This will be the first time in history that Nigerian Muslims will be fasting without money to spend. Not because they are lazy or all jobless but because their president—a Muslim like them—denies them access to their moneys. If Nigerian president at the moment had been a non-Muslims, his action will have been interpreted as anti-Islam or anti-Muslims. We would have accused him of Islamophobia. I am not saying Islamophobia isn’t real. But is it proper to accuse a Muslim of Islamophobia? I am just thinking.
I don’t understand why money is still not available even after the elections and the Supreme Court ruling. Vote which was allegedly targeted with the policy not to be bought was actually bought. It was bought with spaghetti, rice, clothing materials, and other items. This is to tell you how hungry Nigerians are. Some informed people even claim, though I am not yet convinced, that votes have never been massively bought in Nigeria like the recently concluded elections.
Pangs of hunger and frustration could be seen on faces of Nigerians everywhere. Everybody is frustrated including those who came up with the thoughtless cashless policy. Under President Buhari, Nigerian Muslims were ushered coldly into the blessed month of Ramadan by hunger.
Hunger collides with Ramadan not because foods are not available in markets but because currencies—old and new—are too scarce to get. Ramadan, by its nature, neutralizes hunger even when the latter collides with the former. This is because Muslims are generously generous in this blessed month. Don’t get me wrong. You may get me wrong if you think Ramadan is synonymous with hunger because foods are not eaten and drinks are not drunk for some length of time. This is a lay conception of Ramadan by someone who doesn’t understand the social and spiritual reality of Ramadan.
It is wrong to think because many Muslims are already hungry, Ramadan will be much easier for them. Contrarily, Ramadan is not about hunger; it is about abstinence in the midst of plenty. It is a test about a Muslim’s faith in Allah. It is about perseverance which sparks the light of kindness in the heart of a Muslim. But this cashless policy is against spending.
To a great extent, it is against kindness. You want to give but you don’t know how to give. Not because you don’t have what to give but because you cannot access what you have. Similarly, masses are denied what they should get of the generosity of the generous. Not because the generous are not giving but because they may not give exactly what is needed.
Someone transferred money as Ramadan gift to a recipient. Rather than thank the giver, the recipient lamented over the cash transfer. “How do I access the money?” he complained. The giver who intends to send money to other would-be-beneficiaries became reluctant. “I am not solving these people’s problem by transferring money to them, it is as if I am adding to their problem,” he soliloquized. If you have unbanked relatives or friends in unbanked places who should be financially helped, you will understand better.
What about businesses? They are collapsing. A friend of mine who sells perishable goods (fruits) told me their fruits are perishing under their nose and there is nothing they could do about it. They are literally perishing like their perishable goods. They could neither help their goods nor themselves from perishing. This is the condition the Muslims find themselves—courtesy of President Buhari’s cash crunch policy.
It is haram (unlawful) in Islam to exchange money for money. I mean to say; naira for naira. Put differently, currency for currency of its kind. It is also haram (unlawful) to buy money. Many Muslims have recently consumed usury usuriously in their financial dealings and they continue to consume it. It is not because they find usury palatable but because President Buhari—our Muslim brother—forced usury down our throats through his cashless policy.
In Ramadan, a Muslim is not hungry for lack of food because food, even if by means of charity, is always available in most cases. A Muslim, in Ramadan, is hungry for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy. But President Buhari’s cashless policy makes many Muslims to be hungry for food rather than hungry for Allah’s mercy. Many have forgotten the essence of Ramadan because they cannot access their moneys to plan for Ramadan.
Ramadan is the month of Qur’an. Muslims are encouraged to read it over and over. We are encouraged to read the whole of the Qur’an three times, four times, five times, ten times and even numberless times. Many Muslims, because of this policy, might end up counting the number of people in queue while queuing for money instead of number of pages of the Qur’an. We must resist this. We might end up wasting our precious time in markets waiting endlessly to complete a transaction due to challenge of network. We must not allow this policy to impact negatively on our relationship with the Qur’an in this month of Ramadan. We must say no to this cashless distraction, that is, if we can. We should spend more time reading the Qur’an as if it is a must.
Two years ago I wrote an article with the title “Year 2021 Ramadan Probably the Worst Ramadan in Nigeria”. Since then, no improvement. It was worst then, I don’t know the superlative to describe it now. All terrible superlatives to describe hardships experienced in Nigeria today have been exhausted. In other words, if previous Ramadans were worst for Muslims under this regime, I am short of words to describe our present state.
I understand that in Nigeria presidents are next to God. Rulers are deified. They are the laws of the land. They question but cannot be questioned. But Allah will question them. They are gods to be worshipped. Rituals must be made to them and sacrifices must be offered to appease them. However, because we have chosen to worship Allah, our rituals and sacrifices must be to Allah. I urge myself and all Muslims to earnestly supplicate to Allah for ease in this time of hardship. After supplicating to Allah, please let’s beg President Buhari to give us access to our moneys. This is the month of Ramadan. Moneys are needed. If not for the sake of Allah and if not for the sake of humanity, at least for the fact that he is a Muslim like us.