by Mark Amaza
As you are most likely aware, the afro-pop star and music legend, Tuface Idibia has called for massive protests against the Federal Government for 5th February against what he calls “the immense economic hardship of Nigerians, the persistent insecurity evident in the rampant killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen militia, and the inability of the government to communicate with Nigerians.”
Without doubt, these are very valid reasons for a protest, and even much more: we have seen the naira continue to lose its value amid shortage of foreign exchange, an economy that is bleeding jobs and inflation that is at a ten-year high of 18.9%. All these contribute to make our recession more than just a word. This is besides the insecurity that has pervaded the land, especially across the Middle Belt.
Also, protests are a legitimate form of expression in a democracy, and even if we do not agree with the reasons for the protests, we do not take away from the protesters their right to expression in that manner as long as they are peaceful.
However, the question then becomes: but will these protests change anything?
I do not think so.
The problems afflicting us right now are not problems that started of late. Most have been there from the start of this administration and some even predate it, or at the very least, the signs preceding it were evident.
Also, there has been no shortage of good counsel for the government on how to act to solve these problems.
Let us take our economic problems, for instance: a great number of people, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to many economic commentators have spoken of the need to float the naira and let the exchange rate be market-determined, before moving forward to execute prescribed market reforms. Yet, despite that, the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria has only achieved what it calls “a managed float”. In the end, the results have not changed – the naira is still losing value at the parallel market, dollars are still scarce and there is so much opportunity for arbitrage because of the difference between the official and black market exchange rates.
The effects of this is that much-needed foreign investment is not flowing in while many investors have voted with their feet, leaving in their wake job losses and company closures.
The same can be said of the Fulani herdsmen militia attacks, with Southern Kaduna being the latest killing fields; the need for the government to communicate better with the citizenry, such as in the recent case of rumors of illness of President Muhammadu Buhari; and so on and so forth.
It is not the lack of solutions that is the problem; rather, it is that government is convinced that its methods are the right ones despite evidence to the contrary (such as in maintaining a crippling monetary policy) or the lack of political will to act (as in dealing with the menace of Fulani herdsmen militias).
The government is also suffering from the situation where it is caught up in a bubble and is disconnected from the people and their reality. This is worsened by the fact that Nigerian governments view criticisms often from the prism of partisan politics and believe it is the work of political opposition.
It will be great to see that these protests achieve their goal and cause the government to bring urgent solutions to these problems. However, it will take far more than just protests to make this happen – it will need a willingness to try new ideas even if they conflict with ideology, and to also gain the political will to bring change.
I wish Tuface Idibia and all those who will be joining him for the protests the best of luck in achieving their goals. But I will not be holding my breath for that to happen.