Having hit the ground running at home, with a series of very bold and unprecedented reform decisions, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has gone ahead to seize the opportunity offered by the month of September 2023, to make a grand entry onto the global stage.
In what has been his busiest month on the global stage since he assumed office, President Tinubu traveled to India for the G20 Summit on the special invitation of Prime Minister Modi, made a stopover on his way back home for a crucial meeting with the leadership of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on lingering issues of concern between UAE and Nigeria, and then traveled to New York to make his debut at the most important annual gathering of Heads of State, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
At the UN—in a delivery reminiscent of the powerful and iconic ‘Africa Has Come Of Age’ speech by the late Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, almost five decades ago—President Tinubu caught the attention of a listening world with his emphasis on an equal and mutually beneficial relationship between Africa and the world, instead of one defined by condescension, pity and greed.
The President spoke boldly for the entire African continent, tracing the history of the post-World War 2 global system, starting with a Marshall Plan that helped redeem Europe. Asking for a 21st century equivalent for that Plan, President Tinubu added, “We realize that underlying conditions and causes of the economic challenges facing today’s Africa are significantly different from those of post war Europe. We are not asking for identical programs and actions. What we seek is an equally firm commitment to partnership. We seek enhanced international cooperation with African nations to achieve the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.”
At every engagement, he has taken the time to remind the world of just how significant his first four months in office have been, in terms of laying the foundation for unlocking levels of economic growth and prosperity that we have always been capable of, but have sadly remained a pipe dream.
He ended a costly and wasteful fuel subsidy regime that has, over the decades, deprived the country of tens of billions of dollars in potential infrastructure and human capital investments. He also commenced an overhaul of the Central Bank of Nigeria, shaking up the leadership of the bank and supporting it to abolish an inefficient system of multiple exchange rates, which, like the petrol subsidy, has seen a lot of abuse, and stifled domestic and international confidence in the economy.
President Tinubu has also assembled a cabinet with an impressive representation of young people and women, while also creating new Ministries and ministerial portfolios to reflect the pressing realities of the 21st century, as well as the priorities of our administration.
For example, we now have a Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, recognizing the unlimited potential of that sector to produce national prosperity. We also now have a dedicated Ministry for the Creative Economy. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture has been expanded to include Food Security, underpinning the President’s declaration of a national emergency on Food Security early on in his administration.
On the regional level, President Tinubu has, in his role as recently-elected Chairman of ECOWAS, shown great commitment to stemming the condemnable wave of military takeovers that have rocked the sub-region, and I expect his diplomatic efforts to yield enduring fruit in the months ahead.
The President is being supported in his many onerous assignments by a very energetic and committed Cabinet. In the last few days, I joined some of my colleagues for events at the UN General Assembly, and can testify to the remarkable levels of determination within the cabinet, to solve Nigeria’s problems with the support and cooperation of the global community.
I can boldly assert that we stand on the threshold of a Nigeria that is a true global giant, a country that is able to fully exploit its immense potential energy of demographics, culture, and entrepreneurial dynamism. I have no doubt that my colleagues and I, under the leadership of the President, will step boldly forward, not backwards, from this historic threshold.
We have a very busy last quarter of the year ahead of us. The administration will finalize and unveil its inaugural budget, which will set the tone for investors and other potential partners, about our priorities. Nigeria will take part in the annual global gathering for Climate Change, COP28, in Dubai. We will push forward with work on the various reforms that the President has kickstarted, from tax policy reform to a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) transition for petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, to the full implementation of a comprehensive relief package to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy.
As the President has repeatedly said, most recently last week in New York: “I am mindful of the transient hardship that reform can cause. However, it is necessary to go through this phase in order to establish a foundation for durable growth and investment to build the economy our people deserve.”
He understands how important it is to engage with the world to achieve this. During this month of diplomatic shuttling, he has met with Presidents and Head of States from the United States, India, Germany, South Korea, South Africa, Angola, Jordan, among others.
From the global business executives he has held meetings with this month—Exxon Mobil, Bharti Enterprises, Oracle, Hinduja Group, Indorama, Skipper Seil, and others—he has received pledges amounting to several billions of dollars in new investments. This cannot be overemphasized: at the end of the day, one of our administration’s overriding goals is to attract new investment that will create jobs and wealth for the people of Nigeria.
We will continue to finetune and amplify our narrative in this regard—a message that the President reiterated at every opportunity in New Delhi and New York—that Nigeria is open and ready for business, with partners who are equally open and ready for business with us, and who are not looking to exploit us or treat us like junior partners. And we will follow up the talk with action.
My Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation will be very critical to the success of our national messaging, and we will give it everything required for our narratives to succeed. We have a vision that includes redesigning how the Federal Government of Nigeria engages with the Nigerian people at home and abroad, and with the world.
As part of this, we will scale up our engagements with stakeholders, modernize our tools and platforms of information and communication, and work to craft credible and believable narratives that Nigerians will be proud of and delighted to share with the world.
In a few days, our dear country will celebrate its 63rd Independence Anniversary. It will offer an opportunity to further reflect on our nationhood journey, and the expectations of our citizens, and for us as leaders to rededicate ourselves to delivering on the bold and dynamic leadership that will enable Nigeria to fully assume its rightful place on the global stage. I have absolute confidence that success in this regard will be a defining legacy of this momentous era of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Mohammed Idris, current Minister of Information and National Orientation, wrote in from Abuja.