Nigerian public affairs commentators may refuse to agree on the worst failing of government but not the damage caused to the political-economy by recurrent policy flip-flop.

As citizens gear up for the coming elections, the beleaguered  nation is again being wracked by policy inconsistency  over its latest monetary policy move, ostensibly designed to firm up the weakening naira, reign in galloping inflation, curb corruption, tackle kidnapping and insurgency and make vote-buying in the imminent general polls a lot more difficult for wily politicians.

A group of politicians have gotten the now controversial Supreme Court make nonsense of the Central Bank’s effort to render some old currency notes illegal on the run-up to the February 2023 elections, thus scotching government’s stated intent of reducing the incidence and effects of massive vote-buying and rigging.  It is bad enough that the authorities had backed down on an earlier deadline in the face of massive criticisms from an enraged public that hadn’t gotten ready for the new policy regime.

The new deadline of February 10 is about to go the way of the first, which was supposed to take effect January 31. This cannot be good news for the Buhari administration that has now acquired  the dubious title of an incompetent, clueless regime, following its awkward decision to jettison its own pledge to stop fuel subsidy at the start of this year on the grounds that it was doing havoc to government finances and plunging the country into avoidable debt!

Serious economy watchers know that this is one policy somersault too many. So does the top echelon of the embattled Buhari kitchen cabinet and crypto-economists. First, everyone is waiting to see if the powerful executive arm of government would dare ignore the pronouncement of the cream of the judicial arm as it has been known to do without consequences in its crisis-filled 7-years-plus in power.

Things are made all the more difficult for the Buhari inner-circle of administrators because of the peculiar sensitivity of the election season to all manner of conspiracy theories and allegations of bias against the ruling top brass. President Buhari himself has come under fire from members of his own All Progressives Congress (APC) alleging, rather damningly, that he is surreptitiously working against the candidacy and success of the party’s flag bearer, Bola Tinubu for no apparent, serious reason other than an ingrained ethnic agenda hatched by his Fulani tribesmen who want the Presidency to remain in Fulani hands.

This, again,  is absolutely in the realm of conspiracy theories which started off by  accusing Buhari of nurturing ill-will against the South-west candidate and vaunted political godfather, Tinubu, for having the temerity to claim he had almost single-handedly made  Buhari President back in 2015.This wild allegation mostly fuelled  by politicians in the President’s own party are only a little more ridiculous than accusation that  the entire new notes policy is CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele’s evil, vengeance mission against the APC for scuttling his own equally ridiculous ambition to run against Tinubu for the party’s presidential ticket.

To be sure, neither the Presidency nor the largely taciturn Buhari has given credence to any of these allegations and street talk, notwithstanding  the damage this is causing to the entire electioneering process, the nation’s fragile democracy and of course, the country’s peaceful  co-existence among the  acknowledged  sub-nationalities that make up Nigeria.

Unfortunately, all these are unfruitful distractions from the main politico-economic issues the CBN’s new notes policy was ostensibly designed to address. President Buhari himself had uncharacteristically explained the objective as the need to sanitize the election process while helping to invigorate his flagging anti-corruption fight.

Today, only a section of the populace is prepared to give him benefit of the doubt. All manner of demands and ultimatums are flying about the national political space either backing or rejecting the policy.

Meanwhile, the economy, already belly-up, is losing consciousness like an abandoned patient. Businesses are disrupted for sheer lack of patronage owing to the scarcity of cash in a predominantly cash economy. People are getting worked up over the disruptions in their workaday lives. Most poignant, the judiciary has made a ruling that obviously wouldn’t go down well with not just the implementers of the controversial policy but a section of society, including some political parties and civil society organisations, that believes the new notes policy is well-intentioned and should be allowed to run its course.

Caught in the middle of the fiasco are the ordinary folk in Nigeria who just want a better life.

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