What This Recession Means

President Muhammadu Buhari,Nigeria’s PresidentCredit: Nairametrics There is a recession in Nigeria. I am not even going to pretend that I understand all the dynamics of the current state of Nigeria nor am I going to explain what some of the economic terms I will be using are. In truth, many Nigerians do not care about or understand what all of those words mean. This piece will attempt to explain what this recession means for Nigerians in the middle and lower class demographics. I started walking on this road when this woman, let us call her Mama Success, came to my house. I have known Mama Success for close to ten years now. Mama Success barely has any formal education and is a petty trader. She is married to a mechanic and they have three children. Since I have known her, she has always been in the lower demographic, struggling daily to keep her family. She sells whatever is in season. When there is tomatoes, she sells that. If it is groundnut, that is what she sells. As at the time of this post, she was shuttling between hawking cooked corn and boiled groundnuts. I had not seen her in two, maybe three, years and when she came to my house, we spent time catching up. She had been in my place barely 30 minutes when she started complaining bitterly about the state of the economy. ‘Ramat, you know I eat corn only because it is cheap but now, even that corn is expensive oh!’ That was how she launched into her tirade. She told me that corn that she used to buy for ₦50/tier had gone up to ₦220/tier. She talked about Garri – Nigeria’s ‘food for the poor’ as many people call it – and the price increase was shocking. I listened to her moan about all manner of things and what really broke me was when she spoke of her first son. She obviously couldn’t send him to school on what she earned but somehow, a benefactor took up his education and sent him to one of the Unity Schools. Her joy was short lived when barely two years in, the government proposed an increase of about 300% on school fees, asking that parents pay ₦75,000 from what used to be ₦20,000. The benefactor announced that he could no longer pay Success’s fees and wished them well in their endeavors. Mama Success worries about her children’s education and she worries that they may end up like their father and her; illiterate, poor, unhappy. When she left my house, her complaints stayed with me. I kept thinking about her and her children and other families like them. So I decided to do some recce myself. I went to the market a couple of times to get a sense of the price of things. Here is a list of the price of a couple of things in the market. Vegetables are cheap but that may be because this is rainy reason. The list above is just so we can get a semblance of things. I used small measures and not wholesale measures so you can see how hard things are. People who have steady incomes and even basic salaries are feeling the brunt of this recession. Every additional ₦10 is something someone in the lower class feels deeply. But the thing is, it is not just people in the lower class complaining. Nigerians categorized as ‘middle class’ are unhappy too. They might not feel the bite as much as people in the lower class, but they are feeling it. This brings me to the next point; employment or the lack of it. Millions of Nigerians want to work but there are no viable jobs. Okay, let me be fair. There are jobs but in most cases, they are just not worth it. Companies across board no longer give full employment. Everyone one is toting the magical word: internship. This means that companies can’t afford to pay people commensurate salaries but since they still want their jobs done, they hire people for the barest minimum with promises of full employment after about six months. I have been to a couple of interviews where prospective employers want you to do a ₦200,000 job for nothing more than ₦50,000. And because there aren’t that many plush jobs readily available, people take these slavery internships and hope that things get better for them. I don’t even want to mention clothes and transportation because in the light of other things, they seem trivial. Anyone who has been buying fuel, paying for public transport or buying clothes knows that things are a bit more expensive than they were last year. The news is filled with companies downsizing and even salaries being slashed. This is coupled with the fact that some parastatals and state governments cannot even pay salaries. What does this all mean? This means that even with the hike in the price of things, fewer and fewer people have the purchasing power to get basic necessities. As a result, the markets aren’t as full as they used to be. I spent time talking to market men and women, okada riders and bus drivers, petty traders, hawkers, masons, tailors and small food vendors and the general feeling amongst them is ‘the country is hard.’ That Nigerians are suffering because of the policies of this government, or the lack thereof, is no longer news. What is however surprising is the government’s callous dismissal of the suffering of Nigerians. Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, said that the ‘recession in Nigeria is exaggerated’. Exaggerated? EXAGGERATED?! I want him to tell that to Mama Success as she reduces her daily meals from two to one. I want him to tell that to the okada rider who is worried about school fees for his children. I want him to tell that to the civil servant who is earning minimum wage and

