Nigeria’s poor and their helpers have always complained that while the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting. But in the present economic crisis this country is facing, it is not only the poor that are getting poorer, but also the rich.
Consider the fact that things were not this bad last year, and yet the richest man in Nigeria, Aliko Dangote lost N1 Trillion then. With the worst economic crisis this country has ever faced currently on, who knows how much mind boggling money our super-rich would lose.
The kind of money Dangote lost last year can turn a billionaire in Naira terms into a pauper, so this economic crisis we are in now is not child’s play. It is an existential crisis. Before you begin to accuse me of speaking big grammar like Patrick Obahiagbon, let me say that I hope that with the way things are going, we don’t begin to see people die of hunger in this country. O ma ga o!
The prospects of the economy have never been this poor. Not even when we hadn’t found crude oil. Then people used to work hard to till the soil to produce cash crops that kept this economy going. Then the Igbos and their fellow Easterners would concentrate on exporting palm oil to the world. The Yorubas were exporting cocoa. The North was exporting groundnuts.
At least that is where the government got the money that was used to build edifices like the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Cocoa House and other important structures. If we didn’t have plenty of money then, at least, we knew how to be creative and responsible with the little we had.
Then came the days of oil, when a former head of state who was then in power would lament that the problem of this country wasn’t money, but how to spend it. Over the years, money was wasted and thrown at frivolities instead of being saved if we didn’t know any good thing we could use it to do.
We grew lazy, began to hate hard work, and the student of agriculture left the farm to work in the bank. The government was filled with kleptomaniacs whose only concern was how to line their pockets with filthy lucre. Today, the chickens have come home to roost.
For the first time in the existence of this country, we have a country that has no job. Our barrels of oil have no customers to buy them, and while fellow crude oil producers can boast of large-scale savings, we have nothing, absolutely nothing to show for the past 40 years of massive revenues from crude oil.
Fellow crude oil exporter Saudi Arabia has almost a trillion US dollars in savings, and doesn’t need to undertake any foreign trip to diversify from oil.
Norway has so much savings from their rainy day fund that if that money is shared to all her citizens today, everyone would be a millionaire in dollar terms.
Here, what do we have? $27 billion dollars only. That is why things are so hard, and the government now has to ration out dollars, and not everyone can get them. Was that meant to be in the first place? Capital No!
Over the years, billions have been spent trying to tackle our electricity problems, but I guess to some of the officials entrusted with the monies, the bigger problem was how to pack enough of it in the soak-away pits in their house – or in foreign banks where the foreign country would find ways of later seizing most of the moneys to fund their own economies.
Billions have been spent searching for oil in Lake Chad instead of turning the place into an agricultural hub for the Lake Chad nations. (Sadly, billions are still being earmarked for that same purpose, even when experts are telling us that the price of crude oil may never amount to much again).
The truth is that our country is like a man who has lost his job but has no savings, and no quick prospects of getting another job. That man is already poor, and may face a crisis even trying to exist.
Funny enough, unlike that man who can go to the street to beg and at least receive some respite, it has not been so easy for our country taken as a whole to get money from begging. President Buhari has flown from country to country without anyone really giving us anything except China.
China is ready to help us out with some infrastructural projects worth billions (kudos China), but we need $11 billion to balance our budget. Where do we get the money from? The low oil prices have combined with fuel scarcity and poor electricity to give this nation what may turn out to be a futureless future if nothing is done soon.
What I’m saying is simply that unless something is done urgently, we may all become dirt poor – everyone, including the rich. You doubt me? Check this out:
A perishable foods seller (name witheld now buys those foods at a more expensive price, and still has to buy fuel whenever they can get it at exorbitant prices in order to preserve the foods by putting them in a deep freezer. All these costs are passed to the customer who most of the time has to walk away, because he cannot afford the extra cost.
This same foods seller has to pay rent, but if most of their customers are not buying the foods like before, where will they get the money to pay the rent when the time comes?
Where will the landlord that decides to evict them get the money for the legal costs. And if he succeeds in evicting our food seller, what guarantee those our landlord have that the next tenant is in a better economic state, and wouldn’t begin to tell long stories soon?
In a street I know very well, the church there is the buggiest institution, and the pastor lives in the church premises with his family. So rich is the church that even when there is a blackout, their generator gives light to the church and the pastor’s family 247.
But lately, I got to know that the amount of money people give for offering has decreased. So, if the current situation continues, where will the pastor get the money to keep buying diesel to give his family light 247?
The other day, I was reading a thread on a popular Nigerian social media site and one of the users was observing that traffic has decreased to the site, which on a good day, is estimated to make some real money for its owners because of the mad traffic that is witnessed there (traffic like Computer Village on an average day). My reaction was, ‘Why won’t traffic decrease, when there is no fuel to charge phone to be able to browse the site and no NEPA to give light in the first place?
What if Citizen Joe is one of those who is not sure of getting his salary paid by his employers and therefore cannot afford to use the little money left with him to buy data, nkor?
What if this Citizen Joe decides to go to a cyber café and the café operator says they cannot put on their generator for browsing unless there are up to five people, and he is the only one rich enough to even consider going to the café? That means no browsing for Citizen Joe for that day.
It also means no money for cyber café, less traffic and ad revenue for the blogs Joe likes to frequent and less returns on investment for the ad agencies and their clients who advertise on those blogs.
Things are really going downhill fast for our dear country. We need solutions fast. The government has not consulted me yet – #notjoking – but here are some commonsense solutions that I wonder why government hasn’t thought of implementing yet.
For poor electricity, since the gas suppliers are not supplying enough gas, diversify from reliance on gas by spending $6 billion to build a few coal power plants.
There is abundant coal lying unused in Enugu that could be used to give us more light if we can build these power plants. I know a Competent Consultant that can help the Federal Government set up these plants quickly, and I would link them up if approached by the government.
For fuel scarcity, allow those that operate illegal refineries to easily legalize them. These operators are all over the South East and South South and would flood the market with enough petrol that would end the fuel scarcity in a moment if capitalism is given a chance. All the government needs to do is to regulate the quality of what they produce to ensure high standards. (For how long will we be able to pay for imported petrol sef?)
As for overdependence on low crude oil, and the generation of foreign exchange, the Buhari administration is already making efforts to diversify the economy, and the agreements with China are master stroke if well implemented, but the government still needs to do more, much more.
I have said it over and over again that our president should become Salesman-In-Chief of Made-In-Nigeria products. He should get African governments to order Innoson cars for instance, instead of them going to Europe to buy cars.
He should be an exponent for the powerful Dudu Osun soap that is one of the best soaps I have ever used.
He should get deals for the export of the maddeningly delicious kilishi suya to other countries (why should we be the only ones to enjoy kilishi – #likebarbecurlikekilishi.
The rich, not just the poor should persuade government to take the above-listed measures. The other day I sent somebody out to buy some simple food commodity that I wanted to enjoy from the neighborhood shop. Guess what, the person went to several neighborhood shops but couldn’t find the commodity, and came back empty handed -to my extreme discomfiture.
It is either the shop owners are now too poor to stock up their shops as they used to do before, or they have discovered that the people around can no longer afford the said commodity. Either way, what it means is that very soon the rich may become like the apocryphal rich man in the desert who could afford to buy all the water in the world but still died of thirst because there was no water for him to buy, even at a million dollars.
Also, loans should be given to our herdsmen for the establishment of cattle ranches that can lead to export of our cattle to other countries (heck, we could even be able to export corn beef if we can get serious with ranching rather than the so called grazing reserves).
Nigeria, I don talk my own o.