The year 2023 was unprecedented for many Nigerians due to the many events that impacted the political and economic landscapes of the country.
For many, it was a year the average Nigerian barely survived due to the harsh realities and economic reforms of the present administration.
Some companies exited the country in 2023, and sadly boosted the labour market.
Amid the challenges, Nigerians showed extraordinary capacity to adapt and persevere.
To survive 2023, some Nigerians took extra jobs, acquired new skills, cut down on lifestyle and engaged in some other unconventional means of survival.
As expected, many who survived the immediate past year have stories to tell amid hope for better days in the new year.
Amid this backdrop, Nigerians displayed resilience, characterised with many touching tales.
Ugochukwu Okezie, an Aba-based public relations practitioner, said that he lived within his means, despite pressures from family and friends to survive in 2023.
He explained that the economic realities in the year encouraged him to look for alternative sources of income, to earn more, in order to be able to provide for his family.
Consequently, Okezie said that he monetized some of his skills and services that he once rendered for free. “I charged people for my services and I am still trying to find a side-hustle to support my current income,” he said.
On her part, Boluwatife Faramade, a project manager, described the year as a roller coaster. “2023 was long. It felt like for every step forward, there was a step back. Although I worked remotely, which helped me to avoid the cash crunch and the fuel scarcity, eventually, price increase hit hard. Transport costs soared, making even simple rides expensive,” Faramade recalled.
Despite these challenges, she managed to increase her income sources to salvage the situation. “As the firstborn, my responsibilities grew as the year progressed, pushing me to look for additional work.”
Similarly, Feyisola Jaiyesinmi, a writer, also shared her 2023 experience. “It was a year of goal fulfillment, but not without its challenges,” she told BD Sunday. The cash scarcity peaked in July and forced her to seek temporary accommodation changes and even beg for cash on the streets.
“There were many times when I didn’t have cash and I had to resort to begging random people on the road for cash because so many drivers were not collecting transfers for whatever reasons,” Jaiyesinmi said.
“My family’s Christmas traditions were significantly downsized,” she continued, “From buying a full carton of chicken in 2022 to just two kilos in 2023, and from a full bag of rice in 2022 to just a quarter last year”.
David Oloruntobi, a photojournalist, also felt the economic pinch. “To cope, I reduced outings and relied on subsidised transportation, especially the BRT plying Obalende to Abule-Egba route. The festive season was quiet, celebrated at home,” he shared, hopeful for personal and career development in 2024.
Zainab Aderounmu, a communications professional, navigated 2023 challenges by being resourceful. “The transition from school to work was challenging, but manageable. I was already accustomed to cashless transactions, which helped during the cash crunch,” she explained.
However, the rise in transportation costs significantly affected her budget, prompting her to look for ways to increase her income and invest for the future.
“I earn between N200,000 to N300,000 monthly. I had to adjust to the new economic realities. The cash crisis was tough, but my preference for cashless transactions softened its blow,” she detailed.
“However, the increased transportation fares, almost doubling from around N30,000 to N70,000 monthly, significantly impacted my budget.”
Nkem Anyi, a Lagos-based hospital administrator and mother of four, attributed the survival of her family in the year under review, to the grace of God.
“It was the grace of God that was sufficient for me and my family. It was difficult to eat and to pay school fees was like getting gold from the rock, because there was nothing at home. Sometimes, my children will go to school without food and wait till I come back with whatever I was able to get to prepare food.
“We live on borrowing to put food on the table. What was affordable for us was garri and beans.
“I talked with my children to tell them that things will get better. Sometimes, I collect a few food items from the vendors on credit and make payment when my salary comes. For some months we kept eating concoction rice mixed with sachet tomatoes and grayfish, no meat , no egg, because even the borrowed money was not enough to buy things that we needed.
“We paid school fees and house rent with little resources and borrowed money to survive. Any day somebody gives me ₦500.00 or ₦1000 it will be as if I was given a million naira,” she stated.
Aliyu Musa, public commentator, said that he was able to survive the year 2023 just like any other Nigerian that had to battle every daily challenge with a lot of hustles and common resilience.
“I was able to survive due to thinking outside the box and new skills development that ensure more revenue coming in to support costs. I developed skills in data processing and analytics and this has paid off and guaranteed another line of income for me,” he said.
Surviving 2023 was also a mystery for Mary Aku, CEO, Soweto Gardens Lafia.
“In 2023, from the cash scarcity down to the election period, my business suffered most; people were not patronizing me, and even those who came by, ended up living in a huge debt due to the hitches experienced during cash transfer.
“Fuel price and hike in transportation fare made people trek to their destinations. Life was practically difficult and that is why it is a mystery that we survived 2023,” she said.
Abiola Obadara, a public analyst, explained that he was in survival mode. “I started with gradual savings. I was saving every bit of what is available, knowing that there is no one to turn to except God. The savings were handy enough to take care of children’s tuition fees at certain times of need.
“I also cut unplanned purchases and expenses, which I was fond of before now. I cultivate the habit of doing or buying what is necessary and not what is desirable.
“I used personal vehicles sparingly and occasionally and cultivated a habit of using public transportation,” he said.
Bolu-Olu Esho, a resident of Akure, the Ondo State capital, had to adjust in order to survive 2023.
“The only option we have is to adjust. My child gained admission to a higher institution last year, and within that period I had to rearrange myself, I did some cutting, I shutdown some tastes in order to have extra money to spend on what we have at home,” Esho confessed.
Johnson Adeleke, a civil servant, used his car to carry passages for extra income after work.
“When my family asks for money, I do not know what to say at times. My family starved because I cannot provide. I hope this hardship does not break my home, a man is a man when he is able to provide”, Adeleke said.
“Sometimes I drive around the streets of Abuja but hardly get more than three passengers on each trip,” he lamented.
In her case, Joy Ukpong, self-employed, added catering service to her numerous jobs to survive 2023.
She rises before dawn to prepare food, package it in coolers and later sell to customers in large gatherings in Abuja.
Ukpong often thinks of quitting some of her side jobs, but the harsh economy requires multiple sources of income to survive and that is what she did in 2023 and will continue to do this year.
Though surviving difficult times is an inherent part of the human experience, Eze Onyekpere, a lawyer and executive director, Centre for Social Justice, who described the year as one of a horrible year in economic terms for Nigerians, said, “2023 was the year that we would all say never again. May the experience of 2023 never repeat”.
For Temitope Adedeji, political analyst, everything including surviving the harsh economy, has to do with good planning.
“So when you plan ahead, things will be okay a little bit, you have to plan your way, movement and other things. You do everything possible to maximize your resources,” he said.
Differing, Nwabueze Jones Anyanwu, former chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Imo/Abia branch said Nigerians did not really survive, rather they managed to survive because many people died, many businesses collapsed, especially the smaller ones and many households suffered.
“Electricity was not forthcoming for manufacturers, we bought diesel at exorbitant prices to operate our generators. In the course of that, companies and SMEs made a lot of losses resulting in the shutting down of many businesses. Those companies and not back yet, the lost jobs are not recovered, so did we survive 2023? Anyanwu asked.
But many still express hope for a better year ahead.
In a message of hope and resilience, Atedo Peterside, president and founder of Anap Foundation, took to social media to inspire Nigerians. “If you survived 2023 in Nigeria, then 2024 is likely to be kinder to you, both emotionally and financially. Let’s develop the ability to discern truth from lies, integrity from fraud,” he encouraged.