Thanks, President Tinubu, but go beyond tokenism. THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu displayed outstanding dribbling skills pre-Christmas and scored a goal for the government. It was a positive step. However, because it has the features of Maradona’s Hand-of-God goal, prejudice, short-termism, and reluctant acceptance cloud it. Nevertheless, President Tinubu deserves applause.

As reported across media platforms, with The Cable as our guide here, “President Bola Tinubu (has) approved a 50 per cent discount for inter-state road travels, and 100 per cent for train trips, for Nigerians travelling to celebrate Christmas with their families.

President Bola Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu

“Dele Alake, minister of solid minerals, disclosed the development on Wednesday while briefing state house correspondents. He said the discount will run from December 21 to January 4, 2024.
“In recognition of the economic situation of the country, which he is working very hard to turn around, President Tinubu wants Nigerians to be able to travel within Nigeria to wherever they want to go to meet their loved ones without the extra burden of paying exorbitantly for inter-state public transportation,” he said.

“It is in this wise that the Federal Government is announcing, beginning tomorrow, a special discounted holiday season fare on road transport and zero-fare by rail across Nigeria.
“What this means is that from tomorrow, Nigerians willing to travel can board public transport via luxury buses at a 50 per cent discount of current cost and all our train services on the routes the trains currently serve at zero charges to and from on their travels this holiday season.
Alake said to achieve the discount, the federal government, through the Ministry of Transportation, will be working with transporters, road transport unions, and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).”

Presidential Special Adviser Bayo Onanugu named the designated routes and transporters the next day. The summary is that Eastern routes are dominated by buses. It also reflects the travel map and trajectory of this season of the Great Annual Migration to SouthEast Nigeria.
Somehow, adverse reactions have trailed the positive gesture. First was understandable disbelief. Soon followed mockery.
A TikTok video caricature captured the tendency. A driver tore the dress of a passenger who paid fifty per cent of the bus fare. The passenger’s authority was his understanding of the presidential proclamation. The driver countered that the president does not fuel his vehicle!
The skit is in bad taste and is even an over-the-bar joke. Is the Sienna bus owner one of the designated transporters for the Tinubu Transport Rebate? The joke is on the citizen if it is not, as seems to be the case here with no identification of the bus service.
The rebate is not an open cheque and does not apply to every transporter. We should stem and counter such ignorance from spreading. It does no good to those spreading it.
The Tinubu Transport Rebate is a symbolic goodwill gesture to the SouthEast. The SouthEast should appreciate it. Then, it should hold its designated transporters accountable to ensure it works. It is a minuscule effort. However, in the Tinubu economy today, every little counts. Travellers on the routes are grateful, as should the transporters.
The Tinubu Transport Rebate came just as the annual Lamentations of Travellers to the East was cresting its peak. Transporters on the route, bus and air, took advantage and charged in multiples of the standard fare.
The Tinubu Rebate is a tokenish effort at tackling a severe challenge. A primary trigger is the Tinubu Petrol Tax. However, the fact that the problem of outrageous fare increases on these routes predates Tinubu gives the FG a pass.
Look inwards, brothers. Speak to yourselves.

Reactions to the gesture have been more negative than positive.
-Nigerian Labour Congress: The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has dismissed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s cut in transport fares by 50 per cent for inter-state travellers and free train rides during the Yuletide celebrations.
NLC head of information and public affairs, Comrade Benson Upah, told LEADERSHIP that the federal government was only “killing a cow with the mouth,” a term which indicates that it is a declaration that will not work.
There were others on my Facebook wall.
WHY NOT SIMPLY REDUCE DIESEL (AGO) AND FUEL(PMS) PRICES BY 50% AND LEAVE THE REST FOR THE PEOPLE. By that singular act, Transport and even food prices will Crash! He’s merely dust-casting! -` Patrick Obinxe Okwuibe.
Oga mi, all these na propaganda, Lagos propaganda template, five companies out of how many? No wonder Alake is involved. -Tayo Olatoye
Vanguard report. Despite the Federal Government’s intervention, slashing transport fares by 50 per cent during the Yuletide, transport fares have not gone down; instead, commuters at various bus stations in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities had to cough out vast sums of money to travel following the rise in fares.

What remains is culture. Ndigbo say that when you appreciate the caterer of the delicacy of black beans, next time he adds ugba.
There has yet to be any word from Ohanaeze or Aka Ikenga. Granted that members of these bodies fly rather than board buses, the people they represent should get directions on how to respond to the government.
On behalf of the Igbo, I want to thank President Tinubu.
We can now enter the inner room for some truths.

The Tinubu Transport Rebate was an example of extreme tokenism and how the federal government rewarded the favoured demographics in Nigeria while pretending to be fair. For one, only five transporters are going to the East. What can they do compared with trains from the South-West to the North? Lagos to Ibadan, Oshogbo, Abuja, Kaduna, and vice versa, train passengers will pay nothing. Yes, zero Naira, while those heading to Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, and Abakaliki will negotiate a 50 per cent rebate from the sharks. Will they suffer stomach upset if the government absorbs the fare fully as it did for train passengers? Note that the trains will ferry more passengers!
There is still time to modify and change to free bus rides. It is to negotiate with the transporters, who are luckily so few.
Who will manage this short-term effort? Where are the ministers of Transport or Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management who look like the natural fit for this assignment?
We will soon hear how this scheme played out from the bus passengers and transporters.


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