• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024


Jun 16, 2024


By Jerome-Mario Utomi

…Highlights Milestones, Style Of Leadership, Others

…. Says Tinubu Spent The Last One-Year Planting

…Spread Out Reasons Why Nigerians Should Be Patient With The Administration.

…Insists Mr. President Is Absolutely On The Right Track

Onyibe Magnus, former Commissioner in Delta State Government and a well foresighted Son of Ika nation, is a man of many specialties. He is an Entrepreneur, Public Policy Analyst, Author, Development Strategist and alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, United States of America. Aside from parading these well-respected certificates from globally respected institutions, Onyibe Magnus is reputed for being vocal and speaking truth to power. Speaking with him is not only delightful but intellectually enriching.

In this exclusive and explosive encounter with Ika Weekly Newspaper Reporter at his Lagos residence, Onyibe x-rayed the first year of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s led Federal Government, ground breaking milestones, style of leadership as well as spread out reasons why Nigerians should be patient with the administration.

It is a must read. Enjoy it!

Ika Weekly: Sir, let’s begin this interview by taking you back a little; Just a few days ago, we celebrated the first year of the current administration. And I have fought effortlessly to look for another word to replace the word celebration but unfortunately, I’ve not been able to. But, in a clear term, was there anything to celebrate?

Answer: No, there wasn’t anything. That’s why it was not celebrated. To tell you the truth, Tinubu said he was not going to celebrate and he didn’t. He only inaugurated projects that various state governments and his own government have embarked on. He didn’t celebrate. There was no match pass in Eagle Square. There was no ceremony. There was no fanfare. He said he wasn’t going to do so even though he is planning to celebrate Democracy Day on the 12th of June.

Ika Weekly; That apart, looking at the administration from political, socio-economic perspectives, is there any big-ticket project, initiative or legacy project, from your perspective, that has been handled in the last one year that calls for celebration?

Answer; there is none. And let me tell you, if you read my two last articles two weeks ago on the first-year anniversary, thank God you live in Lagos. I used the third Mainland Bridge as a metaphor for Tinubu’s first year in office. And I said when the third Mainland Bridge was shut down for repairs, in 2023, November or thereabout, everybody was crying.  It was inconvenient for motorists, for people, it was terrible. But it was inconvenient that it was worth it at the end of the day. When they finished and opened six months after, many people described it as an Eldorado.

So, there is no paen without pain. We have to make sacrifices. What Tinubu has done in the last one year is to lay the foundation. like I wrote in my last article, Tinubu spent the last one-year planting. I used the metaphor planting and I illustrated it with farming; That when a farmer goes to farm, he will till the soil and plant the crops. It will take some time for the crop to sprout. After it has sprouted, it will grow stems. It will create branches and begin to yield fruits. In the case of Tinubu’s administration, it has a four-year gestation period. That’s what the constitution allows. So, we gave him a mandate and he has four years to mature. People are judging him based on the first year out of four which is like 25% out of a 100%. Will you go to school and be judged with 25% course work?

No. Let’s be reasonable. He has planted all he needs to plant and we’re waiting for the gestation period. Bureaucracy is not like human beings. People were complaining that he gave an order that forty-three thousand or forty-three million metric tonnes of grain should be distributed, and it wasn’t distributed till after some time. That’s bureaucracy for you. There are checks and balances. It doesn’t happen immediately. It takes a long time for things to happen. Like you and I now, I asked you to come and you are here. But if it were to be government policy, it would take a longer time to happen.

I am a practical person. Most times when I talk, they say I’m sympathetic to the President but when I started, I laid the foundation by telling you that I’m an advocate. I want to help. I don’t want to pull down. So, we’re giving him this opportunity to say you are planting the policies and in xyz period of time, we’ll begin to ask you for the fruits.

In two years’, time, you can come and ask me about his legacy projects and if there’s none, I will be asking you even before you ask me. You can go and look at the trend of the things that I do and whatever. As bad as people thought Buhari was when he was coming; I wasn’t one of those who proposed that he should come. But when he came, I had to begin to encourage him and open his eyes to things that I think he should do for him to be able to grow. And I gave him that time. When it got past that time, I held his feet to the fire. So, that’s how it should be. You must give people the opportunity.

