Opinion: Buhari, the latter-day mourners and burial undertakers of the naira

Naira, Nigeria’s national currency, has been very much in the news in the last couple of weeks. The naira is seriously ill and the prognosis from the ‘experts’, many of them full of bile and ill-will, is indeed dire. They have written the naira’s obituary and are already summoning the burial party of undertakers that would complete the final task of their death wish- ensure the untimely death of the currency.

Many of these latter-day mourners have for long made terrible forecasts of the state of the Nigerian economy, if only to prove that its present managers are incompetent fools. But their crocodile tears for the naira are some of the many they have shed for just about anything and everything they claim is wrong in the country today. Nothing would or could make them happy unless they can see the ship of state flounder under its present captains.

And so they go about with their self-fulfilling prophesies of the death of the naira as a consequence of Mohammadu Buhari’s ignorance of basic economic principles. The argument about the imminent death of the naira, who and what is responsible for it, is never made clear. It could in fact change as often and get as confusing as the changing colours of a chameleon’s skin. 

After lamenting the gradual death of the naira and the supposed incompetent management of the economy (they don’t bother to explain how) that has brought it about, they proceed to proffer devaluation as the immediate solution to the dwindling strength of the naira. They urge that an already comatose patient be pummelled even further in order to revive it.

And even though the Buhari administration has not been known for the kind of profligate splurging on expensive foreign goods and services that has contributed to the depletion of our foreign reserves, the government is nevertheless blamed, voodoo-fashion, for all that ails the economy in general and the naira in particular.

What these critics try to conceal with their sob tales about the falling power of the naira is their pain that their days of unaccountable squandering on everything foreign will no longer be easy if not well-nigh over. They would now have to carry the heavy price of their appetite for foreign things or else make do with what is available at home.

O yes, the picture is not a black or white one as it might sound from the foregoing, but the point is simple enough for the majority who don’t have the means to sustain a lust for foreign products to understand. If anyone deserves the blame for the present poor health of the naira it should be those who took no heed for the future health of the Nigerian economy by opening every loophole for every politician that strayed into the corridors of power to exploit for persona gains.

This category of Nigerians preceded President Buhari into Aso Rock Villa at least by some six years. The blame for those who wrecked our economy and brought the naira down to its knees belong elsewhere than with Buhari who has made the priorities of his administration clear to Nigerians. To ignore his words in this regard is to expect from him what he has not promised. Buhari does not think that the solution to our import-dependent economy is a weak naira.

Nor does he think succour would come from continued reliance on crude oil. Considering the overt reliance of our economy on foreign products, he has decided to look inwards by encouraging the growth of the local economy. In line with our modest technological and scientific achievements, or our disdain for home-made products and services, Buhari has chosen to concentrate his attention on stimulating the local economy by giving support to agriculture and solid minerals.

Let us face it, outside of our insatiable and misplaced desire for foreign products and worth not, ours is still a largely agrarian economy. That may not sound fashionable in this age of cutting edge innovations in information and communication technology, medicine and engineering. The point may sound so retrogressive in this age of scientific triumphalism.

But it is the truth. Wealthy Nigerians may boast ownership of the 2016 models of the best armoured-plated automobiles in the world, they may import everything required to complete the construction of their high end mansions from Dubai, Italy and South Africa,  and fly first class on foreign airlines where they are not the proud owners of their own jets.

They may wear the latest fashion items from the best designers around the world, eat the latest processed foods from Europe and the United States of America- they may have at the push of a smart phone keypad any of these foreign products of which they have no knowledge of how they are produced.

But the vast majority of Nigerians are only concerned about where their next meal would come from. At least a nation that cannot or is unwilling to produce any of the imported things it consumes should be able to produce its own food. A well-fed people can have the presence of mind to think well and straight enough to tackle other problems that could lead to the kind of humanitarian disasters that have turned many parts of Africa into the most blighted portions of our planet.

It is these modest but important tasks to meet such domestic goals as food sufficiency and affordable clothing and housing, that the Buhari administration has set for itself. It does not pretend it can turn around our economy from ‘Third world to first world’ over night. But neither would it encourage wanton importation of foreign goods even those like tooth picks we can conveniently produce ourselves. He is saying those craving foreign products should find their own means to fund their private and perverted desires.

Let them not pretend that devaluation is the only way out for us all. Or worse yet, blame him for the condition of the naira. The late Tai Solarin often warned that Nigerians should be prepared to give up their love for foreign products if the country must rise. Until Nigerians demonstrate their readiness to pay the price of greatness, he did not think we would ever amount to anything.

Until Indians were ready to wear their own locally-produced clothes, Nehru ensured no clothing material was imported into the country.  No great nation attained that status by dependence on foreign things. This is the lesson Nigerians must learn. In the years before the fall of the iron curtain, Russians were proud users of Russian-made cars.

The Chinese were not left out either. Their cultural revolution ensured that they stayed away from everything foreign in order to guarantee their present rise to world prominence.

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Opinion article on the economy, written by Rotimi Fasan

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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