Contrary to the predictions of the many that had feared the worst for our beloved naira, the currency not only rebounded last week but appears to have beaten a strategic retreat from the path of Golgotha charted by the smart Alecs for whom all is fair in war as in brutal, rapacious pillaging. Sunday night, this newspaper reported the naira as closing at N680/$ at the parallel market, something of a dramatic new wave after weeks of depreciation. That was the same currency that crossed the N900/$ mark some few days before.
Whether that resurrection is a fluke, a chance event or mere serendipity remains to be seen; suffice to say however that the development appears to have buried the argument of those who had dismissed off-hand, Emefiele’s latest gambit of naira’s redesign. Whatever the case might be, those who took the bet must be ruing their losses now.
Howbeit, in a country where every nth citizen is an expert and financial analyst – without the encumbrances of the nationalist flavour – the perennial battles over non-substance as opposed to solid policy, while expected, are also not supposed to settle anything since they are not so much about policy but the many egos involved. In fact, the last thing to expect would be a more nuanced if not entirely reasoned appreciation of those complex dynamics said to have informed the action of the apex bank; not in the politically charged atmosphere of the current time; and certainly not when nearly every player of note in the economy – whether of the productive or speculative segment – maintains a piggy bank – a dugout of sorts in earthen vessel to hold their troves of cash.
You can now understand why Emefiele, the CBN chief, is supposed to play dumb, act marionette, or better still, hold his peace since we are supposed to be dealing with a pristine antediluvian economic environment where any planned change will hurt the poor the most!
Never mind the logic or illogic; or better still, Nigerians’ love for confusing apples for oranges, you hear catch-phrases like the ‘measure is dead on arrival’; ‘it is utterly insensitive’ based on premises that are either faulty outright or laden with uninformed prejudices.
Changing the N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, it is said, won’t change anything; it would only “pauperise” the citizens more. How? And, if I may use the words of the Islamic cleric, Sheik Gumi, “it would trigger an unprecedented socio-economic turmoil”. Where?
As for kidnapping, he would add that the menace “can only be stopped by robust policing, social justice for all, and equitable wealth distribution, stressing that any cosmetic measures will not stop it”. And who says the measures are mutually exclusive?
Other religious leaders, perhaps not to be outdone in the morbid, reflexive cynicism have issued ex-Cathedra synopsis. Sample: “And while people are hungry, trying to find enough money to buy bread to eat, our bosses are thinking of making the Naira more beautiful”! Holy Moses!
And these are separate from those that have chosen to frame the fight as one between Emefiele and the rest of the orderly society!
Talk of as many diagnoses of the naira problem as there are clinicians. Anyone looking for agreement on the nature of the problem not to talk of the way out had better save his/her breath. So much for Emefiele’s economy said to be suffused with cash (excess liquidity). For Citizen Joe who is permanently falling behind on his dues, the reality is a lot different. To him, the notion of excessive liquidity is academic – a pastime of the elite and the moneyed. For him, life goes on whichever way!
Although the trader say in Oke-Arin, Central Lagos would see such concerns differently, maintaining a trove of cash to him has nothing to do with Emefiele’s fancy rites of monetary supply management; it is something of convenience to keep things under control and to be truly in charge – in a country where just anything could go wrong without notice. To this class of actors, the elite must be the only class that sees problem where there is none exists as steady flow of cash between them and their bankers are something of a daily occurrence! As they say – nothing spoil!
Which leaves us with the class that most Nigerians love to hate – the politicians. And then of course the kidnappers and terrorists. Didn’t one writer say that a little inconvenience is good enough for the soul? Or better still, how about the latter issuing own currency to serve their underworld enclave?
When all is said and done, there is at least one point to which we all can, at least agree. It is the fact that the naira is in big trouble. Not just against the major international currencies, but also as a store of value. Thanks to Emefiele’s monetary-creation binge and of course the fiscal side that would rather talk than do, the economy has been kept in the awkward position in which the government, unable to earn its due revenues, have had to go a-borrowing from Emefiele’s apex bank. Called ways and means, it is more appropriately, a desperate mechanism involving the printing of new notes by the apex bank; and this at a time production and related economic activities are at a nadir.
Now that the seeds sown in the heat of the revenue shortfalls have now ripened and the excessive naira unleashed in that season has become our giant albatross, the least we can do is chart a different path forward.
Even without the additional burden of squaring with the colony of currency counterfeiters, sound pragmatic reason would seem to dictate some rather stern measures to deal with a problem that has become somewhat malignant.
Of course, I understand the position of some who see the planned redesign of the naira as merely scratching at the surface of the problem. They are probably right. Yet, one of the immediate lessons from the naira’s rebound is how the so-called impregnable wall of the parallel market tumbled down at the mere signal of government’s firm resolve. If one considers that this could happen in a market ordinarily known to defy gravity and one which exists solely by its own rules, one begins to appreciate of how much the ruse the so-called powers of the parallel truly is. The truth of course is that the market has survived thus far only on the wings of the high and the mighty in and out of government.
Nigeria may well be the only country in the world where foreign currencies are hawked as one would, groundnuts, on the streets; who says things can’t change for the better? Why should currency trade pay far more than honest, productive work?
I believe Emefiele and company still have enough time to chew upon those.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Kaaynan’s editorial stance.