Ika Weekly: So, going by the analysis of your comment now, what you’re saying is that he’s on his right track?

Answer: Absolutely. Absolutely.  You see, look there’s something about leadership. There are no dictator that starts from day one, being a dictator. He charms the people. People likes him before he grew in power. You know when you are climbing a ladder, people hold the ladder for you. When you get to the top, you are now backing the people because you are looking at the sky and elsewhere.

So, a dictator always charms his way. Tinubu is not charming his way. Tinubu came through thunder and fire and he set up more thunder and fire himself. He could have said since I came through thunder and fire, subsidy should remain, do this and do that until when he settles; he should now show them whatever. But no, he started from day 1, telling them we must brace up for change. Change is going to come with sacrifice. Make these sacrifices. And people are saying No, we don’t want to. We want to go back to the days of Buhari and this and that.

Ika Weekly: Sir, I need to come in for the benefit of our readers. Has the subsidy been removed?

Answer: That’s another issue that I have with members of the comment Arians like me.  Subsidy has not been removed fully. A substantial amount of subsidy has been removed. Even if they say they’re going to pay 5.5 trillion this year, last year we paid 15 trillion. Is half-life not better than none?  So now, people are saying he lied to us that he removed the subsidy. Are you saying he should remove it so we’d all die? The man has been a listening person that he comes out to say, no, if we put this overdose, we’d all die. Let us manage it halfway. They should be commending him for it. I’m commending him for it. For bringing in a bit of human face. If you say because he said he was going to remove the subsidy, and when he removed the subsidy, whether the cost of dollars went to 2000, all of us would have been crying blood. But he attenuated it.

Ika Weekly: Thank you for this position. Don’t you think it would have been more rewarding if the general public were carried along with the strategy?

Answer: No, there are things that you do that you don’t make public to everybody.

Question: But the removal of fuel subsidy, wasn’t it based on public interest?

Answer: These are nuanced things. I’ll give you an example. United States of America, have a law that insists America cannot give arms and ammunition to governments that are not democratic, so that they will not use those arms and ammunition to oppress the citizens of their country. That’s part of why they didn’t give Jonathan arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram because they wanted to present to America that Boko Haram are not terrorists.

So, it became difficult. That is why Jonathan put money in the plane and decided to go to South Africa to go and buy arms and ammunition, black market. But this same law permits America to give arms and ammunition to Egypt. They’re giving arms and ammunition to Israel. We all know what Israel is doing with it. This is Sectionalism.  There are things that even when it is your policy, when you do an exception, you don’t make it public.

So, now, if President Tinubu says subsidy is gone, then everybody starts clamouring no, return subsidy. Then, he goes back and says Subsidy is back. You can imagine what will happen. Is that not what they did in Kenya? The Kenyan president removed the subsidy and when he was under pressure, he returned the subsidy. We all agree, you, me, the whole candidates that ran for presidency in 2023, agreed that subsidy is a terrible monster. It is an ogre. They didn’t want it there but how to implement it was different right! But people are asking why did Tinubu make that pronouncement without doing his homework?

Let me tell you. Strong man Abacha, Strong man Buhari, strong man IBB, I’m talking about Soldiers now. Let’s leave Civilians; They couldn’t remove subsidies. If those people, an autocratic government couldn’t remove subsidies, you can see what a civilian, a democratic government has done. Tinubu has the experience. He knows that if he gets into government and creates a timetable to remove subsidies, what happened to the others will happen again.

If he had taken office, before he made this pronouncement, people who are benefitting from subsidies would have been the people they are paying; directly and indirectly. Some of them that they are using don’t even know they’re using them. They would have given advice. They would have said, Sir! “Don’t remove it. If you remove it, this country would burn”. Even in an interview when he went to Paris, he mentioned that his team advised him not to do it. That’s why it’s not in the speech. And he has to say it on his own because he knows that when he gets in there, he may be trapped.

