“PMB is right. 2019 is going to be bleak and disastrous. It is clear that we won’t get much money from crude oil to run the economy.”
Olakunle Olafioye and Henry Okonkwo
From all quarters, it is predictions upon predictions of difficult gloomy time ahead. From those who know – the experts – the prophets, as well as the Presidency, Nigerians have to brace up for hard times this year.
Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari had last month warned the governors and other leaders in the country, saying that there arer tougher times ahead, especially as regards the economy and infrastructural development of the country, adding that things would be harder than before.
The President gave the statement in a message to the 36 state governors during a closed-door meeting in Abuja. Buhari’s message was made known to newsmen by the Chairman, Governors’ Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara shortly after the meeting.
According to Yari, President Buhari also told the governors that the nation’s economy was in bad shape, challenging the governors to brace up on the way forward to salvaging the dwindling economy.
Therefore, a cross section of Nigerians who spoke to Sunday Sun in response to the imminent challenges advocated adherence to strict austere measures, as well as creating streams of income as panacea to surviving the difficult times in the country.
Those who spoke to Sunday Sun on how they plan to survive the harsh economic situation in the country in 2019 also expressed the view that making the right decision in the coming elections would go a long way in determining how Nigerians would fare in the new year.
Responding on how the ordinary Nigerians can survive the imminent hardship, a nurse, Mrs Grace Shomefun, urged Nigerians not to panic, but to take circumstances as they come.
According to her, “the signs are obvious. If 2018 was a difficult year, one should not expect a 360 degree turn around in 2019. If at all the New Year will be better, it has to be gradual. So, for me, bearing this in mind, there is a need to continually address situations as they come. We shouldn’t expect too much from the government. We should rather focus on ourselves, by looking inwards on how to tackle the challenges of the New Year as they come. What I am saying in essence is that Nigerians shouldn’t be too pessimistic nor too optimistic, they should just take things as they come because we have already made so much sacrifice without much to show for it.”
Stanley Onyekwere, an automobile engineer, believes that the statement credited to the president is an indication that the government has nothing to offer the citizenry. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to vote out the government.
“It is self-indicting for the government to announce to Nigerians to brace up for another difficult year. This has been the refrain in the last four years. The primary responsibility of a good government should be how to ease the problem of the people. But if after four years, the only message the government has for its people is the usual message of hard times, then it is clear that such government has got nothing to offer. And it should be changed. So, in my own view, voting out the government is one of the first steps that must be taken if we are to survive in the New Year and beyond,” he said.
For Hassan Abubakar, a computer engineer, Nigerians must refrain from ostentatious lifestyle and profligacy to be able to survive the days ahead.
“It is very important our people are sensitised on the true situation in the country, that’s why the government decided to make it clear that tough times are ahead. But we should take solace in the fact that we are making progress on all fronts. What Nigeria is going through now is not peculiar to us; it’s just part of the change we yearn for. So, we all need to buckle up to be able to navigate through. The most sensible advice is to refrain from ostentatious living and focus only on our basic needs. This will help us to survive in 2019,” he said.
A few other Nigerians are of the opinion that Nigerians must move closer to God in the new year to be able to navigate through the difficult times. Mrs Saidat Badmus is one of those who hold this view.
According to Mrs Badmus, “being hardworking is not enough to survive in Nigeria. Nigerians need to move closer to God. Our leaders have failed us in every area so the only refuge we have now is God. There are so many industrious Nigerians who don’t even have any work to do. There are others who have work, but things are not just working. Look at me, I opened for business at 10:00a.m today, but almost four hours after I am yet to make up to N1,000. So, you can see that it is not just enough to be hardworking. It also requires that we move closer to God, that’s how we can survive this hard time.”
A commercial driver, Kayode Adejumo, on his part said that an average Nigerian needs multiple sources of income to be able to survive the harsh economic situation in Nigeria.
“My advice to anyone on how to survive this terrible situation is that we must all cultivate the habit of creating extra sources of income. Look for a major need in your neighborhood and find a way of addressing it to create extra source of income. We are in an era when one cannot rely on a single source of income. I have sold some crates of eggs today because I also operate a small poultry. That is an additional income for me as a commercial driver. At intervals, I go home to check on the fowls. So, we shouldn’t rely on a single job to survive in Nigeria,” he said.
A retiree, Mrs Rachael Ogbona, called on Nigerians to be frugal with their resources.
“This is not the first time we will be threatened with such declaration. And even when the government assured us in the past that things would get better, it often turned out to be empty promises. So, having the understanding that our leaders don’t have the magic wand to turn things around for better for us, is enough to get serious-minded Nigerians prepared every time.
