To say that the Nigerian President has the easiest job in the world would be a huge mistake. Being responsible for the well-being of over 200 million people, 60% of whom live below the poverty line, tackling deep-rooted corruption and combating insecurity while navigating the deadly seas of Nigeria’s various ethnic and religious divisions is a daunting challenge to surmount. October 26 marks 150 days since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in to solve those problems. How has he done so far?
150 days is a relatively short period of time; certainly not enough to judge the overall performance of any leader. Policies take time to produce tangible results and for their impact to be felt. Unexpected events and deep-rooted problems can challenge a leader’s ability to bring about substantial change in that limited time. But think of the 150-day marker as an indicator. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it provides valuable insights into a leader’s priorities, decision-making style, and commitment to campaign promises. Historical examples, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal or Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, show that leaders can make significant progress in addressing pressing issues and setting the tone for their administrations within this time-frame.
A Rocky Start
Bola Tinubu’s road to the Nigerian presidency was long and winding. He started his political career in the early 1990s and was a vocal critic of the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha before being forced into exile in 1994. He returned to Nigeria after Abacha’s death and was elected governor of Lagos State in 1999, serving two terms. During his time as governor, Tinubu oversaw a period of significant economic growth and development in Lagos. He became known for his political acumen and, eventually, dogged by allegations of corruption and godfatherism.
Yet, he secured victory in Nigeria’s closest election since the return to democracy, against such formidable challengers as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, a popular former governor of Anambra state. The election was marred by poor logistics, electoral violence, ethnic politics, voter suppression, low voter turnout, and eventual legal challenges. From the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to the CSU certificate saga, the early canvas of Tinubu’s presidency has been stained by the ink of litigation. Despite those challenges, the administration has been working to weather the unique local and foreign challenges that governing Nigeria presents.
Promises Made, Promises Kept?
In the run-up to his eventual victory, Tinubu made many promises to the country, some of which were mired in controversy. He released an 80-page policy document outlining an eight-point agenda. National security, the economy, agriculture, healthcare, power, oil and gas, transportation, and education topped his priority list. Here is a summary of the specific promises he made in each of those areas:
- Security: Tinubu promised to reform Nigeria’s security architecture and make it more responsive to the needs of the people. He also promised to increase funding for the security forces and improve their welfare.
- Economy: Tinubu promised to create one million jobs in the digital economy and to promote domestic manufacturing. He also promised to review the country’s currency swap policy and to consult with Nigerians on how to best manage the economy. Tinubu promised to remove the fuel subsidy, which he said was a waste of government resources.
- Education: Tinubu promised to grant full autonomy to federal universities and to implement a student loan scheme. He also promised to improve the quality of education at all levels. Tinubu promised to create opportunities for young Nigerians and to help them develop their skills and talents.
- Healthcare: Tinubu promised to make basic healthcare accessible and affordable for all Nigerians. He also promised to improve the quality of healthcare services in the country. He plans to scale up the National Health Insurance Authority Act, to cover at least 40% of the population within two years. And he hopes to ensure that no person lives more than 3 kilometres or a 30-minute walk from a primary facility.
- Transportation and Infrastructure: Tinubu promised to invest heavily in infrastructure development, including roads, railways, airports, and ports. He also promised to improve Nigeria’s use of the inland waterways and prioritise the completion of ongoing railway projects.
- Oil and gas: Tinubu pledged to increase crude oil production to 2.6mmbpd by 2027 and 4mmbpd by 2030, achieve full deregulation of midstream gas prices within 6 months, increase gas production by 20%, and complete critical gas infrastructure projects by 2027.
- Power: Tinubu promised to generate, transmit, and distribute sufficient, affordable electricity to all Nigerians.
- Agriculture: Tinubu promised to reform the agricultural sector and make it more efficient and productive.
Milestones Along the Way
As we navigate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s first 150 days in office, it’s crucial to delve into the significant accomplishments and challenges that have marked this early period. Below is a table offering a glimpse into the initial policies of his presidency:
|June||• Signed Access to Higher Education Act, 2023.|
• Harmonization of Retirement Age for Judicial Officers.
