Nigeria: Naira In An Age Of Pestilence

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I remember when the Naira was born. It hatched out of the British Pound, and we celebrated it as though the birth of a new era. Baba Sala, the great minstrel, welcomed it with comedy. He wafted the air waves with a soulful serenade. The authorities told us it meant happy selling and happy buying. It coincided with the joy clap of oil and what many saw as the oil boom.

Don’t feel sorry for the Naira. It is also sorry for us. Since it was born in the early 1970’s, it has not known peace. It is one constant in the Nigerian story. It does not die, but it has caused many a death. It has been celebrated and damned. It has seen presidents come and go.

In its name, hefty men have fallen, coups staged, prosperities sizzled, scandals festered, holy men disfrocked, prizes won, contracts signed and death warrants executed. It is at once the standard of value and the standard of values, the latter defacing the former. It is the root of all evil and evil of all roots. By it, classes are made in society, Lazaruses become rich men and rich men become patrons.

Few then expected that the Naira would see what we are witnessing in the country today. A body called the EFCC was born as the mai guard. Laws signed as the gate. The estate was the presidency. The National Assembly pitched in as the security firm. Yet, somehow, men after men appointed as the top dogs at the gate failed.

They barked and growled to bite quite a few men. Eventually dog after dog faltered and whined out of its portal. It did not matter whether the dog was a roaring male, or a yelping female. Their tails could not hold the wind, so they hid between their legs. Magu is the latest Alsatian in a low moan out of the sentry door. The canary, the media, croons from a nearby tree.

Now Magu has sent many behind bars over the same currency. For the same reason, he is said to be in trouble. Preserving the Naira’s innocence was his job. Now they are telling us, he is not innocent. The washer man has stained the wedding gown. But when we distinguish the Magu boys and the other power bloc of the DSS and the minister of justice’s circle, it is a fight between loyalties.

It is not about the public trust, but the private trusts. Each cabal is a private trust. The Naira is the public trust. But the two private trusts masquerade as the public trust, all in the name of the Naira. One private trust has won and kicked the other out of office in the name of public trust. They have cast out the devil in Naira’s name. It is the superman who wins over the sentry.

What has happened in the past few weeks are nothing new to the currency. It is the currency of current affairs. See what is going on at The Niger Delta Development Commission. A former managing director and a minister are wrestling in the public square over Naira. The woman came, saw but could not conquer the place, because of Naira. She believes the Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabio is conquering, and he has come to saw the naira in pieces. In the story is not only the sleaze of a slap, but also of blood oath.

We have seen billions mentioned like the name of a familiar harlot. It is like tortoise in every tale. It is the narrative of palliative that amounts to fairy tale millions a month for members of the management. It is in the billions of contract spent without allocation. It is in the warning of a pen. A pen that signs in a job will be the pen that will end the job, according to the allegation. But it is all about the Naira. The agency blooms while the fisherman, the hunter, farmer, school boy in the region still cannot breathe or eat in a polluted environ of air and water.

It is the Naira that is at play at the House of Representatives when the acting MD says he would not sit to hear allegations about his stewardship. The former MD Joi Nunieh weaves a tale of two rescues. First, she plays the role of an action heroine, taking on the kingpin of a minister. She would not swear a blood oath, would not go to bed, would not sign a contract, would not fire a northerner, would not spend money without allocation. She is the “thou shall Not” in the Old Testament. Philosophers like Nietzsche, John Stuart Mill and Auguste Comte would not like Nunieh’s allegations.

These thinkers believed that Judeo-Christian injunctions tell us what we should not do instead of what we should do. So, they think Christianity is servile and based on fear. Hence Nietzsche, in   his books Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil, proclaimed the death of God and supremacy of the superman, who has freed himself from the paralysis of faith.

But Nunieh, if we believe her, is actually an action woman because she has done nothing, the insolence of impotence. She is probably following Prophet Isaiah who says, touch not the unclean thing. Or Paul who says, come out from among them and be ye separate. This is negative praxis, but not doing something is actually doing the right thing, according to her. Maybe that is why she thinks those who do things are not holy.

The other rescue tale came from Governor Nyesom Wike, who turned the drama of a police siege into a heroic opportunity. He arrived there in the genre of a western movie, where the hero on horseback arrives with hooves raking up a dust cloud to save the weak. This time he came with a caravan, he in a BMW. He is not just a hero of a citizen, but a man of chivalry, saving a wench from the trench of men.

Akpabio says all that is a lie. Nunieh is in her world of fantasy, weaving a randy minister for a handy slap, a hectoring bully where he was lawful. But in all these Minister Akpabio would be at home and Nunieh an unknown Port Harcourt girl if the Naira was not in the story. It is because of crude oil. It has made the agency awash with Naira. Crude oil has made crude drama for the Naira.

Can the Naira also not weep over its abuse by other currencies just as when a certain gentleman was such a jolly good fellow that Nigerians, friends and associates, have converted into good Samaritans. Then they converted the Naira into dollars and gave $9.8 million to the former managing director, Andrew Yakubu, of the NNPC.

They did not want him to go through the hassle of keeping huge sums at home in a depreciated local currency. Stashing that sum in naira would require him to tell his friends to build a mansion just to store the Naira equivalent that would run in the billions. Why not just make them handy in dollars so he can slap them into a pocket and walk around light.

It did not begin today. At the end of the Jonathan era, many fellows according to legends built houses like private banks just to store their dollar loots. So, even now, the game continues. The Naira must be unhappy with itself. In those early days, the Naira was strong, and if you had such a large sum of money, you had to turn the pounds or dollars into our local currency. Just as the Bible says, money has failed in Nigeria.

Against the backdrop of Magu, Nunieh, Akpabio and Yakubu theatres is a pestilence called Covid-19. While we moan the disease for lapping up lives, a bigger one is eating up our Naira, and it is not going away soon. It is called corruption, and it is a virus of power and influence. Against it, we have not even begun to develop a vaccine.

– The Nation.

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