As a child, my uncle taught me how to compare price and value through different periods and across currencies. He said to pick a relatively stable currency- the US Dollar or the British Pounds and compare value. i.e. a product of service which cost N50 in say 1990, the value today will be determined by getting the value of N50 in dollars in 1990, converting that dollar value to Naira today. Not sure if that is a universally acceptable standard of conversion but that lesson has stuck such that I always find myself converting price to Dollars to really ascertain the value of a product or service. My regular vendors know already that I always ask them what the dollar price is for every commodity/ service. I will find out the dollar price of a product, add some for shipping and profit and if the difference between that and your selling price is still too much I will call you out for attempting to rip me off. (Before we are tempted to get into the Buy-Naija-To-Grow-The-Naira conversation, honestly ask yourself what percentage of goods we use isn’t imported. We are an import dependent economy and as such should always be concerned with how our Naira values against the stronger currencies. In any case, that’s not the purpose for this article).
Sometime in 2015, I got a job in Lagos that paid N210k. Wasn’t bad for an entry level job, 210k was a thousand dollars at the time. Unfortunately, in a few short months, my salary commenced a downward slide, it depreciated and kept on depreciating until it got to this current sustained plateau; which isn’t where it started though! Sometime in 2017 it got as bad as 420 dollars (in Naira of course) when the dollar exchanged for N500 to a dollar. Standard of living fell, I was poorer through no fault of mine, the economy just worsened with each passing day. (Before they come for me and try to make it as though I’m referring to luxury items and the likes of imported rice, chicken, seedless grapes (thank you Tolu Ogunlesi), etc. It’s not about that. We all know the basics like pineapple, ogbono seeds, even garri are now imported. Prices have skyrocketed, income keeps declining. How are the people expected to survive?
Fast forward to 2018, through a few promotions and compensation reviews (my organisation was also affected by the economic downturn and had to constrict salary bands); I’m not yet where I was three years ago. To earn the same salary I was offered in 2015, I would have to earn about N360k- but I’m not there yet. So, although I’ve moved up on the Naira income band, it’s been a downward move on the dollar income band, with expenditure on the upward slide on the dollar band.
The economy, ideally should reflect our collective efforts as a people, but in truth is largely dependent on the actions of a few- those in government and the people they have appointed to steer the economy (because we continue to largely be a mono-product economy, despite all white noise to the contrary). And we all know how well those in Government and their hirelings have steered the economy.
So, to repeatedly read on the news in these past few weeks that we are back to the same politicking and politricking witnessed three to four years ago, with the same politicians cross carpeting and/or realigning with no evidence of any change is just sad. The populace are cheering when we need to ask ourselves the hard-mercenary question: what’s the value of this drama? In hard currency! Like the recent bank ad wars; how did it translate to value for the customers? Answer is; nothing changed. Will XYZ moving to 123 party make for better governance? If no, then its just comic relief, the kind which leaves a depressing aftertaste.
These guys (and ladies)- who represent about 1% of Nigeria’s 180million people are just sorting themselves out without any care for the common man- whom they are supposed to be representing, and…. we are entertained! Cheering them on and picking sides, arguing based on our (current) god-fathers and patron. To what end? What change/ benefit did the fence jumping antics of old translate to? (recall when Dino Melaye and co had to scale fences to get into the National Assembly premises) What’s the value of the change received so far? What benefit did we derive from demonizing the hazel-eyed minister? How did the change mantra translate to more money in our pockets? Better infrastructure? Better equipped schools, or even more children in school? Better access to funding for entrepreneurs? We unraveled the snake eating up funds in Jamb, social media was awash with the stories, we’ve put it out that Jamb now remits more into the TSA, but how has that translated to an improved education system?
The answer is: nothing has changed. Rather it has worsened. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is not about pointing accusing fingers, this isn’t about ethnic or party lines or affiliations. It’s a question of: how have we fared? Let’s have a look at a few examples that will help explain it:
- We all know at least one person that has lost a job due to the organisation down-sizing or closing. How are those families supposed to survive on a reduced or no-income? We have become the poverty capital of the world. What this means is we have more people sliding into the poverty bracket daily. Let that sink in.
