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A time for cool heads and clear thoughts

As citizens grapple with pains of daily power outage, fuel scarcity, increased pump price and poor supply of new currency notes, there is little doubt…

As citizens grapple with pains of daily power outage, fuel scarcity, increased pump price and poor supply of new currency notes, there is little doubt that Nigeria is at its lowest ebb since independence in 1960.

The outgoing All Progressives Congress (APC) administration will leave office to reflect upon their promises relating to improving the economy, ensuring security and tackling corruption which they did not fulfill. They failed on each count and are undeniably leaving the nation much worse off than they met it.

News stories and social media clips have catalogued in detail the nation’s descent towards chaos as public frustration over falling standards of living, and government’s seeming incapability to solve the nation’s problems increases daily. Such chaos resulting from either an absence of government, or government’s inability to maintain law and order, which causes citizens to act in any way they please is described as “Anarchy”.

In the Nigeria of today, otherwise fun-loving friendly citizens are resorting to exchanging blows in fuel queues and in front of ATMs, soldiers are brutalising students inside campuses, men and women are stripping themselves naked in banking halls and kidnappers, bandits and various other criminals are having a field day. Poor governance has indeed left the nation teetering on the brink of anarchy. With respect to scarcity of the new currency notes, it’s unfair that in some parts of the nation new notes are publicly exchanged for old ones free of charge, while in other parts citizens have to incur bank charges and fight at ATMs or pay dearly for the cash.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs said President Buhari was “given false information” relating to their distribution by the Central Bank of Nigerian (CBN). It’s pertinent to ask how much more false information he was given which led the nation to its current predicament? The scarcity of new Naira notes has not achieved its two aims of countering kidnapping and frustrating politicians. Kidnappers openly show off the new notes and politicians have already stashed away hundreds of millions as confirmed by Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State. The spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, described the new notes policy as “insensitive, irrational, un-thoughtful and a clear recipe for disaster.”

Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy in which citizens are represented at various levels of government by well-paid elected office holders. It’s absurd that the opinions of those elected to represent the interests of their constituents are of no significance in determining government policies. It’s inexcusable for the CBN governor, who is an unelected appointee, to arrogantly inflict such pains without compassion. It’s now abundantly clear that it was ill-considered to insist on imposing such a poorly thought out policy considering the nation’s unstable economic environment and lack of necessary Information technology (IT) infrastructure. Banking platforms are crashing daily unable to handle the new volume of transactions.

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Citizens are understandably angry at repeatedly being asked to bear the brunt of disagreeable actions by unelected office holders. There is absolutely no justification for honest Nigerians to suffer so much. Their suffering is a direct result of government having many good ideas but being unable to implement any of them properly! The warning signs of looming anarchy are apparent. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal, said quite appropriately that, “in the life of a people that are so oppressed living under indescribable insecurity, poverty, ignorance, hunger and decease, a time comes when they get fed up and little things will just ignite the flame and there is conflagration. Predictably violent protests are breaking out nationwide as citizens take matters into their own hands. Nigeria is experiencing a volatile mix of problems and government must urgently adopt meaningful palliative measures to avoid the nation descending into anarchy.

Poor governance cannot be allowed to turn citizens against each other. Presidential assistants acknowledge that President Buhari has seen reports of cash shortages and the various hardships being visited upon Nigerians. Quite reprehensibly, APC leaders are concentrating their energies on election campaigning and publicising their personal quarrels and grievances rather than focusing on solving urgent pressing problems. Some of them claim the tense situation has been artificially created to frustrate citizens into violence; derail the electoral process; postpone the election; and create room for an interim government! This sounds far-fetched and is indeed preposterous! In the run up to elections, candidates and their spokespersons must moderate their language so as not to further inflame passions. Everything must be done to ensure that elections are held successfully. President Buhari must act urgently to avert further chaos by implementing palliative measures to reassure citizens of his concern over their welfare, while the security agencies should clamp down on those agitating for disorder. Crucially all future democratically elected presidents should consult widely and think through the implications and consequences policies, before implementing them. The nation does not need a repeat of the #ENDSARS protests which government reacted to by turning the instruments of state coercion away from the real enemies of the nation and towards its citizens. Well meaning Nigerians understand that this isn’t the time for tempers to flare. Cool heads and clear thought are required to map a way forward and pilot the nation out of this mess.