He identified the fact that, that is one of the biggest problems we have that has held this country down that we haven’t grown, and he decided to do it. Now, the good thing about it and what people are saying is a problem for him is that he makes decisions, tweaks with it and fine-tunes it along the line.

If you ask management people, they will tell you it is a good trait. You are not a dictator. You cannot do things that you cannot reverse. You fine-tune because you don’t see all the variables from afar unless it comes into practice. Practice makes perfect they say. Take the education loan fund for instance, when they first passed the law and whatever, before they launched it, they went back and said it won’t work this way. We have not captured everything about it. They went back to the National Assembly. The National Assembly tweaked it and they’ve come up with it now. Who did they put to be the Chairman? Mr. Jim Ovia who is an accomplished banker. He started from nothing and became something. That shows good planning.

You cannot say Mr. Jim Ovia is going to the Education loan fund to enrich himself. He is over rich. The Executive Secretary is an accomplished person too. Jim is the Chairman. So, the fund is in good hands. So also, are these other things that are coming. They haven’t started yielding results. In fact, in my last article, I said it’s like the Niger Delta bridge. before you started seeing the slab on top of it and other structures. When they were pouring the concrete into the ground, nobody was seeing the bridge. Was it not when they started putting the slab everybody started saying wow, so the bridge is coming up. But when they were pouring all those things into the ground, there was only tremor. People around were getting disturbed by all those things they were pouring into the ground, the knockings and whatever. That is what is happening right now. Use the illustration of the bridge.

All the challenges you’re seeing right now are like when the Onitsha bridge was being knocked into the ground and we were feeling the pain and whatever. And when they finally put the bridge there, it became Eldorado.

Ika Weekly: So, sir, from what you just said, what’s your message to Nigerians?

Answer: Patience. I said the president spent the first-year planting, so cut him a slack. I’m not saying they should allow him to do what he wants to do, we’re giving him time to plant these seeds. And we know how long it will take for seeds to germinate and bear fruits. If that doesn’t happen, we will hold his feet to the fire. But for now, from my perspective, I am looking at everything from my perspective.

Fortunately, I have a multi-dimensional training. I’m not just a journalist that I went to study mass communication. I also read economics. I also read business administration. I also did law and diplomacy and it is high level training for people who become leaders of the world. So, I read finance, I read accounting, I read philosophy, I read arts. It’s all encompassing. So, I can see everything from every perspective. That’s why when I write and I take these postures, people are wondering whether the CBN governor talked to me or the Finance Minister talked to me. No, I can analyze. I can understand these things. I was trained. I’m an analyst. That’s my job.

I pick a situation and analyze it. These situations I’m giving you, nobody in government has done so. So, the government is not talking. They’re not communicating with the people.

Ika Weekly; Isn’t that a challenge?

Answer; it’s a challenge. It is in my article. If Nigerians are carried along, they’ll buy into it. If they believe that they are part of the process, that the policy formulation is coming from them, this book is called leading from the streets. And I say that we all should lead in our own small areas. And by the time you aggregate everything, it will become a force. But we’re not doing so. This time, I am talking to the government directly. We’re not communicating to these people. Look, this is not the first time this thing is happening.


You are old enough to understand the days when they did that jingle on radio, Andrew don check out. Do you think Nigeria was a bed of roses then? Nigeria was tough like this. Nigerians were checking out. That explains the coming of the jingle by Professor Jerry Gana led MAMSER

If you say you don’t want something, you must be ready to make sacrifices to get it on the other side. That’s why we accepted the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It’s just that IBB caved in; he was not able to see SAP through. If he had seen SAP through, this country would not have been as it is. But they put pressure on him, like they are putting on Tinubu now. I’m glad that Tinubu put his foot down and said he’s not going anywhere. We must suffer this thing out and be free.

This is democracy, there’s no way Tinubu is going to step aside like IBB did except they impeach him. But there is no way that will happen because he enjoys a good working relationship with the National Assembly.

Watch out for the second part of this interview in our next week’s edition.

Keep a date!