It is amazing how little children respond to sounds, and the different emotions expressed through their eyes. In most cases where they can relate with it, it is a rhythmic movement of the body. We were all like that at one point in our lives. As we grew up, the sounds began to be less appealing and in some cases meaningless. The reason is not far- fetched, there is now so much noise and distraction in our lives as voices are lost in a sea of accents. The most recurring of these sounds is the static buzz of MONEY.
The place of money in our lives is and will always be confusing as it is most times difficult to identify its essence. Is it of any value or is it just a metric for measuring value? A popular question in our everyday life is “how much?” In truth, that question is incomplete. It ought to be: how much value do you attach to the product or service? All societies have throughout history sought to create a valid and acceptable means of exchange. Make no mistake about it; it is not a fact in issue that money is of peculiar interest to all irrespective of age, gender, race, religion or creed. Even the Church through Pope Francis bore its mind on the concept of money on the 20th of September, 2013 during the morning mass at the Vatican Casa Santa Marta. According to the Clergy, “money sickens our minds, poisons our thoughts…it drives to idle words and pointless discussions……” Believe me; this discourse doesn’t belong to that class.
I totally agree with the Pope on that point, but then again I like several of you have discovered by experience and accident that the true essence of money is to coordinate the activities between free men. Coordination is attained through simple and effective communication, which gives birth to agreement, understanding and ultimately trust. As a matter of fact, money in itself is nothing. The premium that men place on it has nothing to do with the object itself but the confidence of its acceptability. According to Prof. Charles Fried, a Former Solicitor General of the United States of America, money be it the dollar bill or gold have little intrinsic value. It is valuable because of what it stands for. It stands for all the promises people have made in order to get their hands on it. Money is a catalyst for progress. It is a vehicle for socioeconomic advancement as it represents exchange and serves as a store for trust. One undisputed reality about money is that there is never enough to go round, hence the existence of class and our daily sprint to our different hustle turfs. There is no gain saying that the value of a country’s currency affects the stability of the government. This is because the government uses money to keep society safe and drive production. It comes at a cost which could be high or low depending on a zillion factors. It costs jobs, quality of products and life, relationships, peace and even faith in a system. Why? It is simple. There is a nexus between money and happiness.
Whatever the currency in your wallet or bank account, they are worthless pieces or representations that are cherished because we believe they are valuable. Money in Nigeria and several other countries in Africa and beyond is at risk of losing its ascribed power. The value of the Naira is dropping faster than I can say Hi! The reason for this sharp decline according to some experts is that there is poor future expectation on what the government will do. Prof. John Cochrane of the University of Chicago while talking about the value of money as a product of future expectations on what government will do said among other things that “what people think is going to happen in the future is what matters crucially to their decision about what they do today, how much to save, consume, invest, whether to start a business or not”. The ultimate solution is having a monetary policy founded on rules, laws, institutions and not discretion that enables and encourages productivity. The African case has seen so much discretion with great negative impact on the national economies. The poor are getting poorer and the middle class have gone into extinction. Yes the global economy is not doing so fine but then there are economies that are cashing out. With the plummeting price of oil, there seems to be no way out for the Nigerian economy other than through diversification; a song that now has uncountable covers.
The way forward for Nigeria and indeed Africa in these trying times is to have utmost regard for the supply and demand for money through sustainable wealth creation and strengthening of the legal systems. The Federal Government of Nigeria like many other national governments has monopoly of money both as bills and reserves. It is therefore in her best interest to protect the value of her money so that the power of the state behind the bill doesn’t disappear. There is dire need for consistency in the legal system to endear trust. Trust for the truth, trust for equality, trust for the existence of tomorrow not determined by anybody but the rule of law. The US Dollar and British Pounds are valuable for two simple reasons; there are strong and formidable laws backing them through a genuine production chain. It is high time Africa started placing laws that guarantee posterity a seat at the table of the unknowns. Initiating policies that will stimulate wealth for the common man is only a line item. When you narrow it down, it entails taking steps to instill confidence in the people through genuine and workable incentives for common wealth that will inversely increase the value of our money. There are a lot of things she can do to create this much sorted wealth and it all starts with a simple policy that puts the fate of all Nigerians in their own hands. Let me use the current power challenge as a case in point to illustrate a lasting solution that doubles a source of wealth creation. The government could come up with a policy that says “every household that generates 5KVA of solar power is entitled to 1 Million Naira per month”. Imagine how many million Nigerians will take you up on that. If you look at this policy closely, the money is really of no value. The ultimate price is the power which millions of Nigerians will begin to generate. One might ask how the government is going to hold up her end of the bargain? It is simple, she gets off takers that will sell these generated power to those that didn’t generate at all and other neighbouring communities that need more power e.g. industrial parks. This simple “produce and get paid” policy can be replicated across several sectors of the economy (e.g. agriculture and automobile) to stimulate production which is the spirit behind money. This is a positive future expectation that will instill confidence and get people to take action not for the interest of the state but for their person as long as it is properly coordinated and effectively communicated.
All stakeholders must realize that money/the Naira is not one of the items with which they can play politics and as such the appointment of the team of experts to maintain and promote the value of the Naira must also not be politicized. The Naira bill is the legal tender of the Nigerian state and not of any or all of the 170 million + Nigerians. Should Nigeria cease to exist, every Naira becomes valueless but the products and services retain their value. The Naira should be engineered to drive productivity to ensure that it continues to command value. A challenging but simple step to attaining this is to aggregate the entire production of the country. Statistics say that almost 70% of Nigerians are unemployed, meaning that only 30% are “productive”. So, if 50 million Nigerians can genuinely invest eight hours a day to harness our existing resources at a meager $2 per hour (if a Nigerian cannot produce $2 a day, then we are in serious trouble), what we get as ROI is $800 million per day which is far greater than the $100 million realized from the sale of 2 million Boe p/day at the luxurious price of $50 per barrel. Now imagine how this translates to elevate the value of the Naira as little or no external variable determines its worth. Any policy that doesn’t pursue and promote productivity is an enemy of money (the Naira) and functions to demystify its value and power. Policies, programmes, solutions and institutions that encourage a genuinely verifiable and result oriented productivity driven society must be engraved in our socioeconomic and cultural tapestry through the legal system to ensure that every man gets what he is due based on the resources invested in any and every venture come rain or shine. Only then will the required trust on the relative certainty of the future reside in the hearts of the people and give value to whatever it is they call money.