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Trump’s character tragedy: Lessons for Nigeria

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By Dakuku Peterside

“Never has man reached his destination by persistence in deviation from the straight path.” – Mahatma Gandhi

It was apparent to some from the outset when he declared his intention to run for the office of the President of the United States of America that Donald J. Trump lacked character. He lacked the moral values of a town union leader, let alone the ‘leader of the free world’, the most powerful man in the world.

The United States Republican Party, known for its conservative principles and family values, was aware of the egregious stories around Trump’s personal and business endeavours. For a man who likes attaching his name to his business ventures, who had so many failed business ventures, it is surprising that he had enough ‘brand equity’ to be a populist politician.

Before they overwhelmingly voted for him as President on November 8, 2016, most American Christians have heard the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape on which Donald Trump boasted of forcing himself on women, about his habit of sexually assaulting women. The GOP was aware of Trump’s racist credentials. They knew that he spearheaded the Birtherism Movement against Barack Obama. He expounded the insane conspiracy theory that he was not born in America.

Trump did not pretend to have any modicum of decency or that he was a committed democrat. He levelled   insults at his opponents during the Republican Presidential Primaries in 2016, he lied without compunction, mocked a disabled reporter, and shattered all  forms of decorum . During the presidential contest, he refused to commit himself to concede the election in the event of a loss. He insisted that he would only accept the results of the election if he were the winner.

It was all politics, and the United States Republican party was only interested in capturing political power. Trump exploited the anti-immigrant fears of the American dominant Caucasian population and quite a percentage of Americans were tired of politicians and admired the anti-establishment candidate who promised to shatter the norms and ‘drain the swamp.’ Trump, the billionaire, positioned himself as a fighter for the oppressed Americans; however, many of his countrymen were swindled despite the paradox.

As President, most of Trump’s policies anchored on the themes’”America First”and “Make America Great Again”shattered norms. His immigration policies were blatantly racist as they targeted poor and Muslim countries. Trump placed a ban on seven Islamic countries from entering the United States – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia was not on the list even though most of the terrorist that blew up the World Trade Centre in the infamous ‘9/11’ debacle were Saudis. None of the citizens from the counties placed under Trump’s travel ban had ever committed an act of domestic terrorism in the United States.

In the diplomatic arena, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Accord. He riled other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members and issued a travel ban on some of the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges. Trump cuddled up to dictators and threw insults at fellow leaders. He famously called Africa a ‘shithole’ and reportedly disparaged President Muhammadu Buhari before his assistants during the latter’s diplomatic visit to the White House.

Little wonder many people had cause to look up to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel as ‘the leader of the Free World’, a term customarily accorded every US President.

However, Trump lacked the moral character to be President of the United States of America. His traducers consider him as an embarrassment to Western civilisation. This lack of character later became his Achilles heels.

When he lost the 2020 Presidential elections to Joe Biden by huge margins – 7 million-plus popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes, he would have gracefully conceded as every American President in the past had done. In this way, he would have left office proudly with some remarkable achievements and his supporters would always revere him, even many who never liked his style.

But, as a braggadocio demagogue, Trump continued to expound  silly conspiracy theories to explain away his apparent electoral loss. He propagated lies, used insults and intimidation against American public servants overseeing the electoral process for merely doing their jobs and refusing to bend to his dubious will.

Even when his legal team lost over 63 court cases, and judges he appointed faulted  his absurd legal filings, he continued to deceive his followers that somehow, he would continue in office for four more years.

Trump did not care that his dubious antics cost his party control of the Senate, removing the last bastion of check his party would have had on the incoming Biden administration. He was only concerned with his grievances, his slippery, futile battle to cling on to the presidency.

A power-drunk Trump called his followers to the US capital on January 6 to intimidate the legislators at the Capitol into upturning the American public’s will, something that would have ended the US as a constitutional democracy. He tried to intimidate his ever-loyal Vice President into exercising powers the latter did not have. He insulted Mike Pence, decried his deputy’s lack of courage, and tried to turn his deranged ‘MAGAites’ against the Senate’s ceremonial President.

It should not be unexpected that Trump’s long indoctrinated followers felt they owed it a duty to their supposed demigod to teach the legislators who were trying to take power away from their leader a big lesson. So, they stormed the legislative building, sacked the lawmakers, and desecrated one of the most sacred edifices of democracy on earth.

