By Gbenga Odunsi
For days, Gbenga Odunsi, a journalist, toured five of the federal ministries in Abuja, spending time with civil servants over the NBS report that Nigeria is officially out of recession. His findings show that majority of the civil servants do not believe the report- Nigerians wants to feel the NBS statistics in their stomach before they believe. Those who believed it explained that it will take time before Nigerians can feel it, Gbenga writes.
The news of Nigeria’s exit from recession did not only come as a shock but also generated much controversy. While many are of the opinion that recession is still hitting hard on the economy, others say it’s a past story.
Official results from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had shown that the economy grew at 0.55 per cent in the second quarter (Q2) of 2017, effectively removing Nigeria out of recession.
The statistics office attributes the economic recovery to the performance of four main economic activities comprising oil, agriculture, manufacturing and trade.
The Nigerian economy slipped into recession in early 2016.
This news had struck many Nigerians leaving them in doubt of the NBS report. In separate interviews, the journalist spoke with some civil servants in the nation’s city capital and got divergent views.
When asked if he was happy that the country had journeyed out of recession, Tunde Bankole, a staff of ministry of information simply smiled and stood up from his black leather office chair, looked out through the window, and sat back in his chair.
With a sad face, Tunde queried that if Nigerians who lost their jobs during the recession period get their jobs back, and the high prices of commodities drop down to the pre-recession prices, then Nigeria is truly out of recession, but is the reverse is the case, then the NBS statistics is a hoax.
“Does this translate to all or a greater percentage of people who lost their jobs gaining it back? Does this translate to prices of commodities in the market dropping drastically?
“Does this translate to improved standard of living for the Nigerian populace? Does this translate to businesses bouncing back?
“If no, then those things are mere figures that are not in tandem with reality”.
When Ijebu garri is the yardstick for measuring recession
In his opinion, Jide Akintunde, an administrative officer at the ministry of education, lamented that the exit from recession has not shown in the prices of foodstuffs.
“So, leaving recession was just in the paper, we haven’t seen it in real life.
“Let the prices of Ijebu garri and bag of rice come down so we can really say recession is over”, he added.
However, Ndubisi Julien, a public affairs analyst at Ministry of Finance felt excited to respond to the journalist. “This is the type of question I like to answer,” she said.
She commended the Buhari-led administration for leading the country out of the worst economic recession, adding that Nigerians may not necessarily feel the impact of the exit immediately.
Ndubisi lamented that Nigerians are ignorant of the way recession and its exit works, adding that people use the word without in-depth knowledge of its operations.
“It is obvious Nigerians don’t know what recession is all about, they have only been using the term because they heard it on TV/radio.
“Most of them think exiting recession means a drop in price of garri.
“Once the economic variables stabilize, it will start reflecting in the lives of the people, although it may take time, we are getting there”, she concluded.
Ndubisi, however, urged Nigerians to exercise patience till October before they start feeling the new waves of the post-recession period.
Revving the engine of his Toyota Camry at the ministry’s parking lot, obviously, on his way out, Gerald Lawrence, an accountant at the Ministry of Health commended the vice president Yemi Osinbajo for his efforts in stabilizing the economy of the country while President Buhari was away on his medical trip to London.
Lawrence further explained that it will take some time for the development to reflect on the lives of Nigerians, adding that prices hardly drops down when it goes up in Nigeria.
“Good development, truth be told, Osinbajo contributed a lot to improve the economy, but it is still Buhari’s administration that gave Osinbajo – a technocrat- the opportunity to so.
“It will, however, take some time for the development to reflect in the life of the average Nigerian especially considering the fact that anything that goes up in Nigeria never comes down”.
Some have accepted fate
boredom is killing me, ye eh eh
boredom is killing me, ye eh eh
pour me holy water make i find my square root
emi o s’ere
ko s’ina, ko s’omi
economy yi ti fe so mi di were…
sugbon, emi o ni je k’economy kill mi oh
ma jo, ma yo
economy no go give me heart attack oh
ma jo, ma yo
economy no go give me high blood pressure oh
ma jo, ma yo…
(Economy song by 9ice)
This was the song Prince Olalekan Ibrahim, communications officer at the ministry of transportation, was playing on his android phone when the journalist approached him.
