He is sleek, debonair, smart, articulate, cerebral… a natural choice for the next president of Nigeria – if not that his duo with Mr Muhammadu Buhari have totally ruined the economy and indeed the society. But aside from that, he has committed seven cardinal sins that only God can forgive him for. I cannot for I am not God. Any right-thinking Nigerian equally should not. Pastor Professor and Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, being one of the lucky few amongst humans who hear directly from God should, therefore, seek forgiveness and show contrition.
I will list and briefly analyse those sins below:
- Insecurity: 2023 elections will hold as scheduled — Yakubu
- Aisha Buhari to host presidential aspirants tomorrow, says don’t come with phone
- Push for further devaluation of the Naira: Most Nigerians are bitterly complaining today about the high cost of everything in the face of their stagnant salaries (for those lucky enough to have some kinds of jobs), or declining sales (for those in business), because of the reality of inflation. Inflation on most staple items in Nigeria has been up between 300 per cent and 500 per cent since 2015. Salaries have hardly been up since then, but some of our importer-entrepreneurs have been able to increase their prices. Those who do handwork have not been as lucky. The inflation we face is multifaceted. Some come from interventions as a result of COVID-19. Government has been spending money to help a lot of people, thus demand-push inflation has happened. But most of the inflation is from the supply side. Sellers of goods have had to incorporate the higher costs of producing their goods, or importing them, for the final consumers to bear – plus a premium. Since most of what we use in Nigeria are imported; from the clothes on our back to the materials for the houses we live in, to even some of the food on our plates, most Nigerians have been badly hit. Only a few have been able to escape. That is why poverty is higher, and more people are out of work (33% of those who should be working)
I am looking at the news around February 2017 and Osinbajo, having taken over briefly from Muhammadu Buhari who had fallen ill, was being hailed all over the world – especially in liberal economics circles – for devaluing the Naira from N199 to N306/N366. I am sure he enjoyed the praises and felt like a superstar. Whereas Buhari had prevaricated, fumbled, hesitated, and babbled around the decision about our Naira. Osinbajo was oversold to his usually young, inexperienced, externally-focused, dollar-rich, ‘ajebutter’ advisers alongside smart IMF/World Bank types who cooed in his ears about the right decision to take. They usually never tell people like Osinbajo what the consequences could be and they never care about those consequences anyway. We may have left it too late in 2016/17 to have avoided a devaluation, but Osinbajo kept turning the knife in the heart of the country – after having seen (or perhaps he became so insular) the sheer economic damage his first intervention had caused in the lives of Nigerians. The first devaluation not only ruined millions of Nigerians, throwing them out of work and business and impoverishing them, but also torpedoed Nigeria’s attempt to deregulate the downstream petroleum market. The increase in petrol prices from N87 to N145 (which was meant to be a full and final deregulation of that market – and which Nigerians had accepted), was rendered useless by the deregulation move. All of a sudden, Nigerians needed much more Naira to buy a litre of petrol and we are still being told today that the sector has not been fully deregulated.
To make matters worse and to solidify his sin against God and Nigerians, in October 2021, Mr Osinbajo made the following statement at the last inter-ministerial retreat: “As for the exchange rate, I think we need to move our rates to [be] as reflective of the market as possible. This, in my own respective view, is the only way to improve supply… We can’t get new dollars into the system, where the exchange rate is artificially low. And everyone knows how much our reserves can grow. I’m convinced that the demand management strategy currently being adopted by the CBN needs a rethink, and that is just my view.”
This was rightly interpreted as a call for further devaluation, the Naira having fallen from the N360 official value to N410 (and on the streets N570) by then. People were aghast as to why Yemi Osinbajo believed that Nigerians should suffer more. It must be the insularity, as the VP is well cocooned in the Villa where all his bills are picked by taxpayers. What was more? When a ‘whole’ vice president of a country, who is also in charge of the economy, makes statements like this, traders take a position to ‘short’ the currency. In fact, this was acted out in a Hollywood series named Billions (Episode 5). The plot was that a Nigerian central bank governor had hinted of Naira devaluation. The boys positioned and ripped Nigeria off for $5 billion. The VP’s statement was a death knell for the beleaguered Naira. But Osinbajo seemed to also have been fully-programmed and so could not imagine the further effects of more devaluation on our poorest people who still have to depend on some imported basics. Evidence of this stems from his May 2016 statement, as reported by Reuters, the international financial news agency: “We believe there must be some substantial revaluation for the foreign exchange policy. This would help boost foreign exchange supply and encourage capital inflows and a free flow of remittances. There has been a sharp decline in foreign exchange earnings. The executive is not responsible for monetary policy but we have made the point clearly that demand management will not take us out of the woods”
The above statement set the stage for the devaluation that came later that year, under the hand of the VP as acting president. The belief in the constant or perhaps everlasting devaluation of the Naira and the consequent suffering it unleashes on Nigerians, is not a one-off event but a long-help or programmed belief of the vice president. For at no time did the VP cause any serious, out-of-the-box ideas to be implemented that will force productivity among Nigerians by getting us to sustainably produce what we need. On paper, he is in charge of the economy. And since his boss has not been particularly compos mentis, the onus has fallen on him as to the direction of the economy. Contrary to what his supporters say, most of the responsibility for the collapse of the economy, the failure to balance policy and consequences and thus the unprecedented suffering of Nigerians, falls on Yemi Osinbajo. But it is left for God to forgive him.