February 17, 2024

Naira: The Clock Ticks For Tinubu, by Ugoji Egbujo

Naira: The Clock Ticks For Tinubu, by Ugoji Egbujo

Sometime last year, the Federal Government asked the naira to find its true value. The story of the naira is evocative. The government said if the naira were allowed to continue living a fake life, it would bankrupt the country. The naira, having been floated, left its mother’s back to find its value, and the country clapped for the president. It seemed a courageous move. But it now sounds like the story of Owo.

 Papa Owo forced Owo out of his house. So he could be a man. So he could find a job and a mate, marry and raise a family. After Owo left home, all seemed well. Father was happy with his strong decision. The mother had exhausted herself caring for a diapered adult child. Everybody looked forward to Owo settling down somewhere and prospering. But a few months later, Owo was found languishing in a village. 

Tongues wagged. Some said Owo wasn’t given a compass before being chased out and into unchartered territory. Some said Owo should have been matched with a decent bride and given a job before being sent out. Some said Owo shouldn’t have been chased out in bad weather. But Papa Owo said he did it to save Owo and his unborn generations.

On leaving home, Owo had tried to rent a house, but the landlords despised him because he was jobless and limped. He slept around, and bad insects roundly speculated and sucked Owo’s blood. Think speculators. Owo grew lean but marched on. He had been humiliated; going back wasn’t an option. On the road, he was waylaid regularly by bandits in skirts. Think, banks. In no time, he lost almost all his money. As the now peripatetic Owo took a look at the girls on the streets, they shooed him away. Think, politicians. They said he was worthless and looked like a Somalian refugee. Owo slid down the social ladder, becoming even more disoriented and dishevelled. People ran from him. Think of a run. So he wandered away from the town. Perhaps if he went to a rural setting, he would find a quiet and habitable place to trade and live and gain flesh. At least till conditions improved and allowed him to return to the town with some dignity. 

But Owo had walked too far into the bush when Owo’s father got the message. Owo’s siblings, feeling they had lost him to their father’s thoughtlessness, started to scatter the house. Puzzled by the unfolding commotion, Papa Owo churned out conspiracy theories indicting the enemies of the family using his children against him. The children, now restless because they could neither sleep nor eat, broke the TV. Damaging the very thing they enjoyed most in the house jolted the man. They could burn his car. He became frantic.

A search team found Owo in a village. Owo’s mother ran helter-skelter . The community didn’t respond. Owo had entangled himself with a village prostitute. He was in a ditch. Owo’s mind was too far gone. The village chief wondered how Papa Owo could have acted as if he lived in the United States. Angry friends and relatives mocked the man, asking him to allow Owo to find his value in the village. Many of those who had egged Papa Owo on, stayed away and watched from a distance. Some of them said, perhaps, it was Owo’s destiny. 

But Papa Owo bore the brunt. The man was heartbroken. He no longer had the imperturbability of a babalawo. His house had turned upside down. If Papa Owo hadn’t locked up Owo’s immediate young brother, Ekpo, in the toilet, he would have set the house ablaze. The boy said Papa Owo must save his brother , Owo, to save himself. Mama Owo cried. Papa Owo took food and money to Owo, but his son rebuffed him. 

Our President is facing a somewhat similar predicament. But unlike the other man who doesn’t believe in God, Baba Tinubu is willing to subsidize Hajj with billions of naira. Perhaps the naira needs serious prayers. After all, we gave one billion to a small committee to fix a new minimum wage. And besides, our legislators have passed a resolution asking him to subsidize Hajj. They will pass another resolution to ask him to subsidize trips to Rome and Israel. Our prayer warriors and marabouts must be mobilized. Since the CBN has run out of ideas, we must think outside the box. 

Food is trying to mock our President. So, food prices must be dealt with. Unfortunately, the president is a free market exponent. So, he has ruled out price controls. But luckily, one or two governors have responded boldly to the insolence of rice and garri by marching into people’s warehouses. The president is now recalculating. He has ordered security agencies to check hoarding. Some think that’s an ineffectual jackboot kneejerk. Unpatriotic citizens! They laugh at how quickly we have gone from the naira finding its value to not allowing businesses to buy and warehouse and sell as they like. It now looks like we want to dictate to market forces. But what can we do? When the food stocks in the warehouses finish, the government might import food if traders refuse to import. Sorry, the president has overruled the minister by saying we won’t import. Actually, our government importing food like we are in Venezuela will signify too much hopelessness.   

The president has met the Student Union. A stitch in time. We don’t need their trouble now. If students start misbehaving, others will join them. It’s good to gather their leaders and give them something, like transport money. But the better strategy is to give them small hope. Maybe that can wait till the civil society announces something. The president can then summon all the security chiefs and give them a televised ultimatum: to stop crude oil theft and banditry or be fired in six months. We are still losing about 500 million dollars monthly. But it’s not our president’s fault. The order will be well televised. He can even wag a finger in their faces. That will be a bone to engage the social media and the public for some time. The Guinness Book of Records will notice it too.    

 On its part, the CBN has told oil companies that they can no longer repatriate all their profits as they like. They must allow half of it to stay in the country for three months. After all, they made the money here. Other foreign investors will likely appreciate that. After all, they know we are not confiscating the money. It’s just that something bigger than the cricket has entered its hole, and the cricket has exhausted itself, chirping for help. They must understand. A little haphazardness and confused policy-making is allowed under these circumstances. 

But Papa Owo didn’t waste time beating about the bush. His second son gave him no breathing space. So, he packed his load and relocated to the village where Owo lived. After six months, after Owo saw empathy, self-sacrifice, remorse and love from his dad, his mind healed, and he returned to his family. President Tinubu’s political fate hangs on the naira. The Ooni has warned. The Emir of Kano sent the president a message through the first lady. The Sultan said the northern youths were become too hungry to be controllable. Tinubu’s fate hangs on the naira. The ball is in his court.