Nigerians have always been known as very social people who know how to enjoy themselves. Birthdays, child-naming ceremonies, marriages and other social activities present opportunities for such enjoyment, most times exotically. Some even go borrowing to organize such events. Let’s not talk about our exorbitant ways of burial, particularly in this part of the country, all in the name of giving our beloved, departed ones “befitting burials”.
However, with the on-going lockdown in almost all the country, occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ravaging the world, there seems to be a deviation from the flamboyant ceremonies to simple, inexpensive ones. A few days ago, a video of a couple who had their wedding right inside their living room with a handful of persons, apparently the officiating minister and their parents, in attendance went viral on the social media.
The same goes with birthday ceremonies. Many whose birthdays fall within this forced stay-at-home period have shared beautiful, amazing pictures and videos of their birthday celebrations in their homes, with just their immediate families. They didn’t have to empty their bank accounts so as to organise the best party of the year. Some of them did not have cakes and expensive wine. There was no wow hall decoration, no hired musician, comedian and all those side attractions that we believe make such occasions thick. But evidently, they were memorable events or should I say, the best birthday party ever.
From these lockdown parties I was able to draw some lessons. One is that true happiness does not come from flamboyant lifestyle or all the exotic possessions of ours. Yes, they are important as they help in making life easy, but true joy comes from a happy home and many little things of life. Another is that we can be happy if we choose to, regardless of the difficulties or challenges facing us. Amid all the sorrows, sadness, hardship and uncertainties all over the world this trying season, it would have been justified if the birthday celebrants chose not to mark their days. But despite all the travails, they chose to be merry.
Such positive attitude is needed as long as the Coronavirus pandemic lasts. Of course, the lockdown has taken a toll on us and Federal Government has failed woefully in her promise of sending relief materials to the poor to cushion the effect of the action, but we can still decide to make ourselves happy. In the advice of an unknown author: “Eat well, read books, study yourself, expand your mind, do better and get better. Last but not the least; remember you are your greatest investment”.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that with little, we can achieve a lot if only we can eliminate the unnecessary things. Only the important things should matter. This attitude will help us greatly both as individuals and a nation both during and after the pandemic. With the havoc being wrecked by the virus globally, turning the world upside down, economic experts have warned of very tough years ahead. Already millions of jobs have been lost in the United States of America and other countries in the past one month and we will be deceiving ourselves if we think Nigeria will come out of the pandemic unhurt economically and otherwise. The continued dwindling of oil price in the international market (the mainstay of our economy) should be a pointer to the magnitude of hardship that awaits us.
To navigate through the inevitable murky waters, one has to be wise in his spending. Apparently, this is not the time for frivolous expenditures individually and more as a government. Even if you are so rich and may want to continue with your pre-COVID-19 extravagant lifestyle, don’t forget that there are millions of poor people around you whose lives you can impact through a little cut down in your spending.
As a government, both federal, state and local government, it is time to reduce cost of governance to the barest minimum. Some political and economic analysts have advocated that not too important items in the 2020 budget like the N37 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly, entertainment allowance and other such items be expunged from the budget and the money be diverted to the manufacturing sector which is the peg of any development.
Other prominent Nigerians like the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have made similar calls, asking that the 2020 budget be revisited in view of the current pandemic. He said, “Our oil benchmark is way off the mark. And we are certainly no longer in a position to budget N100bn plus for our legislatures and almost N50bn for the Presidency”. Continuing he said, “We cannot be looking to borrow huge sums at the same time our officials are taking delivery of foreign made luxury cars. We cannot be considered a serious country when we refuse to cut down on profligacy and, instead, seek outside help to fund our inefficiencies”.
Though Atiku’s comment had since been dismissed by one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s aides as the rant of a political opponent, one thinks if we can separate the message from the messenger and look critically at the points raised, it will help the nation greatly in dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19. The jumbo pays and allowances of lawmakers, ministers, their aides and cronies must be slashed to reflect the present economic realities of the nation.
The same goes with the state governors. The seeming innate tendency to always depend on federal allocation and even pocket greater percentage of the money must stop. This is a period to look inwards and seek ways of increasing their Internally Generated Revenues which should be spent on economic development ventures such as education, health, provision of infrastructural facilities, among others.
At this critical moment, the anti-graft gospel being preached for donkey years by virtually all administrations, both past and present, must be sincerely intensified with more culpable heads rolling, irrespective of their statues, tribe, religion or political affiliation. No doubt, the looming hardship is massive, but with the right steps taken and every citizen ready to make sacrifices, we will be able to get our economy in shape.
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