#HappyRecession: Economy Is Not The Only Reason For Nigerians’ Declining Hope – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was 7 years old the first time I recognized political fear. My parents and their friends were talking about the government, in our living room, in our relatively big house, set on relatively wide grounds at a southeastern Nigerian university, with doors shut and no strangers present. Yet they spoke in whispers. So ingrained was their apprehension that they whispered even when they did not need to. It was 1984 and Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was the military head of state.

Governmental controls had mangled the economy. Many imported goods were banned, scarcity was rife, black markets thrived, businesses were failing and soldiers stalked markets to enforce government-determined prices. My mother came home with precious cartons of subsidized milk and soap, which were sold in rationed quantities. Soldiers flogged people on the streets for “indiscipline” — such as littering or not standing in queues at the bus stop. On television, the head of state, stick-straight and authoritative, seemed remote, impassive on his throne amid the fear and uncertainty.

And yet when, 30 years later, in 2015, Mr. Buhari was elected as a democratic president, I welcomed it. Because for the first time, Nigerians had voted out an incumbent in an election that was largely free and fair. Because Mr. Buhari had sold himself as a near-ascetic reformer, as a man so personally aboveboard that he would wipe out Nigeria’s decades-long corruption. He represented a form of hope.

Nigeria is difficult to govern. It is Africa’s most populous country, with regional complexities, a scarred history and a patronage-based political culture. Still, Mr. Buhari ascended to the presidency with a rare advantage — not only did he have the good will of a majority of Nigerians, he elicited a peculiar mix of fear and respect. For the first weeks of his presidency, it was said that civil servants who were often absent from work suddenly appeared every day, on time, and that police officers and customs officials stopped demanding bribes.

He had an opportunity to make real reforms early on, to boldly reshape Nigeria’s path. He wasted it.

Perhaps the first clue was the unusually long time it took him to appoint his ministers. After an ostensible search for the very best, he presented many recycled figures with whom Nigerians were disenchanted. But the real test of his presidency came with the continued fall in oil prices, which had begun the year before his inauguration.

Nigeria’s economy is unwholesomely dependent on oil, and while the plunge in prices was bound to be catastrophic, Mr. Buhari’s actions made it even more so.

He adopted a policy of “defending” the naira, Nigeria’s currency. The official exchange rate was kept artificially low. On the black market, the exchange rate ballooned. Prices for everything rose: rice, bread, cooking oil. Fruit sellers and car sellers blamed “the price of dollars.” Complaints of hardship cut across class. Some businesses fired employees; others folded.

The government decided who would have access to the central bank’s now-reduced foreign currency reserves, and drew up an arbitrary list of worthy and unworthy goods — importers of toothpicks cannot, for example, but importers of oil can. Predictably, this policy spawned corruption: The exclusive few who were able to buy dollars at official rates could sell them on the black market and earn large, riskless profits — transactions that contribute nothing to the economy.

Mr. Buhari has spoken of his “good reasons” for ignoring the many economists who warned about the danger of his policies. He believes, rightly, that Nigeria needs to produce more of what it consumes, and he wants to spur local production. But local production cannot be willed into existence if the supporting infrastructure is absent, and banning goods has historically led not to local production but to a thriving shadow market. His intentions, good as they well might be, are rooted in an outdated economic model and an infantile view of Nigerians. For him, it seems, patriotism is not a voluntary and flexible thing, with room for dissent, but a martial enterprise: to obey without questioning. Nationalism is not negotiated, but enforced.

ALSO READ  How Fayose Threatened Goodluck Jonathan In The Buildup To The 2014 Governorship Election

The president seems comfortable with conditions that make an economy uncomfortable — uncertainty and disillusion. But the economy is not the only reason for Nigerians’ declining hope.

A few months ago, a young woman, Chidera, came to work as a nanny in my Lagos home. A week into her job, I found her in tears in her room. She needed to go back to her ancestral home in the southeast, she said, because Fulani herdsmen had just murdered her grandfather on his farm. She showed me a gruesome cellphone photo of his corpse, desecrated by bullets, an old man crumpled on the farm he owned.

Chidera’s grandfather is only one of the hundreds of people who have been murdered by Fulani herdsmen — cattle herders from northern Nigeria who, until recently, were benign figures in the southern imagination, walking across the country with their grazing cattle.

Since Mr. Buhari came to power, villages in the middle-belt and southern regions have been raided, the inhabitants killed, their farmlands sacked. Those attacked believe the Fulani herdsmen want to forcibly take over their lands for cattle grazing.