Now the ‘emperor’ is naked, and the long knives are entirely out. There are mass resignations, all-round condemnation, talks about invoking the 25th Amendment (through which members of his cabinet can remove a president on the grounds of incapacitation), looming unprecedented 2nd impeachment, bipartisan calls for his resignation and the sudden death of ‘Trumpism’ as a serious political movement.

The Trump presidency will forever be defined not by the Christian-friendly posturing, anti-immigrant sentiments and policies, the tax cuts, the three conservative Supreme Court judges, the vast rallies or the enormous lies, bombastic talks, inane exaggerations, or unbridled insults but by the horrible events of January 6, 2021. A date when he egged on his followers to embark on an insurrection against America’s elected representatives. His name will be mired in infamy forever.

The events of the past three months in America underscores the importance of 2 ingredients of democracy. One is the importance of strong institutions. The second is the importance of the character of a leader.

US institutions withstood the onslaught and barrage of assaults from Trump’s political machinery and his cronies. The judiciary threw out over 63 court cases. All the states certified the election results even when Trump called on some Republican States to rescind. Even when Trump’s mob attacked the holy chambers, the legislature stood its ground to complete its traditional function of accepting the electoral college results. The Georgian governor, the Vice President, and many republican officials stood their ground against Trump and his family members’ threats if they fail to do their bidding stalling the democratic process. Both institutions and actors in the political space allowed democratic principles to prevail against all odds.

The lesson for Nigeria is that we must build strong institutions that can survive any onslaught by a radical political juggernaut or demagogue. Strong institutions make strong democracies. Imagine if one judge in one federal high court has issued a court injunction against the election, the drama and lies and subterfuge would have continued in the US. We remember that one of the reasons given for the annulment of the ill-fated June 12, 1993, election was the court injunction gotten by an obscure group stopping the votes’ counting. In times of crisis, institutions should be guarded by national interest and democratic principles. Now is the time to strengthen these institutions to be in a good position to withstand pressures in future.

Character is essential in leadership. Trump’s lack of good character has finally undone him. His despicable place in infamous history is assured. However, people know about his character and did not think it mattered before voting for him.

Character is everything! Leaders with lousy character will eventually ruin the system or tarnish the image of the country. It does not matter how skilful or knowledgeable they are as leaders. Never in Nigeria’s democratic future should we fail to examine the character of whoever wants to lead us, nor ignore the evil nature of would-be leaders and vote them in. It will come back to haunt us. If there is proof of corruption, laziness, habitual lying, and tendency to be authoritarian for any would-be-leader, they must not be allowed any leadership position. Ignoring these traits in a leader will only spell doom for the country.

The US is not only embarrassed by the events of the past few months, but they have lost the moral authority as the beacon of hope for democracy. How will the US have the audacity to question undemocratic actions and inactions in other countries? How will it, in all honesty, preach democracy to the world? Little wonder some described the events of the past few days as the death of democracy as we know it. We hope that Biden will restore brand USA as we have always known it and that The US will continue to lead western civilisation to greater heights.

Events of the past few days have shown that no democracy is perfect. It is a work in progress. Local actors and local circumstances define and reify the potency of the democratic system. However, the tenets and principles of a democratic system should be upheld at all cost no matter the political players or atmosphere. This saved American democracy at the end of the day. Men and women of goodwill in various institutions and non-governmental structures stuck to defending democratic values no matter Trump’s pressures. Nigeria must force democratic tenets and principles into the fabric of our political culture, and all stakeholders must dedicate to adhering to them and protecting them when under attack.

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South Africa: Economics above politics

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By Dakuku Peterside

South Africans voted in national and local elections on May 29, exactly one year after Nigeria inaugurated its current president. Since 1994, this election has been the most significant post-apartheid election and the most unpredictable in the country’s 30 years of democratic rule. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) lost its parliament majority for the first time, possibly paving the way for the country’s first coalition government.

With voter discontent, leading opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and newcomer umKhonto we Sizwe (MK), put pressure on the ANC through uninterrupted mass campaigns and countrywide rallies, promising sweeping reforms in hopes of swaying most registered voters to their side. Unlike in most parts of Nigeria, the elections proceeded smoothly, without violence, ballot snatching, or shootings. South Africans demonstrated discipline and respect for the law. This notwithstanding, the stakes were high, and ANC’s historical advantage was side-stepped. This election significantly shakes the existing political order and deepens democracy in South Africa.

