Nigerians have never had things this bad in their country. They have been subjected to the worst degrees of deprivation, subjugation, and mindless inhumanity for most parts of their lives which will leave any sane mind wondering if the social contract between Nigerians and their leaders is different. Over the last seven years, the story has been worse as Nigerians have only continued to drift deeper into pain and misery with every passing day.
Having a cold-hearted leader as President was surely not what many Nigerians bargained for when they opted to foist President Muhammadu Buhari themselves in 2015. Prior to the 2015 general elections, Nigerians were warned by sane heads about the dangers of allowing the former good-for-nothing dictator access to Aso Rock. They ignored that call and insisted that there were fine with anybody but President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Almost eight years after, the man whom many Nigerians touted as their messiah has taken the country to a place where she is no longer recognisable in the management, or lack of it, of its diversity, security, politics, and economy. It appears as though Buhari’s only mission was to sink Nigeria and he was very successful with it.
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With barely six months to the end of his reign of impunity, Buhari in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), concluded that the best parting gift they could offer to Nigerians was to change the colour of the Naira. And, unfortunately, it is turning out to be the worst punishment Nigerians have ever experienced. Nigerians were asked to take their old currencies to the banks and collect new ones from the Automated Teller Machines. The much-suffering Nigerians did just that but the new currencies did not gush out from the ATMs. Not even the early warnings by domestic and international bodies on the potentially deleterious effects it would have on the economy when badly implemented could stop the inept Buhari.
The World Bank and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which were not outrightly opposed to the policy, had warned about its emergent shoddy implementation and especially the short window provided for the Naira swap. In December 2022, the World Bank had written that ‘while the periodic currency redesigns are normal internationally… the timing of and short transition period for (Nigeria’s) demonetisation may have negative impacts on economic activity, in particular for the poorest households.’ Buhari and the politics-loving CBN Governor paid deaf ears to those warnings and went ahead with the move.
While Nigerians were groaning under the pains and privations that were inflicted on them by the policy, some ‘do good’ interloping state governors put their thumbs on the scale of their suffering while hiding under the guise of fighting for their people. They compounded the problem by obtaining a ruling from the Supreme Court upending the policy. They did this, not minding the fact that their erstwhile, hero, Buhari is notorious for not obeying court rulings even if the court has a Supreme attached to its name.
After so much needless back and forth, the Supreme Court ruled on the Naira issue and called him names including for behaving like a dictator, how did the old man respond? He simply hopped into the presidential jet and flew out of the country leaving helpless and hapless Nigerians to sort themselves.
Ever since this confusion, Nigerians are still not having access to their hard-earned monies freely as they have to still buy the Naira notes from vendors.
In the face of all these, the partisan hack – Godwin Emefiele who, though an All Progressives Congress (APC) henchman, masquerades as the CBN governor has gone mute ostensibly under the pretext that he was not a party to the Supreme Court suit, and so he was not obliged to do anything as it concerns the ruling. Without even knowing, Buhari and Emefiele have turned to modern-day Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire. They fiddle while Nigeria burns. For a crime scene that Nigeria has become banks now pay unwary customers with old banknotes but will reject same when brought in as deposits.
Before coming to power, to his Muslim-Fulani brothers, Buhari had always sold himself as a compassionate leader, it was surprising to most of them that he will even need the intervention of the Supreme Court to take appropriate action on a matter that brought so much hardship to Nigerians. The endless social crises witnessed before and after the legal interference are an unwholesome negation of the personal and political reputation of the President. Proactive governance did not need the courts to see the need for the reversal of policy, defying expectations. At least for a government that is high on its own false morality.
Buhari possibly forgot that between the court’s intervention and consequential order, and his unconstitutional varying of that order, and the March 2 judgement, many people had died, and properties were destroyed. Apart from deaths reportedly recorded during protests, there were reports of people slumping and dying while standing in long queues on bank premises. There was pervasive confusion and disillusionment across the country, yet the President looked on! Even after the Supreme Court passed its judgment on the matter, things remained unclear until this week when the CBN asked banks to issue and accept the old notes! How does a government operate that way?
And this is not the time to cite the CBN’s autonomy as an excuse. Neither Buhari nor Emefiele made a secret of the alliance between them. That nocturnal relationship is why the duo sat by themselves in the President’s bedroom, conceptualised and sealed a policy that required robust consideration of all the monetary, fiscal, and private sector stakeholders.
If, despite evidence to the contrary, the government argues that the President didn’t instruct the CBN governor because of the institution’s independence, couldn’t he also direct Malami to enforce the court order? Is Garba suggesting that Emefiele and Malami went rogue on the administration?
But that wouldn’t even be a surprise. One of the most evident abnormalities in the outgoing government operation is the lack of cohesion. In the past eight years, multiple agencies of government have moved in different, even contradictory directions in the execution of government policies.
Nigerians will easily recall how the Department of State Services (DSS) tackled the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Nigerians will recall seeing an Inspector General of Police going against the directive of the President without consequences. Nigerians will recall seeing allies of a CBN governor starting a partisan campaign on his behalf, while many ministers just ran riot. The selfish and manipulative tendencies of the political class have brought so much tardiness to this administration, largely without consequence. This evident lack of leadership hints at government within a government as some stalwarts of the ruling APC recently suggested, and the statement under discussion literally validates. It’s been a government driven by madness and mad elements.
It is a good thing that the ugly Buhari government is on its way out. However, while Nigerians wait for its exit on the 29th of May, those who speak for it will do well not to add insult to the injury already inflicted on Nigerians. What Nigerians deserve from this government is an apology, not any attempt to pass the bulk.
Going forward, Nigerians must begin to understand that their government does not really care about them. They must understand that if they continue to remain as docile as they currently are, there will be no succour for their misery soon. This is a call on Nigerians to do away with their primordial sentiments and holistically demand what they deserve from the political class using civil disobedience. They have tacitly endorsed the madness for too long with their loud silence for too long and the time to end it is now!