By Tunde Rahman
In the last one-week since President Bola Tinubu clocked 100 days in office, commentators and analysts, political observers and politicians have busied themselves, dissecting the President’s performance in office, particularly his major decisions and policy options. Many have also commented on the achievements recorded and the areas that require improvements.
The newspapers and electronic media have been awash with many lauding the giant strides recorded within just three months and a few days in office. Some top politicians like former Zamfara State governor, Senator Abdulaziz Yari representing Zamfara West, and the Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, for instance, bought the front pages of some newspapers to celebrate the President, his exemplary leadership and well-thought out economic policies in just 100 days. Some others, particularly the opposition, behaving like sore losers that they are, however, refuse to acknowledge the gains achieved, even amid the prevailing challenges.
Assessing a President’s performance in 100 days in office seemed to have become the norm from the days of 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933 indicated he wanted to move with unprecedented speed to address the problems facing the United States of America, yet it was acknowledged even at the time that to judge an incoming President on the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office is to hold him to an impossible standard. 100 days in the life of a nation may appear like a drop in an ocean. Yet a lot was achieved within that space of time under the Tinubu presidency such that it would be very appropriate to talk about them.
The achievements recorded, which included resetting the economy by removing the ruinous fuel subsidy, thus freeing for development activities money that would otherwise have illegally gone into a few pockets, unifying the many exchange rates that paved the grounds for arbitrage, the humongous amount now being raked in ensuring that the Federal Government and the sub-nationals now have more money to share from the Federation Accounts, the compensatory palliatives now coming from the states as a result of the increased allocation, the gradual return of Nigeria’s preeminent status on the international stage, and many more, are worth talking about and repeating.
For instance, unwittingly drawing attention to the huge amounts states now receive from the Federation Accounts, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, in a 2nd quarter 2023 Federation Account Statutory Revenue Allocations Report, disclosed that the 36 states of the federation received about N1.51 trillion or 34.5% of the total N4.37 trillion shared by the three tiers of the government between January and June 2023. “On a year-on-year basis, the report showed that when compared with the corresponding period in 2022, allocations to the State Governments from the Federation Account in 2023 grew by about 11.2% to N1.42 trillion from N1.26 trillion,” the report said. Not a few economic watchers would know the bulk of that money came in June 2023 alone when around N1trillion was distributed.
This intervention is not really about these accomplishments, which are very remarkable by all standards within just 100 days. It’s about President Tinubu’s acts of leadership. The untold stories of courage, the boldness and audacity he has brought into governance, the ability to accept mistakes and make correction, the empathy he has demonstrated, how he engaged youths in government, the vision behind it and the way and manner he carried it about. Stories abound about all of these, which are either not properly highlighted or remain largely unreported. The true test of a leader’s capabilities emerges when his actions and utterances are gauged in those moments he lets down his guards, oblivious that he is being watched. These are the stories told in this article.
The first is about the empathy President Tinubu has brought into governance. The President lived in his Asokoro, Abuja residence for around two months or so, while the Presidential Villa accommodation was being readied, before he eventually moved in. Sensing that the main residence at the Villa was going to take much longer to be fully repaired, he caused the 3-bedroom apartment, popularly called The Glass House, which will take a shorter time to be put in good shape for use, to be worked on. However, in the meantime, before that Glass House got ready, and uncomfortable that he was causing the people around his Asokoro house some discomfort by his daily movement to and fro the Presidential Villa, he instructed his staff to print a letter of apology, circulated in and around Asokoro, appealing to the people for understanding and urging them give him a little time to sort out himself. That was awesome and humbling in my view.
Secondly, while not dwelling so much here about his boldness in removing the twin subsidies- the one on fuel and foreign exchange- even as he acknowledged that there would be some accompanying difficulties, you would recall that the President at every turn kept urging Nigerians to be patient and to know that the pains would be temporary. He even made a broadcast to the nation on this. Appealing for patience and understanding, he had said in the broadcast:
“I understand the hardship you face. I wish there were other ways. But there is not. If there were, I would have taken that route as I came here to help not hurt the people and nation that I love.”
He would say the present pains could be likened to birth pangs and that the moment the baby is born, the pains disappear and that the ultimate joy of a woman is in seeing her baby.
Thirdly, in 100 days, President Tinubu demonstrated his ability to accept mistakes and make corrections, which is rare among many leaders. The President, on further reflection, dropped a ministerial nominee he felt was not up to the billing to be the minister representing conservative Kano. He also reshuffled and readjusted the portfolios of some ministers even before they took office, accepting some mistakes were made and correcting the errors. He effected changes in the composition of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission with respect to the nominations of Ondo and Cross River States representatives. In my view, it is an act of good leadership and courage to accept mistakes and to correct them.
Fourthly, appointing young persons like 37-year-old renowned surgeon and former Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu, former House of Representatives member, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, and tech expert, Mr. Bosun Tijani as ministers is commendable. President Tinubu, however, upped the ante when he went ahead to pick 32-year-old entrepreneur and another tech-expert, Khalil Halilu, as Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). As he assumed office, Halilu pledged to use STI to drive the President’s socio-economic priority areas.
But the real story here is about the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy Bosun Tijani. Visiting the Presidential Villa to thank President Tinubu for his appointment three weeks ago or so, just before the inauguration of Ministers, he met the Chief of Staff, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr. Dele Alake, this writer, and one or two others in the President’s Office that fateful day. And then one of us in that office mentioned something about how Tijani in the heat of exasperation with the country excoriated his fatherland and upbraided the governing APC. President Tinubu promptly shut the person up, saying what Bosun did in the heat of anger was understandable and should be forgotten, adding that he too had at one point during the dark days of the military frustratingly condemned the country. That was a forgiving and fatherly leader on display in that statement. Any need to tell more stories that President Tinubu, like many people had remarked, is indeed an appropriate man for the present time given his leadership experience, temperament, unique skills, competence, international exposure and extensive contacts which are required to take Nigeria to the next level.
-Rahman, former Editor of Thisday on Sunday Newspaper is a Presidential Aide.