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

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