It’s Not So Hard To Understand Hardship, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Emmanuel Onwubiko

The hottest topic of conversations in the entire length of Nigeria is the harshness of the economy and the increasingly difficult times that millions of families are experiencing at the moment.

We may argue that the immediate past government of Muhammadu Buhari that was ruthlessly corrupt and inept, destroyed so much of the national economy of Nigeria and led Nigeria in 2018 to emerge as the global capital of poverty by overtaking India which was hitherto the occupant of that infamous position universally.

It was in 2018 that the Country’s National bureau of statistics determined that Nigeria had 133 million multidimensionally poor households.

Nigerians were still battling to survive when the then newly inaugurated president Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu inflicted the country with devastating economic paralysis by hiking the asking price of petrol.

The hike in the pump price of petrol from N155 per litre to over N600 was the exact nail that was knocked on the coffin of the national economy coupled with the sheer incompetence and crass irresponsibility of the people at the helm of affairs at the Central Bank of Nigeria who permitted the demolition of the value of the national legal tender known as the Naira and this led to a very negative cascading of the value of Naira to other international denominations such as the United States dollars and the Pounds sterling of the United Kingdom.

With this demolition of the value of the Naira, came the extreme and indeed the worst case scenario of the highest costs of living for Nigerians in recorded history.

The prices of basic and essential items, skyrocketed to unprecedented heights and most essential items of consumption such as rice, beans and the hitherto poor peoples Garri, went beyond the reach of millions of Nigerians.

These popular delicacies that millions of homes usually consumed, skyrocketed with almost a 500% increment in their asking prices.

What president Tinubu’s government has done with the economy of Nigeria is reminiscent of what former US president Ronald Reagan said: “Government is not the solution to our problem,  government is the problem.”

This factual assertion may be the reason why there has been a cacophony of meaningless tales by some apologists of the president Tinubu’s government whose central message is that Nigerians should give the president more time to solve the economic problems.

But it is not so complex or hard to understand that the current hardship came as a result of the poor economic policies framed and implemented by the current federal government especially in the hiking of the pump price of fuel and the floating of the Naira which weren’t the case before he came on board.

So, Tinubu may indeed not bring a clear cut solution since he is actually the genesis of the very problem of hardship that millions of Nigerians are contending with.

This is exactly why it makes no sense to listen to certain persons such as Pastor Adeboye arguing that Nigeria’s economic situations are beyond human solution but deserves spiritual solution and then most of the appointees of the government have continued to inundate Nigerians with their sermons on the mount to the effect that Nigerians should give president Tinubu more time to solve the economic problems.

And I ask, how can Tinubu give what he does not have? This is exactly why the Latin adage says ‘Nemo dat quod non habet’, meaning that ‘you can’t give what you don’t have.’ However,  Nigerians are earger to see that the government that created the problem should undo what it did that led us to this economic trap.

We will pause to delve into intellectual efforts made by some authorities to define what it means to live meaningfully as a human being.

To Abraham Maslow we will go first.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the best-known theories of motivation. Maslow’s theory states that our actions are motivated by certain physiological and psychological needs that progress from basic to complex.

Historically, Abraham Maslow first introduced the concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper, titled “A Theory of Human Motivation,” and again in his subsequent book, “Motivation and Personality.” This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.

While some of the existing schools of thought at the time—such as psychoanalysis and behaviorism—tended to focus on problematic behaviors, Maslow was more interested in learning about what makes people happy and what they do to achieve that aim.

As a humanist, Maslow believed that people have an inborn desire to be self-actualized, that is, to be all they can be. To achieve this ultimate goal, however, a number of more basic needs must be met. This includes the need for food, safety, love, and self-esteem.1

Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior.2 There are five different levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting at the lowest level known as physiological needs.

Then on February 5th of  2018, www.forbes.com published a beautiful article to highlight what they consider as the most vital needs of a Human person on the planet earth. And I perfectly believe that Nigerians must get these six essentials so as to live happily and for these hardships afflicting the majority of Nigerians to be extinguished.

The writer began by acknowledging that things get really tough in life, and that we have this deep urge to cut everything back to the bare essentials. Tiny houses, minimalism, less-is-more, back-to-basics – these are all strategies to make sure that we are getting our most basic needs met on a daily basis without getting distracted by the shiny objects in life.

The writer then recalled that Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, defined a list of human needs that people now call the Hierarchy of Human Needs. He published this list in the 1940s, and it has become the utmost referenced list of human needs.

On what is a modern list of 6 human needs, the writer stated that the list benefits from nearly 75 years of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology research beyond what was known when Maslow wrote his list.

Food – The body needs calories and a variety of nutrients including protein, fat, and carbohydrates everyday to grow, function, and repair. Without food, the body begins to atrophy.

Water – Ample hydration allows for the processes of the body to occur. Without water the body cannot process food or remove wastes.

Shelter – We require protection from blazing sun, freezing temperatures, wind, and rain. Without shelter, human skin and organs are damaged from extreme temperatures.

Sleep – 6–9 hours of sleep every 24 hours allows the brain to process new knowledge and deal with emotional information. Without ample sleep we cannot learn new things or get past emotional pain.

These 6 needs, when met, the writer argues profoundly, allow for a person to develop the self-esteem, security, belonging, actualization, and the other expressions of contentedness that Maslow described.

The writer maintains that, unfortunately, when people go for a long time without having all 6 of these needs met, it becomes difficult for them to live happily ever after and then economic hardships like we have in Nigeria set in.

The truth is that, for millions of Nigerians who are classified as being multidimensionally poor,  affording the above six essential needs of life are few and far between.

Millions of Nigerians can’t afford to buy the most essentials of food stuffs that they must have if they are to live meaningfully as human beings.

