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Monday, May 27, 2024

On the Current State of the Nation and the Currency Crises:

I hope it is now clear to us that the leadership that will change this country will need to be hard-core, display tough love, and will almost have to look like he/she is Anti-Citizen and insensitive. 

Let me break this down:

I have found that the clamour for change by the ordinary man is really a clamour for what he truly doesn’t understand or grasp. There is no change without pain. There is no real change without the semblance of a “setback”. Everything that changes form, from a lower state to a higher state, MUST as a law of life, go through some seemingly painful process. The caterpillar to the butterfly; the seed to the plant; an unfit body to a better fit or better-toned body, just to mention a few; Life is scattered across with the pointers that prove this to be true!

Let me bring this home.

As Nigerians, the bitter truth is that WE ARE ALL, directly or indirectly beneficiaries of the systemic corruption that has been engraved into the fabric of our society. As matter of fact, corruption has been so embedded that it trickles down, such that should the source of it be cut or attacked, the corrupt politicians or political class do not need to raise a finger to fight it, the masses will fight on their behalf. Such is the summary of what we are currently experiencing. Massive cash in our system has for a very long time been perhaps the primary tool of sustained corruption and economic sabotage. 

It is the singular tool through which corruption can be perpetuated on a massive scale without a trace. On the other end, it is also the tool through which the poorest in society transact on a daily basis. The chief beneficiaries of corruption, therefore, know that should a policy like we currently have come to life, the masses will do the fighting! Which is exactly what is happening today. 

Have we all been affected by the policy? 

Absolutely. I run a construction outfit, and as I type this, the work we were supposed to carry out on one of our sites today has been suspended because the workers want cash. Not to talk of the various declined yet debited transactions I have experienced because the banks’ infrastructures are trying to adjust to the load brought on them by the policy. So even though I am also a beneficiary of the inconvenience, I know deep inside that this is the ONLY way to curb some major anomalies in our system that have helped destroy our economy. 

The corrupt politicians, however, are now using the people, even the educated ones, to fight the policy because all of a sudden, the corrupt monies they have stashed in their homes and properties are at risk. Please think about this for a minute; how many genuine traders do you think have billions stashed in cash?  How many of the people on the street protesting have millions in cash? All the sacks and bundles of cash we see on social media, do we think it belongs to the common man? 

We also have some middle-class accomplices of the corrupt politicians using their positions in some of the banks to further help frustrate the masses (by refusing to release even the minimum amount CBN has asked that people should have access to); so that the masses can, in turn, fight the policy on behalf of the some of these bank officials’ corrupt benefactors! That is why, for instance, we would see a video of a bank with stashed currencies in their vault and yet refusing to load their ATMs or release them to the people. Hear me! We have more of a people-to-people problem in Nigeria than we have a leadership-to-people problem! Our leadership is just a reflection of the people! The POS operators, and the fuel attendants, are all taking advantage of the situation and defrauding their fellow men, yet conveniently pointing at the leadership! We only need to think, and we would see!

The rampant kidnapping that besieged us as a nation has, in the last month, reduced drastically since the policy took effect. The kidnappers know there is no cash to pay ransoms! Naira is now more scarce than the dollars in Nigeria, and in the black market, demand and supply determine the price. The immediate gains are there for all to see, but the pain and current inconvenience are rather swallowing it up and enjoying all the attention! 

We have more US dollars and British pounds in cash circulating in our markets than the owners of the currencies have in their own country. I was trying to purchase an item once in the UK using a £50 bill, and the store attendant had to go to the backroom for almost 20 minutes trying to confirm the note. He came out with his supervisor at some point and they both went back in when they finally came out, I asked what the issue was, and they politely explained that the attendant had never seen a £50 bill and secondly, they don’t have people randomly walking in with £50 to make purchases and so they needed to call to know what security checks to look out for! 

I stood there wondering to myself, “This same £50 that Abdullahi and his colleagues have bundles of in Sabo market?”. Something is definitely wrong! CBN at various times tried to intervene in the exchange rate crises but soon realised that there was enough cash in our system outside the banks to mop up any dollars released into the market, such that it makes any intervention by CBN of no effect. Any fx they release for legitimate trade or reasons were mopped up immediately by corrupt cash stashes in the hands of the corrupt politicians, leaving the legitimate transactions with no fx still and the demand for fx continued to rise and hence the price!

