By Cosmas Omegoh
Christmas and the New Year have come and gone, leaving many with the lasting memories they had while the celebrations lasted. Now, they await the next edition in 11 months from now.
Definitely everyone who celebrated the seasons had varied experiences – some of which might linger for long.
But with the celebrations over, some people are regrettably returning to moments of sorrow and sadness. They have very little left and can hardly meet their personal obligations – all because they sank everything they had into their celebrations. They wanted everything splendid and had it. Now, they are holding the short end of the stick. Things are falling apart.
Indeed, many salary earners – and even traders and contractors, earnestly look forward to the end of January when salaries would be paid again, and the recipients will be happy. They would go to buy from the traders thereby ensuring that they too are liquid. Government businesses once again will come to live. Cheques will be signed and released.
But until that day arrives January will seem far, far away. It is a long walk. It will talk a little while for things to return to normal again.
According to Sunday Sun investigation, during the festive seasons, a large spectrum of people spent lavishly celebrating. Thereafter, their purchasing power runs low, reaching at it lowest ebb. At moment like this, every focus is more on providing food and other basic necessities of life. People can no longer afford their everyday luxury. For the unemployed, and hangers-on, and other categories of dependants, January is the toughest of them all. January, it was gathered, is not a time to make requests or flimsy demands because benefactors also have it rough. That is the situation. That is why many say January is “the longest of all the months.” It drags and drags and never seems to end despite the earnest wish that it should roll away fast and allow the rhythm of activities to pick up again.
But it was further learnt that many who understand January and its character make preparations to accommodate. They don’t like to be caught in its web. For them, January is like every other month.
Mr Peter Oyebola, a clinical psychologist based in Abuja, says the idea of January being the longest month in the year “is a matter of perception,” insisting that it all depends on the way individuals see it – based on their experiences.
Gear him: “It all depends on what happens before January.
“You recall that before the Yuletide and New Year celebrations, some people make savings for both the celebrations and the month following.
“But what happens when people exhaust their salary or income during the seasons and are looking forward to when the next will come?
“It is the way people view the month that makes it seem that it is the longest in the year.
“This is so because after the Yuletide and New Year celebrations, people will be needing money to pay school fees or house rent or to set up businesses. And oftentimes this money might not be there – all because it has been exhausted in the weeks before.”
He, however, added that “literally when you look at January, it seems to have five weeks, when compared to a month like February.”
Mr Oyebola told our correspondent that after some individuals have virtually exhausted what they have, there is an obvious financial burden on them which leaves them with an earnest expectation of when they will receive their next pay. In that case, the days drag.
But Mr David Omorobkhae, a pastor and the director, Communications and Advocacy, Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), says the idea of January being the longest month in the year is a farce.
“I don’t believe in it,” he emphatically told our correspondent, making clear his reason.
“The point is that over the years, as a family man, I have known that in January, the children will be going back to school. So, in December, while I try to enjoy myself, I also try and make allowance for the expenses that are to come in January.
“If one fails to make such preparation, January will appear to be tedious and long. If, therefore, one is not prepared for January, he will be embarrassed because school fees will be there to be paid. There will be other bills starring at one in the face if they fail to prepare ahead of time. So, for a lot of people who fail to prepare, January is not only long, but a nightmare.”
He also harped on the rehearsed line: “If one fails to plan, he plans to fail,” adding that ordinarily, “January is not different from every other month.”
He advised those who allow themselves to be messed up by January to “learn to cut their cloth according to their size.”
He called on everyone not to be deceived by the fact that at the approach of Christmas and the New Year, most organisations pay their staff December salaries. He said such money essentially should not be used entirely to celebrate the seasons, but also to plan for the year coming.
For Mr Samuel Ibejiabe, a retired civil servant and onetime curator, Kogi State Museum, Lokoja, “January looks every inch like to a double month – a hard month for everybody. Numerically, it is the same month, but because of expectations, it seems to be so far and so long.”
According to him, January is a month that promotes tension, but what sustains salary earners and tends to calm nerves is early approval of state government budget. “It is only then that civil servants believe that money will come. But when the budget is hanging, tension rises. But if the budget is signed, the civil servants will be assured that in the last week of January, money will come.”
Recalling how some salary earners try to survive the month of January, he said the wise ones try to make a series of wise adjustment and plan for the future. “When you get salary in December, you try to reserve some in expectation of January.
“You remember that in January, most people are paying school fees, some house rent – others are making one form of expense or the other.
“In other to make ends meet, some people try to borrow from wherever they can; some who earlier made contribution or are into one form of thrift or the other or who are members of a corporative society try to collect some money in December to pay school fees, pay house rent or even buy food.
“In some instances, some people try to bargain with their friendly foodstuff seller and take food on credit hoping to pay them when they receive their salaries. When you have a good friendly trader, you will be able to get food stuff from them on credit and pay back on pay day.”
He also said “when some people have some savings in the bank, it is time to make withdrawals and survive on them.”
But sadly, he said, “these days, the cost of living is too high that you hardly have a civil servant that has some good savings in the bank. People are managing just what they have.”
He further recalled that “besides, I know that during this period, some people try to reduce their excesses – drinking spree, clubbing outing – so as to conserve the little they have – that is for the wise ones.
“Then at home, some people, instead of using the now-expensive gas to cook their food, they use firewood or charcoal or kerosene. Then in terms of electricity for those using prepaid meters, if they are not in need of power, they switch off their appliances so as to reduce the cost of living and ensure their survival.
“I have seen some people trying to go low on their January celebration. They put off their children’s birthday, among other things.
“I do know that in other to survive January, some people harvest their crops in December and now begin to sell them in January. They know they will make money through that. So, during this period, we see more food entering the markets. The farmers are looking for money, while the buyers are there to buy.
“I do notice also that this is not a period for parents to buy dresses, having done that much earlier. So expenses in that regard is foreclosed. Unless one has children who are going to change their uniforms in the New Year.
“So, generally, in January, it is survival first, then every other domestic consideration will follow.”
A businessman, Richard Ezeji, based in Port Harcourt, also admitted that to survive every January, he tries to conserve resources for his family.
“What we gather in December we try to conserve to last us till January, knowing that it is the longest month in the year. Even though it has 31 days clear, in actual sense, it seems like 50 days because a lot of people exhaust all they have during the period.
“You know that the festive period goes with some kind of spirit. For instance, right now, transport fares have tripled on every route. Yet you must hit the road once you have come out to travel. That means a lot to pocket of everyone.
“Sadly, if one exhausts themselves during this period, when they go back, they are stranded; they are forced to go borrowing. So, one has to save what he will eat in January in December.
“It is either you earmark the money and tuck it away safely under your pillow, or save it with your bank. Because once you return to your station, schools will resume. The schools will issue their demand notices.
“Anyone who ignorantly overspends during the Christmas and New Year celebrations then suffers. That is a long established truth.”
He regretted that for those who would like to borrow, January is never the best of time to knock on any door. Then he leaves everyone with a nugget: “Let everyone who has not known this fact better do so.”