By Emeka Uzoatu
These are certainly not the best of times for our nation Nigeria. Well, while it could also arguably be its worst, we may need some Dickensian intervention to unravel the mystery. What with one’s political party of association being often the final arbiter in the conundrum.
As the debate raged me up from bed, I sought refuge from the social media. I browsed till a line stopped me on my tracks: ‘Nigeria exits recession as GDP grows 0.11% in Q4 2020.’
This post off a good friend’s Facebook wall did it all and more. It had me jumping up from bed in exaltation. In these days of gross negativism in our governmental matters, it sure came as an elixir. Here, all said and done, is a reason to be thankful to the Lord I enthused.
In fact, it remained so till my equally-elated eyes veered down to the comments section. To my utter dismay, the first commentator thought my friend so shameless that he progressed to write it down.
In an as-acerbic follow-up, another thought my friend ‘patriotic by half’; urging him to clap for himself and the government of the day.
Other commentators came tumbling after. Not unlike upon the time Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a bucket of water.
Majorly, most wanted certain achievements to announce the achievement instead. One specifically wanted a ball of akara and sachet of ‘pure water’ back to their old prices before water entered the pumpkin’s fallopian tube.
Like I was to discover as day broke properly, the whole diatribe stems back to the latest report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)on the state of the nation’s economy.
Accordingly, our beleaguered economy did attain the stride. That is, when compared with the same period a year earlier. However, patriotism apart, it can be safely hazarded from this corner that there is more to it than meets the eye.
Like reported here earlier, it marks our nation’s emergence from its worst economic contraction in decades. In fact, according to the NBS, it’s the first growth recorded in three whopping quarters by the country’s economy!
Anyway, the NBS in an overdose of magnanimity, perhaps, were also able to compare this single-quarter leap to the economy’s overall performance in the year ended. In their words ‘in 2020 the annual growth of the real GDP was estimated at -1.92%, a decline of -4.20% points when compared to 2.27% recorded in 2019’.
This far, my friend’s post is explainable. After all, in the beautiful game of football you cheer your team on best when they are headed for the opponent’s goal area. And when this hardly comes to pass, one will have no choice than to exalt whenever the ball is cleared from your team’s eighteen-yard box.
This becomes most pertinent given the inflation side of the report. According to the NBS, as reported here, in January 2021 prices in Nigeria kept up a surge in both the headline and food indices.
According to them, in the month in question the consumer price index ‘shot up’ to 16.47% from the previous year while food inflation reached 20.57%. Thus, it has month-on-month increases for the two measures standing at 1.49% and 1.83% respectively.
What this presupposes is that our compatriots ought to be looking at the big, rather than the parochial, picture. Rather than this premature ejaculation of delight, we ought to be calling the minders of our economy to order. And stridently too.
After all, our Centra Bank had five years ago targeted to keep inflation in the country between 6-9%. It has not been able to achieve this ever since and here we are elated at a 0.11% increase in quarterly GDP.
Perhaps it’s time enough to make it clear to all concerned that our economics is not rocket science yet. Sure it’ll still get there but for now the things that needed to be done to restore it to a manageable level are gaping. And rather than closing, it’s widening by the day.
Food inflation, for instance, that is easily the tail wagging its head. After all, according to the NBS report, the average yearly rate of change of the food sub-index for the 12 month period ending January 2021 was 16.16%.
As can be seen, this is -0.49% points higher than the average annual rate of change recorded in December 2020.
So, undeniably our government and the minders of its economic affairs should be seen to be doing something about securing the food baskets of the country. No country can feed itself if her farmers have to be escorted to their farms by the military.
By implication too, ‘shameless’ supporters of the government and its officials should be better minded to know a flown kite from a flying one.
Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom