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Opinion

Of Cubana Chief Priest And The Abuse Of Naira: A Travesty -By Vitus Ozoke, PhD

Let me be clear, I don’t have any problem with the Nigerian government (or even a pretense of one) sending anybody to jail, or even prison, who abuses the Nigerian national currency – the naira. But, first, we have to be clear what amounts to the abuse of the naira in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, the naira is just an artifact, with no more value than the cheap piece of paper on which it is printed. Understood in that context, naira, being a worthless cheap piece of pocket-discoloring and staining paper, cannot be abused. You cannot abuse something that is worthless.

Symbolically, however, the naira is a huge part of Nigeria’s national identity. In that frame of reference, an abuse of the naira is, in effect, an abuse of Nigeria – and by extension, an abuse of Nigerians. So, the question is whether Cubana Chief Priest abused Nigeria and Nigerians by ‘spraying’ naira notes at a Lagos social event. My short answer is no, he did not.

Let’s call it what it is. It is the embarrassing antics of a governmental agency trapped in the putridity of a bullshit of its own making. Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the EFCC) is like the dog that caught the car and did not know what to do with it. Apparently, the EFCC has abandoned its statutory mandate and has devolved into a morality police, chasing after, and harassing, a transgendered queer celebrity.

Truth is that Bobrisky did not commit any offense that every Nigerian, including operatives of the EFCC and members of their families, does not commit all but daily. The one and only reason the EFCC went after Bobrisky is because of his (now her) sexuality, which has been largely performative. It was the outrage and blowback of that action that has pushed the EFCC into a desperate scramble for arrests to correct the appearance of governmental bigotry.

The problem with that, however, is that you don’t cure one act of bigotry by committing another. Of the over one hundred million Nigerians who have definitionally abused the naira, why use an Igbo man to correct your Bobrisky screwup? Why are the Igbo always Nigeria’s scapegoats? Abuse of naira note, if now a national security crime, goes way up the top. I challenge the EFCC to show me one Nigerian governmental personality, including the criminals who rigged and stole their elections, who has not done the same thing Cubana Chief Priest was harassed and arrested for. I’m not asking for two, just one.

Like I have said, the folly of arresting Nigerians for the so-called abuse of naira notes is mindboggling. Pursued to its logical implications, it yields absurd and preposterous results. Given that there is no law that requires Nigerians to spend their money, or to have bank accounts and deposit all their money in the banks, does a Nigerian who stores up his money under his bedroom mattress abuse the naira if his mattress is gutted by a house fire? Does it make any difference that he is negligent in causing the fire?

What about that Nigerian whose naira notes, stored up at home, are eaten by termites? Has that Nigerian abused the naira? There have been several wild and weird stories of hundreds of millions and tens of billions of public funds (in naira notes) reportedly eaten or swallowed by snakes and monkeys and other non-subpoenable and non-testifying animals. Whatever happened to the custodians of those funds? Were they ever arrested for abuse of the naira?

Clearly, the absurdity of EFCC’s arrest of Nigerians for abuse of the naira is beyond debate. Compared to other world currencies, Nigeria’s naira is worthless. Yet, you don’t see law enforcement agencies in those other countries take their focus off real crimes and criminals just to chase after so-called currency abuse. What is an abuse here, a Cubana Chief Priest who sprays the naira at a social event, or a 50 Cent who goes to a strip club in Miami and places the almighty US dollar on the buttcracks and private parts of strippers? The answer is obvious, but you have never seen the FBI raid a strip club to arrest patrons for dollar abuse. And the dollar note is the real deal. How ironic!

Having made the case that naira, as a worthless piece of pocket-discoloring and staining paper, cannot be abused any more than a murderous terrorist can, let me shift focus to naira as a symbol of our national identity. As a symbol of our national identity, naira serves as a proxy for Nigeria and Nigerians; therefore, an abuse of the naira is an abuse of Nigeria and Nigerians. In that frame of understanding, Cubana Chief Priest is not the criminal obviously. Here are the criminals:

–A government (or even a pretense of one) which mismanages the naira to the point where it is not worth more than the paper on which it is printed is the real abuser of the naira.

–A government (or even a pretense of one) that rubbishes naira’s buying power, thereby impoverishing Nigerians, is the real abuser of the naira.

–A politician who uses the naira to pay to sleep with poor, starving, vulnerable, and desperately needy underaged girls is the real abuser of the naira.

–A politician who steals and moves public funds in bullion vans, even as Nigerians starve and die in abject penury, is the real abuser of the naira.

–That politician who corruptly buys votes and curries favors with wads of naira in Ghana-Must-Go sacks is the real abuser of the naira.

–That INEC chairman and his staff who accept billions of naira in bribe to rig the votes, thereby thwarting the expressed will of Nigerians at elections, are the real abusers of the naira.

–That electoral commission that accepts billions of naira in bribe to rig elections and impose criminals on Nigerians is the real abuser of the naira.

–Those judges and courts and tribunals who accept billions of naira in bribe to misread and misinterpret the clear, express, and settled provisions of the law, and thereby pervert justice, are the real abusers of the naira.

–That corrupt politician masquerading as a university professor who takes billions of naira in bribe as INEC returning officer and signs off on rigged, doctored, and distorted election results is the real abuser of the naira.

–Those politicians who use the naira to marry underaged girls are the real abusers of the naira.

–Those politicians who steal public naira and use it to send their own children to foreign colleges and universities even as they starve poor Nigerian children in Nigerian colleges and universities of funds are the real abusers of the naira.

–Politicians who use the naira to hire and pay thugs and killers to attack and murder their political opponents and enemies are the real abusers of the naira.

–Those politicians who use the naira to sponsor Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations are the real abusers of the naira.

–Those police and other law enforcement officers who extort naira bribe from Nigerian motorists with their left hands are the real abusers of the naira.

Cubana Chief Priest did not abuse the naira – period! Throwing, tossing, spraying, raining money on people at social events is as old and Nigerian as moi-moi. It’s a gesture of love and support. The rich do it, and so do the poor. Yes, of late, some showy Nigerians have taken that Nigerian culture to a whole new and insane art form. Note-spitting devices have been invented. Single notes are no longer sprayed, bundles and wads are. But who do you blame for that? You don’t see anybody throw bundles and wads of dollars, euros, and pounds. It’s always the naira. Why? Because corrupt and incompetent Nigerian governments have so devalued the naira to the point where it is now a dime a dozen. So, the government is the real abuser of the naira.

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