“So, I can say I am always prepared for such situations. What I do is to make sure I cut my coat according to the size of my clothes. My advice to Nigerians is that they should ensure they live within the limits of their income,” she admonished.
On his part, Dr Nnaemeka Obiaraeri, an investment banker and MD of the Taurus Capital, one of the sure ways to salvage the economy is for the government to wean Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil as a major source of revenue and seek ways to diversify the economy.
“PMB is right. 2019 is going to be bleak and disastrous. It is clear that we won’t get much money from crude oil to run the economy. Therefore, we must diversify, but the only people that can diversify are people that understand creativity. It is not all gloom, we can ride the storm if we can have creative thinkers in government to diversify our economy. If not in the next few years Nigerians would be pushed to revolt against their political leaders because of the crippling hardship. I foresee the government succumbing to pressure and deregulating the downstream oil and gas sector. They’ve chosen not to do that because of the forthcoming election. By March reality would hit them and they would deregulate because we have many investors willing to come into the country to invest,” he said.
Other people that spoke to Sunday Sun revealed that they have already switched into survival mood and have devised ways to cope with the lingering hard times.
Ikenna Okeke, a web designer, disclosed that the 2019 budget was enough red flag to warn him about what lies ahead.
“I already know things are going to be bad this year. The signs are already glaring at us. So, as an entrepreneur, one must find a way to stay in business, and it may require changing the line of business. It might also require adding one or two more lines of services that draw more patronage and require less capital. Or it may require cutting down on expenses. I would not join the bandwagon that clamour to go into agriculture. I’ve seen many go into it getting their fingers burnt. So, look before you leap into agriculture and ensure you do your research properly and know the rudiment before going into it,” he advised.
Another entrepreneur, Clara Okoro, a brand consultant, argued that every good business owner should always have the mindset to face the harsh realities of doing businesses in very tough conditions.
The MD of BrandWorld Media further hinted on the options she and many others in her line of venture would explore to keep business afloat. “For our kind of business that relies heavily on market intelligence analysts, one would consider options like lay-off workers, shutting down some parts of the production lines, outsourcing and becoming more economical until the economy improves again,” she said.
Also for Ndidi Amara, a skin care manufacturer, she nurses the ideas of expanding her brand and delving into other business terrains to keep her brand afloat.
She also called on the government to cushion the effect of the bad economy by giving loans to SMEs so that they can expand and contribute to the reduction of the high unemployment rate.
“I intend to expand the customer base. And I’ll try to be more competitive with the packaging of my product and to do more research on how to add more value to my brand and give it more push, to maintain and retain my loyal clients. Then I also intend to seek out new lines and areas of business and go more into social entrepreneurship,” she said.
Amara may not be alone in her cry to the government to support SMEs, another Nigerian business owner, Olasukanmi Akeem, a tailor in Orile, Lagos also appealed to the government to see the bad economy as an opportunity to look inwards and empower SMEs Nigeria.
“We didn’t experience any boom in business during last year’s holiday season. It is quite unusual. Things are not looking rosy this 2019. And I think it is a clear signal to me that my business is going to suffer. So, I’ve already told my family and anyone that cares to listen to tighten their belts this season. Then the government can help us by providing soft loans to us SME owners. Government grants would help me to expand, buy more sewing machines, boost my production and create more employment to avoid the feared upsurge in crime that could arise from job losses caused by the poor economy in the country,” she said.
For Toyin Okanlawon, a printer in Shomolu area of Lagos metropolis, the harsh economy is already taking its toll on printers. Hence printing companies collapse under the weight of the crippling economy.
“It is already biting us hard. For us printers it hits us hard because sales and purchases aren’t commensurate to cash value. The cost of stationeries and other printing materials have gone so high and printing presses are shutting down. Many are just opening shop and offices to keep registering their presence and keeping hope alive that one or two clients might come in to do business. Things are really rough now. So, for now, I intend to cut down on unnecessary expenses for my family and then on my social life.”
Ifunanya Mercy, a small-scale producer of women foot wares, was optimistic that her business would survive the harsh economic waters, as she plans to tap into her skills in different business endeavours.
“I don’t intend to close shop. My plans are to delve into several other businesses to add to my handiwork. I’m a skilled barber, painter and I produce wigs. For now, I make slippers and export to African countries like Ghana. I want to be skilled in diverse business endeavours so that if I don’t earn much from one venture, I switch over to start up another one. So, I advise Nigerians to try to acquire more skills to ensure a steady source of income,” she said.