By Obinna Amaobi
President Bola Tinubu yesterday declared that Nigeria can’t continue as Father Christmas to neighbouring African countries by providing them subsidised petrol, adding that his administration took the right decision to remove the subsidy.
The President, who was speaking at an interactive session with select Nigerian traditional rulers, on the platform of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), at the State House, Abuja, described the subsidy as an elephant that could have brought the country to its knees “because it is struggling to pay salaries.”
Tinubu told the traditional leaders: “I am grateful that you are paying attention to what I have been doing. You have paid attention to the subsidy removal. Why should we in good heart and sense, feed smugglers and be Father Christmas to neighbouring countries, even though they say not every day is Christmas?
“The elephant that was going to bring Nigeria to its knees is the subsidy; a country that cannot pay salaries. I think we did the right thing.”
The President appealed to the traditional leaders to persuade Nigerians to have faith in the removal of subsidy, promising that the pump prices of fuel will eventually come down.
On security, the President reiterated his pledge to Nigerians to prioritise the sector until every Nigerian “goes to sleep with their two eyes closed.”
He stressed that the unity and togetherness of the country cannot be compromised, saying every region of the country would get what it is due.
Condemning crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region “by a tiny percentage of the population,” President Tinubu said it was counterproductive to the growth of the economy.
He said: “We need to tame those involved in this sabotage and we will work as hard as possible to ensure that the diversity of this country is used for its prosperity, growth and stability.”
The President stressed that with the campaigns and elections over, he is primed for governance, and his government has already signed a law that extends the retirement age of judicial officers from 65 to 70 years, while also addressing pension reforms.
Also speaking on electricity, President Tinubu said a constitutional amendment signed into law now allows the nation’s 36 States to generate electricity.
He said: “That’s devolution of power and that should be our contribution to the developmental projects you are looking for and we will continue in ways that will help our people.”
He assured the traditional rulers in the country that his administration will run an open-door policy that is ready to listen to the yearnings of Nigerians toward transforming the country’s rich potentials to reality.
Tinubu said: “We are all ears. We are ready to listen at any given time. I promise you an open-door policy and that is the way I will go.
“That open-door policy is for you to call me and send to me at any given time any concern that you might have.
“We may not have it right 100 percent of the time but we must get it right 90 percent of the time for this country”.
Responding to issues raised by the monarchs on challenges facing the country, President Tinubu assured them, saying “worry not because the country is in good hands,” adding that his administration is very conscious of the expectations of Nigerians.
While acknowledging concerns on the need for critical infrastructure in different parts of the country, the President assured that any road block in the way of the progress of the Nigerian people would be removed by his government.
Earlier in their separate remarks, the Chairman and Co-Chairman of NCTRN, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, pledged the support and loyalty of traditional rulers and urged the president to use traditional rulers to actualise his plans.
“We are 100 percent in support of your government and we believe in the will of the Almighty Allah you will move this country forward. We will contribute our quota to the development of the country once you reach out to us,” the Sultan said.
On his part, the Ooni of Ife expressed delight that the country has remained united and focused despite the challenges.
Recounting that the President had said he deserves no pity from anyone because he asked for the job, the Imperial Majesty appealed to President Tinubu not to underestimate the power and reach of traditional rulers in complementing the programmes and visions of the new government.
The traditional ruler, who is also the co-chair of traditional rulers of Nigeria, said: “There are areas we would like to work with you, one of which is security. It is time to use us more, we are not saying we are idle…but to make your work easier, use us.