Afolabi Gambari

The country’s economy has slid into troubled waters and
leaders are scrambling for solutions within limited resources, promising: “We
will survive this scourge.”

Recession is not an alien word, just as it is not an
affliction of any particular country. Nations are currently reeling in
recession either through sheer deficit in governance or through the sharp fall
in global oil prices or through certain forces that could hardly be
comprehended. But every nation tackles the recession in its peculiar way, its
leaders and followers alike knowing that any slip could prove just fatal. Saudi
Arabia is one such country.

A predominantly oil-exporting country, the fall in
prices of the commodity has dealt a deadly blow, resulting in loss of jobs and
disenchantment among the populace. But the panic button has not been pressed as
yet. Government has since literally unleashed measures at cushioning effects of
the situation on the people with the sole aim of dousing the accompanying
social tension.

Not so for Nigeria, at least at the moment. Before Finance
Minister Kemi Adeosun’s official declaration on recession, there had been loss
of jobs in the midst of job insecurity for many who still had jobs and it is
just as dreadful that millions of others are still in search of jobs. The
result on the country’s social fabric can only be imagined.

Trust Nigerians to crave divinity as solution to even
challenges that are minute: Arch Bishop John Praise Daniel, who spoke to
reporters shortly after a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently in
Abuja, on behalf of his colleagues, said: “There is hunger in the land and we
are here to ask the government to immediately arrest the situation.”

Very few would argue that the clerics merely echoed
what everyone in the country knows and feels or, at least, hear people say. But
the holy touch could not still be disregarded, especially as it made their
words weighty.

“Let the government know that although we have
agreed that we are in recession, the people out there who we lead are suffering
and crying all over the place and government must do all in its power to lessen
the suffering,” Daniel said.

But the clerics’ spokesperson was still far from
pouring out his heart at the seat of power: “We agree we are suffering from the
misrule of the past. All the same, we believe the government can muster enough
will to address the situation before it gets out of hand.”

Venerable Daniel did not particularly say that
President Muhammadu Buhari was not a listening leader. Nonetheless, he stated
clearly: “Mr. President promised to look into the various challenges
confronting our nation. We believe him and believe in his integrity to come up
with efforts to ameliorate the suffering of the people.”

The cleric turned on Nigerians with this admonition:
“We are a united nation and nobody should be thinking individually but
collectively in making Nigeria a greater nation. We can foster together with
our genuineness, commitment and intellectual intelligence to move forward.”

But some will rather devise means to survive than
give in cheaply. Here is a story from Umuahia, Abia State, where recession is
hitting hard and harshly: One of the fleeing Umuahia residents, Mr. Callistus
Onyemere, a civil servant, who volunteered to bare his mind, did not mince
words in expressing his frustration.

“I have reached end of the road,” Onyemere lamented,
tears welling in his eyes. It was a pitiable sight, according to the report.

“With the high cost of living, I had found it tough
to sustain payment of my house rent at the Agbama Housing Estate before
government declared the recession,” he said, stressing: “I have no other option
but to return to the village with my family.”

Onyemere’s frustration did not becloud his sense of
planning, however. Hear him: “My wife and I have resolved to use money in our
savings to renovate the three bedroom apartment we have in my father’s compound
in the village. We plan to use the remainder to get our children enrolled in
affordable public schools in the area. Hopefully I can now spend a little
amount of money to transport myself to and from the State Secretariat in
Umuahia every day.”

Even Franco-German Super Eagles’ Coach, Gernot Rohr,
has since blended with the resilient spirit. After reviewing the
near-insolvency state of his employer Nigeria Football Federation, he said: “Irregular
salaries are the least of my worries. “I am used to being owed salary so it is
no big deal for me. I am a patient man. I worked in Niger Republic where I
coached the national team and was not paid for eight months but I still
worked.”

The 63-year-old gaffer has not let off his guard,
however, stating clearly that he would not take his survival for granted. Hear
him: “There is a contract between me and the NFF and I believe everybody will
be honest and realistic enough to abide by the terms.”

The NFF itself knows that it needs a virtual war
chest to prosecute the World Cup qualifying campaign. But the football house
knows even more that it is reeling in fund paucity. The team has delivered
twice on the trot, hauling six maximum points against Zambia and Algeria in the
World Cup 2018 qualifiers.

 If the
players aim at “pay before service”, the NFF aims at “pay after service”.
Lately, the NFF also said: “We won’t pay you in the usual cash to hand any
longer. We will now pay directly into your bank accounts.” This decent style of
transfer had long been suggested to the NFF.

 But
successive administrators at the football house spurned it, saying, “Players
need instant cash to get motivated.” So, why is the rejected offer being
accepted even without debate or whether it pleases the players? It can only be
recession!

Resilience had taken Associate Professor of
Comparative Politics at the University of Ilorin, Dr. ‘Gbade Ojo, to South
Africa recently and he returned to share his experience with an audience at the
university.

“Two things struck me about South Africa during my
visit which coincided with the municipal election,” Ojo began.

“The first was that the election took place on a
Wednesday and voting hours were between 7am and 7pm. The second was that
although public holiday was declared, there was no restriction on movement.

“The beauty of the South Africa’s electoral system
is that it reduces both cost and frequency of elections at the municipal level.

“Provision for special voters is also a unique
feature of the municipal election and ultimately the electoral law which allows
those that apply for special consideration to vote two days before the actual
voting day. The people in this category are the aged and physically challenged,
in addition to others with genuine reasons not to be available on voting day.”

Drawing comparison with Nigeria, Ojo said,
regretfully: “Nigeria’s electoral system does not make provision for special
cases as these.” He could have as well added: “I was impressed at how much the
South African electoral officers have improved on what they learned from
Nigeria.”

It appears; after all, that South Africa has since
imported Nigeria’s resilience and is making good fortune of it.

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