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Nigeria: President Tinubu's 100 days of crises

September 6, 2023

Many Nigerians rate Bola Tinubu's first 100 days in office poorly. The string of domestic crises he inherited and new crises in the sub-region pose a challenge for the veteran politician and new ECOWAS chair.

Bola Tinubu
Bola Tinubu was sworn in as president of Nigeria on May 29Image: Gbemiga Olamikan/AP/dpa/picture alliance

As President Bola Tinubu marked 100 days in office on September 6, workers were on strike and a court rejected a challenge to his narrow election victory.  

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the country's largest workers association, had called for a two-day warning strike in response to the government's decision to repeal fuel subsidies.

The government has repeatedly defended Tinubu's first major decision as a painful necessity. But many Nigerians strongly disagree.

"He is not really concerned about the common people. You cannot buy food. The children cannot go to school. There's nothing — nothing is going on," Andy Idoma, a pensioner who lives in the capital Abuja, told DW.

Mixed reactions 

Tinubu inherited a range of challenges from his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari: high unemployment, inflation at the highest level in 20 years, record debt, widespread insecurity and massive oil theft draining national revenue.

He promised voters he would deal with these issues. 

"We are yet to see his work," says Mary Igede, a civil servant in Abuja.

"All the promises he made to us, [yet] he has not done anything... rather we are seeing the opposite of it. I want him to change his mindset because the suffering in the country is too much," she told DW. 

Political analyst Dr. Akinreti Qasim believes that Tinubu is on the right track but needs to be given more time.

"There is no quick fix from anyone. What he has done is to do a redirection of the economic hemorrhage…Nigerians will [not] see the advantages of these until maybe [in] a year or thereabouts," he said.

Time running out

Francis-Linus Ameh, a student at the University of Abuja agrees. The president, he believes, has shown goodwill through his ministerial appointments.

"[Nigeria] has been detribalized in such regards compared to what we saw in the days of General Muhammadu Buhari. So, I feel in 100 days, President Tinubu has done 50% well," Ameh told DW.

But for Igede, time is running out for ordinary Nigerians: "The increase of salaries, we have not seen anything. If you go to the market today you will not be able to buy anything. Everything has gone up because of the fuel subsidy removal."

Daniel Okpako, who works for the National Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, a federal government agency, says the notion of giving Tinubu more time is absurd because he did not give Nigerians time to prepare for his policies.

"We felt he must have had an agenda. He was elected, he should have prepared himself on how to tackle the economy," Okpako told DW.

Dele Farotimi of the opposition Labour Party is critical of Tinubu's performance. "It's under Tinubu's watch that soldiers have been killed in Niger state, that Nigerians have to tolerate crime lords threatening cities like Lagos. We are not at war, but we are losing soldiers," Farotimi said.

Peter Obi, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar
The main contenders in Nigeria's 2023 presidential election were Peter Obi (Left) Bola Tinubu (center) and Atiku Abubakar (Right) Image: K. Gänsler/DW, Shengolpixs/IMAGO, EKPEI/AFP

A fragile mandate?

Tinubu, a 71-year-old veteran ruling party politician, has had to face a legal challenge over his victory in Nigeria's 2023 election. He received the lowest number of votes for a winning candidate, totalling 8.79 million, since Nigeria's transition to democracy in 1999.

His main rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, filed a court petition seeking to invalidate the election.

They alleged irregularities and accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of violating the law by not utilizing electronic machines to upload results from polling station.

Only on September 6 did Nigeria's Appeal Court reject the challenge.

Bola Tinubu pictured at an ECOWAS meeting
ECOWAS chair Bola Tinubu has been widely criticized for backing a military intervention in Niger after the July 2023 coup Image: Kola Sulaimon/AFP/Getty Images

An ECOWAS workload

Tinubu was named as the new chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) shortly after the presidential inauguration. The announcement came as a surprise to many in the sub-region.

In his acceptance speech on July 10, Tinubu strongly emphasized a zero-tolerance stance against any future coups in West Africa. "We would not allow coup after coup; we would take this up seriously. It is a challenge," Tinubu said.

Sixteen days later, soldiers in Niger tested his resolve when they ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

Some experts see the ECOWAS response, which included activating a standby intervention force, as a slow and painful diplomatic trainwreck.

Security analyst Adib Saani says Tinubu's inexperience showed in his handling of the crisis.

"He tried to flex his muscle after the junta took over in Niger. I think he was being overly ambitious. I think to some extent he did things without recourse to the implication that might pose to the sub-region in terms of security, socially, economically," Saani told DW.

Niger coup puts ECOWAS to the test

Critics say that Tinubu's responsibilities as ECOWAS chair appear to have taken precedence over much-needed reforms in Nigeria. 

But some Nigerian citizens, including Yakubu Mohammed, are not giving up on the president.

"I know that the starting is very hard. I still have that belief that his regime is going to be better — far better — than Buhari's,"  Mohammed told DW. 

Edited by: Benita van Eyssen