Let’s not be distracted

It’s been a wild few weeks for me, careening through quite a few Nigerian states, not spending more than a night at a time in one place (except in Enugu where I spent two nights because of the tribalism of Nsukka people), and talking to people across the length and breadth of Nigeria, getting to hear their concerns.

One thing that has become very obvious, very quickly, is that we have a food problem. Another thing that is obvious, is that there is a trust deficit. People, in each of the eleven states I’ve been in are tired of what they are seeing, but, crucially, are ripe for distraction. The issue now is this — are they being given the right kind of distraction?

I fear not, and I fear that the distractions that are being acted out, are of the type that will come back to haunt us.

In the period that I’ve been on the move, we’ve been treated to the arrest of high ranking judges, hefty sums being “found” in their houses, then their release, without charge, after a few days in the slammer. They will be arraigned on dates that are at some point in the future.

We’ll come back to this in another article…

In the period that I’ve been on the move, a religious minority sect was banned, and mobs have been unleashed on them. It matters not that the chaps who are now at the receiving end of the violence, have yet to have a single one of their members convicted for murder. It matters not that the chaps who are now at the receiving end of the violence, have had a large number of their members killed in the past. It matters not that the chaps who are now at the receiving end of the violence, constituted themselves, on a regular basis into the kind of nuisance that assorted religious groups, all over Nigeria, constitute themselves into, because they all believe that worshiping God is something which they are entitled to disturb your peace while doing. What matters is that the powers that be must give the mob something with which to distract them from a failing economy.

In the period that I’ve been on the move, we got the great news that some of the girls who were taken into captivity by godless insurgents two years ago have been released. Sadly, what should be an occasion of unrestrained joy, has been in part tainted by allegations of prisoner swaps, and ransoms paid. Again, the FG dropped the ball in communications, and this story has gone out of their reach. It begs the question, if you could do such an exchange (cash or prisoners), why did the girls have to spend 2 years plus in captivity?

In the period that I’ve been on the move, our President’s wife broke all known protocol, and dragged her husband all over the place in the international media. Unfortunately, his response, has caused the kind of embarrassment that has overshadowed his spouse’s rather tasteless action. The family bolekaja in Aso Rock has provided a distraction as well, for now.

All of this happened in a week when inflation inched dangerously close to 18%…

In touching various towns in North and South Nigeria, I have seen Nigerians increasingly united by frustration, despair, disappointment, and increasingly, anger. We are laying, by our refusal to focus on what matters, the seeds of trouble.

Let me ask you reading this a question — you are most likely middle to upper class. Have you not, in the last six months, not experienced an increase in requests for some money by people less fortunate as their situation has gotten increasingly grim? If you have not, consider yourself extremely lucky. If you have, it’s going to get worse.

In this week, the CBN, effectively banned, or at least, restricted Nigerians’ ability to travel outside the country. You see, when you can only spend $100 abroad each month, there are only two legal options open to you. Carry cash (in this era of scarcity of dollars), or have a foreign bank account. If neither option is open, then you become an international criminal. This was done cold-bloodedly, without any consideration to the many Nigerian businesses, that need to do dollar based transactions. A nice way to force us to “buy Nigerian” ba? A great way to reduce the ease-of-doing-business, so crucial to ever getting our economy out of the current woods it has wandered into.

My dear people, let us maintain our focus please. And let us keep reminding the chaps we elected to guide our country. The economy, not the judges, the Shiites, or Madam Buhari’s bedroom, is our problem. There are two kinds of pain: the kind that while it is painful, will get us to a cure; and the kind that while it is painful, leads to perdition. The trade restrictions, rising living costs, slowly emptying shelves, difficulty in getting to do business, the callousness of government agencies in these hard times, are among the things that should tell us the kind of pain we are facing. And it appears that our guys are not alive to these facts. Or in the words of some German investors to our President’s menagerie, “Du weisst nicht, was du tust.”