One reality that stares one in the face today in Nigeria is the air of despondency. The streets of Nigeria are jam-packed with citizens wailing about the harsh economic conditions, general uncertainties and multidimensional poverty that have gripped the once acclaimed giant of Africa. One would only need to step into the streets before one feels the hive of pain and discomfort ordinary Nigerians go through nowadays. The consequences of the flooding that affected states like Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Kano, Adamawa, Jigawa, Benue and Borno; the hyperinflation, insecurity, hunger, high level unemployment rate, dysfunctional educational system, poor healthcare delivery, leadership failure, et cetera, have made many Nigerians despondent. Times are increasingly becoming tough and unbearable for most Nigerians with help nowhere in sight. The contrasting agony in all of these realities is the nonchalant attitude of Nigeria leaders – a group of Oligarchs who have siphoned the common patrimony of the nation for their personal aggrandizement- towards bettering the standard of living of the common man.
It is a truism that the world is facing economic downturn and that many sophisticated economies around the world are battling with inflation due to the adverse effects of the Corona Virus Pandemic and Putin’s plan of plundering Ukraine. Consequently, there is global inflation in petroleum products resulting to skyrocketed flight fare that has made traveling expensive and luxurious, hike in the price of food, energy bills and other essential goods and services globally. The pang of economic hardship is hitting so hard in many parts of the world no doubt but it has taken a draconic shift in Nigeria as evident in the increase in food, gas, fuel and energy prices. Although Nigeria is naturally blessed with a humongous quantity of crude oil and other numerous natural resources, there is always persistent scarcity and hike in prices of petroleum products. Today in Nigeria where fuel is available it is sold at exorbitant price; the pump price of fuel now ranges between N300 to N500 per litre. Those who are fuel marketers are hoarding the product and selling to black marketers who adulterate and sell at outrageous prices. The Naira is constantly crashing against the dollar making traders determine prices of goods and services by their whims and caprices.
The inequality level in Nigeria has geometrically increased nowadays as many average people have dropped to a lower economic stratum owing to hyperinflation without a corresponding increase in income. The level of poverty is becoming astounding and people are beginning to be impatient. The adage that says a hungry man is an angry man holds very true today. You only need to be in the queues for fuel, at the bustling market squares and in the crowded banking halls to see how Nigerians are now moved to provocation at the flimsiest of reasons. There is also a corresponding growth in the level of criminality and corner- cutting amongst Nigerians to make ends meet. It is now grossly a tale of survival of the fittest as everyone is jostling to just survive. Social crimes are on the increase; hardly would a day pass without hearing of Cases like kidnapping, murder, rape, verbal and physical abuse, fraud, et cetera. These realities would be heightened as we anticipate the end of the year and all festivities that greet this period.
Responsible governments all over the world are working hard to cushion the adverse effects of the economic downturn in their respective countries but the government of Nigeria is doing next to nothing in ameliorating the hardship in the country. Government officials and politicians are said to be part of the cause of inflation owing to the flamboyant lifestyles and the availability of raw cash in their possession. Thanks to the announcement by the Governor of Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, on the redesign of some naira notes which would help mop the excess money in the hands of government officials and politicians that would serve as a form of contractionary monetary policy to cushion inflation. However, the frivolous spending behaviours of some of these classes of people do not show that the government of the day is ready to tackle this issue. At a time when Nigeria is passing through economic doldrums government officials and politicians are flying private Jets in droves to attend party campaigns. The recent APC Presidential Campaign Flag off witnessed a surge of private Jets that conveyed government officials, politicians and their allies to Jos. This is one example of governmental reckless spending responsible for inflation in Nigeria. Government officials like the President and Governors who use tax payers’ money to fly private Jets to political party campaign while they do nothing to improve the living conditions of the people are inconsiderate and could be said to be fantastically corrupt.
While countries like the USA and the UK are busy working to cushion the effects of inflation and economic downturn, the Buhari led administration is mostly focused on winning the coming general election. There is nothing bad for a party to wish to continue to be in power, however, only a party that has done very well would have the moral right to wish to continue to provide leadership to steer the affairs of the country. Today in Nigeria, serving ministers are grossly enmeshed in campaign activities of their party to the detriment of the service they pledged to render to their citizens. The Federal Minister of State for Labour and Employment, for example, at a time when crisis is rocking some Labour Unions like ASUU and unemployment rate is unimaginable and defiling accurate calculation, the Minister is busy campaigning and filling in as media spokesman for the Tinubu/ Shettima presidential campaign council. While ASUU was on strike for over eight months the Minister of State for Labour was busy on the screens of TV stations dolling out strategies for Bola Tinubu and defending his candidature.
Most politicians and government officials do not care about the price of food, energy bills and petroleum products because they have stored enough money to acquire purchasing power; they do not care about the pot-holes-filled roads in the country because they have Private Jets and sophisticated SUVs that cruise on rough and deplorable contours of roads effortlessly; they do not care about the insecurity in the country because those who sworn to safeguard our territories and keep Law and Order are now serving and protecting the territories of politicians and keeping Law and Order within their immediate families. Nigeria’s politicians have weaponized poverty to the extent that people cannot take decisions in matters concerning their liberation and freedom from the shackles they are held in. Indeed, the precarious conditions that Nigerians live in at the moment depend only on God for solution.
Hope in God is the only potent antidote that Nigerians have in the face of these confusion and gloom that define our present reality. No doubt, Christmas will bring some sort of renewed hope in the face of these difficulties because Christmas celebrates the nativity of Jesus, the only Son of God, who came into human history to redeem humanity from damnation. The salvific motif of the incarnation cannot be overemphasize in our present predicaments as Nigerians since salvation is not only heaven towards but also a phenomenon that is here and now – offering us socio-economic redemption. Indeed, Christmas would reignite hope, cheer up fraying nerves and inspire metanoia in the hearts of those who have taken to crime and terrorism out of frustration and agitation; when Christ comes at Christmas, He would assure us of His divine help and involvement with us in charting a new course for a new Nigeria at the 2023 polls. Hope is the only commodity to be sold to the millions of people who are despairing and forlorn because of the tragedies of their daily existence.
Yes, when Christmas comes, merry will be made again, glasses will clink, Andy Williams would be heard blaring his it’s the Most Wonderful Times of the Year; brothers and sisters would exchange hugs making up for lost affection; idle chimneys would be busy again providing ventilation because boilers and stoves will constantly roast to provide full belly for all passersby. Christmas will bring conviviality and a breath of fresh air to chase away the toxicity of despondency and gloom beclouding our essence as Nigerians.
Rev. Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe, is the Parish Priest of Holy Cross Catholic Church Iyuku-Uzairue and the Assistant Director of Social Communications, Auchi Diocese, Nigeria.