I beg to differ from Abubakar Sulaiman’s perspective on the dollar-naira debate, which sounded too journalistic (creating an impression) without providing a basis for empirical worth (history, fact, and logical inference) that can be used to create initiatives and effective responses to crises.
When the author of the article, Abubakar Sulaiman, headlined the write-up as “the cultural root of the currency crisis,” I was preparing to read about the unproductive and profligate culture that has continued to deepen the currency crisis that has engrossed Nigeria. Not knowing that he was going to regurgitate the sensational story of Reno Omokri against the Arise TV presenters about their choices and appearances on TV sets.
Reno Omokri, like this writer, queried Abati, Rufai, Ayo, and Orjy if they have the moral ground to criticize the government for the dollarization of the economy when they often dress to kill on set in expensive foreign wear: jacket, tie, and shoe. Abubakar Sulaiman, with this article, has towed in this lane by accusing the corporate industry of indulging in a culture of dressing that is foreign and distressingly dependent on forex, or, in other words, the dollar.
And this, he extrapolated, has caused the scarcity of dollars in the sectors that needed it most for production and made a positive contribution to the Nigerian economy.
1. These sensational and regurgitative writers have not distinguished between profligacy and productivity. They have not grasped that the media, banking, etc. are, for a reason, called corporate industries. Therefore, their approach to dressing, impersonal behavior, etc. must necessarily be consistent with their business culture. Meanwhile, these are also industries where their dollarized ties, shoes, and jackets attract dollars and, in some cases, remit dollars into the economy. Which defines their cultural mode of dressing as productive and not profligacy, unlike other areas of our culture I thought the writer would focus on. Let’s ignore Reno Omokri is a political influencer and therefore must pontificate and attack imagined enemies of his principal.
2. When the writer says the cultural root cause of the currency crisis, I equally thought he was going to talk about decolonization and not colonialism. Peter Ekeh is recognized for the sociological distinction between the two concepts. To paraphrase him, colonization refers to the political, economic, and socio-cultural structures of Europeans, such as corporate banking, media, etc., constructed during the colonial period and bequeathed at the exit of these colonial movers. While colonialism, on the other hand, is an effect of colonization such as these structures fraught with their cultural implications such as language, dressing, etc. that continues even after the colonial period,.
So when one talks about the root of culture, the focus must be on decolonization, which is uprooting the westernly constructed structures and not their accompanied sociocultural values. He should be talking about returning to precolonial banking, Ujamma, and communism if he must make sense of his cultural extrapolation of the naira fall.
3. The writer is spurious in his concoction of the cultural cause of this abysmal naira-devalued currency. For instance, one naira to a dollar before Tinubu’s administration was trading in the range of N650. It is, as of today, N1400. Does it mean, going by this dressing-food analysis, that the number of Nigerians buying this expensive foreign wear and food has tripled? What is the economic logic that can explain this in a country battered and battling with multidimensional poverty?
I think we need to leave these convenient, simplistic, and journalistic views behind and face the real issues in their complexity.
1. If scarcity of dollars is the issue and we need dollars for investors to trade, I expect that government policy should focus more intentionally on making dollars available to productive and not profligate spenders.
2. We have oil, Diaspora remittances, etc. as our sources from which we get dollars. Instead of chasing those who buy ties, jackets, semovita, etc., the government should ensure that dollars are in the hands of investors and not club or party spenders, political campaigners, politicians, or those starched at politicians homes.
3. The government should not deliberately be blind to the fact that some people’s business is opening a dollar account, using their naira to buy dollars, and saving, not only waiting but also sabotaging the system for dollars to appreciate over the naira. They have no business initiative to support the economy.
4. The above also confirms that the falling value of the naira against the dollar is caused by a falling institution rather than a cultural extrapolation. Therefore, the government must retool and strengthen our institutions to address these crises. But I am worried…
These and a few arguments, I think, play a more prominent role in the currency crisis than chasing dressers and those who eat six wraps of semo without meat or fish. More so, we cannot promote corporate and Western structures while at the same time asking for the abolition of Western cultural norms. But all these are not sustainable remedies. The problems in the country are more complex than dollarization. We need….
Azeem Salako is a political scientist and African political scholar.