Economic concerns had a massive impact on the election’s result. South Africans shifted their focus from a “freedom-centric politics” to an “economy-centric politics.” Under the ANC administration, South Africa has had to deal with a high unemployment rate, the highest murder rate in 20 years, and pervasive corruption. Their economic concerns include a lower GDP per person than in 2008 and the state is becoming less effective. A case in point, in 1997, South Africa ranked 47th of 123 countries in the Economic Freedom Index, a ranking by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank, based on the size of the public sector and the extent of regulation, but by 2021 it had slipped to 94th, just ahead of Nicaragua; national debt as a share of GDP has more than tripled, from 24 percent in 2008 to 75 percent; a staggering unemployment rate of 33 percent with above 40 percent employment among youths and black people; massive infrastructural decay and deficiency.  Last year, Eskom, the state-run power company, with a generation capacity of 44,175MW, way above Nigeria’s 4,000MW, had to schedule a record number of blackouts because its generation fell so far short of demand, and customers lost almost 40 percent of piped water  before it reaches customers.  The railway system is dysfunctional. The World Bank reckons that crime costs South Africa at least 10 percent of GDP annually. South Africa was the seventh most crime-saddled country in the world, according to an index compiled by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.

These issues played on the minds of many of the voters, who are predominantly young and black people and are a bit distanced from the Apartheid politics of freedom and liberation that helped ANC dominate the political space in South Africa. Although ANC won most parliamentary seats, it increasingly requires forming a coalition government because it is not getting the dominance of yesteryears in the political space. Their mismanagement of the economy and the high level of crime and corruption in the system have forced some party loyalists to move to other smaller parties, and voters are increasingly demanding a change. Although we may still have the ANC in power, their dominance has eroded, and their power and authority are challenged. The more the generation that saw apartheid and is sentimentally attached to ANC as the freedom party fades away, the more ANC must rely on young voters who will vote based on the vagaries of the economy. Many young people interviewed after the elections pointed to economic reasons as the most crucial consideration in voting for candidates and parties.

This is a new trend across Africa. In most African democracies, especially those with a high young population, the foremost considerations in the voting pattern are shifting from traditional religious, ethnic, or tribal considerations steeped in the country’s history to economic reasons. A cursory look at the core campaign issues and discussions indicates that they centred on the economy, poor governance, crime, and insecurity. This implies that politics in countries facing economic difficulties are increasingly making economic issues the main burner, although other factors may still be entrenched. What can we learn from the seismic shift in the SA political landscape?

The first implication is that Africans, especially young Africans, have started to expect and demand good economic development from their governments. This is a welcome development for the deepening of democracy in Africa. Young Africans are harshly affected by poor economic management by governments, and they have started to mobilise and understand that politics defines the economy because the people who handle the economy are elected to office by them. Although this is at an early stage, we hope it continues and takes root in our politics. The only negative aspect of this is the level of political apathy among the youth.

The second implication is that the more the economy becomes the centre stage of political rhetoric and discussion, the more efficient management of the economy becomes the dominant political agenda. This is good for African politics. African nations need better economic managers now more than at any other time in their history. With the booming young population, substantial natural resources, and an emerging educated and upskilled workforce in science, technology, and the arts, Africans are poised to bring about sustainable economic development across the continent.

The new politics of pro economic growth is the only hope for Africa if it must get it right and leverage its great potential, especially youthful population, to harness the greatness of its strengths. Here lies the paradox. These strengths and potentials are time bombs that, unless adequately managed by democratically elected leaders who are savvy in the economy, the crisis and doom it will turn to will shock Africa. The evidence of this is the level of increase in crime and insecurity in many African countries.

The mix of economics and politics is the new order, and every serious party of any African nation must take note of this and reshape the vision accordingly. It spells doom when party leaders like Mr Ramaphosa repeatedly prioritised the interests of his party over those of the country. ANC has paid a hefty price for this mistake, and we hope they and other big parties across Africa will learn from it. Leave out the economy at your peril. Young people are looking for answers to Africa’s many problems, especially economic problems. They need solutions, not identification of problems. Everywhere in Africa, economics determines politics.