The costs of living are way beyond the reach of hundreds of millions of Nigerians and this situation arose from a prolonged period of bad governance and for the fact that governments at every levels in Nigeria for over half a century, lacks accountability and transparency.

The truth is that the country although enormously endowed with rich mineral, solid and crude oil resources, yet the majority of the citizens are alienated actively from the benefits of these resources only because the government is not a respected and has never been a respecter of the fundamental principles that underpins good governance which are transparency and accountability and the institutions that ought to be put in place through legal frameworks to ensure compliance to the best global practices, are made deliberately too weak to be able to live up to the expectations of their mandates for which they were created in the first instance. Government officials are often found wanting and don’t obey the provisions of the Constitution.

The institutions of the legislature, judiciary, and other law enforcement agencies like the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  the Independent corrupt practices and other offences commission, the National financial intelligence Unit, Code of conduct bureau/tribunal and many more such as the department of state services otherwise called the State Security Services, are encumbered from exercising their fuller independence of Operations and are actually not sufficiently funded to carry out their extensive duties and functions to be able to allow for the benefits of good governance to trickle down to the masses of Nigeria.

These are the fundamental foundation of the widespread hunger and massive poverty afflicting the greatest percentage of the citizenry in Nigeria and if a country is organised in such a way that the greatest percentage of the people are alienated from the benefits of governance, it therefore means that there is extensive hardship amongst the people.

A nation with a large army of the poor is sitting on the keg of a gunpowder and it’s just a matter of time for such a nation to implode.

This is the stage of implosion that Nigeria is witnessing all around us. Government is now waking up to put some measures, haphazardly in place to try to mitigate these crises of hunger and absolute poverty that have become widespread and threatens the national security.

On 20th February 2024, it was reported by one of the media establishments, that in the wake of the current high level of hardship in the country, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, had disclosed plans to distribute seized food items to Nigerians.

However, like we already know, the system of distribution of these seized items may be mired and characterised in and by corrupt practices and the real poor Nigerians who need these items would be short changed and at the end of the day, the same political elites like the law makers in the National Assembly and the ministers may corner these food items and hoard them in their way houses.

Despite the pessimism by some Nigerians, the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, said the food items will be distributed after they have been certified fit for consumption.

In a statement by Customs National Public Relations officer, Abdullahi Maiwada on Tuesday, Adeniyi reaffirmed his commitment towards advancing President Bola Tinubu’s food security agenda.

“Furthermore, to alleviate the hardships faced by Nigerians and improve access to essential food items, the Nigeria Customs Service will facilitate the direct disposal of food items forfeited to the Federal Government.

“These items will be certified fit for consumption by relevant agencies and made available to ordinary Nigerians nationwide through equitable distribution in our Areas of Operations,” he said.

The Nigerian Customs should make the process of distribution of these items transparent and must invite civil rights bodies that are credible to observe the distribution of these food items to Nigerians.  The HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) is ready to be amongst these credible observers of this process by the NCS.

Also, there are other aspects of assistance being put together at other levels of government in the sub-national levels that merit our detailed discussions.

Many states are also unveiling measures to mitigate hunger and mass poverty. But amidst these good efforts, the efforts of such private rich young persons like the musician David Adeleke to donate N300 million to orphanages across Nigeria is the icing on the cake.

Government is persuading manufacturers to scale down on the arbitrary increment in the prices of their products such as cements. Government is applying both the stick and carrot approach in doing these interventions.

The minister of housing is one of the most pragmatic ministers that appears to understand how to ameliorate the high costs of cements. He too, has unfolded the strategy that government wants to use to force cement manufacturers to be patriotic.

On FEBRUARY 20, 2024, it was widely reported that the federal government says it can open the borders for mass importation of cement if manufacturers of the product fail to bring down the cost of the product.

Ahmed Dangiwa, minister of housing and urban development, made this known on Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting with cement and building materials manufacturers.

The meeting was summoned to address the astronomical rise in the cost of cement nationwide.

This followed the agreement between the federal government and major manufacturers of the product on February 19, 2024, to peg the price of 50kg bag of cement in the range of N7,000 and N8,000.

Dangiwa said in the past few months, the country had witnessed a recurring and concerning increase in the prices of cement and other building materials.

“Clearly, this is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses,” he said.

“We are not the only country facing these challenges, many countries are facing the same type of challenges that we’re facing, some even worse than that.

But, as patriotic citizens, we have to rally round the country when there is crisis, to ensure that we do our best to save the situation.

“Honestly speaking, we have to sit down and look at this critically and know how you should go back and think of it.”

According to the minister, the government ceased cement importation to enable local companies to increase output and offer goods at a lower cost.

“Otherwise the government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do,” he said.

Dangiwa said the high cost of gas and manufacturing equipment, which were cited by cement makers as the reasons for the price hike, were insufficient to justify such outrageous pricing.

He expressed his displeasure at the position of the Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN), saying the association “does not interfere with the pricing of cement”.

The minister said the association should not just be mute when things were going wrong.

“One person cannot be selling at N3500 per bag and another selling at N7000 per bag and you cannot call them to order,” Dangiwa said.

“The association is expected to monitor price control, otherwise the association has no need to exist.”

The prayer and aspirations of Nigerians is that the government which is the source of these economic hardships and difficulties, must find a way around the mess they brought and relieve the absolutely poor Nigerians and stave off the mass hunger and poverty that are spreading like wild fires.

This must be done now because it’s not too hard to understand economic hardships. I trust that Nigerians who are buffeted by hunger and poverty wouldn’t die in silence but take actions to force government to be faithful to their oaths of offices enshrined in the constitution.

Emmanuel Onwubiko Writes From Abuja. 

 

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