By Olanrewaju Osho
The spiraling inflation being foisted on the nation almost weekly by the policies of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) government is seriously succeeding in ensuring that over 90 per cent of Nigerians are now finding things very tough in their lives.
Although the 'suffering and smiling' and enduring nature of Nigerians helps the pains to settle in without causing any uprising amongst the population, the leaders ought to be asking the question: "How are Nigerians surviving?" daily, if they have any modicum of human feelings and conscience in them.
Asking this kind of question sincerely and honestly is what anyone in government should be doing now. Doing so may stir the people in power to think harder on how to ameliorate the crushing pains of the Nigerian masses.
The economic hardship in Nigeria is so pervasive at this austere time that one does not need to look too far to find the victims of the policies of this government. Apart from the families of politicians, top government functionaries, connected contractors and members of the inner caucus of this administration, almost every family in Nigeria is feeling the biting economic hardship that is rooting Nigeria and Nigerians deeper in the poverty club. The statistics that the government rolls out regularly to justify its 'performance' do not align with the realities on ground. The hardships Nigerians face is real.
One of such suffering families is that of Yusuf Mukthar a retired director in one of the agencies of government in the Presidency. Yusuf served Nigeria meritoriously as an upright civil servant. His N300,000 (three hundred thousand naira) monthly salary as a director was never enough to sustain his family of five. The government knew this but refused to address the problem. It rather chose to allow people to exploit the system to increase their income, while shouting the anti-corruption slogan. Yusuf refused to be part of this open corruption that had been the order of the day since his time in the service. He rather prefered to manage what he had than get involved in any act of corrupt practice. He was despised by many of his superiors, colleagues and subordinates for his principle of doing things right and doing the right things always. But he remained unshakable in his commitment to righteous ways.
He managed to survive on that meagre income because he was very frugal in his financial management. With the help of the little allowances he received from regular official trips, he was able to keep his family going and acquire a small plot of land to build a three-bedroom bungalow in a middle class estate in one of the satellite communities in Abuja.
Yusuf's retirement from service coincided with General Buhari's election as president. His pension every month after serving Nigeria with utmost integrity for 35 years is N80,000 (eighty thousand naira) only. With the N7 million gratuity he was given at retirement, he paid the outstanding mortgage he took to complete his house and set up an automobile service centre in one of the numerous petrol stations in the nation's capital. He was struggling to get along just fine with the N180,000 monthly revenue from the service centre and his N80,000 monthly pension, augmented by his wife's N120,000 monthly salary as a top teacher in one the government secondary schools in town, until Buharinomics began to drag him down faster into a harsher reality of serious lack.
When Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president, the monthly gross income of Yusuf's family was N380,000. It was the equivalent of $2000 then. Five years later, the income remains largely the same in naira, but it is only worth around $700 or $800 as the naira rises and falls in the exchange markets.
Previously, the energy bill of Yusuf's family was N15,000 on electricity, N8,000 to fuel the generator and N18,000 for the fuelling of their two cars. Today, he spends N45,000 on electricity that is still very far from regular, N16,000 on fuel for the generator and N32,000 to fuel their vehicles.
The family's allocation for feeding has gone up by 100 per cent. The cost of a loaf of the bread consumed in Yusuf's household has moved from N300 to N450 within 12 months.
Through the past five years, his family's income has almost remained the same, despite all his hard work and relentless efforts to improve their living condition by seeking out other streams of income. The opportunities to earn a decent income are either simply not there or they have been cornered by the big people in government for their families.
Now Yusuf's entire family's income can hardly sustain them for more than three weeks in a month.
At the age of sixty-two, he finds himself struggling endlessly to cope with paying the school fees of his last two children who are in the university and secondary school respectively. The roof of his house is leaking but he's found it hard to spare any money to fix this and also address the other urgent repairs to be done in the house. Whenever he sees some of his colleagues who cheated the system and helped themselves with monies budgeted for projects in their offices living large in the midst of the invading poverty around him, tears fill up his eyes and regrets overwhelm his heart. But he always quickly seeks solace in his faith in the just God and resigns to hope.
Yusuf is not alone in the harrowing experience of Nigerians in these trying times. He represents every ordinary Nigerian beaten into poverty and hopelessness by the policies of this government.
As if these pains are not enough, the suffering masses still remain the major targets of all the arms of government and their agencies in most of their efforts to raise internally generated revenue. The masses are bleeding profusely after they have been over-squeezed, but no one in government and government service cares to know how they are surviving. Nigeria remain a haven of everyone for himself, God for us all. May this sad narrative change one day in this lifetime.
Olanrewaju Osho is a development advocate, change architect, UN road safety advocate, author and international relations specialist. He was a senatorial candidate for FCT in the 2019 elections on the ticket of ANRP