Practical Economist Ifeanyi Ubah

Something akin to a miracle happened in Nigeria last week. One American dollar that was exchanging for N400 at the parallel market on Sunday climbed down to N220 by Thursday. Some commentators have been trying to give the credit for this miracle to President Buhari (for reiterating, in Saudi Arabia, that the naira would not be devalued) or to the Central Bank of Nigeria (for adopting “new tactics”).

I don’t see any truth in either claim. What we all know is that, last Sunday, a businessman, Mr Ifeanyi Ubah, boasted on Channels television that, if the CBN named him a consultant, he would bring down the dollar to N200 within a month. Almost immediately after the TV programme, the dollar crash started.

The only way one would give the credit to CBN is if its “new tactics” preceded last week and had involved hiring Ubah to make the statement that forced dollar hoarders to sell in panic. What happened, I guess, is that Mr Ubah indeed knows the manipulators of the black market, and they took fright when he threatened to expose them. Likely, certain importers of petroleum products and bankers were not far from the radar.

Mr Ubah qualifies as our economist of the year 2016. That his pronouncement alone could force the dollar to shed almost 50 per cent of its weight within four days points to the right calibre of people Buhari should have in his economic team. He requires not just Harvard-trained or Oxford-trained theorists but practical, streetwise economists like Ubah. I remember he once ended fuel scarcity through a similar magic.

Part of the nation’s problem is failure to give credit where it is due. Officialdom is fond of claiming victory even before a battle ends. That’s perhaps why Boko Haram gets “defeated” every day and yet the terrorists keep killing people every day. No recognition for people with practical ideas! Those who seek to deny Ubah credit – and those who condemn him for no reason – should reverse the naira’s decline once more. By yesterday it had descended to N320 for $1. Only ideas that produce results should matter now.



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