Buharu’s 33-Man Delegation To The US: The Absence Of Female Representation

President Muhammadu Buhari and his Delegation to the United States of America pose with former President Barack Obama at the Oval Office.Image: Sahara Reporters. President Muhammadu Buhari is back in the country from his four-day official trip to the United States of America and in my view, just in time to be reminded of certain campaign promises he made which ensured his victory. The President was in Washington, USA, on Sunday, July 19, 2015 with an entourage of 33 men. The delegation was literally made up of men; and if that doesn’t sink in, it means that his delegation to the United States of America was entirely devoid of a woman. This rubbed me some type of way. So many thoughts ran through my mind as I tried to look at all possible angles for excluding women from a delegation of such international importance. Many people who know me think that I am overly critical of President Buhari so I tried to be as balanced as possible in my analysis of his decision. I will admit here that in the end, my original perception of the decision to exclude women did not change. I decided to make it a topic on my radio breakfast show. At the end of the show, I felt it was a tie between my listeners. While many said there was no reason why he should have taken any woman on the trip, an almost equal number believed that at least one woman should have been a part that pivotal bilateral discussion with the United States. As a result of that, I decided to write again to the President, with the hopes that, unlike Senator Shehu Sani, he would care about my opinions; even if he did not directly seek my vote and even though I did not vote for him. Here is why I think there should have been female representation in that 33-man delegation to the United States:       1.      The delegation seemed to represent most of the major demographics and sectors of the nation with just one exception; women! Looking at the list holistically, it seemed like the North East was represented by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state and he doubled as a representative of the region most affected by the insurgency of the Boko Haram sect. On the other hand, Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo state represented the South-South region. Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state represented the South-West, Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura of Nassarawa (North-Central), Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo (South-East) and Senator Hadi Siriki of Katsina (North-West) ensured that the six geopolitical zones of the country were represented. That being said, the economic sector was represented by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele. There were ambassadors in that delegation (Paul Bulus; G. B. Igali; and Lawal N.B. Kazaure), a representation of media in the person of Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the President on Media and Publicity and of course the representation of the youth, which was by the son of the president, Yusuf Buhari. Religion was also represented by Pastor Tunde Bakare and the Malam Garba. The list also had top civil servants, representatives from the National Security Adviser and representatives from economic policy and foreign affairs think thanks, according to the PM News dated July 12, 2015. They delegation seemed to be devoid of JUST one demographic; female representation. That should have been a reason to get women on that delegation. 2.      POPULATION STATISTICS Index Mundi put the entire population of Nigeria at 177,155,754 people. As at 2013, the World Bank put the female population of Nigeria at 49.10%. If we factor in 49.10% of the figure given by Index Mundi, we have the total number of females in Nigeria at 86,983,475. That is an almost equal number of females as there are males. In one meeting, former President Barack Obama had four women on his team. The Nigerian delegation didn’t have one.Image: The Guardian.       3.    WOMEN HAVE BEEN EASY VICTIMS OF THE INSURGENCY Since the insurgency, women and children have suffered as much – if not more – than men. This has been documented by Wikipedia in the ‘Boko Haram Timeline’ article. Some of the more tragic stories are seen below; a)      In 2013, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was reported to have said ‘Borno was hit, with about 1.3 million people – MOST OF THEM WOMEN, CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY (emphasis mine) – in need of aid’; b)      In February, 2013, an attack on polio vaccinators left 9 women dead; c)      Four months and a day after that attack, precisely June 9, 2013, 9 children were killed in Maiduguri. On the same day, 13 students and teachers were killed in Damaturu; d)      Less than a month after the preceding attack, more than 42 people were killed by Boko Haram gunmen in a Yobe School. This happened on the 6th day of July, 2013; e)      The attacks continued on September 29, 2013, in schools in Yobe, with one in Gujba College, where more than 50 students died; f)       In 2014, the attacks of children came in early on February 25. The attacks happened at the Federal Government College, Yobe State. 59 students were massacred; g)      And the story that really made Nigeria an epic failed state was what happened on April 15, 2014; the kidnap of 276 female students from Chibok, Borno State. 216 girls are still in captivity 466 days (as at post) after they were kidnapped. Though this was the most important story to the international community, there were much more women kidnapped, raped, married off to members of the insurgent group and killed. The rescue of about 256 girls from Sambisa Forest, the Boko Haram stronghold, was a clear testament to that; h)      Between June 20 and 23, there were attacks in Borno State where at least 70 people were killed and 91 women and children kidnapped; i)        And finally, on November 10, 2014, 46 students were killed

