By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
The recent CBN cash swap policy can best be described by the proverb, “throwing away the baby with the bath water”. Among the very many reasons alluded to, as the basis for the policy, and at such a crucial time of politicking, and had times for the masses due to fuel scarcity; it is intended to mop up looted funds, and to stop such funds from having an impact in the 2023 elections. It is not a bad policy in its formulation, but it has proved to be a bad one in its implementation, and how it is constricting the economy, and falsely creating harder times for the populace. If it was conceived to fight corruption, it has ended up fighting the common man and legitimate business owners who transact with cash on a daily. Petty traders have been affected, just as bigger businessmen have had their trade jeopardised by this cash swap policy. Food sellers are crumbling under this policy, and so are transport operators from the small Okada riders, to Keke Napep riders, up to the small buses and Taxi drivers.
The so called looted funds’ owners have had over 3 months to do what they may with their loot. The corrupt system that gave way for the looting of these funds, is the same system that will absorb it corruptively. The target of the cash swap policy may not be affected by the policy as it was envisaged. That is why you have banks hoarding millions of cash across the country. That is why you have naira purchasing naira. POS merchants are making a kill from the policy. People with massive cash have found ways and means of swapping their cash since the policy started. The rhetorical question in all of this, is, ‘is changing the country’s currency the only way to catch looters and looted funds?’ We have so many mechanisms in place that are meant to fight corruption. Has corruption crippled them all? Why is the swap the only alternative, when it is more than obvious that the economy is suffering from it, and the people are victimised and put through untold hardship?
Gone are the days when the government upped its ante, in the drive to ameliorate the suffering of the masses through initiatives such as tradermoni. Prior to the 2019 elections, this drive was increased across the country, which was good publicity for the government of the day, for the elections. That is why the APC is challenging the timing of this policy. It is not necessarily about crippling the finances of the APC, but about public perception of the APC led government, which hampers the chances of their candidates. The APC since from 2015, has ran an all inclusive SAK campaign, carrying along all its candidates in its campaigns. Now the govt is running policies at election time which is causing public anxiety and fury towards the ruling party and definitely its candidates. SAK has been abandoned all of a sudden. It is every man for himself alone.
Sensing the negative energy of the policy as it affects the life of the common man on the street, as well as public perception of the APC by this policy, which sheds it in a badlight with the voting populace; some APC Governors stood up for the common man and for the party. They took the matter to the Supreme Court, to find reprieve for the ensuing crisis, so that order would be restored, and the policy implementation would be looked at from a more humane angle. One of such governors is Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, who did not pay only lip service to the effort, but was there physically at the Supreme Court. He was there alongside Mallam Nasir Elrufai, the governor of Kaduna State, who has been a leading voice, against this very tough govt policy. Gov. Yahaya Bello has exemplified courage by coming out to speak on behalf of the people, as their govt has abandoned them to suffer, under the terms of this very excruciating policy.
In a previous article, titled, ‘Gov. Yahaya Bello: A valorous ambassador of the new age’, I impressed upon the fact that Gov. Yahaya Bello has represented the new age very well. He has secured the peace and sanity of Kogi. He has turned Kogi away from the narrative of being a den of violence, a hideout for criminals, and a breeding ground for unscrupulous elements in our society. In Mr. President’s last visit to Kogi where he commissioned dozens of projects in the state, Mr. President had to exclaim that he was proud of Yahaya Bello. On the National stage, we are proud of Gov. Yahaya Bello for actively joining the conversation of the sufferings of the common man. Despite being an APC governor, he has come out valiantly to challenge the cash swap policy that is ruining businesses and causing hardship, to an already hard life of the ordinary Nigerian. He has shown that when push comes to shove, he stands with the ordinary Nigerian and will support him, in making sure he makes his livelihood a better one. The younger generation is definitely proud of the youngest governor in the country, for all his achievements in turning around the fortunes of Kogi State, and for speaking out against the burdens heaped upon the downtrodden in the Nigerian society.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.