Emotions are funny. They propel us and they hold us back. They polarize us and they unite us. They confuse us and they make things crystal clear.
Many believe the best performers are those devoid of emotion, but I think they just understand what emotion to indulge in given the task at hand. Nigerians are very emotional. We are passionate about sports, family, politics and so on.
This passion has seen us support causes and ventures closely and with great intensity. However, because most do not support their passions with adequate information and understanding of the larger vision, being easily discouraged is sadly one of our enduring traits. Unfortunately, endurance is a key trait we need to get Nigeria through its current predicament and to the Promise Land.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn into office on May 29th, 2023. According to an online calculator, that day was 22,885 days since the British gave Nigeria her independence on October 1st, 1960, and 8,766 days since the return to democracy on May 29th, 1999. He is yet to clock 85 days in office as at the time I am typing this article but there are certain people who want you to believe he has failed already.
Yes, opinions are free but what makes it particularly dangerous for such thoughts to be left unanswered is the fact that there are certain elements in our society that are ready to use any excuse to foment disharmony. We must give our people any understanding of what the President has been doing since he took office and the immediate, mid- and long-term consequences of his actions.
If a patient presents with Multimorbidity (i.e., the presence of 2 or more long-term health conditions), the best way for a doctor to move forward is to understand the issues, acknowledge the challenges and communicate to the patient the uncertainty of the net benefits of the multiple medications and procedures that will have to be done.
In cases like this, there is not one best solution because while one medication might be curing one illness, it might be exasperating another. The doctors and the patient must agree on the road map to good health, knowing that there will be painful lows and sweet highs in the undulating path to success. For instance, the loss of hair during chemotherapy should never come to the patient as either a surprise or a sign of further failing health but should be expected as a sign that work is ongoing. Communication is vital.
The long analogy above can be used to describe where President Tinubu and Nigeria find themselves today. The path to economic prosperity, unity and peace was always going to be painful and arduous. There is no magic to success. And, on his part, “Doctor” (President) Tinubu has told the nation just how “sick” (economically crippled) his “patient” (Nigeria) is.
Below is a portion of the speech the President gave on July 31st, 2023, 63 days after he took office:
“Our economy is going through a tough patch and you are being hurt by it. The cost of fuel has gone up. Food and other prices have followed it. Households and businesses struggle. Things seem anxious and uncertain. 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.”
This President understands what the everyday Nigerian is going through. That is why he ran for office. On July 6th, the President signed four different Executive Orders. They included the one that suspends the 2023 Finance Act deferring the date of its commencement from May 28, 2023 to September 1,2023, the Customs Excise Tariffs Amendment Order 2023, as well as the imposition of 5% Excise Tax on Telecommunication Services, amongst others. This was done to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive by reducing the existence of multiple taxes.
On August 8th, President Tinubu inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms. The committee was set up four weeks prior and is chaired by former Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), Taiwo Oyedele.
The committee has experts from both the private and public sectors as members. While directing all government MDAs to give the committee their maximum cooperation, the President said, “Within the scope of this mandate, the Committee shall have as its objective the advancement of viable and cost effective solutions to issues such as the multiplicity of revenue collection agencies, the high cost of revenue administration, the excessive burden of compliance on ordinary taxpayers, the lack of effective coordination between fiscal and other economic policies within and across levels of government and poor accountability in the utilisation of tax revenues.
“Our target is to improve Nigeria’s revenue profile while making the business environment more conducive and internationally competitive. Our aim is to transform the tax system to support sustainable development, while, at the same time, achieving a minimum of 18% Tax to GDP ratio within the next three years.”
Currently, Nigeria has a 10.86% Tax to GDP ratio making it one of the countries with the lowest tax collection rates in the world. Seeking to grow this by 80% in 3 years is a sign that the President is bullish about Nigeria and deserves support and commendation.
Strengthening the manufacturing sector is vital if our economic and job creation goals must be met. To achieve this, President Tinubu has announced that, between July 2023 and March 2024, 75 enterprises “with great potential to kick-start a sustainable economic growth” will be selected and supported with N1 Billion credit at 9% per annum with maximum of 60 months repayment for long term loans and 12 months for working capital.
Also, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and the informal sector will be energized with N125 billion within the same time frame.
On August 17th, it was announced that the Federal Government had approved N5 billion for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to enable them to procure food items for distribution to the poor in their respective states. This was in addition to the delivery of five trucks of grains to each state to support the drive to moderate prices. The government is also planning to provide are also providing 225,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer, seedlings and other inputs to farmers all to ensure food security.
He has made swift changes to those in charge of our fiscal and monetary policies, and removed the inefficient fuel subsidy that has forced the country into great debt. In July, the three tiers of government had N1.959 trillion to share. This is nearly triple the N786.161 billion shared in June and more than triple the N655.93 billion in May. The Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) had adopted N436.38 per dollar as exchange rate for the calculation of the forex component of collected revenues for June 2023 and that had gone up to about N750 per dollar at the time.
Only N907 billion was distributed among the three tiers of government, while N790 billion was saved, and the rest used for statutory deductions.
The President also approved the Infrastructure Support Fund for the States. This is designed to enable the States “to intervene and invest in the critical areas of Transportation, including farm-to-market road improvements; Agriculture, encompassing livestock and ranching solutions; Health, with a focus on basic healthcare; Education, especially basic education; Power and Water Resources, that will improve economic competitiveness, create jobs and deliver economic prosperity for Nigerians.”
These are all happening as the President has spent the first 100 days of his administration redefining democracy and demystifying the Presidency. So far, he has received visits from various ethnic groups, many of them minorities that have special requests. He has engaged with various sectors vital to the socio-economic stability of the country. Our war on insecurity has taken a refreshing approach as the new service chiefs have gotten their marching orders.
The state governors are in talks with the Organised Labour on the new minimum wage, even as each one of them has been given N5 billion and five trucks of grains to help alleviate the pains brought on by the removal of fuel subsidy.
Scarcity is the mother of innovation, hence there is now a realization that we can use alternative fuels to power our economy. To this end, the President approved the establishment of the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiative (PCNGI). The move is poised to revolutionise the transportation landscape in the country, targeting over 11,500 new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-enabled vehicles and 55,000 CNG conversion kits for existing Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)-dependent vehicles. The initiative comprises of a Comprehensive Adoption Strategy, to include Empowering Workshops Programme, Local Assembly and Job Creation.
To also prepare Nigeria for the economy of today and the future, 10 new ministries have been created or others modified to ensure optimum delivery of service to the people. They include: Marine and Blue Economy; Art, Culture and the Creative Economy; Health and Social Welfare; Aviation and Aerospace Development amongst others.
The road to economic recovery is an intricate process that demands careful consideration and collaboration. President Tinubu recognizes this and has reiterated the need for a collective effort in overcoming the challenges faced by Nigeria.
While painful adjustments may be necessary, the long-term gains must be prioritized. Investing in infrastructure, diversifying the economy, and promoting job creation are among the strategies to foster growth and stabilize the nation’s financial health.
Emotions have a profound impact on our lives, and in Nigeria, they hold significant sway over our actions and beliefs. Developing a balanced approach that combines our passionate nature with informed understanding is key to overcoming challenges.
President Tinubu’s tenure may be in its early stages, but it is essential to avoid premature judgments and give due time for effective policies to take root. Communication, empathy, and endurance are crucial elements as Nigeria navigates its path to a promising future. By embracing these factors and engaging in constructive dialogue, we can build a prosperous and united nation.
Gbenga Olorunpomi is a public relations consultant and writes from Abuja