• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Nigerians now have to make tough choices

Nigerians now have to make tough choices

The party is over and those still hanging around the party venue in the hope of getting one more serving from the hosts before heading home are wasting their time. Nigerians that are discerning enough already know. From May 29, 2023, you are on your own, as they say in Nigeria. Those who intend to survive in the country have to take their destiny in their own hands.

Mr. President did not mince words when he said it: government subsidy for the masses has come to an end. What is left is the subsidy for looters in government, who use their offices and friends to illicitly enrich themselves. The markets did not wait for the President to return home to his first night at the Presidential Villa. Food prices shot up as fuel stations hiked the price of the most essential commodity in the country by 300 percent. Transport fares followed. Moving about in fuel-powered vehicles has become sacrosanct, whether for commuters or for car owners.

For a very long time, since 1970 when the Nigerian civil war ended, Nigerian government, which found itself in sudden wealth from oil revenues, began to subsidise life for the citizens, especially those in the cities and urban centres. Free education, free healthcare, free services for government tenants and subsidized public utilities like water and electricity. Those who found themselves working for government at managerial levels had everything paid for them, sometimes taking government loans that were never repaid.

That was all the incentive that people needed to move closer to anywhere there was a seat of government to grab government jobs and opportunities. Once you had a government job as a civil servant, elected officer or a political appointee you had your life secured for you. Many civil servants even reduced their ages several times to remain tied to the benefits of working for government until digital technology came to stop that aspect of official corruption.

Bad supervision and monitoring encouraged errant public servants to get away with their malfeasance and loots in so many cases. As people moved to the town, they inched closer to the corridors of power. To be in the corridors of power meant having access to unending loot. In some local parlance, government is anu enyi (elephant meant) that does get exhausted no matter how much is it shared. One village man, who was celebrating his employment with the local government, said he had wrapped himself around an iroko tree that would never fall. That is how Nigerians see employment in government.

Read also: Subsidy removal buys breathing space for debt-ridden Nigeria

Nigeria used to be a country of rural people. Ninety percent of the people lived in rural areas. Though poor and subsistent, they were self-sustaining. That was before the pull to the city and urban areas began. Once they saw free food and subsidized prosperity in the town, the gold rush began.

First, it was to the divisional and area headquarters, then to the state capitals after the civil war. By 1999, the movement had become tridimensional: Abuja (federal money), Lagos (private capital) and Port Harcourt (oil money). But towards the end of the Buhari administration in 2023, a new vibe of migration had surfaced: jakpa, meaning leaving Nigeria. It seemed that Nigerians would do anything but go back to the country.

As the migration continued, investment in the primary industries, particularly agriculture, which provided food and raw materials, dwindled. Unrestrained inter-communal conflicts across food basins further crashed the food industry. With very poorly managed investment in agriculture, came shortage of locally produced food such that the country had to rely on imported stable food like rice and flour for bread and pastries.

Today, the cities are overwhelmed with population, poverty, food and power shortages, inadequate and poor housing and little access to healthcare. Millions of children are out of school; most of the schools are ill-equipped and poorly manned. People are dying in groves. Crime and inhumanity have become commonplace. With the narrowing of the civic space, the people cannot even have a say in choosing who runs their affairs.

With the removal of fuel subsidy the man in the street can no longer look up to government to fend for him. Education, health, electricity and other subsidies were removed in phases over the years beginning from 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida adopted conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to free funds for government use.

Fuel subsidy was the last of the subsidies that government had grant to make life bearable for the citizens. Somehow, its removal has had a multiplier effect on the general cost of living as the prices of virtually all other commodities have shot up. And there is no predicting that government would not increase tax and levies.

Now that the party is over, Nigerian households have to take pick up their lives on the go. There is no longer government to look up to. People should change their attitudes to life in order to survive. Those who have to return to the villages may have to do so.

The city is becoming too hot and costly to live in. Parents desirous of giving their children quality education and healthcare have to get creative while balancing their incomes. People have to plan their families, redesign their habitations to make economic sense, choose vocations and occupations that can support the family and join social circles that are cost sensitive and do not promote waste.