South Africa has gone to the polls, and Nigeria must learn many lessons from them. First, the elections were free, fair, and well-organised, with citizens disciplined. Even when there were minor hitches, it did not undermine the integrity of the electoral process. In contrast, elections in Nigeria are always overly the opposite. The elections are not primarily free and fair because of many irregularities, which are too many to elucidate here. During elections, some Nigerians are lawless, undisciplined, and unpatriotic. In the words of Basil Odilim, “No nation has ever achieved development with citizens who are undisciplined, lawless, and unpatriotic.”

Consequently, Nigeria’s economic journey is on the road to nowhere. We must put our economic journey on the road to somewhere. A patriotic, disciplined, and creative mindset is needed for economic growth. The best way to show patriotism is by participating in the electoral process and electing leaders who will manage our economy well and prioritise productivity over consumption and corruption. The election is the first step to getting good leaders in Africa.

Every South African voter was concerned about a cocktail of widespread corruption, a high unemployment rate, electricity failure, and stifled economic growth. Nigeria’s democracy will focus more on economics and quality of life than on trivial matters as we cross the 25th anniversary of democracy and more young people join the political process. South African voters were concerned about the same issues we are dealing with in Nigeria. This speaks to Chinua Achebe’s “Things

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Lagos must think out of the box — Sanwo-Olu

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By Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Quite honestly, I am going to leave my speech and speak to you from the heart.

Having listened to the man from Singapore, Gregory Vijayendren, former President, Law Society of Singapore, I think if there is nothing else and if indeed we are serious and sincere about making change in this country, there is something we need to take away from here.

Singapore, like he said, is a tiny dot on the world map; you hardly know where it is, but like he said it is a city state that has earned its place in the world.

Lagos, by sheer coincidence, also is like a dot in the country; it’s less than 0.4 percent of the size of this country. So, technically, it also can be a dot and of that 0.4 percent, 1/3 (one third) of it is water. But, by sheer coincidence, it is the commercial, economic nerve centre of the country. Singapore holds its place too as a major economic hub worldwide today.

Lagos is home to so many things – our international businesses, a lot of start-ups  businesses that are all the best names we have in Africa today, all the unicorns, the creative industry, the entertainment industry;  they are all sitting here in Lagos and, by some coincidence, we have also acknowledged that Lagos also is taking a lead in the judicial sector reforms and access to justice. But guess what, Singapore that is a tiny little country have also done so, but they have done it more.

So, we have gotten good comments from the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation. Everybody has spoken well about Lagos, but I am not satisfied yet. Lagos now needs to take this to an international scale.

We cannot sit back and expect that because we are the best in our country that equates us to being one of the best in the world. Singapore is less than five million people, maybe six million today and we are 224 million. They don’t have two heads. They don’t have the kind of the minds and strength we have in this state and this country. The question is, what is wrong with us?

The man said to us that the three big pictures are: the rule of law (there is no nation that wants to earn its beef anywhere and does not have rule of law as one of the beacons for deciding how it engages). They were small and there is a likelihood that they can get extinct. Guess what, Lagos is also small, Lagos indeed is very small and so we need to be able to think out of the box.

They have no resources, we have no resources as well, but we have said we are the commercial, economic nerve centre, but we cannot sit back and hope that is the best we can do. Because in 1965, less than 60 years ago, the per capita of Singapore was about $500; now the man says it is $88,000. Where was Lagos and where are we now? Where is our country? Are we just going to be the giant of Africa for nothing? Do we just want to take that accolade that says we are the largest black nation; in what sphere?

He mentioned to us that Singapore is what it is today because one: ease of doing business. You can register a business in less than 30 minutes. Maybe we have improved a little bit; it used to be like two-three months. Maybe we can do it in three days now in Nigeria. They clear a container in Singapore in seven hours. In Nigeria, it used to be three-four months. Now maybe it has reduced to a month or three weeks now, but we are not near where it should be. They have one seaport, we have two seaports; now we have a deep seaport, but they have several.

And one of the other things they have also done, they ensure that the very best of their citizens work in the public service. All the best that go to Oxford, Harvard in Singapore find themselves in the Public Service. We also have a Public Service that we can be proud of in Lagos, but we need to be able to raise the bar, we need to be able to do a lot more than where we are today. Maybe the only thing that Singapore has over us, which they have the bragging right and we don’t, is that they are a Sovereign State and we are a subnational.

