“My stomach is with me. When I am full, I know”
There is a big error of fact in what President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have said after meeting with some of his ministers who briefed him on the state of the economy after he returned from the UK, the other day. After listening to them, the President expressed happiness on the improvement of the state of economy. I wonder if it is the same economy that I live in that they spoke about because from the shoe wearer’s perspective, the economy of Nigeria has made people mad, creates boredom, makes the previously powerful powerless, the respected to lose respect and the cheerful very angry and deadly. Nigeria’s economy has brought out the beast in many people. In this piece, I employ interpretive analysis of the Abolore Adigun’s (9ice) recently released song titled, ‘Economy’, to underscore how popular culture contributes to the present understanding and debate on the true state of Nigeria’s economy. Through this, we can appreciate how far Mr President is from reality.
Music is a mirror through which we can feel, view and understand human society and has remained an important interpretive tool relating to environment, relational context and human agitations. Its predictive ability makes musicians wear the gown of philosopher and seer. A few of them have engaged in musical activism when displeased with happenings in their environment. They portray the situation of things by embedding stories which reflect the mood of the majority. Popular music has huge following in Nigeria and Abolore Adigun popularly called 9ice (Adigun Alapomeji) is no beginner in the business. In what appears as his understanding of the socio-economic quagmire being experienced by Nigerians, 9ice contributes to the discourse of how excruciating Nigeria’s economy has undermined many aspirations, dampened their spirit and makes them worthless.
9ice avers that the lack of social amenities such as water and electricity, costly fuel, and lack of money have jointly exacerbated bearable condition and driving people crazy in Nigeria. In order to escape these excruciating conditions, 9ice prescribes listening and dancing to music and keeping hope alive. But central to his song are the consequences of bad economic conditions on the life chances of Nigerians. He lists these as heart attack, high blood pressure, and high level of human insanity. The Chief Medical Director of the University College Hospital, Prof Temitope Longe, had stated that 35 per cent of people in Oyo State are hypertensive. This increases with the state of the economy as more people find it difficult to fulfil their responsibilities. It is no longer news of rising cases of suicide, baby dumping and other crime types. In 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, a total number of 45,554 crimes against persons were reported (rape, manslaughter, murder, physical abuse); 65, 397 cases of crime against properties (stealing, burglary, robbery, receiving stolen properties and house breaking) and 2,695 represented crime against local act. The data of the NBS as of June 2017 on selected food prices shows general increment. Today, we buy beans in Ibadan for N800 per Congo, yet the economy is improving. It was Beautiful Nubia who had stated in one of his songs that the masses are not asking for too much: they want food, good health, good road, potable water and power. How much has the economy improved without all these qualitatively manifesting in the lives of Nigerians? 9ice says, “Economy bad, tomatoes na gold, my people dey worry o”.
In the recent data on corruption released by the NBS, Nigerians stressed that after high cost of living and unemployment, corruption is third most important problem facing the country. This is why 9ice asserts that “Nothing dey work for Naija anymore. Light no dey I for dey watch football. Ai rowo eran lo je kin je ponmo.” What is working in Nigeria? No good roads, hospitals are bad and the president is still going abroad for this reason, Education is comatose and ASUU is still on strike fighting for the ruling class to release money for public education and not their pockets alone! So what is working? Families are facing terrible moments as many breadwinners cannot get bread for themselves let alone for their families. Organisations are laying off workers. Over 29 million Nigerians are unemployed increasing the rate of the jobless to about 14.2 per cent. All thanks to the President’s improving economy. But things are working well for political office holders. They still have all they need and still manipulate the minds of the masses to actualise their goals. These political masqueraders have started singing the song of 2019 in the ears of the President who hesitates to show qualitative effects of an improving economy on the lives of Nigerians. To use another street term, Mr President Enu ose! (Words of mouth achieve nothing without purposeful action).
We all know the centrality of power in the economy of a nation. It is the lifewire of informal and formal economies. Power generation was around 2,841 megawatts as of July this year. Even in the university, the noise of generators would almost confuse you of your present location as one is likely to think you are in one market centre (No funding from government to do research that can deliver alternative power sources). From Aso Rock down to the local government, we operate a generator economy with implications for the fuel consumption and high cost of production. As a result, companies fold up. We all know how football unites Nigerians and their loyalty to watching foreign clubs. Even in the midst of economic misfortunes, football provides temporary relief but how will you watch when there is no electricity? You need electricity for relaxation but you can’t find it!
In the midst of unfulfilled promises, politicians have started drumming 2019 and strategising how they will narcotise Nigerians. Understanding their antics, 9ice articulates that “promise and fail” are essential characteristics of Nigerian politicians whom he described as political masqueraders. Remember their promises about fuel that they said had no subsidy on it? Remember Buhari’s promise to amend constitution to devolve powers, duties and responsibilities to states to entrench true federalism? What about the one on amending the constitution to remove immunity from prosecution of elected public officials in criminal cases? Did Buhari not promise to amend the constitution to allow for local and state policing system? 9ice supplies the answer thus: ‘Promise and fail. So so Charade, If I see your lies, political masquerade.’!
Frustrated Nigerians seek hope in religious settings while others pour holy water to find their square roots. In other words, many Nigerians have lost their livelihoods and struggling to get by. Doing prognostic analysis, 9ice believes that in order to escape the harsh socio-economic conditions, music can serve as a way out of the woods. This is true as Paul Cardal noted that “One reason music is better than anti-depressants is that if you listen close enough, you might feel God telling you everything is going to be ok”. Furthermore, Hoda Hotb avers that “I love Music. For me, music is morning coffee. Its mood medicine. Its pure magic. A good song is like a good meal. I just want to inhale it and then share a bite with someone else” and because listening to good music relieves us of pain and tyranny of conscious thoughts, 9ice music on the economy represents music that paints true economic situation in Nigeria which the Federal Executive Council should listen to. The permanent way to get out of the problem is for the President to admit that economy is not improving yet as only such recognition can make him take result oriented actions. He needs to be true to his promises by instituting problem-solving structure. Aso Rock and the National Assembly must not allocate any money to buy diesel in the 2018 budget if they are serious about their promise of fixing power which already creates a pauperised economy. Only Nigerians, not Aso Rock can say when the economy is improving.
Dr Tade, a criminologist, wrote in via email@example.com