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No money!

By Donu Kogbara

I’ve spent the past three months in London. And while I was away, I regularly received phone calls from friends and relatives who are based in various Nigerian states. Some of these friends and relatives are staunch PDP sympathisers who voted for ex-President Jonathan during last year’s election, while others are staunch APC sympathisers who voted for President Buhari.

But they all have one thing in common: Whether they blame Jonathan or Buhari for the country’s myriad economic woes, they are all bitterly complaining about the fact that there is “no money in the system” and seriously worried about the future.

When I flew into Abuja on Monday, I was in a fairly buoyant frame of mind. But I was immediately struck by the dismal atmosphere; and I haven’t yet met any Abuja resident or habitue who has cheered me up with positive news.

At best, people are wearily philosophical and praying that less stressful times will eventually materialise; and I must tell you that 4 days after my arrival in a capital city that used to buzz with irrepressible energy and unbridled optimism, I have ceased to feel fairly buoyant and have descended into a deep depression!

Matters have not been helped by the fact that when I decided – two days ago – to raid my Nigerian bank account, so I could send some pocket money to my son, who is studying in the UK, I was told that the naira/sterling exchange rate was 427:1.

Four Hundred And Twenty-seven To One?! Absolutely Unbelievable! It wasn’t so long ago that the exchange rate was only 250:1. And it’s the same story with dollars and other foreign currencies.

Meanwhile, a few prophets of doom (who own companies or have financial sector jobs and sound as if they know what they are talking about) have assured me that things will get worse rather than better, not least because of plunging oil prices.

The status quo is very frightening for those of us who have overseas commitments but aren’t rich enough to cope with a crazy, out-of-control scenario like this.
And it can’t be good for entrepreneurs either. When will this mess end?

President Buhari travels a lot. And I wish he would travel less because even if his physical presence will not miraculously elevate the economy overnight, domestic challenges are more important than international PR at the moment; and I will feel safer if he stays home and concentrates on getting us out of this slough of despair.

Buhari travels to Kenya on a state visit ; Photo: Bayo Omoboriowo
Buhari on his way to Kenya 

Rivers State judgement

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned an Appeal Court ruling and confirmed Nyesom Wike, a PDP stalwart, as the Governor of Rivers State…thereby dashing the hopes of the APC candidate, Dakuku Peterside (whom I supported).

Frankly, I’m extremely shocked because I traversed Rivers State during the run-up to last year’s gubernatorial election and on the actual election day; and while there were exceptions to the rule and parts of the state (my village in Ogoniland, for example) where PDP supporters behaved acceptably, I think it is fair to say that chronic irregularities were the norm and that violence was widespread.

One would have thought that the Supreme Court judges would have listened to the witnesses that the APC presented and insisted that an election that was so marred by logistical imperfections, fraud and fatalities should be re-run. But the justices decided to let sleeping dogs lie and to let Wike continue for the next 4 or 8 years;
On reflection, the PDP is not inconsequential in Rivers State; and it is possible that Wike (a seasoned grassroots populist) would have won anyway, even if re-run had been ordered and even if the re-run had been completely devoid of skulduggery.

And I can only plead with Wike to clean up his administration, get rid of dubious and dangerous elements, focus on honest service delivery and prove sceptics like me wrong by becoming a great leader who unites the warring factions in our state.

As for Dakuku Peterside, he is a decent young man who still has a lot to offer Nigeria; and I hope that Mr President will kindly offer him a senior Federal-level role that will enable him to contribute significantly to our collective wellbeing.

Readers’ responses

Last week, I expressed approval of the fact that the Minister in charge of solid minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi, had disclosed that state governments are now free to explore and exploit mineral deposits in their domains, provided they do so in a legal manner that won’t interfere with locations already given to other stakeholders.

Two Vanguard readers responded as follows:
08033397921 Anonymous
If states will be allowed to explore and exploit mineral resources in their states against Section 1 of the Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, oil and gas states should also be allowed to explore, exploit and sell the oil and gas in their lands.

08075493437 Irikefe Ericks
Dear Donu, your piece on solid mineral issues will only make sense if ministers of petroleum will also permit states to explore the crude oil in their domains.
I passionately agree with both of these readers. I have long believed in Resource Control and will be thrilled to the point of sheer ecstasy if oil-producing states acquire much more power and can control the wealth that flows from their ancestral lands and creeks…and quit being so beholden to the Federal Authorities.

But let’s face it: Resource Control within a hydrocarbon context is a revolutionary idea by Naija standards; and it is not likely to be actualized in my lifetime or yours!

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