Buhari has lost chance to reform Nigeria, says Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Delay in the appointment of ministers, failure to check the marauding Fulani herdsmen and flawed monetary policies are all hallmark of President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure, according to award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“He had an opportunity to make real reforms early on, to boldly reshape Nigeria’s path. He wasted it,” Adichie said in an op-ed published by the New York Times on Wednesday.
In spite of her admission that Nigeria, as the most populous nation in Africa, is difficult to govern, and that falling oil prices were beyond the president, Adichie noted that certain policies the present government had implemented were anti-development.
“After an ostensible search for the very best, he presented many recycled figures with whom Nigerians were disenchanted. But the real test of his presidency came with the continued fall in oil prices, which had begun the year before his inauguration,” she continued.
“Nigeria’s economy is unwholesomely dependent on oil, and while the plunge in prices was bound to be catastrophic, Mr. Buhari’s actions made it even more so.
“He adopted a policy of ‘defending’ the naira, Nigeria’s currency. The official exchange rate was kept artificially low. On the black market, the exchange rate ballooned. Prices for everything rose: rice, bread, cooking oil. Fruit sellers and car sellers blamed ‘the price of dollars’. Complaints of hardship cut across class. Some businesses fired employees; others folded.
“The government decided who would have access to the central bank’s now-reduced foreign currency reserves, and drew up an arbitrary list of worthy and unworthy goods — importers of toothpicks cannot, for example, but importers of oil can. Predictably, this policy spawned corruption: The exclusive few who were able to buy dollars at official rates could sell them on the black market and earn large, riskless profits — transactions that contribute nothing to the economy.”
She said certain presidential actions or inaction are contributing to Nigerians’ declining hope which is precipitated by an economy in a downward slide. These include a selective anti-corruption drive, insecurity occasioned, largely, by activities of Fulani herdsmen, the invasion of judges’ residences by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the perceived promotion of ‘northern Sunni Muslim agenda’.
Though Adichie acknowledged the difficulty in solving the malaise she highlighted in the op-ed, she insisted the government could have done more to make the situation better.
“There are no easy answers to Nigeria’s malaise, but the government’s intervention could be more salutary — by prioritising infrastructure, creating a business-friendly environment and communicating to a populace mired in disappointment,” she said.