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Truth cannot be extinguished

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Afam Nkemdiche


It is not in my nature to be alarmist; not even when I receive death-threat calls from anonymous callers. But recent events have caused me to be convinced, more than ever before, that there is cause for Nigerians to be very concerned about the fate of the national currency, the naira. This is a topic I am passionate about. I have been writing about the wrong decision to massively devalue the naira from 1986, when Ibrahim Babangida’s military government foisted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) inspired Structural Adjustment Programme on Nigerians, to date. After 32 years my expressed opinion on naira devaluation remains wholly substantiated. But in spite of over three decades of my proven prognosis, I have continued to receive uncouth attacks on the social media to my person on the subject-matter. A typical of these was posted on the first part of a 2016 two-piece article, “Currency devaluation and Keynesian economics”; and it reads, “A disgrace to the engineering profession. I hope this guy is not a train driver. This is what happens when we think being a ‘graduate’ makes you an expert! Stick with your quack degree and stop commenting on financial/economic matters…” (Another post demanded that I “convert to Islam or perish…”)

Of course I didn’t pay more than a casual attention to the post when an associate called my attention to it, although I remember wondering then why any reasonable patriot would feel gravely offended by objective commentaries on financial/economic matters touching upon Nigeria. I soon found out the answer; thanks to subsequent death-threat calls from anonymous callers who would first sarcastically ask, “Is that Afam the publisher?” My published articles do not make me a publisher – only governments or their agents brand all those with dissenting views as publishers or journalists. Why would a government or its agents be pained by constructive commentaries on national policies? This is why I think we ought to worry. For the avoidance of doubt, I should like to emphatically state that no amount of intimidation would deter me from expressing my considered opinions on not only financial and economic matters, but also on all matters touching upon my country, Nigeria. It is my constitutional right so to do.

My stated view that massive devaluation of the naira would inexorably lead to a huge industry of currency speculators and deindustrialization, has since been vindicated time and again; and continues to be so even to this day. And as I stated in another related article, “Naira cannot appreciate under market forces,” any regime of foreign exchange rate that fails to effectively stimulate the real sector of the national economy (manufacturing) cannot result in a net economic growth of the country, and by direct extrapolation, cannot appreciate the exchange value of the national currency, vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar. Nigeria’s real sector, represented by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has since 1986 continued to complain about the prohibitive foreign exchange regimes of successive federal governments. Those complaints always come amidst massive personnel retrenchments, with concomitant increases in bank interest rates and run-away inflation in the national economy.

Two logical questions follow from this. If neither Nigeria’s real sector nor the Nigerian citizenry benefits from massive devaluation of the naira, who then benefits? Who or what can be more significant than the citizenry or the real sector in a national economy? My previous articles provide the answers. And as I have consistently maintained, a truly enlightened evaluation of the above questions would automatically lead to an equilibrium foreign exchange regime consistent with effective stimulation of the manufacturing sector. Though I should be quick to point out that our financial sector’s sense of equilibrium foreign exchange for manufacturing is in serious misalignment with the 21st century definition of manufacturing productivity. In other words, an increase in plant capacity utilisation does not necessarily result in an increase in productivity when socio-economic and environmental costs are factored into the equation. In point of fact, capacity utilisation increase could actually lead to a decrease in productivity. Surprised? Conventional wisdom is entitled to be, so long as those with such mindset don’t feel indignant about this new reality, because the financial sector and economists of even highly developed economies are still struggling to come to terms with this 21st century phenomenon, pioneered by Japan.

Productivity in modern parlance means doing more with less input at minimal socio-economic cum environmental impact. Consequently, responsible scientists and engineers, more so those with multi-disciplinary bias, can ill-afford to be indifferent to the urgent need to bridge the emerging knowledge gap between the professions. Thankfully, most globally celebrated economists have since expressed the inadequacies of their profession. This is the reason I cannot stop my commentaries on policy matters as they affect a climatically challenged world for, as the Jewish Holy Writ admonishes, “The hottest part of hell is reserved for those who sit idly by and allow evil to prevail”.

Edmund Burke, the British political philosopher, would echo this dictum in the eighteenth century. How else would human civilization advance if persons of goodwill restrain from reflecting their vision of truth as revealed to them by training? Though persons who have not transcended mere material existence cannot understand it, but it needs be stated that the true beneficiary of knowledge cannot resist the prodding of creative impulses, it does not matter that earthly tyrants imprison and murder them in their droves. Similarly, my constructive criticisms of national policies in general, and the massive devaluation of the naira in particular will continue to pour in in their droves, in spite of death-threats. I am only a purveyor of truth in time, and history convincingly shows that nature raises multiple purveyors of truth respecting a particular matter in a given space of time.

The ultimate truth is: truth cannot be extinguished. I will therefore close this short piece by inviting all those who take umbrage at my commentaries on national issues to ponder these enlightening words of the nineteenth century British Right Honourable Gentleman, John Maynard Keynes, as they touch upon social critics, “The events of the coming year(s) will not be shaped by the deliberate acts of statesmen, but by the hidden currents, flowing continually beneath the surface of political history, of which no one can predict the outcome. In one way only can we influence these hidden currents – by setting in motion those forces of instruction and imagination which change opinion(s). The assertion of truth, the unveiling of illusions, the dissipation of hate, the enlargement and instruction of men’s hearts and minds, must be the means…”
Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.
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Afam NkemdicheIMF
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