The Naira-Dollar blues
By Reuben Abati
'My brother, e ku exchange rate oh.'
'I am greeting you. I am saying how are you and the exchange rate palaver. The dollar wahala'.
'So, that is why you are saying e ku exchange rate. Is something wrong with you Yoruba people? Must you turn everything into a form of greeting?'
'You are insulting me?'
'I am making a statement'
'Any serious matter at all, you and your people must turn it into something else. E ku exchange rate? What kind of greeting is that? Yoruba will say e ku election, e ku democracy, e ku change, e ku ana, e ku gbogbo e, gbogbo e, e ku democracy. I am tired of answering you people and your cynical greetings.'
'The people don't mean any harm.'
'That was how somebody came to me the other day and said e ku Mecca, Medina, e ku Qatar. I felt like slapping the guy.'
'I don't like hypocrites.'
'Would you have felt better, if he had told you e ku living upside down, e ku idorikodo, e pele change?'
'I would just have been livid, because I know you and your people. Too much cynicism.'
'Can you stop?'
'You know me, I speak my mind.'
'No. You are beginning to sound like Donald Trump. Stop Trump-ing other people, just because you don't know where they are coming from.'
'But of course I know where you are coming from when you say e ku exchange rate'.
'Where am I coming from? I just left my house'
'My friend. Sit down. '
'You too stop going upanddan'
'Okay, you want to talk about exchange rate. I am listening. The way it is, everybody is now an economist in Nigeria. Even my driver yesterday was telling me about the behaviour of the parallel market. And I overheard the nanny commenting on the 2016 budget and how it may, in the long run affect the housekeeping allowance.'
'That's a criminal in the making. You should sack that housekeeper. She certainly wants to pad the housekeeping allowance.'
'You know these people also watch television. She must have listened to stories about padding on television and radio may be, and she may think it is perfectly normal in today's Nigeria to pad figures.'
'These things run deep, I agree. But a crook is a crook. Better keep an eye on that housekeeper and let her know that this is the era of prudence, discipline and you-steal-you-get-caught-you-blame yourself-and-may-be-go-to-wa wi-tenu-e places.'
'Don't worry, I am the EFCC of my house, nobody can pad anything. I am on top of it. I do more market research and monitoring than Madam.'
'I don't get it. You now go to the market while Madam stays home?'
'You can say what you like, but I can tell you authoritatively that a bag of rice which used to be N8, 500 is now N12, 500. Pampers was N1, 450, it is now within three weeks, N1, 850.'
'What's your business with pampers?'
'What is not my business with pampers? I am a very active man, upstairs and downstairs. You don't think I should be interested in all things material and particular and eventual? '
'You have really changed. What happened to you?'
'Are you interested in my findings or you want to discuss something else?'
'Carry on. I am listening.'
'A congo of garri was N250 a few weeks ago, it is now N500'
'Garri has changed oh. It is no longer common'
'Stop saying really? Be a man and do your own research before Madam and the housekeeper drive you into bankruptcy by adding something of their own to the real figures and giving you false information. You must be proactive.'
'I am with you'
'See, I like to drink Andre. A carton used to be about N20,000. Can you believe it has jumped up to N24,500?'
'Andre? What is that?'
'It is a kind of wine. Middle class taste. I like it.'
'So cheap? Some other people drink Crystal, Cliquot, didn't know you are just a bush man with all your big mouth. Andre. Please stop disgracing somebody.'
'A carton of Carlo Rossi, a week ago was N14,000, it is now N17, 500.
'Carlo Rossi? Who is that? A football coach?
'Even the cost of paraga and alomo, kasaprenko has gone up.'
'You drink all of that too?'
'A carton of Orijin was N2, 900 the other week, it is now N3, 300'
'You keep talking about drinks. No wonder you have also been monitoring the prices of pampers. You can't know the prices of these concoctions and not cause some maternity ward problems.'
'I am giving you real figures. And that is why I greeted you, e ku exhange rate. The Naira has been dancing like a yo-yo, and the dollar is the queen of the foreign exchange market in Nigeria today.'
'The colour of change.'
'The Naira even exchanged for N390 to the dollar, and N500 to the pound.'
'Nobody is talking about the pound.'
'It is the American age. You'd think the Americans were the ones who colonized Nigeria with the way they have colonized the Nigerian exchange rate. Practically everyone is looking for the dollar, you would think the Naira never existed. We definitely have an economic identity crisis. '
'My driver told me he has a solution to the problem'
'I have heard some petrol station attendants also saying they will solve the problem.'
