Yet the language and the policy aspirations of this man who could one day be an emir could hardly be more unintelligible to folks on the hard-pressed Nigerian grassroots.
Soon after CBN’s latest Monetary Policy Committee [MPC] meeting in Abuja, Sanusi said the apex bank was retaining its current interest rate structure for the thirteenth time in a row. He then said CBN could further tighten it in response to “anticipated pressures” coming from election spending next year. He spoke about spending “shocks” that could happen next year as a general election approaches. From his tone and body language, I could see that Sanusi regards the prospect of a spending spree next year as an unhappy event for which CBN must brace up to deliver a counter blow. He said, “We are bracing ourselves for the possibility of shocks from the fiscal side and we will have to respond on the monetary side. We have always made it very clear that if we have to tighten, then we will tighten.”
Look here Dan Maje, I thought you are an aspiring traditional ruler who identifies with folks at the grassroots? What you call a shock event is precisely what many Nigerians have been waiting for since 2011. A spending spree embarked upon by the federal, state and local governments, by political parties, by powerful men and women struggling to cling on to their juicy seats while other desperate men and women are fighting to replace them, is eagerly awaited by most Nigerians. I do not know many people outside the tall glass offices of CBN who are alarmed by the expectation that money will blanket Nigeria next year like dry neem leaves in October.
So, while CBN is bracing up to contain and if possible avert an election-time spending spree, millions of other Nigerians are waiting for this “shock” event with the determination of a shock absorber on a DAF truck. Among those eagerly awaiting this shock is this country’s roadside printers. Since 2004 when President Obasanjo banned government ministries and parastatals from printing calendars and diaries, most Nigerian printers have had to sit idly by their Heidelberg printing machines. What little money they make from wedding cards is hardly enough to fuel their Yamaha generators. Their only saving grace is the election period. At least, every aspirant must print posters, handbills, billboards, caps, t-shirts, trays, pans, cups and biros and he must buy enough glue to get them pasted on every wall and roundabout in sight.
Nigerian small buses operators and commercial motorcyclists are eagerly looking forward to next year. Campaign rallies are not possible without them. The candidates themselves would ride in their own jeeps and limousines but the thugs and assorted “supporters” that impressively fill up the space at the rally venues in order to give the appearance that the candidate is popular must be brought to the square in hired buses. It is only in such buses that party thugs can stick their heads out of the window while the bus races through crowded city streets, creating excitement among residents that a popular candidate is in town.
This country’s army of unemployed and underemployed youths are salivating in anticipation of next year’s spending spree. When a politician hires vehicles for a campaign tour or a rally, he must find enough “supporters” to fill them. All his agents have to do is to station the buses near a motor park, hand out a food allowance of N500 per head with the promise of more after the rally. Young men and women will quickly fill up the buses and will shout themselves hoarse at the rally. An aspirant must also make some security arrangements for his campaign. Here the tough Yan Daba, Bakassi Boys, OPC, Sara Suka, Yan Kalare and ECOMOG come into the picture. These tough elements are officially hired to guard an aspirant from attack by opponents but since the best form of defence is attack, they occasionally tear up an opponent’s campaign posters and lob stones at the venue of an opponent’s rally. They can perform this valuable campaign service for a few thousand naira a day each. A Nigerian election candidate needs not only physical but spiritual protection as well, hence the need for the services of clerics, marabouts, bokaye, babalawos and the high priests of Okija-like shrines.
Nigerian newspaper houses, radio and television stations also look forward to an election year. An avalanche of paid adverts containing accusations and counter-accusations as well as radio jingles and television spot ads would not be described by the mass media as a shock event. Local musicians and praise singers that have been searching all over the place for elusive politicians will have a field day when election season sets in. The same legislator who used to slip into town at dusk and slip out at dawn will now be found seated in front of his ancestral home all day long, eating and joking with local folks. This scenario is the praise singer’s delight; he will rush in with a bullhorn and shower praises on the politician’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents. The grateful candidate responds by splashing the praise singer with crisp naira notes.
Officials of major parties cannot wait for next year. Even political parties that have a lot of elected officials in this country often find their coffers running dry in the period in-between elections. When election season arrives, an important political party would demand an “Expression of Interest” deposit of several million naira from a person who merely intends to seek election on its platform. Not long afterwards, an aspirant must cough out some more millions as “non-refundable fee” to collect nomination forms. With the party coffers full to the brim, party officials set out to fill their own pockets since they are the ones that conduct screening of candidates. They are also statutory delegates at the congresses to nominate candidates. Party officials can also alter delegate lists at the very door of the convention, as some aspirants learnt the hard way during the last election cycle.
Not only officials of important parties; the owners of this country’s two dozen briefcase political parties also eagerly await next year. A foreign journalist once asked me why anyone should register and hold tightly to the registration certificate of a political party when no one else apart from himself is a member. Well, it used to be because INEC once gave out money to all registered political parties as annual subvention. That has since ceased but during an election season, aspirants who fail to get the nomination of major parties often fall back and pick up the nomination of small parties. Since congresses and conventions are alien to such parties, all that a desperate aspirant has to do is to “see” the briefcase party’s chairman in the dead of night. The nomination forms, receipts and official stamps are right under his pillow.
Nigerian hoteliers cannot wait for next year, when a candidate must book enough hotel rooms to hide his delegates in the run up to the party convention else a rival aspirant hijacks them. This country’s numerous women’s groups are also gearing up for next year. An aspirant’s wife is a potent campaign tool that can lead the women’s wing in a door-to-door campaign. To be effective however, she must bring with her a lot of wrappers, packets of sugar, bags of salt, bars of soap and many campaign souvenirs as gifts to every house she visits, with her “supporters” in tow. With all these people looking forward to next year’s spending spree event, why did Dan Maje call it a shock?