naira against the Dollar has not and will never work.

It is voodoo economics to think that taxing citizens beyond their capacity to pay will revive Nigeria’s comatose economy. Taxes do not grow economies, production does.

The Federal Government has quietly resumed paying for the same fuel subsidy it removed on May29, 2023. The simple questions to ask are, why is the pump price not back to where it was before the removal of subsidy, were these payments provided for in the 2024 budget, and who are the new Cabals benefiting from these payments?

The attempt by Tinubu’s administration to impose this so-called cyber security tax on citizens is nothing but a desperate effort to elevate the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to a level that was never intended by the authors of our constitution.

The National Assembly saw through this desperation when it defeated a bill presented to the Senate seeking to grant additional powers and creation of armed agencies under the National Security Adviser (NSA).

The attempt to create a taxpayer-funded Cybersecurity fund appears to be a continuation of this effort that would make the ONSA far better funded than the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces, the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Intelligence Services. This will be a very dangerous development that will be fatal to our democracy.

We cannot elevate or give power to an appointee way beyond a representative elected by the people. So to create a fund in the name of whatever aspect of national security is to arm and empower an appointee of the President.

History should teach us of the dangers of allowing appointees of the President to amass so much unchecked powers as was the case with J. Edgar Hoover who became the most powerful FBI’s chief serving as Chief for 48 years under 8 United States Presidents.

Never in the 25-year history of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule have we seen such a brazen impunity by Tinubu in alleged unilateral award of a N15.6 trillion contract for Lagos-Calabar coastal highway to his longtime friend and business associate in violation of all procurement and due process laws and procedures. Such an amount could complete all the inland roads in the country with some change to spare.

This is a classic case of the term State Capture, which is defined as a situation where narrow interest groups take control of the institutions and processes through which public policy is made, directing public policy away from the public interest and instead shaping it to serve their own interests.

Tinubu is already setting his sights on his re-election bid in 2027. Consequently, he is aggressively cultivating five major constituencies: Members of the National Assembly, who refuse to ask the right questions as representatives of their people, Governors, who keep their people quiet by throwing at them palliatives of cups of rice, Religious Clerics, that supported his Muslim-Muslim ticket and the Security Services, whom he thinks will  protect him from citizens’ anger. The last constituency is Hausa Praise Singers, who have been contracted to sing his praises and songs that would distract restive northern youths from their daily sufferings.

It is unfortunate that by his actions and inactions, the lives, livelihoods and welfare of Nigerians do not matter to this President. Tinubu’s impulsive and amateurish handling of the aftermath of the July 2023 coup in Niger is largely responsible for the exit of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso from the ECOWAS, thereby jeopardizing the survival of the organization created 49 years ago. The exit of these three countries from the ECOWAS, acceptance of Russian troops on their soil and the frenzied lobby of the French and Americans to relocate their military bases to Nigeria are all harbingers of bad things to come.

It is concerning that while many Francophone African countries are breaking free from the shackles of oppression and exploitation of their colonial masters, Tinubu is dragging Nigeria blindly into the embrace of France.

Nigerians have lost faith and trust in this government due to continuing hardships, increasing cost of living, insecurity, corruption in government, youth unemployment and hopelessness. Leaders continue to live lives of vulgar opulence, corruption, and impunity while citizens live in penury.

Tinubu’s tenure has thus far been a catastrophic failure in governance. His policies have plunged the citizenry deeper into poverty, imperiled our national security and compromised the integrity of our institutions. Tinubunomics, under the guise of reforms, is only intensifying hardships in the land. The misallocation of resources and corruption reflect a leadership that prioritises personal enrichment over the public interests. This administration’s actions are disappointing, morally reprehensible and go against the principles of democracy and good governance. We cannot and will not remain silent.
** Yusuf is a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation.

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