It would be unfair to blame Mr. Buhari for these killings, which are in part a result of complex interactions between climate change and land use. But leadership is as much about perception as it is about action, and Mr. Buhari has appeared disengaged. It took him months, and much criticism from civil society, to finally issue a statement “condemning” the killings. His aloofness feels, at worst, like a tacit enabling of murder and, at best, an absence of sensitive leadership.

Most important, his behavior suggests he is tone-deaf to the widely held belief among southern Nigerians that he promotes a northern Sunni Muslim agenda. He was no less opaque when the Nigerian Army murdered hundreds of members of a Shiite Muslim group in December, burying them in hastily dug graves. Or when soldiers killed members of the small secessionist pro-Biafran movement who were protesting the arrest of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a little-known figure whose continued incarceration has elevated him to a minor martyr.

Nigerians who expected a fair and sweeping cleanup of corruption have been disappointed. Arrests have tended to be selective, targeting mostly those opposed to Mr. Buhari’s government. The anti-corruption agencies are perceived not only as partisan but as brazenly flouting the rule of law: The Department of State Security recently barged into the homes of various judges at midnight, harassing and threatening them and arresting a number of them, because the judges’ lifestyles “suggested” that they were corrupt.

There is an ad hoc air to the government that does not inspire that vital ingredient for a stable economy: confidence. There is, at all levels of government, a relentless blaming of previous administrations and a refusal to acknowledge mistakes. And there are eerie signs of the past’s repeating itself — Mr. Buhari’s tone and demeanor are reminiscent of 1984, and his military-era War Against Indiscipline program is being reintroduced.

There are no easy answers to Nigeria’s malaise, but the government’s intervention could be more salutary — by prioritizing infrastructure, creating a business-friendly environment and communicating to a populace mired in disappointment.

In a country enamored of dark humor, a common greeting among the middle class now is “Happy recession!”

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Latest Posts

#BBNaija: Emotional Cee-C Finally Apologizes to Tobi After Raining Insults On Him Yesterday (Videos)
Entertainment
45 views
Entertainment
45 views

#BBNaija: Emotional Cee-C Finally Apologizes to Tobi After Raining Insults On Him Yesterday (Videos)

MT - April 19, 2018

  Social media went abuzz yesterday when Big Brother Naija housemate, Cee-C went haywire and poured abusive words on fellow housemate, Tobi. Many Nigerians who became really…

P-Square’s Paul Okoye Seen Drinking Garri in His Lagos Mansion (Photos)
Entertainment
41 views
Entertainment
41 views

P-Square’s Paul Okoye Seen Drinking Garri in His Lagos Mansion (Photos)

MT - April 19, 2018

Multi award-winning Nigerian singer, Paul Okoye popularly known as Rude Boy of the defunct P-Square has taken to his Instagram page to share an unbelievable photo of…

Popular Comedian, Arole Reveals How He Nearly Died At An Event With Reekado Banks
Best of Nigeria
41 views
Best of Nigeria
41 views

Popular Comedian, Arole Reveals How He Nearly Died At An Event With Reekado Banks

MT - April 19, 2018

Woli Arole, one of the Nigerian comedians causing some serious buzz on social media, has stunned his fans with a story about his life. The comedian took…

7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Afropop Singer, Simi As She Turns 30
Best of Nigeria
30 views
Best of Nigeria
30 views

7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Afropop Singer, Simi As She Turns 30

MT - April 19, 2018

Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye simply known as Simi is one of the top female musicians in Nigeria. Simi warmed her way into the hearts of Nigerians with her soulful renditions…

9 Times Cee C Has Shown She is the Most Controversial BBNaija 2018 Housemate
Best of Nigeria
32 views
Best of Nigeria
32 views

9 Times Cee C Has Shown She is the Most Controversial BBNaija 2018 Housemate

MT - April 19, 2018

There is no doubt that BB Naija 2018housemate is trending right now and has always trended for being controversial.   She has said, acted, and behaved in…

BBNaija’s Lolu And Anto Hang Out With Singer Tekno
Best of Nigeria
38 views
Best of Nigeria
38 views

BBNaija’s Lolu And Anto Hang Out With Singer Tekno

MT - April 19, 2018

Former Big Brother Naija ,Housemate Lolu And Anto meets with Tekno. The former big brother naija who are currently on tour meets with Tekno at Naija fm…

Read Prophet Olagoroye Faleyimu’s Prophesies On Funke Akindele: ‘Marry A Gateman To Have Child’
Best of Nigeria
42 views
Best of Nigeria
42 views

Read Prophet Olagoroye Faleyimu’s Prophesies On Funke Akindele: ‘Marry A Gateman To Have Child’

