#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.

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

Jeremiah Gyang Makes Comeback At Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless Concert
Entertainment
24 views
Entertainment
24 views

Jeremiah Gyang Makes Comeback At Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless Concert

PH - October 23, 2017

Nigerian singer Jeremiah Gyang reminded his fans why they fell in love with him during his mainstream comeback at the Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless concert on Sunday night. Gyang gave…

Mr 2kay ‘Robbed At Gunpoint’ In Hotel Room
Entertainment
33 views
Entertainment
33 views

Mr 2kay ‘Robbed At Gunpoint’ In Hotel Room

PH - October 23, 2017

Singer Mr 2kay was robbed at gunpoint in his hotel room after the Buckwyld n Breathless concert on Sunday, October 22. The alleged robbery took place at…

Asa Talks Losing Virginity At 28 In Revealing Chat With Funmi Iyanda
Entertainment
21 views
Entertainment
21 views

Asa Talks Losing Virginity At 28 In Revealing Chat With Funmi Iyanda

PH - October 23, 2017

In this revealing, newly released 2015 Interview, Nigerian singer Asa sat with Funmi Iyanda to discuss her album “Bed Of Stones“. They also talked about the singer’s personal journey as a…

Popular Actress, Toyin Abraham Aimakhu’s Father Is Dead
Entertainment
41 views
Entertainment
41 views

Popular Actress, Toyin Abraham Aimakhu’s Father Is Dead

MT - October 23, 2017

Nollywood actress, Toyin Aimakhu reportedly lost her dad today. This was revealed by her sister, Fatimah Ogunsanya who wrote on Facebook; “It saddens me to the core…

PHOTOS: Dangote, Otedola, Ebuka And Wife Attend Ifeoma Williams’ Michael Jackson Themed 40th Birthday Party
Entertainment
50 views
Entertainment
50 views

PHOTOS: Dangote, Otedola, Ebuka And Wife Attend Ifeoma Williams’ Michael Jackson Themed 40th Birthday Party

MT - October 23, 2017

Former beauty Queen, Ifeoma Williams, who turned a year older recently held her 40th birthday party yesterday which billionaire businessmen Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and some Nigerian…

Why Crude Oil Prices May Rise Above $60 Per Barrel
Business
39 views
Business
39 views

Why Crude Oil Prices May Rise Above $60 Per Barrel

PH - October 23, 2017

Oil prices rose on Monday over supply concerns in the Middle-east as the U.S. market showed further signs of tightening while demand in Asia keeps rising. Brent…

Jim Iyke Bares It All On His Relationship With Nadia – ‘I Never Dated Nadia Buhari’
Entertainment
49 views
Entertainment
49 views

Jim Iyke Bares It All On His Relationship With Nadia – ‘I Never Dated Nadia Buhari’

MT - October 23, 2017

Nollywood actor, Jim Iyke who in an interview with Punch revealed that the romance report between him and Ghanaian actress, Nadia Buhari, was never true. According to…

Tecno Unveils New Phantom Smartphone Yesterday In Dubai
Technology
33 views
Technology
33 views

Tecno Unveils New Phantom Smartphone Yesterday In Dubai

MT - October 23, 2017

Tecno Mobile, dropped the hint on social media about its next flagship device. After launching series of the low-end devices like Spark K7, WX3, and others, the…

Check Out What The FG Is Saying About Nnamdi Kanu’s Whereabout – ‘He’s In Abaribe’s Custody’
Politics
50 views
Politics
50 views

Check Out What The FG Is Saying About Nnamdi Kanu’s Whereabout – ‘He’s In Abaribe’s Custody’

MT - October 23, 2017

The Federal Government has replied to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s application seeking to withdraw as one of the sureties for the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of…

Colourful Photos From Wedding Of An ‘Oyinbo Man’ And His Beautiful Bride From Imo State (Photos)
Romance and Love
66 views
Romance and Love
66 views

Colourful Photos From Wedding Of An ‘Oyinbo Man’ And His Beautiful Bride From Imo State (Photos)

MT - October 23, 2017

The excited Oyinbo man drinking wine from a cup given by the wife A Nigerian lady identified as Jennifer Asinugo has tied the knot in style with…

This Is What Rochas Said About Nnamdi Kanu After Declaring Support For Buhari In 2019
Politics
32 views
Politics
32 views

This Is What Rochas Said About Nnamdi Kanu After Declaring Support For Buhari In 2019

MT - October 23, 2017

The Governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha has described the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu as a mad man, according to a report…

Why FIFA Moved To Change Nationality Rules
Sports
50 views
Sports
50 views

Why FIFA Moved To Change Nationality Rules

MT - October 23, 2017

FIFA is considering changing the rules that govern a player’s eligibility to represent a national team, BBC Sport reports. At present, players who have played a competitive…

How Buhari Doused Tension Between Nigeria And Turkey
Politics
35 views
Politics
35 views

How Buhari Doused Tension Between Nigeria And Turkey

PH - October 23, 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari employed diplomacy to douse the tension that the issue of the Fethullah Movement would have created between Nigeria and Turkey, Minister of Foreign Affairs,…

Why We Reinstated Wanted Ex-Pension Chief Maina – FG
Politics
64 views
Politics
64 views

Why We Reinstated Wanted Ex-Pension Chief Maina – FG

PH - October 23, 2017

Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, has reacted to an exclusive PREMIUM TIMES story on how the federal government reinstated a sacked civil servant despite a pending…

Idongesit Umoh: Nigerian Enterpreneur Shares How She Lost N2.1m Through Online Banking
Business
94 views
Business
94 views

Idongesit Umoh: Nigerian Enterpreneur Shares How She Lost N2.1m Through Online Banking

PH - October 22, 2017

Nigerian entrepreneur and YALI fellow Idongesit Umoh today shared details of how her bank account got debited of N2.1m through some suspicious action on her online banking app. She…

Omawumi, Akpororo Announced As Judges Of New Reality Show
Entertainment
59 views
Entertainment
59 views

Omawumi, Akpororo Announced As Judges Of New Reality Show

PH - October 22, 2017

Last Resort entertainment working in partnership with Global Resources Limited, have announced the launch of Nigerian Icon, a first of its kind in talent scouting and entertainment…

Abia State Announces N10m Grant For Film Production In The State
Entertainment
39 views
Entertainment
39 views

Abia State Announces N10m Grant For Film Production In The State

PH - October 22, 2017

Abia State government has expressed its enthusiasm for the ZUMA Film Festival that is set to take place between the 1st to 5th of December, 2017 in…

Buhari Holds Bilateral Meetings With Guinea President, Pakistan Minister
Politics
57 views
Politics
57 views

Buhari Holds Bilateral Meetings With Guinea President, Pakistan Minister

PH - October 22, 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari held bilateral meetings with President Alpha Conde of Guinea and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of Pakistan in Turkey on Saturday. See photos:

Loading...