By Anie Sunny Udoh
“Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die,
depends more on what you do to yourself
than on what the world does to you.”
– Jim Collins
The mighty fall of the naira, the Nigerian currency, penultimate week is a rude wake up call. It jolted an already demoralized citizenry to the reality of an imminent failed economy.
It compelled a momentary refocus to the truth of a failing and potentially failed nation. For a country already crippled by many inanities including odious politics, invading bandits, brazen terrorists, and nebulous governance, the collapse of the naira is a fall too many.
According to records from the Central Bank of Nigeria, $1.00US dollar exchanged for N160 naira in 2015 on the average. It plummeted to N710 to one US dollar in the third week of July 2022! The hideous transformation happened under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari government who campaigned on the mantra of “Change!” Sadly, the ‘change’ was hardly defined or qualified to the deep regret of many.
The book, How The Mighty Fall by Jim Collins provides a fitting backdrop to project the sordid story of a nation on the march to an impending and fatal fall. The main subject of interest in the book is the well-being or otherwise of business corporations. The author asserts his aim “to offer a research-grounded perspective of how decline can happen, even to those that appear invincible, so that the leaders might have a better chance of avoiding their tragic fate.” Collins elucidation on the required task for good corporate behavior in order to stem a declining fortune speaks expressively to Nigeria’s grimy economic condition.
I take liberty to paraphrase the exposition of the author. Amidst the desolate landscape of fallen great nations, one wonders: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can a nation fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakeable? How can a failing nation reverse course?
Collins research findings uncovered five stages of decline for corporate enterprises. They are equally applicable to people and places including nations. The pitfalls include, first, hubris born of success. This depicts the case of an excessive pride that brings down a hero or in the telling construct of Prof. Rufus Fears, “outrageous arrogance that inflicts suffering upon the innocent.” Second, is the undisciplined pursuit of more or whatever those in power see as “success.” Third, is the denial of risk and peril; when leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The fourth stage is grasping for salvation. This is when the cumulative peril hits, leaders grasp for salvation by seeking magical wand and instant miracles through a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a vacuous ‘change mantra’ or any number of silver
bullet solutions. The fifth and final stage is the capitulation to irrelevance or death. At this point, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode corporate strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. Collins analogy of the descent to Golgotha for corporations resonates with a failing and fallen nation. In the book, WHY NATIONS FAIL, the duo of Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson aver that:
Countries become failed states not because of their geography or the culture,
but because of the legacy of extractive institutions which concentrate power
and wealth in the hands of those controlling the state, opening the way for
unrest, strife and civil war.
According to the authors, conflicts over income and power also precipitate state failure. These views speak volume to the Nigerian situation with respect to the curses and miseries that the unbridled extraction of petroleum oil has brought to the country and the people. In the light of the experts’ submissions on the index of decline and failure in the corporate world, how does Nigeria weigh on the scale? The answer is very much evident with the debris of a collapsing state falling all around us with revolting and repugnant consequences. Some may pretend and choose not to acknowledge the facts and reality hence tend to go about with business as usual.
Some ill-informed and ignorant citizens may dismiss the tumbling naira exchange rate as a matter for others. They may even gloat and joke, wetin concern lizard with barber? Because they have no direct dollar bills to settle, in crass ignorance, they think they are insulated from the perilous fallouts of a fast declining and a near worthless local currency. For these lots, I say, be not deceived. To the extent that
Nigeria is wholly and pathetically dependent on imports of virtually everything under the sun, the spiraling dollar hike that causes the bell to toll for the naira demise also tolls for you. As long as you hang in here, the only country we can truly call our own, we all share the same fate in the sinking Nigerian ship. Therefore, we all, as citizens, have a stake to ensure all hands are on deck in the rescue mission to course correct and hopefully save the statecraft from a fatal descent in an ironic twist to fulfilling the seemingly doomsday presidential prediction of from top to bottom!
In a rare outburst, the usually amiable and soft-spoken Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the 8th House of Representatives warned that “The inability to spot an inflection point in moments of gripping visceral fear across the nation represents an irredeemable fatal error of judgment.” In his bold, truth-telling speech delivered in Abuja on Friday, 29 July 2022, Dogara warned about a possible trip on “the road to Yugoslavia.” He implied the implosion of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that peaked in January 1992 when it effectively ceased to exist as a country. It dissolved into six constituent states with terrifying fallouts for some after the country fell apart. Yugoslavia may well be considered ancient history. Sri Lanka is current affairs to which many can easily relate. The BBC report of 14 July 2022 anchored by Ayeshea Perera, the news of the sacking of the government in that country following the invasion of the presidential palace on Wednesday 13 July 2022 by protesters is here presented, highlighting some of the major causes for the latest failed nation:
What happens when a country runs out of money?
Sri Lanka is unable to buy the goods it needs from abroad. In May, it failed to make an interest payment on its foreign debt for the first time in its history. People have been struggling with daily power cuts and shortages of basics such as fuel, food and medicines…and officials say it doesn’t have enough foreign currency to import more. The lack of fuel has caused petrol and diesel prices to rise diametrically. Schools have closed, and people have been asked to work from home to help conserve supplies.
Only the blind and one with patently induced sight impairment will fail to see the striking similarities in the factors that led to Sri Lanka’s fall and what is playing out and threatening to facilitate the fall of Nigeria. Is there hope to course correct the seemingly rudderless Nigerian ship of state? If you believe in John Maxwell’s creed that “everything rises and falls with leadership,” then you ought to be mindful of the kind of leaders you choose, if and when you have the opportunity to do so. Indeed, every Nigerian should, as a duty and obligation of citizenship, exercise due care and commit to the responsibility of making inputs in the affairs of the country, particularly in the leadership recruitment process.
Otherwise, we shall all be condemned to Plato’s perilous prediction that “If you do not take interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.” A word is more than enough for the wise.