Wednesday, 7th June 2023

 Currency swap: How not to run a country – Part 2

By Editorial Board
22 February 2023   |   3:58 am
Overall, Emefiele has proven more of an awful manager of the monetary policy and the entire affairs of the apex bank. By default, his judgment is suspect and in saner climes, he would have been relieved of that critical office for the good of all.

CBN governor Godwin Emefiele and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari… PHOTO: Twitter/NigeriaGOV

Overall, Emefiele has proven more of an awful manager of the monetary policy and the entire affairs of the apex bank. By default, his judgment is suspect and in saner climes, he would have been relieved of that critical office for the good of all. First, he is partisan and a bizarre interested party in the political climate. He not only featured as a party-member, he stuck out his neck for office of the presidency under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Under his watch, the CBN’s right to autonomy has become more questionable, both by his meddling in politics and president in turn meandering with the monetary system. Emefiele has very little left in self-defence against politicians pointing accusing fingers at his role in the dirty political game.

Similarly, how come Emefiele planned and executed such a national fiasco without knowledge of the Minister of Budget and National Planning – an official that is critical to the success or failure of the administration? After mouthing empty assurances that there were sufficient new notes to go round, why did he turn around to blame banks for hoarding unavailable notes (when the same should have been anticipated and control measures deployed), and indirectly inciting violence against banks? The same Emefiele has disparaged the ruling of the Supreme Court, apparently forgetting that the interpretation of the CBN Act is dependent on the same court. Emefiele has blamed everybody else but himself for the rather obnoxious approach that routinely fails globally.

Most culpable in the entire absurdity is Emefiele’s employer, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was actually elected by Nigerians to do a better job. On one hand, there is a sense in his rejig of strategy to ambush moneybags. By the way, the political class has truly been wayward. It began with what they called stomach-infrastructure, a codename for corruption and daylight malfeasance in the electoral process. The Nigerian money-denominated electoral process is one of the most expensive in the world. It has criminally been designed for only the moneybags, who must also avoid defeat to escape bankruptcy. They, therefore, deprive the public of basic amenities just to amass so much resource for dole outs in exchange for votes on election day. So, most politicians and aspirants are guilty of the crime and their dramatic reactions to set aside the currency swap policy speak volume.

The APC, led by the President, is not any better and it is most ludicrous that it took almost eight years for Buhari to react to the institutionalised money politics. Ipso facto, Buhari is not a new broom in the politics of big spenders. He knows its role in his emergence as the APC’s flag-bearer in 2015 and in winning the presidential elections twice. He was in the know when his party in 2022 mandated presidential aspirants to pay N100 million non-refundable fee as expression of interest in the presidential race. That is a job that cumulatively earns only N56 million salary in four years! He knows how much in foreign currency was sunk into the party primaries that eventually produced candidates of the two leading political parties. After that were the Ekiti and Osun elections where monies exchanged hands, and the law enforcement agencies looked the other way. No one was sanctioned. No investigation was carried out and there is no penalty for complicity! Mr. Buhari saw through them all and only yawned.

So, why now the urgency in banknotes swap just days to general elections? To cook up a storm of chaos and confusion that will make a general election impossible? His party flag-bearer, governors and others have accused him of anti-party activities that stifle both petrol and naira supplies to the public just to well up anti-APC sentiments and scuttle chances of its candidates at the polls. Some of his loyalists, including Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State, ran to the Supreme Court for mediation, citing the presidential circle as incompetent and saboteurs. Characteristically, Buhari has refused to obey the judiciary ordering that the old notes should continue to be a legal tender pending the hearing of the suit that will come up in just a couple of days to the presidential elections.

Clearly, Buhari has proven his mettle in how not to run a government or learn from history. The country was at the same crossroad in 1984 when Buhari was the Head State and introduced the same poorly thought-out monetary policy that plunged the entire country into hardship and eventually plotted his ouster. On his second-coming, he should have learnt that it takes a higher mind, than of those that create it, to effectively solve a problem. Ideally, a genuine war against corruption and efficient law enforcement agencies should have worked out the solution to vote buying; not draconian mop up of available currencies and running the entire economy aground.

If Buhari’s intent in 2023 Nigeria is to fight money politics with Naira redesigning, he has been beaten at his own game by the same politicians the policy targeted. What is left is for Buhari to pull back from its attendant socio-economic tipping point and save the country from implosion. Lest he forgets, Section 12 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, mandates that government’s policies and programmes must be tailored toward provision of “security and welfare of the people” being the common good of all. Hence, once programmes and policies of any administration orchestrates hardship, suffering, sorrows, calamity and general disenchantment, then that administration has strayed from the path of common good. The banknotes debacle is a reflection of a government gone astray. The saving grace for the Buhari-led disaster should have been a full compliance with the position of the Supreme Court to keep both new and old currencies in use, for which the Attorney General should have educated the President accordingly

The United Kingdom has similar currency swap policy, but theirs conforms to the rule of commonsense that both old and new banknotes should coexist side by side as legal tender till the old currencies gradually retire out of circulation. In Nigeria, there is no guarantee of the new notes and there is no point compounding the misery of beleaguered general public. The Democrat in Mr. Buhari should lead by example in obedience to the February 8 ruling of the Supreme Court, the rule of law generally and not only when it is convenient.

We sympathise with Nigerians for the avoidable pains of the last couple of weeks. However, staging riots, setting banks on fire, killings and causing further breakdown of law and order in protest of systemic failure and horrendous leadership is not the solution. Most of the political elite, including members of the National Assembly, have shown that they have nothing to offer the masses. The currency conflict of interest is solely in their selfish interest – to win at the poll. Yet, the general elections avail the best opportunity in a democracy, for the masses to pay the politicians in bad coins and force a lasting change that Nigeria deserves. Such requires an atmosphere of peace, law, order and sacrifice of all to bear with the current pains and turn the corner of this venal leadership.