These are not the best times for most people across the world. Things are difficult and there is an eerie air of uncertainty all over the place. When will the lockdown end? When will a vaccine be found? Does this drug work? How effective is that? Who do we listen to? Shall we listen to Donald Trump or believe CNN?
The situation in Nigeria is however most pathetic. It has been a reign of chaos and terrible leadership indifference over the last two months. Many are unsure of what to do when they get into public transport, shopping centres or hair dressing saloons. The president eased the lockdown weeks ago without any laid down protocol to control infections and manage the pandemic. We were simply told to wear masks, wash our hands and observe social distance. With rising infections in most parts of the country, it is now clear that all is not well.
When you tune the news; what do you find? Trucks intercepted with scores of jobless northerners trooping south. No reasonable explanation has been given for these nocturnal movements. An interesting editorial a few days ago by Guardian and an article I did recently are clear pointers that there is more to all of these than just economic survival.
Who harbours these individuals when they get to their southern destinations? Are these trips sponsored? By who? What is so important that it cannot wait until the ban on interstate movement is lifted? Why is the seemingly president unperturbed that his direct orders are being flagrantly violated? But that is not the issue for today.
However these and many more contribute to the chaos we have in the country presently. From failing to manage something as rudimentary as the distribution of palliatives to “copying and pasting” guidelines from European and Asian countries, the government across all levels has been disappointing to say the least. What happens if or when a vaccine or cure is eventually found and our lives return to where it was before February this year? Already millions have lost their jobs in the last few months, several businesses will either cut down operations or go out of existence entirely.
Earlier today, the finance minister, Zainab Ahmed announced that the country will be entering another cycle of recession. For those of us who have been following global trend and events over the last few weeks, the minister’s information communicates nothing. I repeat: she communicated nothing. The global economy itself would be in recession and in Nigeria, there has been no form of proactive thinking from the government so why should news of recession come to anyone as a surprise?
Well, many families have since anticipated what was to come long ago and taken measures to prepare for the worst. We look at a few of those even as we encourage everyone not to despair. We shall march past this bad spot.
- Food first: Most families have suspended all capital projects. The most important thing at the moment is survival. Food prices are soaring. Nothing is certain and there are fewer places to borrow money from. So for many that started some building projects or began saving for something major earlier in the year, all of those have been put on hold. Every budget is channelled to feeding and living to see the next day. The understanding is that if and when things improve, the money gulping projects can resume.
- Bargain hunting: Most people have been hit by unanticipated income reduction. People who ordinarily would ask cashiers to “keep the change” when they shop at the supermarkets have become more keen on finding best deals for themselves. Whether online or at brick and mortar stores, most people are on the lookout for the best value they can get for every kobo spent.
- Bare minimum: From cancelling subscriptions to expensive pay TV packages to cutting down on internet data, most families are trying to cut down their expenditures and manage whatever they can find in order to overcome this wilderness experience. This decision is helped by the absence of top notch football games on TV and the frustration many now feel with the endless bombardment of coronavirus news from major news channels. A friend recently told me that he has stopped listening to the news or watching television. I am certain he is not alone.