We are constricted and restricted by a bigger name called Nigeria and so maybe we cannot fly as high as we want to; so maybe we cannot walk as fast as we want to, maybe we cannot think as quickly as we want to but that cannot be an excuse for us. And that is why when we come to summits like this we need to ask ourselves, “do we just want to make it a rhetoric or we want to change a life and the opportunity God has given to us for the better?”

Leadership is all about what you put in your heart and the sense of purpose that you bring to it and by sheer coincidence this Government has given the opportunity, in less than five years I have appointed 24 new Justices into Lagos State Judiciary, the highest ever and, later in the week, we are going to add additional 13 to it. From 63, we are going to go to 76. It’s not the clap; it is how you use the opportunity that has been given to us; it is how we bake the cake to be big enough for everyone to share. Of course, there are issues; of course, there are challenges, but guess what, the man that we brought here to be the guest speaker has challenges.

Singapore was just a fishing village. The colony of Lagos had been in existence in the 19th century. There was a tram in Lagos in the 19th century; there was a tram on Lagos Island. So, what is wrong with us? Maybe some people constricted us to reduce our level of growth, but that cannot be an excuse; that cannot be a reason for us not to be able to fly high, think out of the box, and do things quicker, faster and smarter.

The man left us with a few actions; he said to us that Singapore has one of the best judicial systems in the world, a tiny country. They are respected internationally on issues around mediation and dispute resolutions.

Yes, we have them; thankfully, we can clap for ourselves; we have Office of the Public Defender, Citizens Mediation Centre; we have Alternative Resolution. Yes we do; how well can it compete globally? As your governor, it is not just to be a local leader.  They say he is a king in a country, city or community of the blind he who has one eye. But now our eyes are opened, we even have glasses. So, there are four that we have.  We need to be able to think local but act global. The global space is available for us to pick. To my Lord Justices, it’s not about excuses; it’s about what are the core that we need to do here today?

It’s about the bench and the bar. How do we collaborate? How do we ensure that the opportunity that this space has given to us, all of us are using it to the best of our capacity because I am not sure we are driving at that capacity well enough? And he left us with some unique features – there has to be collaboration with the government, which is where I stand; the Bench, the Bar; it’s not by lip service. We need to understand that there is a clear separation of power; we need to respect each other, but everybody has to bring something to the table.

He says to us that we need to think fast; we need to move very quickly; we need to be able to tweak things; meaning we need to think out of the box, challenge the status quo and ask ourselves, “is this the best that we can get?” The best you can get does not necessarily have to be like my brother, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association said in road construction and the rest of it. The best can be in our intellectual property, in our capacity to think and do things right.

And, of course, he also said to us that technology is a strong enabler and yes, we also can pride ourselves that during that very difficult time of COVID, we were able to use Zoom like other people. Our cabinet was able to do a lot of things virtually. Yes, we have a lot of those things, but my take this morning is the fact that we have gone to a territory. We’ve gone to a territory that needs to challenge us. Singapore is a tiny city State and that is why I am comparing it with Lagos, I don’t want to use Nigeria as a big excuse. I do like for like and we need to be able to raise the bar.

And the things that we can do are not so far off. And that is why I am not touching the speech that the Attorney-General has prepared. We all know it, we are this and that; we are doing this, No! Constitutional things. We want State Police; we have been on this conversation for how long? Just as simple as what we all swore to, the protection of life and property. And how do we need to do it? What are the things that must be in place for us to do that? Decentralize these things, let us have State Police. We are still making politics about it; we are making it political; it is right, it is not right. Everybody is just being careful in today’s age, and you can curb all the criminal excesses that we see. It is not rocket science.

And by the way, even when we get the State police, how prepared are we? How many correctional facilities do we have? How well have we also unbundled that to ensure that even the Justices and Milords that are working. I know that it is filled up.  How well have we unbundled to ensure that we can actually build more correctional facilities; rehabilitation centres, because that’s a part of the rule of Law? If there is meant to be a punishment, there is a need for a facility where it will be addressed. I am not learned so I will be very careful, just educated. I know too well that there is a wide difference between access to justice and implementation of it, but I know clearly that when we come to engagements like this, sessions like this, it shouldn’t just be talk shop; it should be an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to speak truth to power, to push ourselves so we can make the best of it and we can leave here a lot better.