Buhari, Now That You Have Finally Settled Into Aso Rock

President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.Image: The Guardian Mr. President – finally, I get to call you that – I would like to congratulate you for winning the elections and becoming the president of this nation. Congratulations again. That being said, I want to get something out there; I really don’t like you. I don’t like some of your beliefs, some of your utterances and some of your (in)actions. This started just before the 2011 general elections and it didn’t get better afterwards. Quite frankly, before your campaign in Zaria, Kaduna, I was quite indifferent about you. Your campaign posters, jingles and TV adverts on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) just didn’t connect to me and the moment you spoke, I was not moved by you’re the quality of your speech (or the lack of it). You see, for me, those were the things that mattered in a campaign. Based on the strength of your campaign, I concluded that I didn’t want you as my president. All that changed though when you came to Zaria. I was in school and heard that ‘Buhari is in town. Buhari ya shigo gari.’ I really didn’t care until someone told me there was some crisis on the Zaria-Kaduna Bridge. When I asked what the crisis was about, I was told that party supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were being attacked by supporters of the CPC. Their windscreens were broken and they were roughened a bit. So drivers had to show loyalty to you to avoid attack on themselves and their vehicles. Though I was worried about this development, I felt you must not have known about it, so it wasn’t your fault. Few hours later when I was heading out of school, my view changed. There in front of North Gate, Ahmadu Bello University was a mammoth crowd heralding you and your then running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare. The crowd put the fear of GOD in my head. They were carrying all sorts of weapons, from curved wooden batons called ‘Gora’ to swords, knives and sticks. One sword particularly had me pretty jumpy. From what I hear, it is called a ‘langa langa’. It is slim, long and very flexible. I was on an Okada and almost wet my pants when I spotted the campaign bus carrying you. You were exalted above the people, waving, smiling and generally doing what prospective leaders do. I remember that though I literally had my heart in my mouth, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that you, from your vantage point and seeing the weapons your supporters were wielding, weren’t doing anything to stop their hunger for blood…because to me, that is what it was. When I finally got home, I had to lock myself and my sister in our room and stay quiet until everything became quiet. Even at that, I didn’t venture into the streets. At that point, I called my sister and brother and told them that we would not stay in Zaria for the elections no matter the circumstance. And true to script, Nigeria erupted in violence when you did not win the 2011 elections. Kaduna especially –which is my home town – was in such chaos that all anyone needed to do was go out of their houses and see the smoke covering everywhere. My brother had gone for I.N.E.C duty and when we heard how corps members, students and anyone who was different were brutally killed, I feared for my brother’s life. You see, he is my only brother and we had lied to our father that he had an exam to write. I imagined him being butchered for being different or worse, for just been there. It quickly degenerated into a religious fight – as usual – and we were all tense, waiting for news of our brother and others whom we knew were stuck somewhere in the hot zones. In that time frame, I kept listening to the radio and watching the television for any news calling for peace. Surprisingly, the then Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA) ensured we had roughly 24-hours supply of electricity. You can imagine my angst when your response didn’t come until two days later on Radio Kaduna. For two whole days, you had been silent as Nigerians were killed, butchered, maimed, raped and other such horrible acts. For two whole days, you didn’t call your supporters, who started the crisis because of your loss, to shun violence as the same Nigerians you wanted to rule were annihilated on the basis of party and/or religious affiliations. When you finally made a call, it was too late; too late for the 800 people (as reported by the Human Rights Watch) who lost their lives in the ensuing crisis; too late for the number of people who were injured, battered, bruised and maimed and definitely too late for the peaceful existence between Muslims and Christians in states like Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Gombe and Katsina. To me, your silence was worth more than the inciting comments you were accredited with and in that moment, I wrote you off completely. Now that you have finally succeeded in becoming President, I really want to believe that you, as your campaign promised, are a changed man; a man who cares about the plight of Nigeria and Nigerians, a man who will not sit back and watch citizens butchered on the basis of religion or tribe, a man who is now a progressive. So President Muhammadu Buhari, now that you have settled into Aso Rock and have started carrying out your duties, here is my own piece of advice. I may not like you but your policies will affect my life, my business, my plans and my dreams. Therefore, I need you to work. 1.       Destroy Sentiment As one who is alleged to have contributed in dividing Nigeria along sentimental lines, you need to set a road map to fix this divide. Before you jump down my

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