Nigerians, corporate and individual, are currently going through what some Christian clergy would call desert experience – that period in the life of believers when they go through mortification, either thrust upon them by the church or personally and willingly imposed by them to purify themselves and get closer to God. During desert experiences, or what is also sometimes called purgatory experience among some denominations, the individual is expected to joyfully endure every hardship or pain that comes their way. And they are usually many and largely self-inflicted. Self-imposed desert experiences often involve the individual moving away from their cosy homes to a “desert or mountain” – barren place where there is no comfort or luxury, in order to suffer and practice endurance. Things could get so difficult and rough,as the demands of the flesh presses hard on a soul that is weakened by deprivation that the individual may be tempted to quit. But desert experiences are believed to help the concerned individuals to purge themselves of the worldly desires and to focus on the heavenly things, pray more and stay away from carnality. So nobody quits.
That kind of experience happens on a regular four year basis. Our four yearly desert experience is one occasioned by elections. In Nigeria, election times are like periods of recession, during which time companies and even individuals look back at their past years of profligacy and shudder. As they tighten their belts the rain curses on the spirit or whatever made them fritter away such valuable years. Is there really much difference between the slowing down of economic activity that defines a recession and the practical shutdown of economic activity that defines elections in Nigeria? This political recession and the slowing down of business activityhas become a part of the Nigerian system’s trade mark during elections? Perhaps,there is little or no difference because both phenomena manifest similar symptoms – avoidable hardship.
The only difference is probably in the length of the slowdown. The slow down occasioned by elections is usually much longer because it creeps in on us when nobody is looking and before the hurt is felt several months have passed. Once politicians stop worrying about their constituency allowances and intensify their nocturnal meetings about the third year of a given term, then business must look for its night gown. It is time to go to bed and sleep – the kind of forced sleep one finds in students’ hostels where one must be in bed whether one wants to sleep or not. Some call it prep.
Nigeria recently experienced a short-lived recession. By its shortness and the way it vaporized, without any significant reduction in the other malaise that still plague the system, such as unemployment and inflation, many have argued that the recession was, in the first instance, a mistake or the product of some economic carelessness we exhibited. During the recession, business slowed, particularly for the self-employed and the informal sector operators. Cash flow practically dried up as orders and commitments fizzled out. The hand-to-mouth economy, which best describes the economy of the average Nigerian family, entered a wilderness experience.In a recession, the economy goes into reverse gear, highly irritable, shedding weight, spewing out otherwise critically valuable factors and contracts for a prolonged period of time. Inventories pile up and sales dwindle. At the same time, disposable incomes take a nose dive leading to further cuts in consumer spending. which probably initiated the economy’s contraction in the first instance? That is what is going on as the general elections rage. Nigerians cannot wait to go back to work. In all respects, it is only the politicians that have really been working.
In Nigeria, elections have been elevated to a do-or-die battle, where people leave their preoccupation to play thugs for politicians. And many end up building houses or buying property just by being thugs. This is a culture that is fast spreading and must be checked.
Business people are usually the first to cry out when the economy slows down, for any of many reasons. With the recent recession and the regularity of general elections, it appears that Nigerians are on a musical chairs experiment of recessions, going in and out of it. The past few months have been very difficult for many people, especially the self-employed. The only kind of business that seems to have some life at this time is in the advertising and publicity field. By their very nature, politicians are loud and dishonest people. They want to make their voices heard, even if the story they tell is a lie. Well, put more charitably we may say that by the nature of their trade, politicians are forced to lie or keep the truth hidden lest their opponents get to know and block their moves. Nigerians and waiting patiently to end this nightmare and have their lives back.