News Update

 From Frying Pan into Fire

By Fr Pat AmobI Chukwuma

Once again I remember the grammatical jargon some of us committed in primary three. The subject matter was English Language. The topic of the day was on words and their comparisons. Our class teacher wrote down two words on the black board and asked us to give their comparative and superlative forms.

The two words were: Good and Bad. The intelligent ones among us wrote: Good, better, best. Bad, worse, worst. The stupid and unintelligent ones among us wrote: Good, gooder, goodest. Bad, bader, badest. One pupil even wrote: Bad, bader, mbadamber. The class teacher was highly annoyed with the stupid ones and he punished them with six strokes of cane each. From that day they learnt an unforgettable lesson.

If things are good today, the better may come tomorrow while the best may come later. If you are wailing because of your bad condition in life, there are those whose conditions are worse. Even, there are those groaning in worst conditions. Between 2019 and 2020, we suffered from the Coronavirus Pandemic, otherwise known as Covid-19. We thought that the world would end. Many died globally, especially in America and Europe.

Only a few died in Africa. Some Nigerians died from political coronavirus pandemic. All were warned to stay at home. Indeed, many who died in Nigeria died of fear and hunger rather than from the pandemic. We turned into masquerades by wearing face masks. A certain couple who gave birth to a non-bouncing baby boy during the pandemic named the baby Coronavirus. The unhealthy boy is now three years old.

By God’s grace we survived the Coronavirus Pandemic, not envisaging that something worse was about to come. Thus, from the dawn of 2023, the Naira Swap came into effect. All Nigerians were advised to deposit the concerned old Naira notes into the bank in exchange for new redesigned Naira notes in N200, N500 and N1000 denominations.

The lower denominations of N5, N10, N20, N50 and N100 remained legal tenders. When the affected old notes were deposited into the banks, no new ones were given. Immediately there was Naira scarcity. Everybody cried wolf. Both the old Naira notes and the new redesigned Naira notes were nowhere to be found. Millions of poor Nigerians became helpless and hopeless. Excessive hunger set in. There were commodities in the market, but no money to buy them.

The sellers suffered lack of patronage and decay of perishable foodstuffs. The buyers were hungry and had no money to buy food. The Naira scarcity sent some people to their untimely graves due to excessive hunger and frustration. Banks and Point of Sale operators became rich overnight. If you wanted to withdraw ten thousand Naira, you would go home with six thousand only while four thousand Naira became the charge.

It was a period naira was exchanged with Naira. After long period of agony, hunger, anger and desperation, the old Naira notes were once again released. Even till today the new redesigned Naira notes are very scarce. Was the failed redesigned policy a way of increasing the agony of Nigerians and reducing the population?

As soon as we entered into the second half of the year 2023, another terrifying thing happened. This time, it is the removal of the fuel subsidy. In his Inaugural Speech, President Bola Tinubu said without mincing words, The fuel subsidy is gone! Before he could insert final full-stop to his inaugural speech, the price of fuel skyrocketed. Before then, a litre of fuel was sold at N220. It jumped up triple times.

It is now being sold between N550 and N600 per litre. It is really a situation of jumping from frying pan into fire. Nigerians were still groaning from the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Naira Scarcity endemic, when the subsidy removal came without adequate preparation to cushion its effects. Indeed Nigerians are not only crying but wailing. The prices of all essential commodities have soared so high.

Something remarkable happened between 28 and 29 May 2023. A married couple who suffered 20 years of childlessness gave birth to bouncing baby twins, a boy and a girl. The time of their births varied. The boy came first on Sunday 28 May 2023 at 11.55 p.m. Then the girl came out of the womb at 12.05 a.m. being Monday. They are special twins born on different days with a difference of just ten minutes.

Therefore, I call them senior and junior twins. Will they celebrate their birthday on the same day or on different days? During the naming ceremony, the parents unanimously called the baby boy Sunday, since he was born on Sunday. The female baby who was born on the early hours of Monday May 29 was called Subsidy, because it was born on that very day the newly selected president removed fuel subsidy.

Hence the twins names are Sunday and Subsidy (SS). The unlettered parents are ignorant of the meaning of Subsidy. They just like its sound and it rhymed with Sunday.

Planning is necessary in everything. Few years ago, a wretched man came to me for almsgiving to take care of his twelve children. I asked him about his occupation. He proudly told me that he was a GM. I compelled him to explain the meaning of those two letters for my comprehension and assessment. After few minutes of hesitation, he asserted, I am a gateman (GM) in a private house.

He was paid N15,000 per month. He could not carter for the well-being of the dozen of children he brought into the world. The worst was that they were not going to school due to lack of fund. He approached me for assistance to buy foodstuffs to keep them alive. When I asked him why he gave birth to the number of children he could not feed, he told me that it is God who gives children.

The worst was that his wife was jobless. Her duty was to produce a child every year. Angrily, I told the GM to go and give birth to more children until all the babies in his wife’s womb finish. However, I gave him a reasonable amount of money for charity sake. The family planning stipulates giving birth to the number of children you can carter for.

Where am I driving to? The fuel subsidy was removed without planning how to cushion the negative effects. We are entangled in the middle of the sea. We are about to be drowned by the waters of the sea, if urgent rescue is not forthcoming. The hike in the price of fuel is contagious. Every other commodity or service is affected. The cost of transportation has also tripled.

Landlords have issued their tenants quick notice should they fail to pay the new higher house rent. The other day, I went to buy groundnut in the market. I discovered that the cost for a cup has tripled. I shouted, What? The seller frankly told me that fuel price was hiked. I asked her if she uses fuel to cook the groundnut. She laughed at me and said, Man of God, are you not in this country? Everything is affected by the hike in price of fuel. Cost of transportation has also tripled.

I now pay exorbitantly to travel to the market where I buy groundnut.  As a learned man I immediately understood her plight. She is not alone. Everyone, especially the low income citizens are languishing presently from the sudden removal of fuel subsidy and hike in its price.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The wild and wise bush hen foresaw the future and advised her chickens to feed on both yam seedlings and roots. If it happens that the owner of the cultivated yam seedlings should harvest his yams, then, they would feed on ordinary roots. Luckily God endowed man with two legs for walking.

No one was born with a vehicle or motorcycle. The time is now ripe to resort to trekking as much as we can. The bicycle sellers are now smiling to the banks as many car and motorcycle owners who can no longer afford the exorbitant cost of fuel have resorted to using bicycles. The other day I shuddered when I saw a man taking his five children to school on a wheel-barrow.

Do you blame him? Those who can no longer afford cow or goat meat for cooking soup can resort to using lizards or rats. After all, we ate them during Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. Due to frequent power failure and high cost of fuelling power generator, we should resort to the use of local oil lamps at night. Which way Nigeria is heading to?  sang the late musician Sunny Okosun many years ago. The future of this country is shrouded in mystery. May God come to our aid!