(By Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown) – The system entrenches a struggle for survival at two broad levels that curiously complement each other. On one hand, the people in power struggle for survival by stealing more public revenue to buy their way to hold on to power no matter how grimly so and with every ounce of strength. They do so by impoverishing the public through deliberate misappropriation of the resources for progress in society.
On the other hand, the impoverished professionals, business people, knowledge workers, artisans, traders and all law abiding sellers of service, are left on daily struggle for survival. It is because there is room for only a few who hold political power and their associates, in a system that encourages the favoured ones to monopolize public wealth and opportunities. The rest of us are condemned to live as serious beggars if we must survive. Those who rule in one regime after another, continue to expand the monopoly power of a few over our public treasury.
The few get richer and the poor get poorer, because the poor are victims of the steady depletion of Nigeria’s economy and its competitive capacity by those in power. This is manifested by the social crime of presiding over the consistent decline of the exchange rate of the Naira by every administration since 1979. It is worse than treason!
In the paper I presented at NIPR on July 14, 2016, I argued that Nigeria’s economy has become a tool for weakening or outright exclusion of citizens from democratic participation and public policy decision- making in the nation. I pointed out what may be called “the twin poverty thermometers” of Nigeria, namely:
a) The paradox of upward price of refined products from crude oil especially motor fuel since 1985, even when crude oil prices are going down in the international market. It has remained so in Nigeria. I argued that this trend was contrary to the cost and market behaviour behind motor fuel pricing in other countries. It meant that Nigerians pay more to travel and are by implication being restricted from travels even within Nigeria. Now banditry, highway robbery, piracy and kidnapping have added to the cost of fuel, to discourage travels by road or water ways.
b) The exchange rate of Naira that directly affects the purchasing power of the citizens has continued to crash. This makes economic survival the only priority of the average Nigerian. Such negative social forces created by misgovernance, have cleared the political stage for only dubious “strong men” to emerge as political leaders. Because they have money or access to public revenue, the few who hold power want their words to become law as our Masters. The legislature and now in most cases even the Judiciary, simply go through mischievous procedures to confirm the will of those in power in each state and in the nation. The citizens are reduced to mere Slaves.
A Master / Slave relationship pattern emerges and is enforced. This relationship pattern forces Nigeria’s reputation to dangle in the wind. At the same time the social impact of poverty and exclusion of people from the democratic process in Nigeria consolidate the negative relationship pattern of Master and Slaves . Let us take a look at the dollar versus Naira tango, for a measure of the purchasing power of Nigeria’s citizens. Considering that by 1979 one US dollar stood at less than one Naira, ( that is, one Naira was stronger in value than one dollar) and crude oil price was at average $25.10 / barrel, we can actually measure the damage done to Nigeria by the decimation of people’s purchasing power over the period 1979-2021.
We can use the approximate exchange rate on the street in Nigeria which shows us the following $1 was N0.55 (1979-80) according to FXTM Global Online Trading ; $1 was N5 (1985-89), according to NEWSWATCH magazine of December 14, 1987; $1 was N100 (1999) according to NEWSWATCH of March 26, 2001; $1 was N120 (2009-11); $1 was N170 (2011-2015); $1 is N500 ( mid 2021). That is the story of the wreckage of Nigeria’s economy and the purchasing power of our citizens!
There is more to consider. We all know that markets in every region of Nigeria has one form of informal savings and loan scheme. It enables Nigerians of different ethnic, religious and education levels who have no access to bank credit, to receive loan in cash or acceptable credit terms to run their productive activities. This system thrives and is known to function sustainably, without any moderation by state agencies. Its viability shows that the ordinary people of Nigeria enjoy above 90% mutual trust and credit reliability among themselves.
A survey by GRAIN Consulting in 2018-2019 showed that of 16 stakeholder groups in the Niger Delta, Nigerian politicians fell into the least category trusted by the Nigerian people. Indeed Nigerian politicians do not have 20% rating in terms of trust or credibility, even among themselves.
For instance it is a disingenuous attempt to justify the on-going Trader Money scheme that claims to give public funds without reaching equal number of recipients who are resident in each LGA. It totally ignores the equity principle which Federal Character ethics demands. Even worse, the government has left the Nigerian public in the dark without regular briefing on its procedure or performance status.