By Oludare Mayowa
When news filtered out that President Bola Tinubu had proposed a supplementary budget of N2.17 trillion for the remaining months of the year, many journalists were on alert to dissect the content of the document.
The supplementary budget is the fourth or so of such financial requests by the present administration to the National Assembly since its inauguration on May 29, 2023.
The first was the request by President Tinubu for the parliament to approve a N500 billion palliative for conditional cash transfers to ease the pressure brought about by the removal of fuel subsidies by the government.
Again, the president sought the approval of the parliament for the borrowing of foreign currencies to fund some infrastructure in the country.
The first controversy stirred by the Tinubu administration was the decision to transfer some funds to the so-called poorest of the poor in the country in order to cushion the impact of economic hardship brought about by the removal of fuel subsidies and the skyrocketing inflation in the country.
Many Nigerians were unhappy with the government’s move to transfer money to some people because of the corruption that had occurred during the previous similar exercise.
Based on the outcry of the people, the government reversed itself and decided to reappraise its strategy for the distribution of palliatives to the needy in the country.
The latest controversy was stirred by the decision of the president to purchase a presidential yacht in its supplementary budget sent to the National Assembly, which has since been passed.
Many Nigerians were angry that, despite the hardship in the country, the government is not showing signs that it is concerned about the mood of the nation, which requires that all hands must be on deck to salvage the economy.
The purchase of the yacht came on the heels of a plan by the National Assembly to purchase luxury SUVs for its members’ use, which cost N160 million for each vehicle.
The people were enraged because of the insensitivity of the people in government to the pains being experienced by the majority of Nigerians, who are finding it difficult to cope with the resultant effect of the policy of the government.
Yachts are luxury items deployed by the rich for their own pleasure, and Nigerians are not happy that, despite the hardship in the country, the president is embarking on spending on vanity money that should have helped to solve some problems in the country and ease the hardship of the people.
A yacht is a type of watercraft or vessel that is typically associated with leisure and recreational activities on the water. Yachts are known for their elegance and are often used for cruising, racing, or simply enjoying the open sea.
They come in various sizes and can range from relatively small, privately owned vessels to large, luxurious ships. Yachts are commonly equipped with amenities and features that enhance the onboard experience, such as living quarters, navigation systems, and recreational facilities, making them suitable for extended trips and vacations on the water.
The use of yachts can vary, from personal enjoyment and relaxation to hosting social events or competitive sailing.
I went to this extent to profile a yacht to prove to those who are defending the purchase or attributing this to security assets that they are being economical with the truth.
Yacht as Navy security assets may not be totally untrue because in the United States, the presidential aircraft is called an Air Force one, which puts the asset at the disposal of the president’s use but in the custody of the Air Force.
The description of the vessels by a presidential spokesman as “an operational naval boat with specialised security gadgets suitable for high-profile operational inspection and not for the use of the President” is a way of masking the truth in sophistry.
The truth remains that the presidential yacht is not an operational asset for the Navy in its true sense, but it is meant for the president to use either in the time of inspecting naval operations or in the mood to have some time off duty as a get-away facility.
Such vessels are equipped with high-power security gadgets and likely armoured to prevent any attacks from dissidents or criminals.
It took the outcry of the people over the insensitivity of the president to the pain of Nigerians for its officials to come out with an explanation for the inclusion of the yacht in the spending request of the president.
One of the presidential aides would rather blame journalists for the controversy that greeted the inclusion of the item on the spending plan of the federal government.
This method of scapegoating the press by people in government is unbecoming and shows a lack of understanding of the role of the media in a nation’s building. It also exposed their lack of capacity to discern the mood of the nation in their efforts to defend the indefensible action of their principal.
The role of the media is not to make the government happy but to continuously put those in power on their toes in their daily actions to govern the country.
The ability of the media to spot the actions of the government that are considered at variance with their professed agenda is key to good governance and ensuring that those in government are able to gauge the mood of the nation based on their actions and inaction.
Regardless of the explanation given by both presidential aides, Bayo Onanuga and Temitope Ajayi, on the use of the yacht, it does not take away from the fact that the government action negated its outward pronouncement on the need for the people to sacrifice in the face of hardship.
In his speech on the occasion of the Nigerian Independence celebration, the president expressed empathy for the condition prevalent in the country due to the impact of its reforms and called for understanding from the people.
One would have expected that a president who claimed to understand the pain of the people would not be embarking on a spending spree to satisfy his personal vanity and that of his immediate associates at the cost of helping to ease the pain being experienced by the people.
The fact that the government has been reluctant to show signs that the prevailing circumstances in the country require prudent spending and a huge cut in the cost of governance, is a major dent on the claims of the president that he feels the pain of the people.
The number of appointments to the government has betrayed whatever sympathy is being expressed by the government for the hardship and the need for the people to make more sacrifices to ensure that the economy comes out of the woods.
Aside from the luxury vehicles being purchased by the national assembly, in the supplementary budget too, the president included a huge amount of money required to purchase similar luxury vehicles for its own officials, including the office of the first lady.
While it is imperative that those in government require vehicles to function optimally in their various positions, the kind of luxury vehicle deployed by government officials does not portray their understanding of the depth of rot in the nation’s economy.
A country that is not capable of producing major components of a vehicle should not be seen expending its limited resources, especially those derived from debt on such luxury items.
If Nigerians must keep sacrificing for the economy to come out of the woods, people in government must lead by example and stop the blame game to divert attention from their lack of understanding of agnoy being faced by the people as a result of the poor state of the economy.
People in government have the duty and responsibility to listen to the yearning of the people and ensure that everyone shares in the pain and hardship brought about by the action and inaction of the government.
It’s also essential that the media be allowed unfettered freedom to carry out their function as watchdogs in order to keep the government accountable to the people who elected them.
Trying to browbeat the media as a result of performing their duty would not work, and those charged with providing information on the activities of the government must realise that it is in their best interest that the media is allowed to function effectively.
Enough of the blackmail of the media by those who have little or no knowledge of its workings. Perhaps many of them lack the courage to educate their bosses on the role of the media and what should be done to encourage them to function properly.
(Edited by Oludare Mayowa; email@example.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)