Dressed in a white native wear, guinea material to be specific, Olalekan paid much attention to his laptop, while singing the 9ice ‘Economy’ song at the same time.
When asked his opinion on the NBS report that Nigeria is out of recession, Olalekan asked the journalist to give him few minutes to round off his work – it was almost closing hour.
Responding to the question, Olalekan explained he does not worry himself with issues bothering around Nigeria and its economic state. He noted that the APC-led administration is not concerned whether an average Nigerian feeds well or not.
The 9ice fan further noted that he has decided to make himself happy no matter what happens in Nigeria as it is obvious the government doesn’t care about its citizens.
He lamented on the report by NBS describing it as politically motivated scheme to make Nigerian believe the Buhari administration is working.
“Now answer me, what are the physical indices that show we are out of recession? Prices of essential commodities rose to the ceiling level and that was the beginning of recession in Nigeria
“Now they are telling us that recession is over- the question is, has those prices come down?
“Has fuel/gas price come down to N87?
“Have people who lost their jobs been reinstated?”
“Has foreign exchange returned to where Buhari and his government met it in 2015? Olalekan queried.
“Until all these are reversed, you can come out to say Nigeria is out of recession. If you dare me, then go to Wuse market and say this and see if you will not be beaten to pulp”, Olalekan added.
Sometimes, you just don’t know the source some people’s anger
“Why did they make Lai Mohammed the government spokesperson”
This was the answer that welcomed the journalist’s question when he asked Paul Iredia, a staff at the ministry of industry, trade and investment his position on the NBS report.
Iredia, a middle-aged man with grey hairs on his head fumed and responded with anger over the APC-led administration and their economic policies. It took the grace of God for the young journalist to escape “slaps” from the obviously anti-Buhari civil servant.
“This same government told us Boko Haram has been defeated but we still hear of Boko Haram attacks in the Northeast
“How many people ate meat this morning?
“Where did they get the statistics from, market or office?
Iredia lamented over how Buhari-led government plunged the country into recession. He explained that at the 4th quarter of 2015, the economy was flourishing fine but by the 1st quarter of 2016, the economy was languishing.
Knowing fully well that the journalist wasn’t comfortable with his outburst, Iredia calmed down a bit and concluded by saying “we need to see the effect of the statistics on our tables before we can rightly say we have exited the recession”.
When a Muslim quotes verses from the Bible
Umar Mohammed, an administrator at the ministry of environment was quick to liken Nigerians with the Israelites, explaining that when Moses was leading the Israelites of out Egypt to the promise land, they were faced with numerous difficulties on their way.
While in Egypt, they were convinced God really sent Moses to deliver them from the wicked hands of king Pharaoh. Following the difficulties they encountered, they the Israelites demanded that Moses return them back to Egypt – This is how Nigerians are behaving, Umar said.
“When NBS declared that Nigeria has entered recession with facts and data to back it up, everyone accepted, even the government in power accepted the fact. Nigerians did not call it a campaign. The government accepted the fact and accepted responsibility and promised to improve the economy.
“Now the same NBS that declared recession has said we are out of it with data to back up their facts but some elements have decided to play politics with it and are now saying it is a lie and that it was politically motivated.
“Everyone is now talking as if manna were falling down from heaven prior to the recession period.
“Atiku is saying food must be on the table of every Nigeria for us to believe we are truly out of recession as if during the pre-recession period, everyone was eating 3-square meals.
“Every Nigerian is now acting like we had constant electricity, good road, potable water, good and consistent health care, good education system until recession came and scattered everything.
“Funny enough, when NBS declared recession, nobody demanded all these explanations, we all accepted the fact, now Nigerians are demanding an explanation of how the country exited recession”, he concluded.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Gbenga Odunsi, edits AljzirahNigeria Newspapers, tweets @Gbengaodunsii