On Tuesday, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) held its final rally in Lagos, in what was meant to be a show of political weight. The ruling party tried to project a united front with party chieftains from across the country in attendance. The president, Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (RTD), was also in attendance.
But beneath this facade of unity, the party is in crisis and is making Nigerians pay for it. The APC infighting over the new naira policy and its botched implementation has thrown Nigeria into a constitutional crisis as the federal executive and Supreme Court have issued counter directives, and several governors are telling people in the states they govern to disregard the directives of the sitting president, that is a member of their own party.
Recall that as the initial Central Bank deadline of 31 January approached, it was evident that the new naira notes available were grossly inadequate. But the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, having the strong backing of the president, insisted that the deadline would not be extended.
Meanwhile, the masses were confronted with a dilemma. No new notes, anywhere. Not from the mobile cash agents, and not from the commercial banks either. And to top it all off, the bank transfer system started seeing a very high rate of failure for all transactions initiated.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, claimed the crisis is a ploy engineered by the powers that be to prevent him from winning. APC governors proceeded to court against the APC administration in charge of the federal government, and got a ruling saying that the status quo should stand and that the deadline should not be implemented pending a final ruling by the court.
But in an address last Thursday, the president stated that the deadline will remain in effect for N500 and N1000 notes but extended the deadline for the N200 notes till 10 April, and ordered the central bank to release the old N200 notes back into circulation.
This has split the APC even further, with even sitting ministers such as Festus Keyamo criticizing the actions of the president. The governors of Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun and Ondo states have even gone as far as to direct the residents of their states to go ahead and disregard the president’s directive and continue to use all old notes.
In a video that has drawn backlash, El-Rufai told Kaduna state residents that they should keep their old notes and continue to spend it because after the elections the CBN deadline will be reversed.
Opposition candidates, such as the Vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, have called El-Rufai’s pronouncement treasonable.
It is not the first time president Buhari would be disregarding court rulings but this time is especially rancorous because of the violence the naira scarcity is fermenting across the country. As the public unrest boiled over, the commercial banks were the first target as protests swept through the country. In Edo, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Lagos, Delta, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Benue, etc, protesters have trooped into the streets, most times met with riot police and shot at. Banks as well as government properties have been razed and looted.
While most of the demonstrations appear spontaneous, there are allegations that a few of them are politically sponsored. The PDP-led state government in Edo State accused former APC national leader, Adams Oshiomole, of being behind the riots in Benin City, the Edo state capital. Allegations that Oshiomole has vehemently denied.
The 10 APC governors are now rumored to be discussing an out-of-court settlement with the president, though it is unclear if they will reach an agreement before the Supreme Court hands down its final ruling.
What is clear now is that with only days to the election, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder as the final ruling from the Supreme Court is anticipated. The still uncoordinated nature of the mass unrest points to the brazen weakness of the Nigerian left as a whole, and the labour leadership in particular, as the labour centers seem to have completely abdicated their role in providing political leadership to the yearnings of the masses.
by Kayode Somtochukwu ANI