As a government, what are the kind of things that we also are doing to see if we can catch up with the likes of Singapore? For example, we are planning to make Lagos an International Financial Centre, where Lagos can be a destination for investments, a safe haven for investments worldwide, but for us to do that we need a strong judicial system. That will be one of the strongest points that anybody will be looking for; that will be one of the strongest protection that will be required and will be needed.

How well do we ensure that people who do not have access to justice still have a fair hearing and the belief that the Judiciary is the last hope; how well? And how well, even me as a leader, political leader or whatever it is that I am called, do I use my office to the best to ensure that the greatest good is always for the greatest number? This, for me, are the pertinent questions that we need to ask ourselves as a country. And this morning, the conversation is still about you, the Judiciary, like Mr. President said yesterday, “Oba di meji ni ilu kan”. I won’t talk much. Now everybody is waiting for a legal interpretation of who should be the Emir or not. The buck stops right at your desk again. Everybody will be pulling you here and there and that is why fairness, equity must come into play.

And it is very interesting, because even in the news today, the Honourable Attorney- General of the Federation sued all the 36 States because we are not giving autonomy to the third tier of government. Though the only mistake is that some of us are in compliance. So, the Honourable Attorney-General’s Office should have done due diligence to know which States are not in compliance so that you don’t carry all the 36 States, and be able to show example that out of the 36 States, four, three, two are exempted; it’s 31 that I am taking to the Supreme Court, and that is part of the back work that we need to do.

You can see that the conversation is about you today, Judiciary, because those are the two principal conversations that are out in the news today. You are the last hope of the poor man, middleman and rich man. Let’s use this engagement to really be able to reform this sector.

Mr. Sanwo-Olu is the Governor of Lagos State. He spoke extempore at the Justice Reform Summit 2024 with the theme “Enhancing the Administration of Justice for Growth, Investment Protection and Security in Lagos State” on May 27, 2024, at Marriott Hotel, Ikeja.

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The scourge of rising inflation

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By Dakuku Peterside

An increasing number of Nigerians are being  driven into poverty, not by choice, but by the current political and economic climate, shaped by stringent macroeconomic policies. These policies, such as subsidy removal, devaluation of Naira, and increase in electricity tariff, have had unintended consequences. For instance, removing subsidies has led to a significant increase in the cost of living, while the devaluation of Naira has made imported goods more expensive. These factors, combined with the high level of insecurity, have affected food security in Nigeria, and created a perfect storm of economic hardship. The signs of this unavoidable reality are readily apparent. The interventions to prevent this descent into poverty are either ineffectual or remedy the condition too slowly.

An unprecedented rise in inflation has destroyed households’ disposable incomes and pushed many families into poverty. Spiralling inflation is having a devastating impact on all, but especially on households in the lower rungs of the working class, who in their millions are joining the already over 133 million multidimensionally poor Nigerians struggling to earn a living because high inflation has eroded the value of their income. As shown by the NBS Consumer Price Index of April 2024, published in May 2024, the headline inflation rate rose to 33.69 percent in April 2024 compared to March. The headline inflation rate was 11.47 percent higher in April 2024 compared to the previous year. During the same period, inflation in urban areas was higher than in rural areas. Even worse, the food inflation rate in April 2024 was 40.53 percent, increasing by 15.92 percent compared to April 2023. What does this mean for the ordinary citizen? More money can purchase fewer goods and services.

We cannot dismiss the direct correlation between rising inflation and rising poverty in Nigeria. A household with a monthly income of N300,000 in April 2023 would have lost 33.69 percent of its real purchasing power if it earned the same amount in April 2024. This means that the same amount of money can now buy significantly fewer goods and services, putting a strain on the household’s budget. Imagine this household struggled in 2023 to make ends meet; how will it cope with less than 33 percent of its value in goods and services this year? It is little wonder many Nigerians are in despair and are calling on the government to tweak its policies and salvage the situation before it is too late. Families in the earning bracket mentioned above are even better than many whose total income is less than N100,000 if both parents in the household earn minimum wages per month.

The government intervention so far, with the best of intentions, has yielded little result as inflation continues unabated. The monetary policies of increasing base interest rates to above 22 percent, improving the cash reserve ratio by banks to above 40 percent, and constantly engaging in the money market to mop up excess liquidity have yielded less than the expected result in curbing inflation. More is needed, and my little knowledge of street economics shows me that the Nigerian economy often defies some fundamental economic concepts that work in developed countries because of our economy’s informal and unregulated nature. The Nigerian government must creatively use other bespoke and practical fiscal and monetary measures to tame our raging inflation.

