Following the 63rd Independence Day Parade on October 1, the bagpipers of the Presidential Brigade of Guards ushered the Commander-in-Chief from the forecourt of the Aso Rock Villa back to his residence.It marked his last public appearance for several days.
After representing Nigeria at the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, many anticipated he would shift his attention to domestic affairs; after all, he was Nigeria’s leader first before any other responsibility.
Around this time last year, his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, introduced the coming year’s budget to the National Assembly. Hopes were high that Tinubu would toe a similar path and maintain the January-December budget implementation cycle.
Given his recent success in averting a labour crisis, the 2024 budget will give Nigerians a clue as to how he plans to keep funding the provisional wage award of N35,000 he promised all federal workers.
Then, there are questions about the hiatus of the Federal Executive Council, which has not reconvened nearly 50 days since its inaugural meeting on August 28.
Words on the corridors suggest that FEC meetings are on temporal hold to allow the ministers to study and review policy documents centred on the administration’s priority areas. Subsequently, there will be a retreat where ministers are expected to split these priority areas into actionable chunks according to their portfolios, with periodic progress reviews.
Though the constitution does not mandate the council to meet weekly, an operational manual from the Cabinet Affairs Office (of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation) states, “The FEC meets weekly to discuss scheduled items and take decisions.”
A noteworthy episode amidst those periods of silence was the back-and-forth between Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and President Tinubu’s team regarding the validity of the President’s degree from Chicago State University.
Nigeria’s chequered history has seen electoral disputes stretch to lengths where political entities investigate the educational backgrounds of their opponents.
For Abubakar, the 1999 Toronto saga involving Salisu Buhari may have fanned his hopes of striking gold by digging into Tinubu’s academic history.
But as the court of public opinion waxed rowdy, the hashtag #WhereisTinubu gained steam on X (formerly Twitter).
One user queried, “The last time Tinubu was seen was October 1. Where has he gone?
Another observed, “Tinubu left the parade ground as soon as the 63rd low-key independence anniversary was over and since then, we have not seen him.”
Then, on Monday, after more than a week without public appearances, photographs of the President were posted on his X account. The images showed a smiling Tinubu in his office, signing a document with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, seated on the opposite side of the table.
The accompanying caption read, “Moving Nigeria Forward. Received a briefing from SGF Akume at the State House this morning. All hands must be on (the) deck in the great task of positioning our dear nation for progress. #Focused #RenewingNigeria”
Upon seeing this, one couldn’t help but think how timely those visuals were. Any further delay and the rumour mill would have been uncontrollable.
While many anticipated Tinubu’s return to address previously highlighted matters, the President had other intentions. He announced an unprecedented wave of appointments since his tenure began on May 29. With 41 new personal aides, board members and agency heads being named in just a week, Tinubu’s appointees now add up to 125 and are still counting.
Most particularly was the appointment of Ola Olukoyede as the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He joins a 20-year leadership train at an agency where the chief executives do not finish their tenures.
Starting from the agency’s first Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who, during his second term was removed from office and eventually dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force, subsequent heads – Mrs Farida Waziri, Ibrahim Lamorde, Ibrahim Magu and Abdulrasheed Bawa – had met untimely exits, raising questions about whether the office is laced with a spell of bitter endings.
For the fifth substantive Chairman, Olukoyede, his battle appears to have begun quite early. From his experiential qualifications to his legal eligibility, the controversies trailing his appointment are as complicated as Nigeria’s corruption-related challenges.
Hopefully, he gets to prove to Nigerians that he is no one’s puppet. Hopefully, it will be said of him as it was of Ribadu that “the fear of the Olukoyede is the beginning of wisdom.”
Shettima’s road to China to claim his belt
I’m not referring to a boxing championship belt. Vice-President Kashim Shettima is in Beijing, the Chinese capital, for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, holding on October 17 and 18.
According to a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, “representatives from more than 130 countries as well as many international organisations” will attend. Shettima is representing President Tinubu abroad for the fifth time. In China, he will express Nigeria’s stance on the politically controversial Belt and Road Initiative that has raised eyebrows in the West since President Xi Jinping first mentioned it a decade ago. Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, is also expected to attend.