For Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President and Commander-in-Chief, his first 100 days in office have shown that he does not want his presidency to drown and die by submerging in the mire of Nigeria’s socio-economic, cultural and political web.
Metaphorically speaking, Tinubu did not look before leaping into the river of subsidy removal and exchange rate policy change.
Now, he does not want his presidency to submerge and he is doing all he can to stay afloat.
But if there’s anything Tinubu has learnt or is learning, it is the sudden realisation that Nigeria is a bigger, more complex and more perplexing vortex that swirls dangerously.
From his precipitate and whimsical removal of subsidy without an immediate and corresponding plan to cushion its effects, the exchange rate policy and his move to close the gap between the official and parallel market rates which has further devalued the Naira, his inability to quickly assemble a team for the Federal Executive Council, FEC, to the substitution of nominees, the El-Rufai fiasco, the reshuffling and re-designation of cabinet members even before being sworn-in and the Nigerien coup crisis, President Tinubu is fast realising that the vice-hold grip on Lagos politics and its governance peters into irrelevance within the larger Nigerian political and governance space.
In the last 100 days, President Tinubu has been tinkering with and realigning his concepts and modules of governance and development.
What is very clear is that the president of Nigeria needs help. Fortunately, the ECOWAS’ hasty response to the Nigerien coup and Tinubu’s choice of former Emir Sanusi Lamido, former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the Ulamas as alternative dispute resolution ambassadors, suggests that Tinubu is not averse to seeking help when needed.
Obasanjo to Buhari
From Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo to Umar Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, the tribe of self-seeking individuals whom they recruited into their kitchen cabinets have almost always done them in. For Obasanjo, it was his Third-Term-agenda-propagating disciples; for Yar’Adua, the controversy surrounding his health, demise and the attempted manipulation to prevent a smooth transfer of power was evil. In Jonathan’s case, his over-reliance on a few of his kinsmen and the optics of a president who was overwhelmed by corrupt appointees and his romance with fifth columnists in his administration were his albatross. Buhari, disappointingly, was a shadow of his no-nonsense persona, a mythical persona that was supposed to abhor corruption and nepotism but which elevated both to never-before-seen heights in the annals of Nigeria’s history. Without prejudice to his episodic flashes of success, his mess is Tinubu’s to clear.
Why Tinubu needs help
Moving forward, Tinubu would need to familiarise himself with the concept of the known and unknown.
As explained by Andrea Mantovani in an article titled Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, Unknown Unknowns & Leadership, he referenced Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defence under George Bush.
The “unknown known”, Montovani posits, is a bold concept that Rumsfeld defines as “the things that you think you know that it turns out you did not”. How can these four concepts of known and unknown that Rumsfeld applied to national security also apply to governance?
(1) Known knowns: Things you’re aware of and understand (for example: the debilitating effect of subsidy payments and why it must be stopped)
(2) Known unknowns: Things you’re aware of but don’t understand (example: PMS imports but dubious volume of consumption)
(3) Unknown knowns: Things you’re not aware of but understand (example: The extent of speculation but the need to bridge the gap between official and parallel market rates)
(4) Unknown unknowns: Things you’re neither aware of nor understand (examples: The immediate negative and prolonged effect of his inaugural ‘subsidy is gone’ statement).
Each of these is associated with a unique understanding and awareness of the risk(s) in Nigeria’s situation and how best to approach governance issues beyond the optics of Bragadoccio.
By identifying what is known and unknown in any situation, Tinubu will have more information at his disposal on how to take smarter action. In contemporary sustainability narratives, success is hinged on knowledge and its application.
Some are already asking whether Mr. President knows what he’s doing. And if he does, does he mean well? Of course, he means well. But doing the right thing the wrong way has consequences. The backlash that he tried to avoid is what he is now dealing with – the partial return of subsidy and another stabilising effort to strengthen the naira.
What he must do
Tinubu will be his Helper-in-Chief. Institutional memory and understanding of the federal bureaucracy must be recognized while not being indulged. The 45 ministers and 20 advisers he has appointed (and still counting) are just too many in an economy seeking to breathe. Until recently, Mr. President’s verbalisation of his thoughts has served dysfunctional purposes making his handlers insist he must stay on script. He needs to heed the counsel.
Just as he has done with the Nigerien crisis, seeking help from more informed and influential quarters, President Tinubu would need to look beyond his circle of friends if, indeed, he wants Nigeria to be great again. The quantum of institutional and global knowledge needed to tackle Nigeria’s multi-faceted problems abounds and is not limited to just members of APC or its sympathisers. There is a growing consensus that with Tinubu, Nigeria must get it right and not miss it. For a man who is desperate to leave behind a legacy of development, he must seek help wherever he can find it.
Another category of those who can help Tinubu will be members of his immediate family. First Lady, Senator Remi Tinubu, must avoid the needless flamboyance of the wives of past presidents, a flamboyance that created dishonourable optics. So far, she has conducted herself with a dignified gait and respectable carriage. But the type of counsel she provides for Mr President in the other room, away from outside influence, will go a long way to cement Tinubu’s place in history as one who delivered. His son, Seyi, would need to lay low and stop his showy presence around the seat of power. This is already irritating to some.
The president would also need to quickly quench the fire of contestation among senior aides because of its discombobulating effect. His aides, too, particularly those who have access, must be ready to tell Mr. President some uncomfortable truth when necessary. Nigeria can not afford to populate the seat of power with ‘alright sir’ men and women.
Yes, he has 1,461 days which is his first four-year tenure. 100 days represent just 6.84%. But if morning tells the day, Tinubu and his team would need to brace up and renew the hope of Nigerians as promised. According to a poet, hope is better served as breakfast, not dinner. Already, the price of PMS (between N580/N700 per litre) is being bridged, naira exchanges for between N750 and N900 to $1 and inflation stands at 24.08% as of July 2023. Before Tinubu, PMS sold for between N187/N300, while $1 was between N450 and N750.
To understand why Tinubu needs our help, Nigerians should look at the mess he inherited from the last administration. Emir Sanusi Lamido started ringing the alarm bells as early as 2016/2017, but he was ignored. Constructive criticism should be appreciated by this administration. Finally, Tinubu and his handlers must understand that if and when he succeeds, no one will remember the people from whom he got help. The glory would be his. Therefore, seeking needed help should not be seen as an act of condescension. With what he has made of his first 100 days in office, Tinubu is a president in need of help.