It is unfortunate that a good policy (or perhaps twin policies of naira redesign and demonetisation), has been poorly implemented in terms of the timing of its announcement, the abruptness of the announcement and the secrecy preceding it (as the President chose not to consult properly if we recall the issue with the Finance Minister), timeframe for full implementation, distribution logistics, the anticipation of possible challenges, simply because of the fact that the real intent was actually politics, rather than the policy itself. This was where the hypocrisy started and the CBN Governor, along with our President, who was rather pliant in accepting the proposal, brought this upon us.
The fixation on politics as the driver of the whole thing in the first place was ill-informed even when the CBN Governor tried to give seemingly “professional” reasons back then to justify to Nigerians, many of whom were wary of the possibility of the challenges currently being experienced given the implementation timeframe. The President himself mentioned vote buying in one of the interviews granted to support the policy and one will wonder whether CBN has suddenly taken over the role of INEC in giving us credible, free and fair elections.
The level of political awareness of the people has increased significantly, particularly with respect to this election cycle, citizens are ready to vote their conscience despite any financial inducement. Indeed, most Nigerians would be ready to collect such inducement with a sense of entitlement and still vote for their preferred candidates. INEC only needs to provide a foolproof, free and fair platform.
So, why the fixation on vote buying and the hypocrisy in policy formulation that would eventually cause untold hardship for 200 million Nigerians? It is still that fixation on politics that has brought out the hypocrisy in most people on either side of the argument to review the implementation of the policy or maintain the chaotic status quo, save for a few, who have remained sincerely neutral and objective in their interventions.
The politicians (and most of their supporters and sympathisers), who have suddenly become champions of the people in condemning the implementation of the policy, are not necessarily doing so for altruistic reasons, given their lukewarm reaction to other unpleasant policies or actions of the government before now. The major concern of this group of people is not particularly the fact of being checkmated on vote buying, but the fact that the unintended consequences of the policy with obvious hardship on the populace would naturally be a strong negative point against the government and the ruling party thereby significantly impairing the electoral chances of the ruling party’s candidate in the coming elections as Nigerians will vent their anger at the polls. That is the key issue! If the deadline for the naira redesign had been a date after the election, we would likely not have seen this level of agitation by this particular group of politicians and their supporters. Sheer grandstanding, even if their arguments for a review of the policy are appropriate in the circumstance!
The other group of politicians (and their supporters/sympathisers) are equally fixated on politics and nothing else with respect to the policy. Even as the policy was purely the government’s decision, this other group has latched on to it as a means of helping them checkmate the ruling party from vote buying, thereby in their opinion, removing the latter’s perceived advantage and levelling the playing field. It also appears to serve them well to see the failure of the government as a further narrative that would be used extensively to justify why Nigerians must reject the ruling party at the polls.
This obsession, which has been expressed openly and subtly, is the basis for their support for the policy despite the unrealistic deadline, as well as the chaotic implementation. It’s almost as if reviewing the status quo would give an undue vote-buying advantage to the ruling party and put others at a disadvantage. Or how else can anyone in good conscience continue to support the status quo not minding the untold hardship being experienced by 200 million Nigerians? It is difficult to claim to mean well for the country and wish that this chaos and suffering of the masses should continue. Only an obsessive fixation on politics (even if not directly expressed) can be the basis of such hypocritical posturing.
As earlier stated, voters have become more aware, particularly in this election cycle, to accept inducement if offered and still vote their conscience. The heightened fervour with which many Nigerians who ordinarily do not bother about political issues have obtained their PVCs shows that there has been a positive shift in the awareness of the people.
So, suppose we remove the politics and remind ourselves that INEC and not CBN is the body that has been charged with the responsibility to conduct free and fair elections regardless of any “vote buying”. In that case, all parties will probably be more objective and dispassionate in assessing the failure of the naira redesign project making it imperative to urgently institute measures for better-coordinated implementation to avert anarchy across the country.
By Lekan Bakare