Between Fact and Fiction

Between Fact and Fiction

The gecko is one animal that can automize itself. It sheds its skin and changes its teeth at regular intervals. For its survival, it can shed off its tail. The female can be parthenogenic, breeding and populating an area without mating with a male. But this article is not about geckos and their peculiarities. It is about certain people who give meaning to the parable that seeks to account for the gecko’s missing ears.

Image: Daniel Lobo via Flickr

The parable has it that the gecko was created with ears, but cut them off in a fit of rage. Taking a solitary walk to the bank of the river, it met a praying mantis. When it interrogated the praying mantis about its mission there, the praying mantis said that it was there to bail out the water to create a dry passage to the other side of the river for the villagers. Apparently, it was convinced that with little effort, the leaders of his village would have done something about the river. When the gecko asked the praying mantis how it hoped to achieve that, the praying mantis said it would dry up the river with its wings. Angered by what it considered absolute nonsense, the gecko cut off its own ear – the one facing the praying mantis –to prevent further nonsense from the praying mantis filtering through the ear. On its way home, the gecko met a mosquito under an iroko. Curious, it asked the mosquito what it was doing there. Boastfully, the mosquito answered that it was there to uproot the iroko with its bare hands, as it connected the shade the tree was providing to the pervasive laziness in the village. The furious gecko cut off its remaining ear, swearing never to grow any ear again. With no ear, the gecko believed that it would forever be insulated from empty boasts, outrageous vocalizations and verbalizations. The chirping sounds of the gecko, according to this parable, are a warning to everyone that it hears no evil and feels no evil.

This parable tends to stress that being deaf is not without some advantages. On many occasions have I wished that I never had the misfortune of listening to some hogwash and gibberish talks emanating from some deluded minds; like those propagandising the current recession in Nigeria spinning fallacious stories concerning its origin. One story says that the recession arose when a certain JP Morgan withdrew $85 billion from Nigeria overnight in reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language. The authors of this telltale apparently plagiarized, and made a remixed song of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis. In that instance, the economies of countries like Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines were devastated when what economists call hot money was withdrawn from them by portfolio investors.

Those countries had attracted a steady inflow of portfolio investment because of high interest rates collaterised by overpriced properties. When the United States of America made investment in those countries less attractive by increasing its interest rates, investors pulled out their monies and headed for America, thereby shutting down those countries’ economies. The JP Morgan story would make sense if Nigeria was living on borrowed money. There is, however, no evidence that Nigeria’s economy was dependent on market sentiments before the recession; our economy was never dependent on portfolio investment.

Another propagandized story is that of the Fulani herdsmen. The spin is that all herdsmen are Fulanis energized by Mr. President to combat Southern Christians, despite a report that shows that:

the combination of a growing cattle population, the effects of climate change on the availability of water and forage crops, as well as the lack of access to North Eastern foraging grounds due to the Boko Haram crisis, are the proximate causes of the increasing tensions between farming communities and herdsmen

Solutions that have been proposed in a grazing bill that focuses only on appropriating grazing lands and stock reserves will lead to an intensification of conflicts. Others have suggested that herdsmen should be provided with ranches by willing governments at the state and local government levels. The debates so far have been waged on an emotive and geopolitical basis, with little consideration for the basic math of what resource requirements will be needed to support 20 million cows – that will continue to grow at about 2% per year…

Why is it that a practice that has existed for hundreds of years, with few conflicts, has now become a livewire issue pitting many southern communities against the Fulani? One obvious cause is the growing population of Nigeria’s cattle. From about 9 million heads of cattle in 1975, Nigeria’s cows are now about 25 million and are on pace to reach about 60 million by 2050. It is unconscionable that the provision of food and water to such massive numbers of animals should continue to be left to the unpredictable lottery of nomadic foraging.

As stated earlier, the impact of Boko Haram insurgency and the desertification of the North is the downward, southwards movement by nomadic herdsmen as they move in search of water and foraging resources for their cows. This has led to intensification of resource pressures on north central and southern communities, culminating in violent struggles that have led to an estimated 8,000 deaths since 2005. Indiscriminate cattle grazing has also contributed to the destruction of vegetation and wildlife habitats, and led to the pollution of farms, rivers and waterways with cattle manure across many communities. Communities have experienced ecological and economic devastation as a result of this crisis.