'I am not joking. My own Pastor actually told us on Sunday that the problem with the Naira is spiritual and that with prayers, the Naira will regain its lost strength.'
'Well, the petrol station attendant has a different logic, and his own logic is even different from my driver's.'
'That is the problem. Everybody in Nigeria today is now an economist. Very soon, the roadside imbecile will issue an opinion on how the Naira can be saved.'
'Are you sure that has not happened yet?'
'I went to a barbing salon last week, and the barber lamented that his prices would have to change'
'Exchange rate and crude oil prices, he said'
'By the time landlords start blaming the exchange rate and the spot price of crude oil, and they fix prices differently, we would all be in big trouble.'
'But what happened to that campaign?'
'The Buy-Naija-To-Grow-the-Naira campaign, promoted by Senator Ben Bruce and others.'
'Ha. You have not heard? The Common Sense Senator published a book on Common Sense, but it was discovered that the man preaching buy Naija, published his own book in the US of A.'
'What do you mean so? Should he do one thing and say another?'
'Let the people criticizing the Senator go and sit down, and keep quiet. The man is a thinker. They should know that. When they go to his Silverbird cinemas, do they watch Nigerian films there all the time, or do they eat guguru instead of pop corn?'
'I am listening'
'And have they seen Senator Bruce wearing local attires like a fisherman? This thing is about ideas. And that is why I always argue that what we need is not common sense, but uncommon sense. When you confront Nigerians with common sense, they will start looking for loopholes'.
'I just hope that your common sense Senator is married to a Nigerian woman, because that is the best way to grow the Naira.'
'What is that? Where is that coming from?'
'I don't think anybody can preach buy Naija to grow the Naira, and then go and marry a foreign wife, that will be hypocrisy of the highest order!'
'What is the connection between where a man marries from and the Naira?'
'There is. Please, there is; it is the biggest money laundering offence.'
'You have started again. Who are you trying to shade?'
'Nobody. But if we want to really save the Naira, everybody should buy Naija.'
'That is too simplistic. Except you are trying to suggest that our Governor-friend with Cape Verde connections has also refused to buy Naija and therefore has a hand in the problem with the Naira.'
'He is our friend oh. Please, no comment.'
'Some people say to save the Naira, not even the bedroom should be outsourced, and that the biggest drain on this economy is the obsession of the Nigerian rich with all things beautiful and romantically seductive from foreign countries.'
'I can't comment on that.'
'You are saying all of this because Ben Murray Bruce printed his common sense book in America?'
'I am saying we all need to rescue the Naira and the economy. The economy first!'
'You are beginning to sound like a vulcanizer. It is not your job, it is not my driver's job, and the petrol station attendants should just keep quiet. Na only we dey OPEC?'
'They won't. They can't. This is a democracy and we all have a right to make policy. If we don't speak up, some people will pad things again and things will get worse.'
'It is Godwin Emefiele's job'
'Him na your brother?'
'He is the Governor of the Central Bank'
'What do you mean, really?'
'What are his views on monetary policy?'
'Go and ask him'
'And fiscal policy?'
'Go and ask the Minister of Finance?'
'We have a Minister of Finance?'
'Of course we do'
'And who is that?'
'Wait a moment. What's that her name again?'
'Wait. I am trying to remember. Em…em…yes, 16+6= 24!'
'You mean you can't connect the monetary side with the fiscal side of the Nigerian economy, you are busy just saying… Okay, don't bother, I get it.'
'Don't worry, the people who are benefitting from the Naira crisis know her and they know her name and they know the CBN Governor too. In case you don't know, while you are busy trying to put people down, some other Nigerians have made a fortune from the Naira-Dollar palaver.'
'Yes. That is the difference between people who are clever and those who just complain. One of my wife's friends is almost a billionaire now because the Naira crashed.'
'How did she do it?'
'The God of Olajumoke intervened. The God of Adekunle Gold picked up her call. And the God of Korede Bello said she had won. Her warehouse is profiting from the difference. So when you talk with that your sharp mouth, just know that in every economic situation, there are both happy and sad stories.'
'But there are standards, normative contexts, economic frameworks'
'If you don't get it, you can't get it. If you don't mind, please, I don't want a lecture on that.'