Tinubu’s cost-cutting scheme and warning to new ministers


The day I became the library prefect in secondary school, I knew things were about to get interesting. Days before they announced the new prefects to our school of 1,500 students, I got a hint about all the perks that came with the role. One of those perks was getting unfettered access to any book in the library, even the ones the librarians used to tell me were off-limits.

For me, this was heaven!

You see, I spent a lot of my free time in the library. But I was not reading textbooks – no way! I was diving into encyclopedias and newspapers. My curiosity always drove me to grab books labelled above my category, often leading to disputes with the librarians.

They had marked me and passed word around, “Watch that boy closely. Don’t let him get close to the science encyclopedias.” But I loved those books! They were not like boring textbooks. In the few instances, I stole them to read, I found them colourful and interactive. I could easily understand fundamental scientific theories because there was a story behind every theory.

The librarians had a point, though. Those books were expensive, and they didn’t want them to get messed up in a rookie’s hands.

So, when I walked into that library as the new prefect, I received a hero’s welcome where I was once rejected. Having a bit of power felt awesome! It made sense why at the orientation meeting, the school principal, Mr Akpan, warned all prefects against letting power get into their heads.

Fast forward to last Monday, President Bola Tinubu’s address to his new set of ministers reminded me of what Mr Akpan told us. Like prefects selected out of 200million+ Nigerians, there was a tendency to bask in the euphoria of their many perks and lose sight of the enormity of their new responsibilities.

At the inaugural Federal Executive Council meeting, Tinubu told them, “You and I know that expectations are high, and these are tough times. We must work hard and move ourselves to create a buoyant economy that will serve Nigeria.

“We have an employment rate that is unacceptable, and we are facing threats from climate change. In order to turn things around, you have been selected to perform your utmost best.

“It is in your hands now. I am ready to listen and cooperate. I am ready even to be corrected. Only God is perfect. You have been asked to fetch water from a dry well. The challenges are great, but we will deliver for Nigerians. I am happy to be the captain of this vehicle.

“It is a great commitment that you have made to the country. Since your inauguration as a minister, you have become a servant for the people, serving all of the people, all of the time.” I hope that these words stay with them.

With the inaugural FEC meeting on Monday, Tinubu’s administration is changing the usual rhythm of the Villa, where such meetings often held on Wednesdays.

In the Buhari years, Mondays were an extension of the weekend, a practice believed to be also peculiar to the White House in the USA. It may take some getting used to, but I think Mondays are fitting for FEC meetings. As workers, businesspeople and students observe the Monday rush, ministers should also be racing into the Presidential Villa for their share of the national workload.

A lean UNGA delegation

Since assuming office, Nigerians have been asking President Tinubu to cut down on government spending. While the average citizen expected wage cuts for senior public servants, especially lawmakers who have been in the fury range for ages, Tinubu had other plans.

Last Monday, he directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop the processing of visas for all government officials who want to travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Without proof of direct participation in UNGA’s official schedule of activities, no visas will be issued.

When I saw the statement, I could hear a chorus of despair ripping through the entire civil service. I imagined the tons of hotel reservations made weeks earlier going to waste. And months-long scheming to meet the President on foreign soil may have also gone down the drain. But Nigerians hardly give up. Even though the 78th UNGA is still weeks away, some people might still try to circumvent this rule.

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So, to prevent “any sharp practice,” the President said the “U.S. Mission in Nigeria is accordingly guided on official visa processing while Nigeria’s Permanent Mission in New York is further directed to prevent and stop the accreditation of any government official who is not placed on the protocol lists forwarded by the approving authority.”

Tinubu expects all ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that all officials approved for inclusion in the UNGA delegation limit the number of aides and associated staff participating in the event.

“Where excesses or anomalies in this regard are identified, they will be removed during the final verification process,” Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, announced in a statement.

Through these multilayered checks, Ngelale said the President wanted government officials and expenditures to reflect the prudence and sacrifice Nigerians had been making post-subsidy.

However, sustaining this policy through subsequent UNGAs and other foreign trips would take more than directives. Government officials must be held to higher standards of accountability for every local and foreign trip they embark upon. Few things give Nigerians hope than seeing the implementation of laws that curb the fiscal excesses of their leaders.

Gabon joins junta league

Last Wednesday, West and Central Africa saw the eighth coup since 2020. Gabonese President, Ali Bongo, was ousted by the military, ending the family’s 56-year rule.

Amidst the wave of reactions, one written in the Hausa language caught my attention for its wordplay. It read, “Sojojin Gabon sun hada kan Ali da bongo.” Meaning, “The soldiers of Gabon have slammed Ali’s head on the wall (Bongo).” It’s a clever way of saying what happened.

What is even more interesting is that four of the eight coups were done by close guards who were supposed to protect their president. In Gabon, Bongo’s cousin Brice Nguema, was the head of the country’s most powerful security unit, the Presidency’s Republican Guard.

West African states have graduated from holding successful coups of their own to serving as case studies to sister regions. While President Tinubu, who leads the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, is still walking on a thin rope to resolve the Niger face-off, Gabon adds a layer of complexity to his work which now includes arresting the spread of coups across the continent.

He warned that if African leaders did not wield the big stick to curtail the wave of coup d’états, everyone would ultimately suffer the consequences. However, sanctions and anti-coup rhetoric will do too little if leaders fail to address the root causes of hostile takeovers in their backyards.

As the root causes fester, some leaders have taken big steps to avoid being the next. Cameroon’s Paul Biya made sweeping changes to the country’s Ministry of Defence on Wednesday. Biya, who crossed four decades in office last year, reshuffled officers in charge of defence, air and naval staff and the police. President Paul Kagame approved the retirement of 83 senior military officers in Rwanda while promoting and appointing new officers to replace them.

With the military learning from each other and root causes still there, the big question is, who will be next?

Remi Tinubu’s grant

Meanwhile, the First Lady, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, awarded scholarships worth N1m to 46 Nigerian students in tertiary institutions nationwide as the first beneficiaries of her Renewed Hope Initiative.

Each student also went home with a laptop and other educational materials at the flag-off of the National Scholarship Programme for Tertiary Education held at the State House Conference Centre. The beneficiaries would get N1m worth of scholarships annually for the next four years of their study.

Wives of state governors and local government chairpersons can emulate this gesture and scale it according to their financial prowess.


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