The Central Bank’s currency restructuring plan is in its final throes. The president withdrew his support of the creation of the new ₦5,000 note and everything crumbled after that. I imagined the people championing it crawling back to their caves muttering to themselves that nobody wants the country to progress.
I never mentioned the plan because I didn’t understand it. I’m not an economist, I don’t have a theory or data showing that it will succeed in pushing us into a tailspin that will eventually lead to the creation of the one trillion naira note.
So when people start talking about it, I just shut up and try to make jokes to stay relevant. But I noticed a pattern here that is common to Nigerian governance.
A few years ago, I was driving back home with my girlfriend from a restaurant. It was the end of a long night, so we’re sitting in quiet introspection. Well, I am, I don’t know what she’s doing.
Then she speaks up and mentions some far-off event that she wants us to attend together.
“Charles is having a graduation party on the last Saturday in May.”
I don’t reply, I just grunt. Neither a yes nor a no. Just “Hmph” which is short for ‘We’ll see when the time comes.’
May is still over six months away, I can’t project that far. I don’t know this Charles fellow that well, and things will change between now and then, so I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Also, I expect she knows I don’t want to attend, so she should ease me into it. Sweet-talk me a little, don’t drop an invitation into my lap eight months before and say, “I told you o.”
But she doesn’t bring it up again. Because she thinks she has done her part by giving me notice, and she is trying to avoid the confrontation of talking about it.
Not one word, until the day before the party when she sends me a text message saying, “What time do you want to go?”
Huh? Go where?
Now, you could make the argument that I should do a better job of making myself approachable in the relationship.
But like every good arguer, I’ll divert attention from my general flaws by focusing on something else more specific. Namely, even though she claims she told me about the party, would she say that as partners we discussed it and came to a conclusion?
The Nigerian government has a bad habit of doing this, of mentioning an impending change, getting poor public response and going silent on it.
Then the next time you hear about it, they are announcing that it has been finalized and there isn’t an alternative.
Fuel subsidy, ₦5,000 note, new license plates….
With this technique, they get people to accept their plans with a show of force and strong sentences like … ‘It has already been decided’ or ‘There is no going back.’
The problem is it makes it too easy for people who oppose you to suggest you have ulterior motives and it makes it harder for people who are undecided to take your side when they think you’re being sneaky.
Nothing is final because we are your customers, we are your partners. As soon as I read that text I was out on the street picketing: No party, no relationship.
Political leadership is only about 30% coming up with cool plans, the remaining 70% is carrying the people along with you, by lying, convincing, lobbying. I don’t understand how our government can be so bad at public relations.