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From brink to brink, how long can Nigeria survive this charmed life?

2023 was yet another annus horriblis for Nigeria.   We entered the year on the crest of a currency reform embarked upon by the Central Bank…

2023 was yet another annus horriblis for Nigeria.  

We entered the year on the crest of a currency reform embarked upon by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which caused so much hardship that led to personal and business bankruptcies to millions in the country. The policy of mopping up money in circulation by the CBN was so much so that people had to resort to ‘’buying’’ their way in order to access their bank deposits or subjected to paying above the odds to get money through other sources. Many who could not afford were reduced to near starvation as they could not pay for the most basic things. It was that bad. The situation was only remedied by a timely court case which suspended the exercise. 

In the middle of the year, precisely May 29, while Nigerians were gingerly recovering from the devastating effects of the currency reforms, President Bola Tinubu, in his inaugural day speech, dropped what amounted to a mule kick on Nigerians by announcing the total withdrawal of subsidies on petroleum products and floating the exchange rate of the naira against major currencies.   

Since then, the economic fortunes of the country as well as that of individuals and businesses have been plummeting from the effects of the twin measures. More and more Nigerians have been added to the already alarming level of poverty in the country with projections of more to come in the coming months. There are clear indications that fuel prices will rise further and the exchange rate will continue to fall in defiance of all measures to stem the tide by government.

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Tinubu’s economic reforms by the reckoning of many have launched Nigeria onto a path of unprecedented economic and social uncertainty which will likely exacerbate social tensions in the country. 

While the economy continues its southwards trajectory, the security situation has been deteriorating steadily. In many parts of the country, bandits, kidnappers and criminal gangs have joined terrorist groups in wreaking havoc on many communities disrupting the normal course of life. People in many communities do not just fear to venture out of the precincts, they now live in fear of being invaded and attacked in their homesteads at odd hours.    

In a searing comment on the deteriorating security situation in the country, the Daily Trust lamented that ‘’Over the past decade and more, Nigeria has effectively turned itself into a giant killing field, as the world’s butchery of human beings where security agencies kill citizens, where terrorists kill citizens and where citizens kill citizens in a senseless and endless triangle of carnage upon carnage that has no equivalence anywhere in the world’’. For all practical purposes, with all these happenings in the security sector, Nigeria is now wired for intractable violence and insecurity whose end is not certain.  

What is certain however is that over the years our leaders despite their best efforts have not been able to close the gaps on either the economic or security fronts which constitute the two greatest challenges the country had been facing for years now.  

Just how evident this has been was manifested in the last month of the outgone year. Federal workers spent the yuletide without salaries as the government could not source the funds to pay them. Also, the naira plummeted against major currencies to an unprecedented N1,400, further denting hopes of recovery.  

But possibly the most devastating manifestation of the insecurity situation that occurred last month were the ‘’accidental’’ bombing of over 150 villagers in the community of Tudun Biri carried out by the army. And while the country was yet to recover from this, reports came of a massacre that occurred across several communities in Plateau State on Christmas Eve. Up to the time of writing this piece, the number of persons and communities affected by these dastardly terrorist acts had still not been determined. Indeed reports have been carried of further attacks on neighbouring communities resulting in further loss of lives. 

As with the economy, this latest incident of terrorist act has caught the government napping. The government delegation to the affected areas could only express the usual condolence to those affected and condemnation against the perpetrators followed by promises to investigate, apprehend and bring to justice those that carried out the outrage.  

But how many times have we heard this before? The sure thing we know is that the government, as always, will live this out as the sense of outrage gradually peters out in the public space. Until another one occurs again. 

This has prompted Nigerians to ask; are our governments bereft of ideas and the will to tackle these existential issues in a systemic manner or is it that they are cynical and just could not care less?  

In all these, what is clear is that our country has been lurching from one crisis to another and with each, the tensile fabric of the country is affected. Failure to face up to and resolve these crises in the hope that they will go away eventually or that they do not matter is hardly the way. They will not go away but continue to tear away inexorably in our body politic until they explode in our faces. Just as we carried the issues of 2022 into 2023, we are now carrying the unresolved issues of 2023 into 2024 and each time they morph into much bigger issues.  

Indications are that in 2024 these issues will come to a head and will likely engulf the country. Years of living dangerously and attributing it to a mythical resilience of the Nigerian spirit will come to nought if we continue treating the issues in the cavalier ways we have been doing. 

 

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