7 Tinubu’s controversial moments since becoming president

Here are the times President Tinubu has found himself in controversial waters since stepping into the Oval Office.

It’s a given that helming the affairs of a nation as complex as Nigeria was always going to have its controversial moments, but whoever is familiar with President Bola Tinubu’s political trajectory would have already known about his penchant for controversies.

With the multitude of challenges he inherited from his predecessor and the circumstances surrounding his emergence, it was a sealed faith that every decision of Tinubu would be debatable.

Now that he has crossed 100 days in office, we look at some of those moments Tinubu has been able to hold the nation spellbound since he took over from Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023.

The subsidy is gone speech

President Bola Tinubu at his inauguration ceremony [Presidency]

As far as spellbounders are concerned, this particular one takes the top draw. A few minutes after he was sworn in, Tinubu made a statement that would send his nascent administration into a tailspin.

Fuel subsidy is gone,” the President bellowed into the public address system at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Abuja on May 29. While the decision itself wasn’t unexpected, the timing and manner in which Tinubu announced the end of the controversial resource-draining policy rubbed many Nigerians the wrong way.

Needless to say, the inaugural pronouncement had an instant economic impact as fuel prices skyrocketed from N185 to over N500 across the country. This has left many Nigerians agitated, including the Organised Labour.

However, the President has since admitted that he veered off script when he dropped the bombshell on his inauguration day.

Proposed $800m World Bank loan for palliative

In response to the calls to mitigate the effects of subsidy removal on the vulnerable and poor Nigerians, Tinubu proposed to borrow $800m from the World Bank to provide palliative.

In a request letter to the National Assembly for approval, the President said from the $800m, the sum of ₦8,000 would be transferred digitally to the accounts of 12 million poor and low-income households for six months under the National Safety Net Programme of the federal government.

At the time, this was Tinubu’s sole plan to ameliorate the sufferings of the people negatively impacted by the fuel subsidy removal, stimulate economic activities in the informal sector and improve the standard of living.

The proposal was heavily criticised for its tokenistic nature given that it failed to take into account that Nigeria has over 133 million people living in multidimensional poverty even before the removal of subsidy.

Following the resounding rejection, Tinubu was forced to withdraw the idea and has since introduced more comprehensive palliative measures.

Botched ministerial nomination

Nyesom Wike, President Bola Tinubu and Nasir El-Rufai. [TheNation]

One point Tinubu hammered on when he was applying for the presidential job was his supposed preparedness to hit the ground running if elected, and Nigerians, or his supporters, had hoped for nothing less regarding ministerial appointments.

But uncharacteristically, the President kept the whole nation waiting and guessing before being constitutionally boxed to announce his ministerial nominees and nearly made a mess of the process eventually.

Apart from some underwhelming picks and the splitting of the nominees into batches, Tinubu gave Nigerians another shock when he withdrew Maryam Shettima, popularly known as Maryam Shetty‘s name from the list and replaced her with Mariya Mahmoud.

As if that’s not enough, three of the President’s nominees, including former Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, also failed to be confirmed by the Senate for reasons bordering on security clearance.

The signing of the Student Loan Bill

President Bola Tinubu signs the Student Loan Bill into law. [Presidency]

Truth to his pre-election promise, Tinubu signed into law the Student Loan Bill, which has been begging for presidential ascent since the days of Buhari.

This was in line with the President’s determination to reduce dropout rates in tertiary institutions and grant students from less privileged households an opportunity to acquire higher education.

However, the laudable intention behind the move can be said to have been defeated by the many pitfalls and inconsistencies that characterised the law, which makes it almost impracticable.

Besides the relatively stringent requirements for students, the law also stipulates that the repayment period will start two years after graduation, including one year of national service.

Tinubu’s role in the Niger crisis

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ECOWAS Heads of Government. [Premium Times]

With less than two months in office as the president and a few weeks in charge as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Tinunu was faced with the biggest test of his public life – a potential war with the Niger Republic.

Military leaders in the neighbouring country had just seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum, and the regional body needed to make a strong statement. Tinubu, by his position, conveyed a special meeting of ECOWAS in Abuja on July 30, where the body threatened to militarily invade Niger if the deposed president isn’t reinstated.

This gave rise to concerns, albeit misconceived, that Nigeria was preparing to wage a war against its closely-knit neighbours in the West African region.

Giving opposition ministerial appointments

Tinubu hails ‘dependable’ Wike for contributing to his election victory.

In a not-so-surprising development, Tinubu gave the former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the Accord Party governorship candidate in Oyo State, Adebayo Adelabu, ministerial appointments.

While the latter used to be a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) until his defection in 2022, the former had sworn on national television to never have anything to do with the APC.

Therefore, the inclusion of Wike, who confessed to working against his party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the election, has raised many unanswered questions, considering the former governor’s continued stay in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Record of flip-flopping

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu [Presidency]

If there’s a pattern that has emerged from the Tinubu presidency, it’s the tendency to flip-flop on policy decisions and appointments into key positions.

The President has been guilty of undoing some of his own decisions and it has become a regular feature that Nigerians may have to contend with for the next three years or so.

Besides the proposed $800m palliative loan, the ministerial nomination withdrawal, the afterthought nomination of Festus Keyamo for minister, and the somewhat hasty signing of the Student Loan Act, Tinubu has also been caught getting ahead of himself in other aspects.

Recently, the President was forced to replace nominees from Ondo and Cross Rivers States on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) after protests by stakeholders from the two states.

Also, Tinubu had failed to designate a minister for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs but later corrected the anomaly. The reshuffling of the cabinet even before the ministers were sworn in was another example of what has now become a trend.

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