•Current economic realities redefining Nigerians’ attitude to giving
By Cosmas Omegoh
At the moment, many Nigerians are going through a rough patch. Ordinary folks are being buffeted by the strong current of economic recession lashing the country. Many are those that cannot afford three-square meals a day.
Some, however, insist that the pain currently being experienced by the people is incapable of wiping away the average Nigerian’s commitment to charity while admitting that the current hard times have their impact on the living standard of the people.
Perhaps, there is some truth in this, considering that at every turn, many are complaining loudly about how difficult things have suddenly become.
To mirror the suffering of the people, a man, Tosin Adebayo, told Daily Sun in Lagos that nowadays, over 98 per cent of Nigerians ate just what they could lay their hands on as against what they would have loved to eat.
At the recent march against bad governance in Lagos, a speaker captured the mood of things when he recalled how bad things had turned out: “These days, out of every five calls you receive, two of the callers are requesting for money. Is that the right way to go?”
His comment and similar ones underscore the daunting reality that hard times are truly here. Now, people who cannot adequately deal with the situation around them are allegedly increasingly bowing out the easy way by committing suicide.
Even kids around are no longer immune to the reality of the times; many of them know that the economy is worsening. They sniff it as their parents ration their food supply. Some pick the message from their teachers at school.
Patience Madueke, an eight-year old primary four pupil, for instance, was recently handed an uncommon assignment by her class teacher. She was tasked to do a half-page essay on economic recession.
Patience’s father, Timothy Madukwe told Daily Sun: “The moment I walked through the door, she did not give me any breather. She maintained that I should assist her in accomplishing the task, crying that her class teacher would beat her if she failed to do it.”
Madukwe said it was through Internet search that he learnt some things for the first time. “For instance, an economic recession is typically defined as a decline in gross domestic product (GDP) for two or more consecutive quarters.” He said that knowledge broadened his understanding of the subject, noting that the experience underlined the fact that even kids knew things were bad with the economy.
However, for most adults, economic recession is a phenomenon better felt than described. It is the refrain on every lip. At drinking joints, motor parks, banking halls, and eateries – everywhere people gather, economic recession is the subject of discussion. Many among the bemused cannot understand let alone explain the economics behind this new entrant and how it suddenly found its way into virtually every home.
No one is amused by this new phenomenon now driving the prices of goods and services sky-high. Over the past months, prices of commodities have not stayed stable. Like a chameleon, they keep changing. No price of anything in the market has remained the same for 12 straight days. Instead, they keep changing, influenced by the performance of the naira at the parallel market. This is a trend most people have seen before.
“Based on the quotation I gave a client recently, he gave me money to purchase five bundles of a certain brand of roofing sheets, which sold for N58,000 each,” a young contractor, Tayo Olasebikan recalled. “But I was naive and did not move quickly. When I got to the market days after, my customer only had one bundle left which I grabbed for N58,000. But since I needed four more bundles I had to buy them at N61,000 and N63,000 respectively in the same market. As at the last time I checked, a bundle of the same product was selling for N78,000. By now, it must have hit N90,000,” he said.
Only recently, it emerged that inflation rate in the country had hit 18.72 per cent, rising from 9.3 per cent in October 2015 through 18.55 per cent in December 2016.
Now, it is a known fact that Naira, the local currency, has long fallen from N186 against the United States dollar in 2015, exchanging for as much as N520 in recent times. Now, this downward slide puts the economy under severe pressure.
Against this backdrop, many Nigerians are feeling a great pinch. Food prices are racing away even as the Naira value continues to badly depreciate. Inflation has mounted. Consequently, many can no longer afford essential goods and services, with hunger and deprivation taking the centre stage, forcing the living standard of many to crash badly.
So, the fear right now is that the Nigerian spirit, which sees people taking care of their relatives and neighbours, might soon be obliterated. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Charles Umeh, said this spirit is one that sustains the average Nigerian.
“It sees people running to their relatives or kinsmen or their church members seeking relief anytime they are in trouble,” he said. “In the Western world, this spirit is non-existent. People don’t depend on others. They depend on themselves or on their social security.”
But in the face of biting poverty, has the people’s love for charity and care for their neighbours waxed cold? A Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Christopher of Ijebu Ode Diocese, said this was not the case. According to him, what the current economic recession in the country had succeeded in doing was to reduce the amount of giving; but not the spirit.
“People are still giving to their neighbours irrespective of whatever that is happening around them. I don’t think that the spirit of charity in the people has changed; it has remained the same.
“Even in the face of recession, a good Nigerian unbelievably built, equipped and staffed a hospital in our area as a gift to the people and handed it over to us to manage.
“The amount the people are giving might have reduced, but the fact remains that Nigerians still love their neighbours.”
The clergyman’s comments were corroborated by Professor Emma Okoronta, a socio-political commentator. He said: “I don’t think that the current economic recession in the country has affected the spirit of giving. In fact, it cannot take away the spirit of giving because of its religious importance. Remember the good book says give, for you shall be given.
“However, what has been affected is how much people now give. Surely, everyone is hamstrung by the situation in the country, and because of this they are largely unable to give as much as they would have loved to. But they are still giving, perhaps proportionate to what they have.
“I, for instance, am for philanthropy and social development because I know their import and impact on the society. But I can no longer give out as much as I would have loved to, even in the church. That is the situation,” he stated.