By Chido Nwakanma
The significant takeaway from the presidential address of 16 February 2023 on the logjam from the Naira Redesign is that President Muhammadu Buhari stepped forth to own the policy. The admission comes late in the day after many had pinned the blame for it on Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele with the undiscerning calling on President Buhari to sack the bank governor.
The Naira Redesign and Swap are from the Muhammadu Buhari Governance Playbook. Features include:
1. Emergency Naira swap with a limited implementation timeframe.
2. Nigeria’s southern borders closed for years while leaving the Northern end open.
3. Preferment to the North. In Buhari 2.0, the North gave way to Fulani while dropping Hausa.
4. A verbal war against corruption, all huff and puff.
5. Awe and intimidation of the judiciary. Note, though, that the announcement of 16 February does not overrule the Supreme Court, as stated in the popular media. The Supreme Court’s interim order was for only seven days and expired a day before Buhari’s address.
6. Intimidation of the media. Without Decree 4, the primary tools are the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and the DSS, gagging Twitter while avoiding the outright closure of the few thriving newspaper houses. It would be counterproductive as the newspapers would welcome it as a “make me shine” shot at a goal.
Naira Redesign is typically Buhari. Buhari 2.0 reprises Buhari 1.0. It does not matter if the policies in Buhari 1.0 failed; they need a repeat in Buhari 2.0.
The first run in 1984 was a fiasco. The lack of technology support in banking and general commerce and poor telecommunications made citizens suffer even more in Naira Swap Buhari 1.0.
Reactions to Naira Redesign have varied from acceptance of the principle but anger with the implementation to outright revolt. Conspiracy theories fly around.
The most persistent one is the claim by Buhari’s co-travellers in the APC that the policy seeks to stop its presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I do not understand the ways of politicians, so I cannot speak with any authority on this claim. However, citizens should ask: which politician did Buhari Naira Swap 1.0 in 1984 seek to stop?
There is a consistency of objectives between Naira Swap Buhari 1.0 and 2.0.
According to President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the nation on 16 February 2023, “Let me re-assure Nigerians that strengthening our economy, enhancing security and blockage of leakages associated with illicit financial flows remain a top priority of our administration.”
President Buhari itemised no fewer than seven additional benefits that would accrue from his Naira Swap 2.0. They include restoring the “statutory ability of the CBN to keep a firm control over the money in circulation”, putting money back into the financial system rather than outside, and deepening FG’s support for security agencies to combat banditry ransom-taking in Nigeria successfully.
Eighteen political parties have candidates for the presidential and other elections beginning on 25 February. Mainly the APC has fought against Naira Swap 2.0 from its inception. They claim it targets their candidate. Hello? Is APC confirming that their candidate fits into the mould of the objectives the policy seeks to combat? Have they thought deeply about the implications of their statement? As I said, though, I do not comprehend the ways and manners of politicians!
The APC doth protest too loudly about Naira Swap 2.0. Their governors went to Court, and Governor Nasir El-Rufai delivered a counter-broadcast to Buhari. The denunciation is so elaborate and loud it makes you wonder and surmise. It must be a decoy to hide a complicated rigging intention by the party that proudly owns rigging.
What is the problem with Buhari Naira Swap 2.0? Incompetence, large and bold! The negative attribute of incompetence has characterised policy implementation in the Buhari Era 2015-2023. APC loyalists know this as Nigerians suffered under their policy miscues and mismanagement. Now they are screaming.
President Buhari admitted the failures of the policy. In true Buhari fashion, he passed the buck to the banks. “I am not unaware of the obstacles placed on the path of innocent Nigerians by unscrupulous officials in the banking industry entrusted with implementing the new monetary policy. I am deeply pained and sincerely sympathise with you all over these unintended outcomes”, was Buhari’s mea culpa.
We should believe that it was the banks’ fault that a man who did a similar measure in 1984 could not plan the repeat exercise better in 2022 and 2023. Because of the Deposit Money Banks, the relevant monetary authorities did not provide enough new notes so citizens could exchange the old for the latest! It is a fitting mariner’s tale where the sailor lamented, “Water, water, everywhere, but not enough to drink!”
Buhari and his team have denied the other leg of the conspiracy about preparing the grounds for tenure extension through crisis and declaration of an interim government. They should also speak to the additional one about an intra-Fulani struggle regarding which faction would succeed the Fulani king. They should because it concerns electoral transparency.
The upshot? Buhari and the Presidency should fast-track the release of the redesigned Naira. We are tired of reprising Fela’s songs, such as Original Suffer Head. Nigerians will survive Buhari 2.0 and any other policies reincarnated from Buhari 1.0. Bear the pains of incompetence in knowing that as surely as the sun rises daily, this will soon pass. We shall overcome.