Supreme Court judgment: Buhari’s blame shifting

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The unprecedented tormenting of millions of Nigerians in the last three weeks through an artificial cash crunch has painted a grim picture of Nigerian rulers’ attitude to the suffering in the land.

After 10 agonising days of unprecedented suffering by millions of account holders, President Muhammadu Buhari grudgingly authorised the implementation of the judgment of the Supreme Court extending the legal tender status of the N500 and N1, 000 notes to December 31, 2023.

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s finance minister, maintained a curious silence throughout the turbulent period.

Buhari responded to the wailings in the land with a puerile excuse that he did not order the attorney-general of the federation or the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disobey the order of the Supreme Court.

In reality, the president’s body language suggested that government was not willing to obey the order of the Supreme Court. His silence was interpreted in various circles as muted directive to the attorney-general and CBN governor not to obey the Supreme Court order.

In a landscape replete with government’s blatant contempt of court orders, the attorney-general and CBN governor would have interpreted the president’s body language as a muted directive to ignore the judgment of the of the Supreme Court. It has happened before and heaven did not fall. It could not have fallen in this particular instance.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor of Lagos State dragged then President Olusegun Obasanjo to the Supreme Court when Obasanjo withheld Lagos State allocations from the federation account on claims that the creation of new local governments in Lagos was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ordered Obasanjo to pay the withheld money promptly. Obasanjo ignored the Supreme Court for several months and no one could compel him to obey the court order.
Obasanjo’s contempt of the Supreme Court was so audacious that Tinubu had to look inwards for revenue to run the state. That is what made Lagos financially independent of the meddlesome, leprous financial hands of the federal government till today.
The attorney-general of the federation and CBN governor knew that no one could compel Buhari to obey court orders. They quietly toed the president’s line and watched hundreds of Nigerians die of hunger and diseases due to an artificial cash crunch, while thousands of micro, small and medium enterprises collapsed for dearth of patronage.
A number of things could be deciphered from the president’s deafening silence to the suffering of millions of Nigerians at a time when Africa’s largest economy had leisurely snatched the infamous global toga of nation with the highest number of poor people from India.
Primarily, two tactical flaws emerge from Buhari’s incoherent handling of the crisis. First, the president is too detached from the masses to notice the suffering in the land. Second, his response to tragedies is catastrophically slow.
There are strong evidences to prove the two flaws. Sometime in 2021, terrorists ambushed a crucial unit of the Presidential Guard and killed several soldiers.
A few days after the tragedy, the terrorists announced that they had completed plans to kidnap Buhari. Nigerians were worried by the threat from the dare-devil terrorists because the ease with which they ambushed the military unit protecting the president suggested that no one could stop them from carrying out their threat.

Two weeks after the terrorists threatened the live of the president, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State announced that Buhari was not aware of the threat from the terrorists.
A president that is so detached from society that he cannot notice threats to his own life obviously has no way of monitoring the suffering in the land. The president is in his own world.

Those who doubt el-Rufai’s statement need to know that the governor and the president are so close that the rumour mill in Aso Rock once churned out claims on how the governor once stormed into a meeting of the president and Vice president Yemi Osinbajo and demanded that the vice president gave him chance to discuss urgent matters with the president. Osinbajo reportedly obeyed grudgingly.

That is how close el-Rufai is to the president. What he said is a clear picture of how detached the president is from feelers of the suffering in the land. That probably explains why it took him 10 days to notice that hundreds of Nigerians were dying from his inadvertent contempt of the Supreme Court.
The other factor has to do with how long it takes him to respond to catastrophes. Everyone saw the president’s snail-speed in crisis management when he was sworn-in on May 29, 2015.

People thought that the three months between the election and swearing-in was enough time for the president to form his cabinet. They were all wrong. It took the president six months to form a cabinet.
By the time the cabinet was ready, foreign direct investors who needed a clear picture of the cabinet to make crucial investment decisions had fled the country with their dollars.
The official exchange rate of the naira plummeted from N199 to N250 to the dollar. The economy is yet to recover from that calamitous vacillation.

The blame for disobeying the Supreme Court for 10 days cannot be placed on the desk of Godwin Emefiele.
Just as the president gave Emefiele the approval to redesign the naira, he had to order him to obey the judgment of the Supreme Court nullifying his order. Anything short of that amounted to the CBN governor usurping presidential powers.

Emefiele’s fault in the whole scenario is that he enigmatically miscalculated the productive capacity of the minting company under his purview.
That miscalculation resulted in a catastrophic supply deficit of the new notes which Nigeria’s treacherous bankers exploited to torment the nation’s inconsequential majority.
President Buhari owes Nigerians unreserved apologies for the unprecedented suffering caused by the artificial cash crunch. The blame for the clumsy handling of an avoidable tragedy stops on his desk.

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