Under the Climate of Pain

  • Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It seems every Nigerian is frightened by the prospect of having money in the bank and yet unable to collect cash, except pittance that you have to fight tooth and nail to get – including the august members of the highest judicial body in the land, the Supreme Court. Mid this week, the worried justices voted unanimously to throw into the trashcan the nonsensical idea to demonise (or demonitise) the old naira notes in favour of the thinly dyed and inscrutably evasive new notes. Based on their mandatory injunction, you have to accept the old and new notes side by side, like most sensible countries run by stable and compassionate people who do not gloat at the anguish and dehumanisation of their people. Three states, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara dragged the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to the Supreme Court on 3 February to stem the nonsense.

It hurts my sense of being recounting the countless stories of losses, suicidal attempts, chronic collapse of hitherto healthy bodies and corporates, and several other incidents of needless distresses and dislocations that the CBN gang and their cahoots in the presidency, or wherever their evil lieutenants hibernate while they torment Nigeirans, and foment seemingly deliberate catastrophes, ostensibly, to unsettle and imperil the coming general elections and the national census.

While banking oligarchs wail that the CBN had not pumped enough money to meet even a third of their customers’ needs, the Godwin Emefiele led coven of money changers insist that there were sufficient deliveries, and that sabotage was likely at play. While this blame-game drama subsists, Nigerians, wracked by fear of sudden emptiness and acute disenchantment, resort to stripping themselves naked to impress the banking vampires that they were ready to shed their own blood; on the streets of Ibadan and Abeokuta, protests fueled by the present anger and lack have detoured to shooting and reported deaths; videos abound of multiple millions of well-stacked new notes hidden from the public counters by unscrupulous bank staff. Also prevalent are videos of bank staff fleeing their duty posts by the backdoor and high fences, to escape the rampaging anger of distraught and daredevil customers who were ready to overrun any opposition to their survival.

Yet all we have seen or heard directly from the father of the nation is this tweet, a week ago on 3 February: “I am aware of the cash shortages and hardship being faced by people and businesses, on account of the Naira redesign. I want to assure that we are doing everything to resolve these issues. Nigerians should expect significant improvements between now and the February 10 deadline.” Instructively, he forgot to mention the twin pain of ‘fuel shortages’ or the agonies attending the collection of PVCs.

As if the cash queues are not long, needless and unsightly enough, there is also the longer lasting scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS. The fuming pain started late last year, and as at the point the president, or his handler, was writing the tweet, the queues for fuel have grown longer, wilder and costlier – pump price, man hours, exigencies.

I was listening to the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. (NNPC Ltd.), Mele Kolo Kyari on the television earlier this week, spewing imponderables about the complexities and dynamics of supplying and distributing a product that his company is the sole importer of. The smug calmness and unperturbed flow of figures and oily jargons project a man completely adrift from the pains and distress of his people, despite his pretensions to the contrary.

About two weeks to the 25 February presidential elections, the government of the day is calmly stoking two injurious campaign “black eyes” for the slugging pleasure of opposition parties. How is it defensible that the twin game-changing scenarios of a nationwide emasculation of the voting populace from access to their own money, and the fuming threats to their means of survival and well being…and let us not forget the stressful queues at PVC collection centres? The ravaging discomfort of inadequate electricity, and the graveyard silences of fuel-starved generators… all of that in one devastating quarter – as our leaders work tenaciously to build and sustain a climate of pain and despondency in every nook and cranny of Nigeria – what a government!

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