• Signed the Nigeria Data Protection Act 2023 into law.
• Approved Electricity Act 2023
|• Declaration of the removal of petrol subsidy, leading to economic hardship and public outcry. |
• Attempted unification of the exchange rates, causing exchange rate volatility and inflation.
|July||• Addressed the nation on the state of the economy. |
• Launched the Manufacturing Support Fund.
• Approved the Infrastructure Support Fund for the States.
|• Rising cost of living due to the removal of petrol subsidy removal and increased exchange rates.|
|August||• Swore in a new cabinet of ministers.||• Diplomatic challenges with the coup in the Niger Republic|
|September||• Signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law.|
• Commissioned new infrastructure projects.
|• Further legal challenges related to the presidential election|
|October||• Commenced cash transfer to 15 million households. |
• Ordered release of 4 months of withheld salaries of ASUU members
• Approved the payment of monthly grants to vulnerable pensioners.
• Inaugurated a Committee on Tax Reforms.
|• Rising cost of goods and increasing black market exchange rates.|
• Legal challenges related to the presidential election.
- Fuel Subsidy Removal
In the world of Nigerian politics, promises are a currency traded in abundance. President Bola Tinubu, on his campaign trails, had pledged to hit the ground running. And he didn’t disappoint. During his inaugural address, a thunderbolt struck – the removal of the government subsidy on fuel. That decision had been in the works for months, initiated by the previous administration. However, Tinubu’s announcement sent shockwaves, caused panic buying and triggered an overnight surge in fuel prices across Nigeria. The National Labour Union (NLC) reacted swiftly by calling for protests and a nationwide strike. These were later called off amidst negotiations with the government. The World Bank and other international financial organisations commended the subsidy removal as a positive development, but the government’s failure to prepare for the consequences cast a shadow of doubt on its foresight. In a bid to lessen the impact of the removal on the people, the Federal Government also approved 5 billion naira for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to procure food items for distribution to the poor in their respective states.
- Panic! At the CBN
Another unexpected twist was unfolding in the background while the nation grappled with the aftermath of the subsidy removal. Godwin Emefiele, the two-term governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, was suspended and then apprehended while attempting to flee the country. Emefiele’s tenure had been marked by an unpopular approach to managing the Nigerian naira, one that some saw as outdated. The reasons given for his suspension included ongoing investigations and planned financial sector reforms. Yet, whispers in the political corridors hinted at deeper complexities, particularly the abrupt increase in the government’s debt borrowing ceiling on the eve of President Tinubu’s inauguration.
- Forex Unification and Economic Reforms
Following Emefiele’s suspension, the Central Bank of Nigeria lifted restrictions on foreign exchange trading to unify Nigeria’s parallel and official exchange rates. However, what followed was the local currency plummeting to historic lows, further surpassed in October, when the CBN lifted the ban on certain products accessing foreign exchange (forex). These restrictions pushed importers into the parallel market and stoked speculative demand for forex. Despite the attempted unification of forex rates, supply remains an issue in the market, which has led to a significant widening of the arbitrage gap. That has had a significant impact on petrol prices, leading to more labour unrest. Notably, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) has attempted to secure a $3 billion emergency crude loan from Afreximbank to stabilise the foreign exchange market and support the naira. A $10 billion inflow is also expected to improve the forex situation in the coming weeks.
Other economic initiatives taken by the Tinubu administration so far include:
- Economic Reforms: President Tinubu unveiled a plan to spend 500 billion naira ($652 million) aimed at boosting the economy by easing transportation costs, boosting manufacturing, enhancing food supply by investing in farmland cultivation, and providing conditional grants to at least a million small businesses.
- Manufacturing Support Fund Launch: In July, President Tinubu launched the Manufacturing Support Fund, a 75 billion naira initiative aimed at strengthening the manufacturing sector and creating jobs. The fund will provide low-interest loans to manufacturing companies that have the potential to expand and create employment opportunities.