MT - April 19, 2018

Popular Lagos-based prophet Olagoroye Faleyimu in a recent chat with Yoruba Movie Magazine has once again urged Funke Akindele to go for prayers if she ever wants…

Jayne Senior: Child Abuse Informer Invited To Nigeria
World Buzz
39 views
World Buzz
39 views

Jayne Senior: Child Abuse Informer Invited To Nigeria

PH - April 19, 2018

Rotherham child abuse whistleblower Jayne Senior is to lead a delegation to Nigeria offering advice on how to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE). She will travel to…

5 Quotes that Show President Buhari is Bad at Diplomacy
Best of Nigeria
48 views
Best of Nigeria
48 views

5 Quotes that Show President Buhari is Bad at Diplomacy

MT - April 19, 2018

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has again courted controversy with his statements at the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the United Kingdom. A recent comment belittling Nigeria’s young people has…

In Photos: Nigerian Commonwealth Games Athletes All Smiles As They Arrive From Australia
Best of Nigeria
43 views
Best of Nigeria
43 views

In Photos: Nigerian Commonwealth Games Athletes All Smiles As They Arrive From Australia

MT - April 19, 2018

Excitedly, team Nigeria arrived earlier today by 3:10pm via Emirate Airline from the just concluded 21st Commonwealth games which took place Gold Coast, Australia. While briefing newsmen,…

How Stolen Mace Was Recovered By Police After National Assembly Invasion
Best of Nigeria
44 views
Best of Nigeria
44 views

How Stolen Mace Was Recovered By Police After National Assembly Invasion

MT - April 19, 2018

The Nigerian police have announced the recovery of the senate’s stolen mace at a flyover before the Abuja city gate.Aremu Adeniran, deputy force public relations officer force…

‘A Nigerian Dies of Stroke Every 2 Minutes’ – Meet Nigeria’s First Female Neurologist
Best of Nigeria
48 views
Best of Nigeria
48 views

‘A Nigerian Dies of Stroke Every 2 Minutes’ – Meet Nigeria’s First Female Neurologist

MT - April 19, 2018

Nigeria’s first female Neurologist and first female Professor of Neurology, Njideka Okubadejo, has raised the alarm about the prevalence of neurological disorders in Nigerian, revealing that every…

Adekunle Gold’s Sweet Birthday Message To Simi Has Got People Talking
Entertainment
44 views
Entertainment
44 views

Adekunle Gold’s Sweet Birthday Message To Simi Has Got People Talking

PH - April 19, 2018

Today is singer Simi’s birthday and Adekunle Gold’s message to her has got us all mushy. The duo have been rumoured to be dating and this may…

Watch Video of President Buhari Speaking about Nigerian Youths, Security and Economic Situation
Politics
52 views
Politics
52 views

Watch Video of President Buhari Speaking about Nigerian Youths, Security and Economic Situation

PH - April 19, 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari, while speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum on Wednesday, said the Nigerian youth wants to sit and do nothing. His comments have so far…

Read Fayose’s Reaction to President Buhari’ Comment About ‘Nigerian Youths Don’t Like to Work’
Politics
49 views
Politics
49 views

Read Fayose’s Reaction to President Buhari’ Comment About ‘Nigerian Youths Don’t Like to Work’

MT - April 19, 2018

Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, has reacted to the statement made by President Buhari that many Nigerian youths just want to sit down and do nothing, believing…

Meet Aisha Bakari Gombi, Boko Haram Huntress And Nightmare [Photos]
Best of Nigeria
54 views
Best of Nigeria
54 views

Meet Aisha Bakari Gombi, Boko Haram Huntress And Nightmare [Photos]

MT - April 19, 2018

Aisha Bakari Gombi who reached real-life superhero status for her battlefield bravery in her fight against Boko Haram. Since the dawn of humanity, hunters have roamed the…

Nigerian Singer, Wande Coal, Releases Statement On Alleged Child Abduction
Entertainment
56 views
Entertainment
56 views

Nigerian Singer, Wande Coal, Releases Statement On Alleged Child Abduction

PH - April 19, 2018

Singer Wande Coal had earlier this week been involved in some drama. A woman named Temitope came forward to say their son of 10 years was abducted…

LISTEN: MC Galaxy Releases “BBNaija Version” Of Song “Fine Girl”
Entertainment
56 views
Entertainment
56 views

LISTEN: MC Galaxy Releases “BBNaija Version” Of Song “Fine Girl”

PH - April 19, 2018

Just earlier in the month MC Galaxy released a song celebrating beautiful women, titled “Fine Girl.” He today announced a BBNaija version of the song, celebrating all…

Loading...