By Dons Eze, PhD
We still remember former Ugandan dictator, Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada Oumee, President-for-life, who ruled Uganda with iron fist, from 1971 till 1978, when he was chased out of the country by the combined forces of Tanzanian and Ugandan soldiers?
Idi Amin was a ruthless dictator. He was a man of action, and a no-nonsense man. Idi Amon was never a pretender. He always bared his mind on everything he thought about, and according to how he understood it. He had no time for niceties, or for painting of words.
During Idi Amin’s reign, apart from his notorious human rights abuses, the Ugandan economy was also in shambles. But none of his aides would dare relate to him the exact position of things in the country, else such a person would be fired, and possibly got eliminated. Everybody was afraid of him.
One day, his Minister of Finance summoned enough courage and went to Idi Amin and told him that “the government coffers were empty”.
Idi Amin was furious. He shouted to the man: “Why (do) you Ministers come nagging to President Amin? You are stupid, if we have no money, the solution is very simple: you should go and print more money”.
The Finance Minister was frozen. He would not say no to Idi Amin, and he knew that printing of money would not be the solution to Uganda’s financial and economic problems. To save his neck, he took the next available flight and flew to London on exile.
But that did not stop Idi Amin from doing what he wanted. He got some other person to do the job for him, and the Ugandan Shillings began to flood everywhere, but hardly could buy anything.
At one stage, Idi Amin negotiated with a British currency printer to print for him “two million shillings worth of 100 shilling note”. When the printer asked how he was going to be paid? Idi Amin angrily retorted: “print three million, and take one million for yourself”!
So, for Field Marshal Idi Amin, the solution to Uganda’s financial problem was to print paper currency. It was said that by the time Idi Amin was chased out of Uganda in 1978, the real value of wages in the country had reduced to 90 percent.
Nigeria is now practically in the same boat with Idi Amin’s Uganda, as recently relayed to us by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who availed us the opportunity of knowing how the Nigerian economy is running and how the federal government has been grappling with its financial problems.
At a programme in Edo State, Obaseki told us that the federal government had printed 50-60 billion naira in the month of March 2021 and shared it to the states to top up on their allocation. He explained that the federal allocation for March was insufficient, which forced the federal government to print between N50 billion and N60 billion for states to share.
According to him, “when we got to FAAC for March, the federal government printed additional N50-N60 billion to top-up for us to share,” since oil companies were shutting down, which challenged the government to come up with other means of revenue generation.
“Nigeria has changed”, he said, “the economy of Nigeria is in danger. You go to the market with bundle of notes. In the end, you succeed in buying nothing. This is because the cost of goods has not been the same again, whether we like it or not. Since the civil war, we have been managing, saying money is not our problem as long as we are pumping crude oil everyday.
“So, we have run a very strange economy and strange presidential system where the local, state and federal governments, at the end of every month, go and earn salary”, the governor had said.
Very interesting! Our ingenious people in government! We now understand why the Nigerian economy has virtually collapsed, why there is hyperinflation, why there is high cost of goods and services in the country.
You go to the market, carrying bundle of Naira notes. At the end of the day, you come back home buying nothing. You are disappointed, and begin to curse those who sell things in the market for hiking the prices of their commodities. You will not know that the reason is because the available goods are far below the bundle of notes you are carrying.
Presently, the Naira has lost its value. It has become a worthless sheet of paper. This is because the production output is very very low, and is not commensurate to the money in circulation. Placed side by side with all the major currencies of the world, the Naira is valueless. It does not worth anything.
I remember some years back when I visited Poland. With a few British Pound Sterlings in my hand, I became an instant millionaire once exchanged to the Polish zloty! But each time I went to the market, I must carry a lorry load of that currency for me to be able to buy anything meaningful.
The same thing is now happening with our own Naira, which is currently exchanging at ludicrously very low rates, in particular, against the United States dollar, where the exchange rate is fast approaching N600. This accounts for why our brothers and sisters living in some overseas countries have been intimidating us, mesmerizing us with foreign currencies. Just with some few dollars, Euro or British Pound Sterlings in their hands, they will buy up everything on sight, landed properties, cars, and all that.
Nigeria should no longer live in self deceit, pretending that all is well, while things are terribly going bad. How can our government believe that printing of Naira notes not backed by external reserve, will solve our economic problems? It will be worsening the already bad situation, or postponing the evil day.
All over the country, people are agitating. The cost of goods, in particular, foodstuffs, is becoming unbearably too high. People are suffering. Many workers are on strike. The country is on fire. Unfortunately, those government do not believe that anything is wrong, or they close their eyes to what is happening in the country, which may be dangerous.