The corrupt politicians also have stashes of these monies that they had planned to buy votes with. You cannot say a party agent who you need to pay does not have a bank account in the name of the hinterlands. Come on!!!

So, what exactly is the cash required for in the elections? 

Hear me! The corrupt rich are banking like they always have on the average poor masses and middle-class individuals to fight on their behalf because they know our corruption is so embedded that we will all feel the pain if a fight to behead the source of the corruption starts. Another example is the fuel subsidy. The beneficiaries of the subsidy scam are again the corrupt super-rich elite. But we are also beneficiaries because we buy petrol cheaply compared to other countries. They know that should the government choose to behead that source of corruption (subsidy) that is killing the country gradually, the masses and the middle class will be the ones to fight because all of a sudden, fuel may be sold for N600 or even more across the country as is the case of diesel today.

Our refineries will also not work to capacity until first the corruption is tackled. So, the chief beneficiaries of this corruption are excited knowing the battle is not theirs to fight. So, that brings us back to the word – Change? 

Are we truly ready for a change? 

Singapore, China, Rwanda, Dubai and all the countries we refer to as third world to first world; have we studied them to see the painful processes they went through? I have found that one common denominator to all the countries mentioned above in which they differ in comparison to Nigeria was that the leaders that took the hard decisions had a tenure that was long enough to sustain and complete the process regardless of what the people felt temporary. It was what you will call a “benevolent dictator”. Today, the gains are clear for all to see. We, however, have a different system and will have to work within the confines of what we practise. 

However, Nigeria! Are we truly ready for a change?

We have a ruling party for whom the aspirants from the same party are already looking to change the policy once they are elected. Even the so-called favourite candidate of the middle class and the other aspirant of the other major opposition party has also decided to intentionally use the current policy pain as a political campaign tool. The pain they know is certainly required if any change will happen in this country.

This singular trend makes me wonder if there is really any popular candidate on the ballot that has what it takes and the sincerity of purpose to do the right thing! Listen! Any president in this country who will not make the hard calls that will seem painful to all is truly just a chameleon in search of power and has nothing to offer! The country will remain the way it is even after its tenure is over. Mark these words!

On the balance, however, we must also ask the vital question – why did this current administration wait until this last minute to effect this all-important policy? I will never understand this, and it’s quite hard to explain away. As I have always maintained, one of the biggest undoings of this current administration is communication. They consistently erroneously equate announcements with communication!

Whichever decisions are made after now or whatever direction is taken, let it be clear that there is pain we must all endure for true change to come. This, however, is not what Twitter Nigeria wants to hear. We are more interested in insults, dragging and clapping back than we are in actual deep thinking. The problem is that sound knowledge and intelligence are no longer a prerequisite for visibility thanks to social media! 

We now have kings on foot and servants on horses. 

Comedians with followership with no economic knowledge have become economic analysts, quick to talk about what they have zero understanding of simply because they have a million or more followers who followed them because they needed someone to make them laugh. I remember hearing one of them despising the move to change the currency, when it was first announced, comparing it to painting a house as a remedy to curing its structural defect. Such ignorance! 

How can you compare it to that? Of course, people laughed and liked it! The corruption is embedded, and we are all direct or indirect beneficiaries, and we must therefore ask ourselves in our closet. Are we truly ready for a change?

Laolu Alabi, Feb 2023


The opinions and views expressed in this write-up are entirely that of the Writer(s). They do not reflect the opinions and views of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or any of its employees. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of materials herein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or its employees concerning the legal status of any country, its authority, area or territory or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers. Equally, the sketches, images, pictures and videos are gotten from the public domain.

Nigeria is an Enigma. The capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of her is undoubtedly God’s endowment to us, her citizens. As a citizen of this lovely nation, I’ve spent decades of my life trying to understand this, Mirage. Hope someday, this Mystery that houses about 250 million blacks will be globally understood, widely accepted, and given the opportunity to play its vital role in the world stage. So, help us God! #NigeriaDeservesBetter #AfricaDeservesBetter

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