Economic Crisis: Nigeria Has No Option Than To Produce For Food Security, Forex Stability - Utomi
Prof. Pat Utomi

Can’t Laugh And Can’t Cry

1 month ago
2 mins read

It’s raining pain in Nigeria. You may not be able to tell from the motorcades and foreign travel of the powerful but you can feel it in every brush with the people, even the middle class whose incomes have been eroded by inflation. Can you laugh about that? No. You cannot. But the great Peter Pan, Peter Enahoro, said of us long ago: You Gotta Cry to Laugh. So should I cry that I may laugh?

READ ALSO: Nationwide Strike: Nigerian Govt Again Begs Organised Labour

But where can laughter reside in a movement freeze that left Airports deserted, from a national strike on minimum wage. To these, we can add most regular people being unable to afford a tuber of yam so that retailing of pieces of tuber is growing as norm, policies getting reversed with such regularity it seems nobody thinks before they are announced, and negotiation with Labour unions on minimum wage is made ‘impossible’ by poor social Intelligence skills that make a government commit N90 billion to pilgrimages, N160 million SUVs to legislators and the apparent state capture Lagos to Calabar road project; and then comes to negotiation to keep wages down because it cannot afford higher salaries.

How do you laugh about these and why will the tears of crying not evaporate before they are shed from the heat of confusion that marks governance in Abuja?

READ ALSO: Economist Warns About Implications Of Minimum Wage Increase On Inflation

More troubling for me is how the skins of power manage to get so thick their ears are deafened to the wailing of innocents. How did we get here? Only a sense of humor can keep many in touch with sanity.

A deep existential crisis confronts our country yet the distractions on old to new national anthems, old to new Emirs in Kano constitute the agenda setting of power for its watch.

Is the Nigerian elite worth being taken seriously. Many may think this is about those in power. For me it is about much more. It is about an elite that has allowed its country to be laughing stock even for other Africans.

Imagine my pain walking down a street with a former World Bank Chief Economist in Nigeria who is quite attached to Nigeria and he stops and says ‘do you know how painful it is that few people take Nigeria seriously anymore.’

Is it not time to have a gathering of the clan to face our demons wherever it is they may be coming from.

The columnist, Abimbola Adelakun, in her column in the last one year pose serious questions about the crisis of now just like the lait motif on everything double double: double Naira note types circulating for same value, double Emirs on the throne of Kano, double Anthems and how hail the motherland, etc. bring some laughter to the mocking of an elite watching their country perspire towards expiration.

In turning to the big issue pushing us to a chaotic brink we have to be more rigorous than the current tradition of public choice in Nigeria.

Yet somehow we fail to see opportunity for moving towards a fix of the troubled economy in how we engage on the minimum wage challenge.

Some are focused on wages gaining back loses to inflation with little talk about an economy that is adding people but declining in output. So little talk about the supply side and productivity advance. We are in an economic crisis that is the moral equivalence of war and yet we do not see a war time type production effort mobilization and organization. All that fills the air is propaganda and business as usual. You cannot have minimum wage deals without an economic strategy in which productivity in pursuit of the goals of growth anchor the value in a living wage. It’s time to get serious.

Patrick Utomi, Professor at the LBS is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.


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