Paradoxically, there is compelling evidence that inflation continues to rise because of critical government policies. Instead of providing more concerted anti-inflationary measures, the government has added more inflationary steps to the economy. The government cannot confront inflation while imposing limitless taxes, tariffs, and charges on the things that people spend money on daily. The impact of excess tax is on everybody, but the burden is more on people experiencing poverty whose purchasing power has been eroded by inflation. The government cannot tax itself out of our economic predicament. Increasing personal income tax is one way government reduces disposable income to curb demand pull inflation, but the inflation in Nigeria is not because of increase in household income, but caused by cost induced factors. So tax on people whose income has not increased in the past year is a recipe for hardship.

Other factors also imperil government efforts to curb inflation. Imported inflation has been the bane of Nigeria, given the number of raw materials and goods imported into Nigeria from countries with high inflation rates. This is not helped by the new exchange rate regime that has seen the Naira fall to its lowest value in a generation. The government has been trying to control the erosion of the value of Naira to no avail. Increasing cost of energy has pushed  some  businesses to  pack up. These factors have exacerbated the rise of inflation, and unless the government starts tackling them, it cannot effectively win its fight against runaway inflation.

The consequences of inaction are severe and far-reaching. The system requires a set of anti-inflationary measures to relieve the people and companies so that livelihoods can improve, and real incomes recover from shock to encourage people to live and save. Savings and prosperity will fire up investment, production, supply, and consequent demand. If inflation worsens, the economy will, at best, go into stasis, further regression, and possibly a depression. More manufacturers will quit, and unemployment will worsen with even more crime and insecurity. The picture I painted above is not far from us.

Recent statistics about the hunger level in Nigeria occasioned by food inflation are alarming. There is a deteriorating food security and nutrition crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states this lean season between May and September 2024. According to the Government-led Cadre Harmonise analysis released in March this year, in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, some 4.8 million people are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, the highest levels in seven years. Children, pregnant and lactating women, older persons, and people living with disabilities are among those who are most vulnerable. About 2.8 million of these people need urgent interventions.

The prices of staple foods like beans and maize have increased by 300 to 400 percent over the past year because of a cocktail of reasons. Inflation is outpacing the ability of families to cope, making essential food items unaffordable. Furthermore, the report stated that “malnutrition rates are of great concern. Approximately 700,000 children under five are projected to be acutely malnourished over the next six months, including 230,000 who are expected to be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of death if they do not receive timely treatment and nutrition support.”  The Acting Representative of UNICEF Nigeria argues that “this year alone, we have seen around 120,000 admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition with complications, far exceeding our estimated target of 90,000.”  These statistics are for only 3 states in the Northeast Nigeria. Imagine what it will be for the whole 36 States in Nigeria. There is real fire on the mountain!

This rising hunger is not peculiar to the Northeast. From my knowledge of street economics, hunger and poverty is pervasive across all six geopolitical zones. Increasing poverty is directly linked with more severe economic outcomes. Increasing poverty can result in a more divided society, Issues with housing, homelessness, limited access to healthcare, nutrition poverty and poor living conditions that have a detrimental effect on one’s health. Children living in poverty have less access to education, which will reduce their chances in the future. More families facing poverty will experience conflicts, stress, and domestic violence. Poverty can set off a vicious cycle in which the effects of it act as catalysts for additional episodes of poverty. Increasing inflation and poverty are bad omens that blow us no good. They are bad for our economy. They are bad for our people. The government must pay attention to these factors and be more sensitive in our economic policy choices.

Only some anti-inflationary measures that comprehensively capture the macroeconomic dimensions and provide solutions may work. Poverty alleviation measures are barely temporary and, at best, work in the short run to cushion the effect of heightened inflation and food insecurity. The government should provide solid medium- to long-term solutions to tackle these problems. They should re-evaluate some of their policies to see whether they are inflationary and jettison them to allow good policies to thrive. We can only imagine the unintended consequences of allowing poverty and inflation to fester. The increasing inflation and poverty are creating desperation among a portion of society, which is increasingly becoming despondent and seeing itself at the fringes of society. The implications of this are plausible. Many ordinary citizens are burdened by poverty, hunger, and severe inflation, which have made their lives miserable. The government must take action to alleviate this scourge and help Nigerians lead meaningful lives.

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