I remember how Christmas was when I was growing up; I remember the air was always full of expectations, the parents would buy Christmas clothes, sometimes new shoes, for us kids.
They would stuff the fridge with fried chicken, salad and all things nice; there would be rice and at least one piece of chicken per child, (we had to share during unchristmas seasons). There’d be drinks in the fridge, and perhaps the one season they allowed us kids drink more than a bottle of minerals.
Then, we were always given plenty of food by other neighbours; every family would send a bowl of steaming rice and chicken across to other families in the community or street; we did same too. Neighbours and other residents of the street took the opportunity of the season to visit one another. It was the period we got to see inside the homes of several other neighbours who were not so friendly and who didn’t normally open their homes to fellow neighbours…otherwise how would we deliver the rice and chicken mother gave us to give to these people?
Now, we always suspected the unfriendly neighbours collected the rice and trashed them as soon as our backs are turned. We never believed they ate our offerings. We always imagined they collected the food because they didn’t want to openly show offence. Many of these neighbours were however gracious enough to give us kids a token which we accepted with glee and went home to show mother who took the money with a promise to buy us something good with it.
These days, Christmas has lost its high; very few neighbours are sending rice across to one another, fewer still have a token to spare when the kids deliver a plate of rice at their doors.
How many families can afford a new pair of shoes for their young, just because it’s Christmas? Shoes ke? When they are still looking to feed them, then pay school fees, pay rent…the shoes will have to wait until perhaps a generous uncle or aunt sends a pair of hand-me-downs.
No one is opening their doors to anyone, because though it is Christmas, many can’t even afford to feed any extra mouth.
There’s too much poverty in the land.
A bag of rice, as at last week, was going for N17.000.00 (seventeen thousand naira), way above the budget of many companies that hitherto gave a bag of rice to each and every member of its staff.
Very few companies gave rice to their staff this year, few still sent the ubiquitous Christmas hampers to their clients.
So do the maths, if a bag is too expensive for corporate bodies, what’s the fate of the average Nigerian family? How many families can truly afford half a bag of rice with the intention to cook and share with neighbours? How many can truly share the bit of rice they have this season with neighbours friendly or not? How many can spice the rice with chicken, no, say ordinary meat!
Meat isn’t ordinary, by the way, as those who’ve been to the markets recently will inform you; every food item has turned0 to gold, very expensive!
Nigerians have been experiencing budget tightening Christmases for some years now, this one seems to be the tightest so far.
Look at the streets! They are empty. They would hitherto have been filled with gaily dressed young men and women going off to fun places – swanky restaurants, the beach, to visit relatives…the streets are empty, everyone is staying indoors.
The roads are empty, thanks to the long petrol queues, many have decided not to waste the little fuel they have on fruitless visits; I visited coldstone creamy in GRA, there were just three families there…it was scary!
Where are all the pizza loving kids, the adults slurping over ice creams; at a few more restaurants in GRA, the places were quite empty, unusual for this time of the year.
All these have a ripple effect on our economy, when people don’t have, perhaps because they have no job or are not doing anything to create an income for themselves, then they don’t spend, when they don’t spend the economy does not grow, because there will be no demand, and when there is persistent ‘no demand’ who will supply? And when there is no demand and supply, the economy becomes stagnant, it eats up its best minds and sends the others scurrying to fertile grounds.
Are we still wondering why our young are killing themselves trying to cross to Europe via the desert?
Are we still asking why our medical personnel are leaving in droves?
Are we still wondering when the fuel subsidy we agreed to hasn’t yielded the dividend we were promised and we still experience scarcity thus ensuring every other item transported by road will be unaffordable?
I don’t know too much about economics but I know this, Christmas isn’t the same anymore.