The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has made history. It has dragged the naira, at last, to its Golgotha. At N500 to a dollar in the parallel market, the naira is dead. But it was an avoidable death. Successive Nigerian governments never showed any concern about the wellness of the local currency. This is because no Nigerian leader, military or civilian, was ever prepared to lead. They chanced into office either through the barrel of the gun or by election grifting.
They lacked vision so they could not even plan for tomorrow. But if we can excuse the perfidy in the military era, we cannot make excuse for those leaders in the democratic agora. Obasanjo government wasted the fortunes of the nation in the most grotesque manner. In full consciousness he and his team plundered the national till to the extent that he was not ashamed to go public with his then deputy, Atiku Abubakar, with details of how they feasted on the account of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
The Umaru Yar’adua era was the period Nigeria relapsed into seizure. The nation merely gasped for breath. The incompetence of Yar’adua coupled with his ill-health prepared the stage for mindless looting which out of sentiment, nobody is talking about today. The cultic grip on a dying Yar’adua by a small cabal around him ensured that the nation had no dream, did not stir nor dare hence did not win. Nigeria, as a nation, was left with the routine of sleeping and waking.
Yar’adua’s successor, Goodluck Jonathan, who shares the same badge of incompetence with his predecessor rather than buck the trend, rode on the same sordid tide of inefficiency. Jonathan like Yar’adua, like Shehu Shagari, was a weak leader. His weakness was not on account of ill-health. It was just the lot of a man who refused to be a man or was incapable of being one. So, under his watch, looting of public treasury became a schizophrenic pastime. Jonathan is a good guy but good guys do not make good leaders. He lacked shrewdness and the courage to dream and to dare.
Yet, in all of these governments life was still bearable. Nigerians got by, and still managed a wry smile, a little laughter. But the Buhari government has killed laughter and joy. So far, it is the worst government ever in Nigeria’s history. The hardship is just too much to bear. Worst of it all, the government lacks the vision and drive to pull the nation through. How can a member of OPEC cartel not have kerosene and cooking gas for her citizens to cook? Simply benumbing!
For good reason, Buhari came to power an angry man. The state of the nation should make a reasonable Nigerian angry. That’s also why he got the people’s vote. He campaigned with good intentions; he said corruption must be killed; he said Nigeria deserves better than she is getting. Very good, I agree. But the same Buhari failed to review his own leadership credential; he failed to notice that he cannot even lead a local government in the 21st century. First, he is not a good planner; he is not a dreamer; he lacks drive and he is imprisoned by his own innate inability to trust others. Buhari, very obvious now, is not a risk-taker; he is a poor portrait of entrepreneurship. A good leader is a risk-taker; an entrepreneur, whether as social entrepreneur or otherwise.
This explains why he has dragged Nigeria into a hellhole, into a burrow of sorrow. Buhari’s incompetence is made manifest in his skewed appointments and in the calibre of men and women he appointed into offices. It shows also in the style of appointment. The long delay in filling his cabinet also contributed to the mix of ineptitude that dogs his administration. No leader stays for six months without a cabinet; that is six months of no vision, no goal, no activity. That’s too long a time in the life of any economy. The horrendous failure of the Buhari government is not on account of falling prices of crude oil. Those who put up such illogic are either mentally indolent or wallow in the cesspit of unreason. Lee Kuan Yew did not build modern Singapore from the ruins of war with oil money; Jerry Rawlings did not unclasp Ghana from the grip of despair with oil money. Ghana, once a pariah nation – no friends, avoided by Nigeria and other nations – has today become the second home, even a better home for Nigerians and multinationals frustrated out of Nigeria by incompetent leaderships. Need I mention the story of tiny Botswana? The country once ranked among the poorest of the poor is today one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and stable democracies with comparatively better infrastructure and enviable educational system that has put her universities ahead of Nigerian universities in global ranking. Such revival was made possible because the leadership of Seretse Khama Ian Khama in recent years innovatively husbanded his no-nonsense style of leadership into real productivity and the indicators are there to show for his effort.
President Buhari can still turn things around, but first, he must do a few quick fixes. The President must halt the dollar racket. There is a virile forex racket orchestrated by banks cashing in on the regulatory weakness of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The President also contributed to this forex scam when he created a ridiculously low exchange rate of N197 to a dollar for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem or Mecca. People mop up dollar from CBN at this rate and rush to black market to make a kill. This government must distinguish itself from previous governments by halting forthwith the subsidy on religious pilgrimage. Why would the government subsidise religious voyage to anywhere when the same government has starved local manufacturers of dollar to import raw materials and machinery.
The President needs to take a second and critical look into the deceit in the banking system. They are the ones manipulating the forex market. They create scarcity of dollar for the primary sector while selling same in the black market where they triple the profit. The economics of asking Nigerians to stop patronising foreign goods has not worked and is not working because even Mr. President still holidays in London and patronises hospitals abroad. At the root of the crashing naira at foreign exchange market is a cabal in the banking system that keeps profiting from the multiple exchange rates created by the government for different occasions some as ridiculous as subsidizing (holy?) pilgrimages that do little to make us any holier than we are. Naira is crashing not because crude oil price has dropped, no! It is crashing because we have not prudently managed the little that we have.
Again, the President must deliberately loosen up by creating a window for multinationals to repatriate their profit to their home countries. Frustrating them out of the country worsens the situation because they simply move to a neighbouring country, build their factory there, create jobs and wealth there while still making their sales in Nigeria.
The newly formed task force to revive the economy should advise the President to also ensure that local debts are serviced just so money will circulate. The economy is suffocating and all the President needs do is to be upbeat not uptight. For too long, many parastatals functioned without the full complement of their boards. Where there is no board, no management tender board meeting holds, no payments are made and no new contracts are awarded hence no money in circulation. Holding in does not help any economy, holding out does. Mr President should hold out, just a little bit, otherwise the naira dieth.