In Nigeria Energy Cost Is The New High
By Emeka Uzoatu
Mr Prank, like his friends term him, has become a new creation lately. In fact, were he Christian enough, he would have been christened ‘born again’ by his congregation. Only that he had crept back to the fold rather surreptitiously to be noticed, nay branded.
That being however it pleases, Mr P – like he is monikered – was an arts major in high school. Back then he took the word nostalgia as just another word to be memorised for examination purposes. Back then, he kept wondering why anyone would be enamoured of the past.
Until the second decade of the 21st century dawned. Like joke, like joke – as they say in Lagos and other Nigerian composils – the word returned. And as though to haunt him, it was no longer a word in a book but a feeling in his heart.
It was about then, too, that the state of his faith joined the melange of his worries. Though he is not, and could never have been, a real Christian; he still counted as one, even just nominally.
Though born into the faith, he had slowly distanced himself from them. Since he assumed the mantle of adulthood, he found that he was gradually building himself a belief alibi. Largely unconvincing, even to himself, he kept tinkering with it as the days rolled by.
What with his slow descent into alcoholism as he attained the age of further reason. He had started with good, old lager. First he had been faced with the hurdle of choosing which of the multiple brands to call his own.
After almost close to a year’s roulette, he had fallen for one. Perhaps, because of its sidereal propensities. Yes, he had also hoped for something else that its steady downing by him would transport him to. Like the rarified state manifested by the hilarious men and women featured in its adverts on the tv – and billboards.
But only then did other burdens join the elongating queue of his troubles. Like a guy having to count in cartons rather than bottles to arrive at the requisite destination of inebriation.
Sadly, the only option that occurred to his by-then inchoate sensibilities became to effect a change of tipple. For one, he couldn’t fathom himself quaffing any other lager – even at gunpoint.
After a long-drawn-out hiatus, he branched into other alcoholic potholes. The wines, for instance, came in so many makes that choosing one to berth in turned out more difficult.. What amazed him most was that, rather than just a change of brand like during the lager era, here you had to start choosing from type of grape, colour, age and taste.
As exasperated as he ended up, Mr P couldn’t stop at that. Almost lethargically, he experimented with a permutation of other mood-shifters next.
He couldn’t last in the kingdom of sparkling wines, either. Of course, like bottled water, the non-alcoholic ones were persona non grata ab initio. Champagne had proffered some attraction – at least for class. But it had to be Cristal for all he was worth. And, in truth, he knew he couldn’t cope with its cost.
In the kingdom of spirits, the brandies of cognac no sooner mimicked the former in their Very Old Special Prices. And once bitten, he never dared the XOs for size, for the fear of a second bite.
The whiskeys didn’t spare him either. If anything, they made him a little more patriotic. Like the wines, he refused to be distracted by the years they baked in their casks. And, he never forgot that the Scots, like the Russians, were not good enough in the round leather game. A feeling that has persisted ever since their match in the 1982 Mundial was tagged as one between Alcoholism and Communism.
Which was how he returned to our local tipples after the circuitous round trip. Only that this time around he could no longer stomach the bottled variety. Opting instead for the ones brewed by the gods, he spared no odds to get at the best of them no matter the cost. At worst, he reasoned, I’ll be enriching a brother.
But that’s not when nostalgia came calling anew, like adumbrated above. Like a thief in the night, it only did unawares. That was also when it suddenly dawned on him that he could no longer finance his alcoholism.
Coincidentally, it started as the ‘clueless’ regime running the affairs of the country couldn’t change into the proper gear. Then as another electoral cycle arrived in 2015, they were appropriately voted out by the electoral commission.
Only that as the new party took over, things stabilised for a while only – if at all. According to analysts, it was due to the body language of the new ōga at the top. Then as if his body started speaking in an unfathomable tongue, everything started gravitating downhill.
Suddenly, placing an order for his favourite tipple amounted to taking another bride. Patriotism apart, he found out that even the local and imported varieties had their prices catapulted above the roof. So much so that whichever you patronised, its cost automatically took whatever made people high from the drink.
And it kept getting worse. In fact, after seven years of their stay in power, no reasonable fellow could look any tipple in the eye without contempt. Not even ogogoro, baptised illegal gin by our colonisers upon a time. Sold in shots in the open market, it has now been priced out of the reach of the common man.
However, it is not the price of his tipples that had Mr P longing for the past. Rather it was the price of other essentials. What with a bag of rice that used to go for just 8,500 naira now costing a whooping 36,000 naira. Despite his atheism, Mr P was of the view that it was ungodly to get high with housekeeping money.
But the last straw remains the cost of energy. These ranged from the prices of kerosene, petrol to that of diesel and aviation fuel. This time around, it had him so incapacitated that he returned from work one payday and kicked the bottle.
It was on that day in question that he noticed a strange transfiguration of the self. As if in a trance, he noticed that just the mere remembrance of risen energy prices gave him a natural high. One so elevating that he stayed in the state till he refuelled his various tanks again.
As the feeling persisted, he slowly found his way back to church. He had no option. The first day in his local parish edifice, his head felt like that of once upon the Caribbean Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott’s – like ‘blackened, shifting dust’.
Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom