As I listened to my mom recount what they had to deal with in 1984 when General Buhari was the head of state, I realized Nigerians were sold what we call in the local parlance “Bad market.” Were we hoodwinked or hypnotized?
This is 1984 all over again. You could lift the headlines off newspaper articles then and just paste them without needing to edit anything save the date. Just like in 1984, Buhari has led Nigeria into 2 recessions. He also closed the borders just like he did back then with devastating effects on the economy.
Just like then, Nigerians are experiencing high inflation and people are out of jobs. Like then, inflation is over 20% at 21.3%, and food inflation is at 23%. Interestingly enough, he seems to think he was on the right path back then as he was reported as saying the naira was strong until his removal in 1985. In 2016 while at a meeting with members of the Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries, he’s quoted as saying; “When I was military head of state, the IMF and the World Bank wanted us to devalue the naira and remove petrol subsidy but I stood my ground for Nigeria”
He’s doing exactly the same thing, keeping on the subsidy that the country now has to borrow to pay. According to NNPC data, 4.39 trillion naira ($ 9.7 billion) was spent on subsidies last year alone, making it hard for any monies to be remitted to federal coffers. This year, according to the finance minister, the first half of the year’s payments will gulp 3.36 trillion ($7.5bl). Why on earth did we expect anything different?
It’s 3 weeks before the elections and Nigerians are being tested in a way my generation has never been tested before. If only Nigerians had listened to the people who experienced him as a head of state between 1983-1985 before he was ousted in a counter-coup.
When the former head of state Ibrahim Babangida ousted Buhari in a coup, his reasons as stated by him were that the economy was doing so badly and the fight against corruption was not yielding fruits, just bringing untold hardship to Nigerians. Sounds familiar? For a lot of people, it is a Deja Vu moment when Nigerians had to stay in queues for essential commodities. “Essenco” as they called it is back. At the time, people had to be in a queue to purchase essential commodities like milk, salt, sugar etc. Now, people are queuing to access their own money. Quoting the CBN governor at a special media briefing in Lagos recently:
”In our meetings with the banks, we have told them to set up tents and chairs, and give people numbers, which I’m sure some people will say it is old-fashioned. But at this time that we’re trying to get the currency in circulation amongst everybody, people have to have numbers and they come in under a queueing arrangements that when you come in you get served, if it finishes, just be patient.”
It is “Essenco” all over again.
The redesign of the naira notes has been completely botched by the CBN governor. What is particularly hard to understand is the urgency applied to it, and why the hurry. Many argue it is more a political decision than an economic one. He has given a lot of reasons for doing this, from fighting corruption to mopping up funds outside of the banking system to going cashless. The 1st two reasons are the same as in 1985 when the president as head of state wanted to put a stop to the hoarding of the naira by corrupt politicians so ordered a redesign.
The last reason didn’t exist as technology wasn’t as advanced. It seems not thought through though as banking systems can’t handle the traffic so their apps are collapsing and transactions failing. There is also a large number of Nigerians unbanked and can’t access their funds in any way. Right now there’s a black market for the naira as people profit off the suffering of Nigerians selling the naira to Nigerians for a price.
There are people who try to be balanced and say the policy isn’t bad, just badly implemented, is it though. Did Nigerians need to go through this much pain to catch a few people? Do Nigerians need to be whipped into a cashless system when the infrastructure is apparently not present? This is a case of putting the cart before the horse, but that’s what the 2nd coming of Buhari will give you. The elections cannot come fast enough, hopefully, Nigerians don’t make another mistake.