A popular Igbo saying goes; “Adi agwa ochi nti na agha esu.” This loosely translates to “you need not sound a reminder to the deaf about the imminence of war.” In other words, when a war starts, the deaf, blind and those with full functionality of their sense organs are not left in any doubt of what’s afoot.
In Nigeria today, we are at war, an economic war. The drums of this war sounded a long time ago. In my opinion, since the price of crude oil began its recent drop over a year ago and with the realities of our precarious state now setting in, especially as seen in the free fall of the naira and the government’s seeming inability to take the pragmatic steps to at least apply some brakes, no one should still be in doubt that we are in for a difficult year.
A friend of mine joked the other day that the real wailing wailers were not those on twitter or on television. The real wailers, he said, will be found in the markets. He had gone to tejuosho market in Lagos and he told of how both buyers and sellers were wailing…about the dollar. For the sellers, securing forex to bring in goods was now a full blown nightmare. At over N300 to the dollar in the black market, they never had it this bad. The buyers on the other see the little money in their pocket buying fewer and fewer of the goods it used to. A number of these buyers are even owed many months in salary by state governments who are equally wailing about the drop in monthly allocation from the centre.
And the wailing goes on.
- Parents looking to pay school fees of their children schooling abroad.
- Patients looking to seek medical help abroad.
- Small businesses who do not qualify for the CBN’s dollar allocation and thus can’t meet various business obligations with foreign partners or suppliers.
What to do? First of all, panic is not a strategy. Neither is mourning. We can go ahead and analyse it all we want or moan our predicament until blood escapes our eyes, it would not change the situation. As a government, as businesses and as individuals this is a time to make and take difficult decisions ala tightening the belt, as is often said.
This piece focuses more on the need for us as individuals to make serious adjustments to our costs, taste and consumption patterns if we are to survive this war. The conclusions of a recent report by GT Bank, ” Nigeria: Macroeconomic and Banking Sector themes for 2016″, speaks aptly to this need. Among other recommendations the document posited that “Individuals and households need to start their personal adjustment programmes in a bid to reduce dependence and taste for imported goods and begin to look inward for domestic alternatives.”
In simple terms, it will not do much harm to your taste buds if instead of stocking foreign corn flakes for breakfast at home you seek out those ones made in Nigeria. Now, this does not only reduce your expense, it also helps the Naira to gain some ground.
Admittedly, I have employed a very simplistic example above but in essence that is the reality of the day. There is just no other way. We have to rein in our love for foreign goods and for those who have the ingenuity to, begin to produce local alternatives for some of these products. This is why the ongoing citizens campaign on twitter with the hashtag #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira is very important and timely too.
It has been our experience that hashtags no matter how popular, do not necessarily translate into tangible outcomes. This however is one that must. We do no require any government to legislate or implement it. We need no one to force it on us. It is left to us as individuals to do the needful. For when your account balance is not looking good and your needs are not disappearing either, you will need no one to remind you that the war is here.
First published here on 16 Feb, 2016