How much for an empty belly?

By Julius Ogar

A rather strange kind of advisory surfaced after Nigeria’s semi-final clash with South Africa in the just-concluded African nations football tournament. Strange because it seemed one-of-a-kind for the most dramatic, fanatical and passionate fan base in Africa.– And for good reason too.

Five persons had been reported dead as a result of the nail-biting, tension-soaked match which culminated in a penalty shootout. It’s hard to guess if there could have been more casualties if Nigeria had lost the semis or if indeed, there were others that went unreported.

It was therefore in order for doctors to warn those with “faint hearts” and certain health preconditions to just turn their backs to the television the next time they saw the Nigerian team filing out in shorts, boots and numbered jerseys.

Too many lives were already being lost to bandits and kidnappers, and now football was taking a share as well. It’s too much of a price to pay!Talking about prices, no one can tell for sure what the cost of a casket might be at this time, not to mention funeral expenses.

Except for Muslim folks, funerals are extravagant in these climes where the living could incur debt to bury the dead. Never mind if the departed lived all their days in abject want and the living couldn’t even spare a matchstick to light a candle for them.

Nonetheless, the advisory resonated beyond the more serious and potential threat of xenophobic violence on Nigerians in South Africa – also as a result of the same march.

Fortunately, we have not had to pay with an arm and a leg for the Eagles beating Bafana Bafana. But the excitement and momentary distraction of AFCON is gone.

Nigerians are face-to-face with the reality of multi-dimensional poverty, low purchasing power and whirlwind inflation. Prices of basic commodities and medicines are out of the reach of most average households. It’s a problem that requires deeper solutions than getting anti-riot troops ready for public protests. These are the days of more cost for less value, the prime time of extraordinary and extortionate pricing of food commodities.

Only the Heavens would know what it will be when the Muslim month of Ramadan begins. From a distance, it doesn’t look or feel pleasant at all. And it ought not to be so.According to a report in the BBC, even disposable “throw-away” rice usually reserved as feedstock for livestock, has become premium in Kano, one of the cities that experienced recent “cost-of-living” protests. At ₦2,500 a measure, “throw-away” rice has become the resort of many families who can’t afford the ₦4,000 per measure or ₦77,000 needed for a 50kg bag of normal rice.

Day by day, pent up emotions are being released. I haven’t heard the words “hunger” and “hardship” with the kind of frequency it occurs in recent times. It’s splashed generously all over the pages of all newspapers and is the lead news item in broadcasts. It’s embedded in social media. And it is practical in the streets and corners.

There are more people at the bus stop looking for help to complete their transport fare to the next bus stop. There are fights because someone’s expected fare is not nearly complete. And there are even more folks having to trek distances that ordinarily, are not considered convenient. And there’s a ready fall guy to blame – Tinubu! Because he it was who said: “subsidy is gone”. That’s where folks want to think the rain began to beat them. And indeed, it’s been stormy weather all the while.

There are witness stories of dramatic scenes erupting in market places – of women bursting into tears and wailing because what is in the purse is barely enough for the next meal when they had hoped to restock for the week or at least, some few days more. These are not stories conjured. They are realities of the moment. They are pathetic stories that are increasingly becoming commonplace. They were the fodder that drove women in Niger and Kano States to the streets in protest few weeks ago.

It may yet drive more people across the country out of their private spaces if the tide of hunger is not contained sooner. Like was being heard in the early days of the Buhari administration to: “bring back our corruption”, it is being heard again: “bring back the subsidy”. It’s a false remedy to presume that restoring subsidy on petroleum is the solution to the current tribulations. It is not and never has been. It can’t take the place of good and exemplary leadership that balances the cost of governance with the delivery of good governance.

The cost of living is such an outrageous issue because the cost of governance is not reflected in value delivery. It has even got more significant implications for the population with the WHO listing risk factors such as unhealthy diets, poverty, and anxiety as significant contributors to the increasing prevalence of hypertension.

The World Bank’s Multidimensional Poverty Measure indicates that as many as 47.3% of Nigerians live in multidimensional poverty, underscoring the extensive impact of poverty including the cost of housing, and energy crisis.

But are we a basket case, or is it the way it is because we never had it so bad and so hard?According to various sources, the cost of living in Nigeria is generally lower than in South Africa and some other African countries.

Expatistan reports that the cost of living in South Africa is 81% more expensive than in Nigeria, while Numbeo Indicates that consumer prices in South Africa are 178.7% higher than in Nigeria (without rent). also reports that the average cost of living in Nigeria ($635) is 24% less expensive than in South Africa ($830).

Furthermore, Numbeo ranks Nigeria as having Africa’s lowest cost of living index and the second-lowest in the world, despite the country’s inflation rate of 28.92%. also reports that Nigeria is 15.5% cheaper than South Africa in terms of the cost of living.

However, it is important to note that the cost of living can vary significantly depending on the city and region within each Country.

But Nigerians are really between a rock and a hard place right now. Like their brothers in Lagos who are perpetually living in the warfront (apologies to late Achebe), many are becoming intemperate, short tempered and volatile. Some PDP governors and Chieftains who are part of the problem have said Nigeria is on the road to Venezuela.

They first need to take responsibility for multidimensional poverty which they create by not paying stipulated minimum wages, not dispensing palliatives released for the purpose, and not encouraging enterprise and industry to stimulate jobs and wealth creation.

There’s anger in the land and many, as indicated by the BBC report cited, are living off the garbage dump. Nigerians hope that Tinubu is watching the skyline! Because a storm might yet surprise him.

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