The Ritual of the First 100 days: why it Matters, By Dan Agbese

The first hundred days in the life of a new administration is a respected American political ritual. It dates back to July 1953 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase in a radio broadcast. He did not define what he meant or why it was important for a new administration. He only talked of “…the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate a mental picture of the crowding events of the hundred days…”

Some other countries, including ours, have cottoned on to the idea that there is something important about the first 100 days of a new administration. There must be some good reasons for it – and one of such reasons is this: it matters. A new administration cannot do much within its first 100 days in office, such as its being able to wave off the bad times and wave in the good times to let the good times roll with mountains flattened and valleys raised. But this is about public expectations which are the driving forces for a new administration. The public wants to see what foot, left or right, a new president puts forward in order to assess if the journey ahead with him in the driving seat will be steady or wobbly.

In 1999, newly elected President Obasanjo constituted a presidential advisory committee chaired by General T.Y. Danjuma, to work out an elaborate programme for the execution of his administration within its first 100 days in office. The committee was made up of eminent Nigerians from various walks of life – men and women who shared the belief with the rest of us that our country could not continue to squander its riches and opportunities and hope to rise above its proverbial great potentials.

Obasanjo had been out of the mainstream for some 19 years. His knowledge of what irked the country must have necessarily gone rusty at the time. He needed to know what the various challenges were for a country emerging from years of military dictatorship to the heady euphoria of nascent democracy. Armed with the informed views and recommendations of the committee, he would take firm steps for a meaningful transition from dictatorship to democracy and create a favourable public impression to demonstrate that the return to civil rule, if not democracy, in our country would mean much more than the absence of the swagger stick. The committee did more. It went beyond its brief and worked on a four-year programme in areas of the national economy, with particular emphasis on agricultural productivity.

Politics is a ritual game of promises. Public expectations peak in the first 100 days of a new administration. A new administration represents change – a constant in human life. Change packs beguiling promises of radical changes that speak to individual and group promises. Within the first 100 days the people are supposed to taste the pudding baked by the new administration. Early public impressions matter for all new administrations.

The change of baton from one administration to another is a transition from the old to the new. It packs genuine hopes of a dawn that does not feel like the sunset. It is not taken lightly by presidents who want to draw the line on solid grounds in moving the country away from the failures of its immediate past in order to raise hope for the present and the future. The first 100 days is now much more than a ritual. It is a tradition that matters under all forms of government.

The Tinubu administration crossed that benchmark on September 5. It appears that whatever plans the president had for the country in the first 100 days of his administration must have been badly affected by the current crisis of social dislocation caused by his poor luck in inheriting an economy run down by his predecessor. The pains associated with the removal of fuel subsidy have clearly held his plans and whatever positive steps he is taking for good, as opposed to inept, governance hostage.

His first 100 days have not been good for the president and his administration. The people’s groaning is loud and disturbing. The exhortation by the president to the people to tighten their belts, grit their teeth and bear the pains without which we cannot have a painless tomorrow, feels like he is piling it on. But Tinubu is right. No pain, no gain may be a cliché, but it still defines the survival of human beings as well as of nations.

Fuel subsidy had been an albatross on the neck of our national economy. No president was unaware of that. But every one of them, until now, feared to tread on that hallowed ground of corruption manned by cartels. Its removal was forced on Tinubu by his predecessor who promised action but only danced around it for eight years with the equally corrupt administration of the palliatives regime. As Tinubu has said repeatedly, it was no longer sustainable if the battered national economy is to rise from the pit of hell to which Buhari consigned it.

Fear not, history will not judge the Tinubu administration entirely on the pains and difficulties associated with the removal of fuel subsidy. I am sure history will be kind to a president who seeks to free our national economy from being held hostage by cartels and their business associates in every federal administration.

What should be of greater interest to us at this point is one of the steps he took in his first hundred days in office, to wit, his wooing foreign investors to our country. Tinubu did his shopping for them at the G-20 summit held in India. He appeared to have made a marketing pitch to which some Indian investors listened – and politely responded in a manner that can be described as arguably positive. The president is, of course, walking down the beaten path. Every president before him had done the same thing on the perfectly sensible ground that no developing country can make much progress in its economic and industrial development with its internal resources alone. The key is in direct and indirect foreign financial flows. And that is the problem.

I am afraid the president received promises that might not be fulfilled. An investor is not Father Christmas. He is not in the business of doing favours for a country with his investment. He is in the business of making more and more money. He is attracted to wherever the conditions for investments are right. Such conditions include but are not limited to the security of lives and property, fiscal and monetary policies that do not change with the whims and caprices of the ogas at the top, sound economic policies made and sustained to drive the national economy as well as infrastructures critical to social and economic development.

These conditions have been largely absent in our country. The president is not unaware of this; nor is here unaware of the fact in the last fifteen to twenty years, several multinational companies here were forced by conditions unfavourable to their investments to relocate to other African countries where the cost of doing business is relatively cheaper than in ours. The inexplicable epileptic power supply despite huge investments is a total turn off for investors who are required to invest in generators to meet their basic energy needs.

The chances of foreign investors falling over themselves to come to our country are not that good. Foreign companies know what is happening in our country. They know the level of insecurity in the land; they know about our policy summersaults and policy changes that have rhyme but little economic reason; and of course, they know all about the corruption in doing business here.

Foreign business crooks posing as genuine investors have taken advantage of corruption in the system to dupe the nation. If that is to stop to pave way for honest investors, then the president must convene a home summit to address those things that hinder our national progress and development. Perhaps, a G-37 offers an option. This is a summit to be attended by the president and the 36 state governors to find solutions to our problems and pave the way for foreign direct and indirect investments. The energy challenge need not last for ever. It has lasted for more than three generations and given rise to jaga-jaga development efforts that raised hopes and dashed them. It should be possible for us to admit that no country can attract genuine foreign investors when it is under siege by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and sundry criminals making life a nightmare in our land. Perhaps, a G-37 summit might point the way towards our national emancipation. It is not such a long shot.

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