- Approval of the Infrastructure Support Fund for the States: President Tinubu approved the Infrastructure Support Fund for States, which aims to empower states to invest in critical sectors such as healthcare, education, and rural infrastructure.
- Appointments and an Empty Cabinet?
In the early days of his presidency, Senator George Akume took up the mantle of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, while Femi Gbajabiamila assumed the pivotal role of Chief of Staff to the President. However, these appointments were far from drama-free. On the same night that Emefiele faced suspension, Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who had previously initiated an investigation involving President Tinubu, encountered a similar fate, raising eyebrows regarding potential political manoeuvring.
While President Tinubu acted swiftly in key appointments, one area where time seemed to slip away was in forming his ministerial team. The anticipation for his cabinet grew as a constitutional amendment stipulated that ministers should be appointed within the initial sixty days of his presidency. In a race against the clock, President Tinubu eventually unveiled a list of 45 ministers. To the disappointment of many, the list included familiar faces of ex-governors and seasoned political figures.
- The New State of Security
One of the President’s early actions was the appointment of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser, a decision that marked a stark departure from the long-standing dominance of the military within Nigeria’s state security apparatus.
What’s more, on that same day, President Tinubu instigated a sweeping transformation within the leadership of the armed and paramilitary forces, sacking over 150 major generals, signifying a substantial shift in the direction of state security.
- ECOWAS and the Coup Wave
Upon assuming the role of ECOWAS Chairman, President Tinubu called on member states to “stand firm on democracy.” However, his administration was not allowed a breather before having to put his commitment to that statement to the test. In about 2 weeks after he took the position, there was a coup in the Niger Republic, and the world watched to see ECOWAS reaction. The regional bloc considered the option of military intervention to restore the deposed President Mohammed Bazoum in the Niger Republic, a decision that sparked controversy both within the country and outside. Following defaulted ultimatums, an unyielding military government in Niger, and threats from Burkina Faso and Mali about allying with Niger, the fiasco fizzled. But adding to the conundrum was a coup in neighbouring Gabon, just after the country conducted presidential elections.
- And The Bills Keep Coming
In June, Tinubu approved the Electricity Act, granting states, companies, and individuals the power to generate and distribute electricity. This law replaced the Electric Power Sector Reform Act from 2005, aiming to streamline regulations and attract investment by allowing states to issue licences for mini-grids and power plants, excluding inter-state distribution.
Within his first 150 days in power, Tinubu also enacted the students’ loan bill, a key campaign promise aimed at expanding access to education in the country. However, the stringent eligibility criteria and requirements for a guarantor, including a family income threshold of less than 500,000 naira annually, limited the bill’s accessibility. As a result, only a few individuals qualified for the program.
Additionally, on August 8, President Tinubu inaugurated a presidential committee led by Taiwo Oyedele to address fiscal policy and tax reforms. This committee, composed of experts from both the private and public sectors, took on the responsibility of overhauling various aspects of tax laws, fiscal policy design, coordination, and harmonising tax and revenue administration. Some of its initial proposals include the suspension of multiple taxes that disproportionately burden low-income individuals and small businesses, and the expansion of the official foreign exchange market to include various financial entities such as Bureau de Change (BDCs), forex apps and retail forex dealers, while cracking down on black market transactions.
We have witnessed a flurry of decisions during President Tinubu’s whirlwind first 150 days in office. From his bold stance on regional coups to the dramatic suspension of key figures like Godwin Emefiele and Abdulrasheed Bawa, this administration has already made its presence felt.
As the dust settles and the nation takes stock of those early milestones, one can’t help but ponder the road ahead. Will the removal of the fuel subsidy truly herald a new era of economic responsibility, or will it bear unintended consequences for the ordinary Nigerian? Can the new policies lead to a more prosperous and stable economy, or will it give way to unforeseen challenges?
Reformer is a term some have used to describe the current president, but whether those reforms favour the people, and to what extent, remains to be seen. In the dynamic landscape of Nigerian politics, time alone will reveal the true impact of these decisions and their resonance with the populace.
Farook is a data scientist and writer passionate about generating insights to Nigerian issues.