When Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), spewed that the expensive fuel cost and scarcity of the newly redesigned naira notes being experienced in Nigeria were masterminded by some saboteurs to undermine his chances of winning the 2023 Presidential election scheduled for 25th February, many observers took it as a gaffe. However, the statements of his political pundits that followed left no one in doubt that the Buhari (APC) -led government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria has bitten the tail of a mighty lion grasping for power.
Basklifenews gathered that during the APC presidential campaign at MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, Ogun State on 25th January 2023, Tinubu bitterly alleged: “Let fuel be expensive, only they know where they keep it. Keep petrol, keep the naira, we will vote and be elected. You may change the ink of naira notes. What you expect will not happen. We will win.”
Tinubu’s thorny remarks stirred up reactions among Nigerians who felt he was attributing his anger to the APC-led government, which he was part of. Surprisingly, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, a staunch supporter of Tinubu, took the matter too far. He said during an interview on Channels television that some fifth columnists in the Aso Villa were behind the sabotage. In his words: “I believe there are elements in the villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primary election. They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”
El-Rufai’s allegation was rebuffed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who said after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at Abuja that Buhari’s “administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election and I think in this administration, the most important person is Mr. President and I think he has shown by words and by deeds that he’s committed to a free, fair and credible election.
“Fair, free and credible election actually means not favouring anybody or disadvantaging anybody and everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear, even as recently as Friday, when he was in Daura, he said the same thing.
“So, if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”
The federal government’s reasons seemed not palatable to some enraged politicians in APC, who saw Buhari’s monetary policy against hoarding the naira notes and vote buying during elections as a calculated attack on them.
In the heat of the monetary crisis, APC Governors under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) held a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on 3rd February urging him to allow the co-existence of both the old and new naira notes. The meeting has no concrete resolution since the President allegedly promised the governors to give them feedback after 7 days.
On 6th February 2023, a Federal High Court in Abuja headed by Eleojo Enenche restrained the CBN from extending the deadline on the use of old N200, N500, and N1000 naira notes. The next day, according to The Cable online news, in what appeared as total disrespect of the court order, El-Rufai was seen on a viral video telling the Kaduna farmers in a meeting: “Stop changing your money and tell everyone to stop taking money to banks. If you sell anything, accept the old note if it’s given to you. Stop saying it’s only the new notes that you will accept because your market will stop and that is what they want.
“Tell everyone in Kaduna who has the old notes to spend it and buy items. Tell every trader to accept the old notes.
“Nasir el-Rufai, Uba Sani, and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu promise you that if we (APC) are elected, this policy will be changed and everyone will be given sufficient time to change their money.
“Stop taking your money to banks, keep them with you. Nobody can make your money to become worthless. It is the law; nobody can do it.
“It’s just a matter of time; be patient. We have 18 days to the elections. Once the elections are over, you should expect what Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would say, which is the change of this policy.
“You should help us pass this message to relatives. Everyone should stop taking money to banks; continue trading with the old notes.”
Unexpectedly, on 8th February, the Supreme Court of Nigeria restrained the Buhari Government from enforcing the February 10 deadline on the use of old naira notes after the governors of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara sought the intervention of the court. These states were later joined in the suit by Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Cross River, Sokoto, and Katsina States as co-plaintiffs while Bayelsa and Edo States joined the Federal Government as co-respondents.
The expectation that the Supreme Court would give a ruling to douse the tension was not realized during the court sitting on 15th February. The apex court adjourned the matter to Wednesday, 22nd February – barely two days before the election. There were rumours that the federal government approached the plaintiffs with a proposal that would have led to out-of-court settlement, but to no avail.
The die was cast on 16th February, when President Buhari hit the nail on the head during a national broadcast. The president said “to further ease the supply pressures particularly to our citizens, I have given approval to the CBN that the old N200 bank notes be released back into circulation and that it should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes for 60 days from February 10, 2023 to April 10 2023 when the old N200 notes ceases to be legal tender.”
President Buhari, who is also the leader of APC said, “on the 25th of February, 2023 the nation would be electing a new President and National Assembly members. I am aware that this new monetary policy has also contributed immensely to the minimization of the influence of money in politics. This is a positive departure from the past and represents a bold legacy step by this administration, towards laying a strong foundation for free and fair elections.”
In what looked like a defiance of the directives of the Commander-in-Chief, the governor of Kaduna State made a counter speech the same day. He ordered “all residents of Kaduna State to continue to use the old and new notes side by side without any fear. The Kaduna State Government and its agencies shall seal any facility that refuses to accept the old notes as legal tender and prosecute the owners.” Meanwhile, the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, had told some former members of parliament North-West region how their leader is allegedly working against the interest of APC in the 2023 election. According to him: “Imagine someone has been contesting without winning elections until after a merger was formed. He won the election and spent four years and re-contested again and he won, now that he is about to go, he is doing nothing but to destroy the party that elected him.”
Indeed, the latest political development in APC has shown that the once formidable party has divided. Only time will tell if Buhari’s group will come out victorious in a party divided against itself.
Photo credit: Ripples Nigeria