I was recently at a wedding reception. As the newly wed couple took to the dance floor, I was struck by the absence of the usual “spraying” of the couple. Usually, “spraying” is an inextricable part of this ceremonial dance. Observing closely, I noticed a bucket where those who would have sprayed the couple were putting in their money. Then, it dawned on me that it was all in obedience for the new law that makes it illegal to “abuse” the naira and to “spray” the naira at social events.

Nigeria “is in a hell of a mess”. This mess is evident, palpable and glaring. The economy is reeling from bad economic policies, corruption and waste. The level of unemployment is dangerously high. A disproportionate percentage of the populace, about 70%, remains trapped in poverty. Despite the enormous resources directed at power generation, there remains an acute shortage of power in Nigeria. Industries are closing down at an alarming rate because the high cost of power, generated by individual generators, render their operations unprofitable. The quality of education continues to deteriorate.

The public schools are neglected ramshackle quarters tended by ill-motivated, lethargic teachers consumed by the concern for daily survival, and consequently, indifferent to the education of the students. The universities, a battered reflection of their former selves, lack the enabling resources to remain bastions of intellectualism. The professors, no longer committed to teaching are, like every other Nigerian, obsessed with money making. So, they sell handouts and “sort out” with their students. Many city neighborhoods are degenerate and festering squalors. The streets are pock-marked with pot holes and strewn with trash. The gutters are clogged with filth and debris.

They stink and provide breed grounds for all sorts of vermin. Many neighborhoods lack running water. In the supposedly lucky ones with running water, the tap spouts undrinkable, conspicuously dirty water. The hospitals, unkempt, substandard and inefficient are inundated with patients wasting away and dying from readily preventable and treatable diseases. The doctors and nurses that run them can be mean-spirited, bad-mannered, cold-hearted set of humanity, whose negligence repeatedly results in avoidable deaths. We cannot hold credible elections in Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a tool of an infamous Oligarchy, took electoral fraud to hitherto unknown heights, and thus, completely reduced the entire electoral process to a charade.

The political scene is populated by thugs, crooks and demimondes striving to perfect the arts of lying and stealing under the guise of a more respect profession, politics. The list of Nigeria woes is endless. That the Federal Government as personified by the Central Bank Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, will leave all that is plaguing this country to worry about whether people fold or rumple the naira is the height of misplaced priorities. It is a classical case of “uno na agba oku, onye nwe uno ana aju oke” – that is – as the house is on fire, the owner of the house is hunting rats. It is as lamentable as it is comical. Chukwuma Soludo should win an award for comedy.

The law against the “spraying” of money at weddings and other ceremonies is equally ridiculous. The spraying of money is a cultural phenomenon prevalent in many parts of Nigeria. The Igbo call it “ibo ego or “isu ego”, depending on the particular Igbo dialect. The people’s culture and traditions are major determinants of their behavior. They are sometimes more important than the law in shaping people’s behaviors. It is only when the law is in consonant with the culture and tradition that it is meaningful, and can be complied with. When the law strays radically from tradition, it becomes meaningless. The law against the spraying of money at social events is one of these senseless laws.

Nigerians will always try to justify their actions by finding parallels with Europe and America. Sadly, in our desperation to be like the Americans and the Europeans, we dwell on the superficial. We forget that it took work, diligence and commitment to achieve the things visible about American and Europe. You may not see very dirty dollar bills in circulation in the United States of America, not because there is a law controlling how people handle the dollar. It is because the Federal Reserve Bank, their equivalent of our Central Bank, is consistently withdrawing old and worn dollar bills from circulation and replacing them with new and clean dollar bills. Secondly, the American environment is very clean.

The streets are dust-free and trash-free. The public transportation system is clean. It is heated in winter and air conditioned in the summer. As a result, things, including money do not get dirtied up as in Nigeria. Think of a bus conductor at work in a hot, sweaty bus plying the dusty streets of Lagos. As he is receiving money from his passengers and giving change to them, no matter how hard he tries to keep the naira neat, they will get dirty and rumpled. To get the naira sparkling as the Euro, dollar, etc requires some work on the part of our government. The Central Bank needs to withdraw old, dirty and torn naira from circulation and replace them with new ones. The banks should give out new naira bills.

Nigeria is the only country I know where the banks pay out dirty and sometimes, torn money. Secondly, our environment needs to be made clean: adequate provisions should be made for the removal and disposition of trash, the streets should be totally paved and the unpaved parts of the streets landscaped. These will reduce dust. We need public transportation systems that are clean and air conditioned. Then, the naira will naturally look cleaner. It is sweat, filth and dust that dirty the naira.

It is irresponsible for Chukwuma Soludo to leave the colossal economic problems afflicting this country and be preoccupied with whether people fold or rumple the naira. For him to believe that with the stroke of the pen, he can outlaw a long held tradition as “spraying” at ceremonies is both naive and presumptuous. He should focus on more substantive and constructive issues like revamping the economy, reining in inflation and reinforcing the purchasing power of the naira.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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