That might be the question on the lips of many in the support circle of the All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential campaign. The decision of Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to unleash the naira redesign, complete with an untenable closing date, has stressed the public in the last few days and has added fuel to the raging fire of discontent among the generality of Nigerians against the government of the day. Ruling parties approaching major elections, such as we expect soon, do not undertake this kind of risky venture. From my perspective, it is patently mule-headed to continue to insist on completing the exercise within such a short period.
When the announcement was made to redesign the larger units of the naira notes and withdraw the old ones, many applauded the reasons advanced by the CBN. However, many of us also expressed serious reservations about the three months’ completion period allowed for the exercise. For one, many are dubious that the present-day CBN as managed by Godwin Emefiele has the focus to execute this kind of exercise successfully within the time frame. The CBN governor has been so distracted by his deep involvement in the bid to secure the APC presidential ticket during the last primaries of the party. Having lost the bid, there are doubts that he could be in the best frame of mind to give any positive support to his party’s aspirations.
Secondly, there are too many ungoverned spaces in this country, particularly in the up northernmost parts due to the unfettered activities of terrorists. That has made running modern banking impossible in those beleaguered areas. Branches of banks that have been known to flourish in many local government areas in Borno, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina have since closed shop. Thirdly, the idea of modern banking itself is yet to percolate to many rural areas in the country where a sizable number are still illiterate and retain reservations about the use of banks. Cattle, grain, and other similar markets still make large transactions in cash.
Fourthly, the acceptance of internet banking itself is not as universal throughout the country as the CBN would like us to believe. The usual human resistance riding on top of technological deficiencies such as lack of easy access to internet facilities has made digital banking be, still, rather an elitist affair seen only in offices, supermarkets, and upscale eateries. Many large markets have stubbornly refused to adopt it in their daily transactions. Finally, as I have argued lately on this page it is unreasonable for a government that is on its way out to saddle itself with tasks that could have conveniently been started and completed earlier. Imagine the series of momentous tasks this government has cramped itself with, one at the back of the other, all to be accomplished within a few weeks: redesign of the naira, national headcount, and national elections.
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As if reading the minds of many of us, the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has come out to express unhappiness at these unpopular measures pushed by the sitting government, which he sees as unfavourable to his chances of becoming president. He told party supporters at a rally in Abeokuta recently that the naira redesign project and the lingering fuel shortage were artificially created to discourage people from voting for APC and deny him victory at the February 25 presidential election. He said it loud and clear: ‘We will go and vote, and we will win. Even if they changed the ink on naira notes. Whatever their plans, they will come to naught. We are going to win.’ Tinubu is determined to win despite the sabotage he claims that powerful elements in his party are up to.
It is undeniable that this is a belligerent war cry against his own party. Indeed, it is a curious statement by a presidential candidate of the party that is sitting pretty in government. Though one would take exceptions to Tinubu always going back to his ethnic cocoon to poke jibes at his party, nonetheless he has our sympathy. However, it would have been more statesman-like to have made the statement elsewhere. His cry would have elicited the same sympathy if he had made it in Magumeri in Borno State, Pategi in Kwara State, or Warri in Delta State. It is clear to all onlookers, that, his party is determined to score itself out of power.
It confounds one that the two leading political parties, the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have chosen the path that could self-destruct them. We have already witnessed how the intransigence of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is dealing what could be a fatal blow to the ambition of the PDP to wrench power from the APC. That is yet to go down with us when this similar pattern appeared on the horizon of the APC.
Hopefully, there seems a glimmer of light for the APC at the end of the tunnel. As I conclude this piece, I just learned that the deadline for the currency exchange to the new notes has been extended to February 10, 2023.