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Growth exchange rate it is!

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As often as not, when my mind is helplessly engaged with the vicissitudes of Nigeria’s evolution, l find myself wondering about how some of the world’s greatest thinkers would have tackled the challenges of Project Nigeria.At such times l naturally call to mind nations that had known many peculiar challenges; and more significantly, l recall how a single or few imaginative individuals had picked up the collective gauntlet, and following years of wilderness experience, those few individuals were able to bring forth great nations from a multitude of ordinary peoples. Imaginative thinking is an essential ingredient for great leadership – an attribute which contemporary Nigerian leadership could use, stating it mildly.

The just-concluded electioneering campaign season provided yet another evidence of this. Virtually all the presidential candidates, inclusive of the “new generation” candidates, for all intents and purposes had basically rehearsed the same hackneyed sing-song that the Nigerian electorate has heard from the First republic through to the Fourth. Very uninspiring. None of the candidates constructively tackled the two most pressing national issues of limping economy and insecurity. Although one of the more audacious candidates suggested he would immediately replace the head of the Exchequer for want of ability, but he failed to provide Nigerians with his own proposed solutions to our lingering monetary problems.

More so, one of his colleagues in the race had been a deputy head of the Exchequer, yet the audacious candidate failed to take him up on the campaign trials respecting his perceived fault-lines of the Apex bank. Could this simply be an oversight, or was it the case that the audacious candidate didn’t have credible solutions of his own on offer? Monetary policy is the one veritable determinant of the state of national economies. Elsewhere it is the one factor that tips the scale for or against a particular political candidate, of which reported evidence of presidential candidates in highly developed countries provide good examples. So the previous political debates ought to have been principally based on monetary policy.

Therefore, while bearing the aforesaid facts in mind, let us backtrack to my opening paragraph’s mental exercise, and imagine that in conceiving the idea of a Nigerian-born Martin Luther King, Jnr. God had put the question, “Martin, which Age would you like to live in?” I imagine that King’s soul would impulsively take a mental flight through Nigeria’s foundational year of 1914 when the Northern Protectorate and Southern Protectorate were co-joined. He would then move very quickly to the provincial agitations years of 1940s, and even come up to the regional agitations a decade later. And l imagine that King wouldn’t stop there, but would proceed in his mental flight from the Lancaster (UK) House regional agitations of the 1950s, and fast forward to the pre-1960 independence debates in the Nigerian Parliament.

I further imagine that King would delve deep into the intrigues of the leading tribes of a prospective independent Nigeria and marvel at how highly vulnerable a nation’s destiny could be to tribal aspirations. But in spite of the magnetic pull of those observations, l still imagine that King wouldn’t stop there.

I see that King would rather fly past the October 1960 independence ceremonies and subsequent battles of supremacy between the Eastern, Northern, and Western regions. The 1962/63 controversial national census exercises would hold much fascination for King in terms of man’s propensity to aspire to dominate his fellowmen. I imagine, also, that King would take particular interest in the 1964 general and 1965 Western region controversial elections respectively. I even imagine that King would look with unblinking eyes at the fast unfolding crises on the heels of those elections, and consequent declaration of a state of emergency in the Western region; but despite that electrically charged atmosphere, l imagine that King wouldn’t stop there. I see that King would continue his imaginary flight, flying over the all too predictable January 1966 epochal event. He would even proceed quickly to the July 1966 sequel; the pogrom; the breaking up of the regions into smaller states; the Eastern region secession; and the declaration of war in 1967. King’s inherent sense of universal brotherhood would make him feel to the quick the loss of over one million citizens in a needless 3-year fratricidal war, but that keenly felt pain would not cause King to terminate his flight over Project Nigeria.

Rather, l imagine that King would crave God to indulge him more time. He would thus look cursorily, if with reservations at the much-publicized Reconciliation-Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation – 3Rs programme to reintegrate the Eastern region into Project Nigeria; but in spite of the egregious lapses in that programme, King would persist in his flight, flying over the July 1975 and February 1976 big events respectively. He would even come up to the 1979 coming into being of the Second republic, but notwithstanding the colourful allure of that occasion, l do not see that King would stop there.

I imagine that King would fly past Verdict ‘83 of 1983 and the big event of the following year, 1984. Without pausing, l see that King would fly past the imponderable 1985 event. But the June 12, 1993 stillborn event of the Third republic would arrest King’s attention for a goodly while, though not long enough to disrupt his journey through time. The subsequent dark years leading up to the birth of the Fourth republic in 1999 would arouse strong mixed emotions in him but still King wouldn’t stop there.

When the dark years finally yield the right of passage to the Fourth republic, King would perceive that the single most important challenge of Project Nigeria since 1999 has been the question of deriving a regime of growth-inducing exchange rate for the national currency, the naira – monetary policy.

Finally, l imagine that this realization would cause a would-be precocious student in King to intuitively foresee a classic line in undergraduate economics textbooks: “Elasticity of demand for exports and imports doesn’t take the form in graphical terms of a straight line. It is more in the form of a bell-shaped curve. The goal in policy making terms is then to pitch the exchange rate at what is estimated to be the highest point on the bell-shaped curve…”
Abruptly bringing his mental flight to an end, King would reverentially respond, “O Lord of Creation, if you allowed me to live only few years in the Fourth republic, l’d feel eternally accomplished!”
Nkemdiche is a consulting engineer.


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