Buhari: Seven Days Completed….

By Bola Bolawole

turnpot@gmail.com 0807 552 5533

Penultimate week when the president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, could no longer play King Nero over the twin evil of contrived fuel and self-inflicted Naira scarcity, he begged to be given the grace of seven days to sort out the mess, an all-time low no one had imagined Buhari could fall, despite that his incompetence and cluelessness is now everywhere beyond dispute. Last week, I had wondered why the luxury of seven days on an issue that demanded, and required immediate and urgent solution. Well, one answer is the one provided by Rita, wife of the late Jamaican reggae superstar, Bob Marley: “Who feels it, knows it more”. Buhari feels none of the twin problems of fuel scarcity and Naira change gone awry that have brought untold suffering on Nigerians and unmitigated disaster on an economy already tottering. As they say, who wears the shoe knows where it pinches; Buhari wears none of the shoes driving Nigerians to the edge. Many have died avoidable deaths; many have committed suicide. For many, there is nothing like privacy or decency any more. When hunger enters the stomach, it fills the entire space and leaves no room for any other business

What was required was for Buhari to have quickly proffered a solution that would bring the suffering walloping the citizenry and the despondency enveloping the land to an abrupt end. Rather, he chose to postpone the doom’s day, behaving like the proverbial debtor who lazily and lackadaisically shifts the date he should redeem his pledge, thinking tomorrow will never come. “Onigbese d’ijo; o ro pe ojo ko ni pe!” He deludes himself! As scripture says, the day soon comes as a thief in the night! That must have been Buhari’s experience in the last two weeks. The screaming headline of virtually all the media on Friday, 3 February went something like “Give me seven days to resolve cash scarcity, Buhari tells APC governors”. 

One news medium ran the story thus: “President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday urged citizens to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country from the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria to change high value Naira notes with new ones. He was speaking to the Progressive Governors Forum who came to the Presidential Villa to seek solutions to the cash crunch which they said was threatening the good records of the administration in transforming the economy. President Buhari said the currency redesign will give a boost to the economy and provide long-term benefits while expressing doubts about the commitment of banks in particular to the success of the policy. ‘Some banks are inefficient and only concerned about themselves’, said the president. ‘Even if a year is added, problems associated with selfishness and greed won’t go away’, he added.  He said he had seen television reports about cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people and gave assurances that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension will be used to crack down on whatever stood in the way of successful implementation. ‘I will revert to the CBN and the Minting Company. There will be a decision one way or the other in the remaining seven days of the 10-day extension’, the president assured.

“The governors had told the president that while they agreed that his decision on the renewal of currency was good and they were fully in support, its execution had been botched and their constituents were becoming increasingly upset. They told the president that as leaders of the government and party in their different states, they were becoming anxious about a slump in the economy and the series of elections that are coming. They requested the president to use his powers to direct the concurrent flourish of the new and old notes till the end of the year. The president said when he considered giving the approval to the policy, he demanded an undertaking from the CBN that no new notes will be printed in a foreign country and they in turn gave him assurances that there was enough capacity, manpower and equipment to print the currency for local needs. He said he needed to go back to find out what was actually happening”

That was nearly two weeks ago; rather than thaw, the problem has solidified even more! Buhari has met severally with the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele; he has even convened a well-attended Council of State meeting that further confirmed that Buhari was in a quandary on the issue of the new Naira notes, even if the problem of fuel supply can be expected to improve gradually over the next few days or weeks. Buhari, who reportedly kept mum throughout the meeting, left when it was half-way through, preferring to go, instead, for Jumat prayers. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo reportedly stepped in to carry the cross for him. Dirty jobs are best pushed unto others! When they have messed up, they need others they have hitherto despised to clean up their act for them.

Snippets from the meeting revealed that the Council endorsed Naira redesign but complained that its implementation left much to be desired. Since the shoddy implementation was causing too much suffering to the people and dislocation to the economy, the Council was of the opinion that the CBN should either provide more of the new notes or allow the old notes to still remain in circulation side-by-side the new until the CBN is able to do the needful. Fair enough! Regrettably, however, the Presidency and CBN were quick to pour cold water on the Council’s reasonable recommendation. First, the Presidency sought to ambush the Council or prepare grounds to arrest its resolution by reminding us, a priori, that the Council was only an advisory body whose recommendations or decisions were not binding on the government. The CBN rose from the same meeting keeping mute on whether or not it accepts the wise counsel of the elders of the nation, for that is what the Council of State is.

When, on February 6, three state governors – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara – dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court praying that the February 10 deadline for the expiration of the old notes be held in abeyance, and the court so decided, there was joy in the land. No one ever expected in their wildest imagination that the CBN could take the ruling of the apex court as joke of the year! More states soon joined the fray against the CBN and FG. At the last count Ekiti, Kano, Ondo, Rivers, Bayelsa were reported to have joined. The surprise of many was that the Buhari administration chose to challenge the Supreme Court ruling voiding the February 10 deadline for the cessation of the use of old Naira notes set by the CBN! Now, the banks, possibly acting on the instructions or body language of the CBN, have stopped accepting the old notes. Anarchy is loading! Some states are instructing, even compelling people in their states to continue to trade in the old notes. Defaulters are even being arrested in some states. Where will this confusion lead?

Now, the states dragging the APC-controlled FG to court are also APC states, which is an indication that this is not a party thing. The policies that are at the bottom of this confusion are not necessarily APC’s but policies enunciated by certain individuals who, we have been told, may not even be APC members or leaders. They are cabals that have the ears of the president and who, we have long been warned, hold him hostage. So, shall we be allowing these faceless people, people who were not elected into any office but who, as blood relatives of Buhari, have hijacked his government, to continue in their sinister motives?  If we continue to say, because the politics of it favours our political permutations of the moment, that the APC is responsible for our current travails instead of unmasking the individuals behind our current travails, name and shame them, we shall be chasing shadows.

Last week I asked whose advice Buhari would most likely take: Will he behave like Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son, and take the pig-headed advice of certain cabals bent on increasing the suffering of the people for selfish motives? Or will he take the counsel of the elders and take prompt and effective steps to reduce the suffering of the people? Buhari has rejected the wise counsel of the Council of State to allow the old notes to remain in force side-by-side the new notes until adequate provisions are made to flood the whole place with the new notes. He has thumped his nose at APC governors’ plea to stop the suffering of the people in that his Attorney-General has gone to court to challenge the reprieve granted by the Supreme Court. Buhari has also not expressly asked the CBN to respect the ruling of the apex court. Neither did he come out to support and give vent to the wise counsel of the Council of States. In that the banks have stuck to the deadline given by the CBN, Buhari has left no one in doubt on whose side he is in this entire debacle. He is the modern day Rehoboam, pure and simple!  

Biblical Rehoboam went down taking a united Israel with him; it remains to be seen whether Buhari will also go down taking a united Nigeria with him. While the folly of Rehoboam can be excused on the ground of youthful exuberance, on what grounds do we excuse Buhari’s insensitivity to the plight of teeming Nigerians?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: