Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mr. President, There’s Blood On The Dance Floor

By Seyi Olu Awofeso  
Dear President Muhammadu Buhari: One reason the joys of electing you as president abruptly stopped is because there’s now blood on the dance floor. You alone have to decide if to call off the party or mop the dance floor; but either way, you’ll need spatial awareness of why bleeding occurred to spoil the party.
*Buhari 
You stoked price vectors to let the inflation genie out of the bottle and then burnt up Nigerians’ cash assets with 68% Naira devaluation starting in the last week of May, after increasing electricity tariff by 45% in March and after  increasing pump price of petrol by 67% few weeks earlier, to send all things up in the air – with nothing settled as yet; not even Nigeria itself, which badly convulsed in feverish price hikes, country-wide, after reeling for long from rocket-propelled grenades fired by hundreds of militias doubly armed with improvised explosives now rampaging all across Nigeria.

As news of Nigeria’s mounting horrors spread, London’s Evening Standard reported it on September 7:  “Western firms can be forgiven for shying away from investing in Buhari’s Nigeria,” the Evening Standard said – with reasons ranging from untrammeled treasury thefts to your having no clearly seen honest resolve to fight corruption. A slew of foreign investors may as well be closing its files on Nigeria. They are reportedly put off by the way things are going awry.
 Schools crumble in Nigeria without books as hospitals lay bare without imported medicines – all of which can’t be bought at the current price exchange rate of N425 to a Dollar versus the much lower April exchange rate of N260 to one Dollar. Workers are being laid off in thousands and the casualties near 4.5 million Nigerians sacked under your 15-month perplexing regime, according to anecdotal evidence.
Those spared mass sackings are pitch-forked to half salary – in defiance of anything contracts law say on the sanctity of existing agreements in an increasingly anomic Nigeria – where, besides routine beheading on the streets from neighbourhood spats, the Court of Appeal in Lagos division then declared a few weeks ago that wearing the Muslim Hijab head-cover is superior, as Islamic Law, and overrides any other law that a state government may enact as ‘school uniform rule.’
A false bottom for this rather zany declarative order was quickly constructed judicially and called ‘fundamental human rights’…in a country contradictorily self-described in its 1999 Constitution as ‘secular.’ In just under 16 months Nigeria now looks eerily strange – like a horror film – to those looking in from outside.
But to be sure, Nigeria was not as much a puzzle or hardscrabble place as this. Nigeria was, contrarily, a fragile and less horrific and much less hopeless place.  So, what happened to CHANGE, President Buhari? That’s the crux. No two broom-wavers on your APC side of the Nigeria’s party politics divide ever understood what CHANGE means from get-go. In retrospect, it would seem like a mere slogan just thrown in to replace absent thought-process inside the party. It could even be worse. For after you won the election on that abstract sloganeering you alone now have the writ to decide what CHANGE means for a whole nation, since your party members were just carried away by the sound of that word and mindlessly ran to town with it.

The winds can only assist a bird which already has a direction, the old wit says. Without clarity of thought on the gritty specifics of CHANGE – which should encapsulate a theory of state in ideological terms – the winds cannot assist the APC’s bird’s flight to anywhere. That’s why Nigeria looks more driftless; like flotsam and jetsam on the high seas, just being blown away with sea currents, and without volition or direction, in negation of the purpose and meaning of ‘government’.
Today, if it is systems-analysed for structural functionality, Nigeria is closer to a failed state. Indeed, Nigeria is today precariously placed 14th from the bottom of the Index Of The World’s Failed States. The question will then recur: ‘Whatever happened to CHANGE’?
It is neither obvious nor felt. That’s why many foreign investors hiss at the cheapened Nigerian currency from your devaluation and still resist rushing in to buy up the country’s assets for peanuts. They simply don’t see a plan of what will happen next to their imported capital should they gamble on Nigeria.
A foreign investor wishing to set up a manufacturing business in Nigeria will need advanced calculators for starters. His imported dollars will firstly be converted by the bank at 320 to a dollar. The investor will then confront a new price structure on the streets where his converted dollars in Naira will then have to chase mostly imported inputs at the rate of 450 Naira to a dollar. That’s besides a different set of existential crises of non-available electricity supply and no water running since from the taps in Nigeria’s commercial capital city of Lagos to do any basic manufacturing or even flush a toilet.
Since July when Nigeria was driven by your trial-by-error government into economic recession,  after two consecutive quarters of negative results from Nigeria’s import/export trade – on the back of high inflation from your price vector devaluation – with petrol pump  price  hike added, now made worse by slackened effective demand as a result of massive retrenchment of workers, and yet, made worse still by recent increase in bank lending rate to over 20% – in a theoretical fight against inflation – investors don’t  see these reflexive and reactive actions as tantamount to a policy on how to exit an economic recession.
Truth is, without an intelligent exit plan disclosed in clear details to the public, it is par for the course Nigeria would spend several years badly mired in this economic recession with worse consequences for political stability of Nigeria.
It is in that vortex that your approval rating dropped to 32% today, according to the GAIN POLL, because a beclouded leadership usually won’t inspire. That’s why Nigeria also fades away from the horizon of the international community which is too busy to do a mind-reading or worry over another country’s leadership which has no direction after 15 months in office.
Mr. President, getting one’s country into a recession is terribly bad. That’s exactly what cost President George H.W. Bush his job, especially when Bush’s approval rating plummeted to the depths where yours is stuck today. Getting into a deepening recession with a blank head and without any intellectual plan on a means of escape, is worse. You cannot be the lightning rod of a whole nation, and its sole hope of CHANGE, and still be its sole repository of knowledge on how to exit from crushing economic recession. You can’t be all of those things at the same time, Mr. President, and claim to be running a sensible or modern government.
 The point of living in a big country is to draw from the intellectual strength in the country. Not all persons are looking for money. There are Nigerians who prefer honour to money and will feel more fulfilled to rise to the occasion and answer a patriotic call to help push Nigeria gingerly back from the precipice of the abyss. But that cannot even happen if your government is insular and will not reply letters on policy matters, as your Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, is wont.
Best of luck to you Mr. President on the intentional but dire choices you make for yourself.
*Awofeso, a legal practitioner, is resident in Lagos.


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