The more people who are out of jobs, the more people we have tending to crime. It’s not an excuse, it’s a basic fact of life; hunger, need, leads even the most honorable to misbehave.
- Canada (and the western world) has become the ‘migration destination’ of our people. Everyone is migrating and rightly so! Abi? They cannot come and die. Let’s explore how this migration affects Nigeria- serious brain drain! A colleague joked: the only doctors left in the hospitals are the ones who haven’t gotten Canadian visas! As it stands today, we have outsourced healthcare to religious bodies and other such miracle centres.
The hospitals, parastatals, banks, startups, conglomerates, etc. people are leaving. In droves! How does it affect us? Decrease in quality of service, decrease in quality of deliverables- your employees are using work hours to fill out visa applications. The ones that are left behind are thoroughly demotivated. But we are happy, right? After all, it could be worse; so and so could have been president and sell us to Cameroun and other such stories.
- The third point I would like to point out is that the world is watching. While we are being entertained by the antics of our politicians, the world is watching us and making decisions on the degree of our foolishness. Very embarrassing.
The investor you are courting reads in the news of the traffic gridlock in Lagos- which the government has been unable to provide a lasting solution to for years, and he/she is asking himself if you are wise investment decision because of your operating environment. How productive will the staff who spend half their day in traffic be? If you are now unfortunate to have offices in Apapa and its environs- don’t bother. Because they will ask themselves how people and products will come to you and how the difficulty in navigation will affect product/service availability and pricing.
Your investors read of the mayhem the cattle herders bandits are causing across the nations and how it has affected farmlands. Do you think he/she will be keen on investing in your agricultural endeavor?
- The current difficulty with the PVC registration to me is also a sign of a failed system. We are expected to be at the registration centres as early 5.00am to put our name on a list, then wait around all day and you still might not get to register on that day. Bear in mind, that the information you are required to provide is similar to that provided for your international passport, national ID card, BVN, sim registration, etc. we keep re-providing this information and someone hasn’t had the bright idea that we can synchronise information? We could synchronise all of the previously collected information and have a portal where you can update details like current residential address- make life easier for the citizenry? Possible? Na! how else would we appreciate INEC but through the rigor and difficulty with which it takes to get things done. We are stuck in a rut where we only appreciate something based on the difficulty with which we got it. Cue the- nothing good comes easy people! #FrontlinersinthesufferingOlympics!
I could go on and on, listing the ways the polity has been negatively affected by these present and past politicians, who lack foresight or simply the will to do that which is right. This article probably won’t end. These guys will continue to treat the polity with disdain and we will continue to be a country where anything goes if we do not rise up and demand for better governance.
Here we are in 2018, a good time to remember Tuface’s e be like say. It’s that time again when they come to woo us with promises that will never materialize. To entertain us with the theatrics which always characterize the electioneering season. Should we continue to allow ourselves to be entertained and perhaps to receive the crumbs that may flow as campaign funds? (did I hear a God forbid?) Is that ideal behavior today- 2018?
Now isn’t the time to be entertained with their antics, this isn’t the time to argue what party is better at corruption or the disregard of the rule of law. Now is the time to demand better from those whom we have elected to rule us. Emphasis on rule us, not rule over us.
In addition to that, we also need to get involved, participate. At the party level, the electoral level. Participate, not in looking to line your pockets, but in looking to better the economy. It’s not about joining one cool kids movement that you don’t know the purpose. Let’s be as selfish as the politicians have proven themselves to be, but let’s be selfish for the common interest; we need to demand for policies that will better majority of the people and not a few. We need to transit from praise singers and bag carriers to active citizens. These politicians are not entertainers, we have Nollywood for that (like Peter Obi said). Its time they stopped these theatrics and got down to the significant business for which they were elected; which is governance.
Someday in the future, I hope to write on how we need to pay attention to people in governance at any level, particularly the state and federal legislature, because therein lies the true power of governance.
Until then, we must be committed to real change and not buzz words. We need to fully occupy the office of the citizen. Because we must.