By Emeka Uzoatu
Walking down the street the other day, I pondered the overwhelming hard times enveloping the nation. How hardly a dime makes it into a pocket than it’s gone again on merely mandatory expenses.
Till a lost penny sidles up to me as always. Waxing philosophical, it avowed that the solution to the malaise was neither vegetable nor mineral. According to the lousy interloper, it was purely and squarely animal.
Impaled by its impudent importunity, I was minded to shove it into a nearby drain at first thought. Not until my ever-present sense of decency supervened again.
Walking on, I was left wondering how on earth the recalcitrant piece of copper read my mind so perfectly? Then humbly borrowing a leaf from it, I pondered the dilemma anew, albeit on a different trajectory.
Yes, for viewed anyhow, one point is always constant from even a cursory glance at Nigeria’s economic indices. Be it by man or penny it’s the ‘steady acceleration’ of its annual inflation rate. As at September 2020, this has been the case for a whopping thirteenth month, nonstop.
Anyway, that’s by the way. This being an opinion piece, our concern should rather be the factor(s) driving this decapitating spiral.
Stay with us – me and the penny.
As reported here penultimate week as the news broke, the 13.7% it stood at was brokered by ‘a surge in food costs and a weakened Naira’. Yet, as announced in the report based on data published by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), ‘our food index showed the most persistent increase in the basket of measures that determine the rate of inflation’ in the period under review.
What this implies is that to feed an average family in Nigeria now, one has to be a millionaire in the beleaguered local currency. And like is no longer news, the latter has had to cope with reverberations occasioned by ‘a sharp drop in oil demand and price’. A situation engendered by a permutation of mishaps factored in leastways by the COVID19 pandemic.
In its own turn, this has, in a roller-coaster chain reaction, led to back-breaking pressure on its exchange rate with other world currencies. Thus, ‘in the face of inadequate foreign-currency supply to fund imports’ like the report opines, the populace have been left the worse off for it.
Like a fellow observer posted in a viral blog in the social media recently, feeding an average family in the country now would amount to more than a Sabbath-day’s toil in the land of the Jews.
By the curious calculation, a man blessed with a spouse and three children – translating to five mouths to feed – adds up to fifteen plates of food a day. That is, going by the normal breakfast, lunch and dinner routine. Costed at the average price of Three Hundred Naira a plate, this amounted to Four Thousand, Five Hundred Naira Only per day.
In turn, when this was multiplied by the thirty days in an averaged month for a year, it all came to One Million, Six Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira Only.
Taken up hypothetically, though, one cannot but deduce that a five-numbered Nigerian family is mostly a myth. What with many of us marrying almost as many wives!
So, creating a virtual family of ten – the man, three wives and six children – means that a year would see them burning up a food bill of Three Million, Two Hundred and Forty Thousand Naira Only.
Your guess will be as good as mine about the rest of the analysis. After all no man, woman or child has ever lived by food alone. Even in Biblical times when bread used to be the sole item on the menu, they still needed soul food. Which doesn’t come any cheaper these days. Unless one is on the elongating queue of tithe cheats.
What’s the way out then, according to the penny I hear you ask? But had the penny even not intervened, every Tom would have guessed nothing else but better planning.
For instance, rather than a separate breakfast and lunch always, a threatened family could go for an occasional brunch. I personally never knew it was in the dictionary till now. Implying that hard times have always lurked in the corner, waiting for landing rights.
However, waxing philosophical, the penny had maintained that every dark cloud enfolds a silver lining. So meals skipped now could metamorphose to cornucopias in the future.
“By when our belts would also have gotten to their last possible adjustments,” I had demurred?
Only then did the impudent one return to its aforementioned animal connection.
“Such nuggets of wisdom also abound in the world of animals,” it powered on. “The goat, for instance, doesn’t masticate all the fodder in its mouth straight out. It leaves some for later munching when the supply of feed totters.”
You know, I concurred deep inside. No unlike what our revered candidate for the headship of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) wanted done with the Sovereign Wealth Fund back then. Only to be thwarted by latter-day sinners in saintly clothing.
“And the vulture, for that matter,” it ploughed on.
But what it said had nothing to do with the bird’s storied patience. The matter now, it appears, is not even for the patient – let alone the swift.
Just then, I woke as though from a slumber. Slowly it came clear that that often-purloined ‘king of birds’ sure has the ultimate lesson for us in these times of our greatest need. And courtesy of none else than a poet from overseas.
Of course, who wouldn’t remember Hilaire Belloc, the British-French writer and historian. In his now-legendary eponymous poem on the bald bird, he had posited the only reason for its miserable demeanour – eating between meals. So, like Belloc advised, the abiding lesson in all these for us may be just ‘to only eat at dinner’!
Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.