The essence of government is to have an effective and working society where the interests and welfare of the citizens are top priorities. Bola Tinubu, during the electioneering campaigns, did not mince words in telling Nigerians of his “Renewed Hope” agenda. From the streets of Benin to Kaduna, the APC ran jingles on how they would renew the hopes of millions of Nigerians if reelected.
The renewed hope has turned out to be in stark contrast to whatever has a semblance of hope embedded in it. It has brought tears, despair, untold hardship, and excruciating pain to millions of ordinary Nigerians while the administration has continued with programmes and policies that favour the Nigerian elite.
On May 29th, Tinubu, in a juxtapose style associated with Nigerian politicians, announced the removal of fuel subsidies without any dialogue with stakeholders or even a constituted cabinet. This action sent the prices of PMS up by over 300%, from N195 to N540, depending on the location. This has caused transportation costs to rise by over 100%. Small businesses are groaning and on the brink of extinction, especially those that depend on fuel to run effectively because of the irregular power supply in the country.
Any sensitive government should have put in place an efficient mass urban transportation system where the buses run on compressed natural gas or electricity rather than fuel to lessen the immediate effects of such a policy.
The hope of Nigerians was further renewed with the news of a student loan bill that further alienates the poor and aims to jerk up the cost of tertiary education in Nigeria. Under this law, an applicant must provide two guarantors and each of the guarantors shall be a senior civil servant from level 12, a lawyer with at least 10 years post-call experience, a judicial officer, or a justice of peace. How many poor Nigerians, from the slums of Makoko to the suffering internally displaced scattered in refugee camps in Benue, Borno, and other places, can meet these criteria?
Still, under this law, beneficiaries are mandated to pay back the loan two years after graduation, which is a year after the mandatory one-year national youth service. This is worrisome considering the challenging employment landscape for graduates in Nigeria. Many graduates need help finding suitable employment opportunities, which leads to difficulties in repaying their loans within the specified timeframe.
It’s worth noting that Nigeria’s high unemployment rate poses a significant challenge to graduates seeking employment after completing their studies. With limited job opportunities available, many graduates may need help finding well-paying jobs to enable them to repay their loans promptly.
With the provision of loans to students, the APC administration plans to stop subsidising tertiary education and push the cost onto Nigerians. This invariably means that Nigerians will pay more for tertiary education, and the government will justify it with the provision of loans that must be paid.
This policy seeks to further alienate the poorest of the poor, who hitherto could afford the cheap fees of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Borrowing student loans to learn in a poor educational system in an economy where almost no jobs are available, there is a high inflation rate, multi-dimensional poverty, and insecurity is sheer wickedness.
The hardship on Nigerians will reach a crescendo with the planned increment of the electricity tariff on July 1st and the introduction of VAT on AGO products such as premium motor spirit PMS (fuel) and diesel. Imagine having to pay VAT on fuel and another 40% tariff increase on unstable electricity, with banks not having a steady supply of forex. The implications are disastrous for any country that wants a productive economy that builds investors’ confidence and creates employment for teeming youths.
While Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s hammer has continued to hit millions of ordinary Nigerians, the government has done nothing to cut the cost of governance. Nigerians have sacrificed a lot. A dwindling naira value, high inflation, low income, and high unemployment rate in the midst of this government onslaught could lead to crises.
Nigerian government officials must also sacrifice; the humongous pay and hefty allowances they receive monthly should be cut, and our National Assembly members should be paid sitting allowances as opposed to the millions they currently take home. The president should reduce the billions allocated annually for feeding Aso Rock and reduce the financial recklessness associated with Nigerian government officials.
Nigerians will take Tinubu seriously if these austerity measures are extended to the government cycle.
The APC’s “Renewed Hope” has become synonymous with increased despair for the common Nigerian. The removal of fuel subsidies without proper dialogue or consideration for the impact on citizens has caused skyrocketing prices, intensified the burden on small businesses, and worsened the purchasing power of citizens.
Additionally, the introduction of a student loan bill further alienates the poor and will burden them with debt in an already challenging employment landscape. While Nigerians suffer, the government fails to address the excessive cost of governance, highlighting the urgent need for austerity measures that extend beyond ordinary citizens.