By Bisi Lawrence
It seems there is no let on in the cyclone of events which succeed after one another; now we have a shut out in the Ministry of Power out of the blues, as it were.
That was right in the midst of the Five-thousand-naira note missile aimed at our hearts by the CBN, confirming my misgivings about where Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is coming from. And, on whichever side you look, Nigeria does not seem to be holding out very well at the seams, does it?
There are movements within movements even within the Southwest which has now ranked itself foremost in the ranks of the marginalised .And all that within a matter of just a few days.
Just when you think that we bare getting some important things right, wham! It all goes dark and awry like a sudden power outage. Viewing it from any point of critical assessment, power supply has been improving in the area of coverage and duration consistently in the past few weeks.
It was enough to make some of us nervous; we were on edge with the anticipation that it may all soon revert to the days of two or three hours a day, and then darkness for the next two or three days. But it appeared that Professor Bart Nnaji, as the Minister of Power, would maintain the pace of the welcome development while in office.
Several citizens would naturally have wished him a protracted tenure, apart from the members of staff of the main agency under his control, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
The disagreement with the workers was centred on the unpaid benefits of several of them who were being removed from the staff.
They claimed that they were being thrown out into the labour market empty-handed after many of them had served for many years—some up to over twenty years. This was linked to the organization of the privatization plans intended for electricity supply in Nigeria.
The development, which is expected to boost the provision of power in the country has not found total acceptance from the workers, in the first place, though it is welcome in several other quarters.
The fact that it is entangled with the laying-off of workers would naturally make it unpopular amongst those who are affected, but more so with the non-payment of their due benefits. A trade dispute has been brewing over this for quite a while.
Ironically, Professor Nnaji also had interests in two of the firms, Skipper Nigeria Limited and Eastern Nigeria Limited, which were involved in bids for the privatization exercise while he, in his position as the Minister of Power, is equally involved in stages of decision-making that affects the determination of the bids.
It amounts, of course, to a clear case of a conflict of interest, which the minister admitted but, it would appear, belatedly. It would, needless to say, have progressed to taint the entire privatization process and was already an embarrassment to his colleagues all round. He simply had to go – unfortunately, perhaps.
Now, we need someone to maintain the impetus of the rising improvement in the power supply while ensuring an acceptable standard of personal integrity. We may ponder though, on why the eventuality of this development had not been forestalled through a comprehensive screening undertaking before his appointment. Someone who was a possible, or even probable, candidate for an involvement in any commercial project should not ordinarily have been considered for a ministerial position that would compromise his integrity.
That is why one must consider it all so unfortunate for it is really a fruit of the system we run – or that runs us – in this country.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has tried to assure us that the introduction ofN5,000 will not give rise to inflation in the economy. Such a notion, we are being made to believe, has no basis in economics—a subject that often yields to false projection or fallacious interpretation, anyway.
This was one of the attempts made to persuade us. Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor is the CBN Director of Corporate Communiactions, and he has thrown a wide-open challenge to anyone “who is an economist” to inform him about “an economic theory that says that when you have a higher denomination in your pocket, it will change how you spend money.” Come on, my friend, you don’t need an economist to tell you that.
It comes naturally. The availability of ready cash generally breeds a sense of well-being not necessarily aligned to reality, and the tendency is to feel that you can spend more than you should—especially when you are not used to carrying such a volume of money around. Try it out with women at your peril.
But getting down to serious economics, inflation will occur when there is “an increase in the supply of currency or credit beyond a commensurate rise in production or services, leading to higher prices and a reduction in the purchasing power of money, and/or a value.” What is vital in that definition (which, by the way, has been enlarged for purposes of clarification) is “an increase in the supply of currency”. That is precisely what “a higher denomination in your pocket” creates.
But if it does not “engender inflation”, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Okoroafor’s televised deposition, what purpose does it serve? Rather tamely, we are informed that it is so performed in other parts of the world to carry out “liquidity mop-up” exercises which are routinely done here now and then – or so we are informed.
Even so, the CBN Director of Corporation Communications declared that “a higher denomination in your pocket” does not cause inflation. But then, the currency change is also projected at combating the menace of counterfeiting, or so we are informed.
That is eminently debatable. However, the CBN would appear to rely on the strength of the powers conferred by the CBN Act with regard to the restructuring of the currency system of the nation. Such powers do actually extend to arbitrary limits, as it is well known, but can be curbed … as it is also well known. Happily, the Senate has proceeded to publish that fact already.
Perhaps, one should not mention the little matter of the cost of the project at only N40 billion which even, at N5000 notes, does fill a bit of space.
There are rumblings growing louder by the season, of discontent within the Yoruba race. Once almost incessantly proud of their ancestral heritage, they flouted their advantages of an early contact with Western culture which put them ahead of the other nationalities with which they would share the “geographical expression” of Nigeria.
There was a time when the South-western area, which they occupy, led the rest of the country in every aspect of the nation’s existence.
They were ahead in the commercial sector, in the social movement, and in the civil service. History testifies to that fact: the first medical doctor, the first lawyer and magistrate, the first senior police officer, and some other “first” men and women, were Yoruba people. The other people had to do a lot of catching-up so that several of them could rub shoulders with their Yoruba counterparts at the approach of independence. They struggled hard and came up admirably.
The Yoruba, on their own part, became complacent. They felt secure. And it is true that “security gives way to conspiracy”. While the waters receded behind their craft, they kept digging their oars into the sand until they finally looked back, and realized that they had been left high and dry.
Unfortunately, they had aided the process of their frustration in several ways by themselves.Confrontations fuelled by jealousy and arrogance had eroded the source of the synergy that endued them with the pride of fllace. In other directions, they stamped on the face of tradition and forgot their source, while some arrogated to themselves a hollow pre-eminence proclaimed by no achievement or sterling merit.
What didn’t they do to cheapen their heritage and demean their heritage? In heartfelt throes of his anguish, the “Songbird of Ososa”, Hubert Ogunde, admonished his reckless kinsmen through a soulful drama presentation, to pause and ponder on their feckless ways: “Yoruba ronu” was the title.
However, the rot continued unabated. What used to be most vibrant social sector of the nation began to dwindle almost to only the shell of past glories too remote to even inspire in contemplation. And the scene is now flooded by those who would rather carve a fiefdom away from the commonwealth, than join in a united front to revive a worthy heritage believing, as it were, that it all started with them.
The wealth and blessings of good birth still persists. There are sections which were cut off by the vagaries of historical development which lumped them across ethnic lines with other parts. They still are clamouring to rejoin their kith and kin in Y orubaland. There, are of course, other sections which have strayed far from the reality of their roots and would claim the aid of spurious history to deny their destiny. Time, with patience, can reclaim them. Indeed, that is the urgent clarion call now.
Yoruba people can now borrow a word from a harrowing vocabulary of helplessness—marginalization. But it does not look good on them. While it is true that other sections seem to have been preferred in the distribution of high positions ahead of them, it is within their power to offset any disadvantage in this regard by looking inward to the abundant resources of their own land.
But first, they have to unite. They also have to rise above the shibboleths of the past which recognized only a part of their aggregate as a worthy group. I wonder at the diminishing number of the journalists among their so-called “elders”, by the way. A policy of “inclusiveness” would have recommended a number of Yoruba men of media antecedents, whose contributions down the years certainly merit an invitation to a caucus that is representative of their source.