Nigerians thrive in chaos; Right from the moment a child is born, all he or she knows is chaos from the hospital all the way home, it is all chaotic. The child then begins to grow and at every stage in their lives, they will be confronted with chaos in one form of the other. Their minds are thus wired early through their lives to accept chaos as normal and those that do not accept this reality are seen as outliers who expect too much. Nigerians then grow up accepting this as the normal and try to manage their sanity through this mess that is their reality.
Chabal and Daloz in their seminal book, ‘Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument’ try to sum up why the chaos and disorder we see in many African countries are deliberate and an attempt for some to control the social and political space. One of the arguments is that;
‘When formal institutions break down, people employ a variety of strategies to meet their needs, including working around the system that is perceived to be unjust or exploitative through active sabotage or passive resistance. Especially in case of state breakdown, few people express hesitation about employing whatever means are necessary to survive including overtly illegal or dangerous ones’
This disorder is tied to corruption and the greater the disorder the higher the benefits. So many within both the private and public sectors look at every policy as an avenue for profiting so long as they can create chaos in its implementation. This is all for self-interest because it is only within such a situation that benefits can be maximized for those that exist within the space.
We only need to look at the perennial fuel scarcity that has become a common feature of our state to realise that those within the space thrive in its chaos, profiting from the sufferings of the average Nigerian. In towns like Kaduna, PMS sells for as high as N350 per litre at the fuel stations and higher at the black markets. Every year it is the same story and for over 25 years ago (that is half a century) I remember queuing for hours on end just to fill my car and things have remained the same since then. Why does this persist? Simply because it has become a continuous source of revenue for some and the richer they have gotten, the more able they are to ensure that the chaos remains.
The current Naira redesign policy is another case in how the failings in a policy implementation has exposed us to another chaotic situation. Every institution on the ladder of implementation has identified where it can profit. From the POS operators, to the banks, we are seeing a total disregard of the effect this policy is having for the ordinary citizen as everyone tries to make a profit. Bankers hoard the new notes to ‘sell’ to willing buyers at a premium, while POS operators charge more for providing their service. Some have called this economic sabotage and it might well be, but the chaotic environment in Nigeria is one that encourages it.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has failed woefully in the manner it approached the implementation of this policy. Policies are usually developed with input from as many stakeholders as possible, in this case the banks who will ensure its success and the public who are the ‘end’ users. For a country that has a large number of unbanked people, how did the CBN hope for them to adapt to this policy? You cannot force people to go cashless in areas where the infrastructure does exist and we have found that even where the infrastructure does exist, the surge in usage was largely unanticipated resulting in its near collapse.
This rather chaotic situation is likely to worsen as more actors try to piggyback on the crisis to make a name for themselves. The Governors who have remained largely silent when other issues such as the fuel crisis have affected Nigerians, are now the ones carrying the fight to the Federal government. Treachery is always expected as a government begins its final descent out of power and that is what we see now. Everybody who had a voice but chose not to use it due to the need for self-preservation are now the new ‘heroes’.
The courts are also becoming involved, with one court giving a ruling for the federal government to stick to the February 10th 2023 date as the last date for exchanging the old currencies, while on the other hand the Supreme court has given an injunction for the implementation to stop until it hears the case on February 15th 2023.
All of these are ingredients for the chaos to evolve into a labyrinth that will be difficult for us to navigate, taking the country to the brink just before the polls. And of course the census is scheduled for March 2023, further adding a new dimension to what is already a chaotic situation. This is the country that we live in, one that creates and revels in chaos and disorder.