What is more, there is the suspicion that herdsmen are being infiltrated by elements bent on destabilizing this country. The clashes between the herdsmen and farmers are taking warlike dimensions. Herdsmen are now said to be using sophisticated weapons like AK47s to attack villages and indiscriminately killing villagers… Security and intelligence agencies must leave no stone unturned in trying to unravel the riddle behind this obviously dangerous dimension of the herdsmen-farmers clashes.

The background to these propagandist tales is coloured by a drastic drop in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP),precipitated by an across-the-board decline in economic activities. From manufacturing to the service sectors, the decline is noticeable and rankling. As the country reels under poor production levels and business activities, general and take-home incomes lag far behind citizens’needs and wants. With a drop in revenue due to low profits – or none – and, in some instances, unbearable losses, companies and employing organisations are forced to retrench, thereby exacerbating the unemployment crises. As is expected in such a dire situation, the national currency loses its value against foreign currencies by the day, thereby engendering galloping inflation – a case of it never rains but pours. This, in sum, is what is called recession. The country is in a recession and, if not well managed, it may further dip into depression.

The point being made by the propagandists is that this recession is an overnight phenomenon caused by the brawny posture of Mr. President, and, in a more odious sense, his inability to handle or surmount the challenges of a dynamic economy like that of Nigeria. These farcical views do not deserve a rejoinder, and, like the gecko, I have since decided to be deaf to them.

One does not need to be an economist to know that a dip in the earnings and spending of the Government – the Government being the highest spender and driver of the economy — will have a spiral, adverse effect on the economy. As Babatunde Akinsola, an economic analyst, explained “a dip in government revenue is also a very good sign that a country is sinking into recession. In Nigeria for example, we have seen government revenue dip so much that most states have to seek for a bailout to enable them pay for something as basic as salaries.”

President Muhammadu Buhari inherited a broke Government, and to worsen matters for him, the fall in oil prices from an all-time high of $120 a barrel to $35 meant nothing but disaster for a government that had no reserve to fall back on. It is, perhaps, noteworthy that the worst hit by the present round of recession are the oil-producing countries. By comparison, Nigeria is not doing too badly in its management of the recession. In the case of Saudi Arabia, there is the fear that if low oil prices persist, the country’s stability may be put to test. Many analysts are, in fact, fearful that the spirit of the Arab spring may be knocking at its door. Hugh Naylor, Beirut-based correspondent for The Post, observed that:

Stung by falling oil prices, Saudi Arabia has cut spending and subsidies as part of harsh austerity measures that threaten the lavish welfare programs underpinning its stability. The oil­ exporting giant’s economy has gone from producing windfalls to deficits, and Saudi rulers increasingly struggle to provide the cushy government jobs, expensive state handouts and tax­-free living that have long bought them domestic obedience.

Naylor further explained that:

The oil crash has rippled beyond Saudi Arabia, spurring similar subsidy cuts and hiring freezes among fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional political and economic union of six petroleum-rich Gulf Arab monarchies. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain have joined Saudi Arabia in austerity and appear close to finalizing a GCC wide value­ added tax that could come into effect in 2018. Analysts say the moves signal recognition in these countries that rising international competition in energy production means the days of $100 or more for a barrel of crude oil may forever be a thing of the past.

The case of Venezuela is too grim for us to resort to, but suffice to say the recession is real and it is dangerous for anyone to trivialize with nonsensical propaganda spinoffs. This is a moment when all hands should be on deck; and this is the time for all well-meaning knowledgeable and experienced minds to lend their quality voice and support to the Government. Traumatizing the people with terrifying spinoffs is uncharitable and shameful.

It is not lost that this country was for sixteen years ruled by a party that laid no premium on fighting corruption. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) ran the affairs of the Nigerian state and Government business like informal street businesses.  The politicians, public servants and civil servants considered – indeed, used – government resources as their private resources. For sixteen years, the resources of the state were diverted to private hands through a culture of corruption and dependence on the Government for cheap and unearned income.  Changing this and trying to eradicate corruption in the Government system will certainly engender resistance and pushback. Corruption is in many ways fighting back.

Again, much of the income that sustained the families, friends and associates of politicians and public and civil servants was income derived from corruption and diversion of public money. Halting that dirty economic wheel and introducing new ethics of people living on earned income will surely hurt millions of Nigerians out there. With their benefactors out of government and with no free money, this army of dependents is bound to be a handy tool for those who do not wish this Government well.

It is in this regard that I wish the God of Nigeria to strike dead anyone who for selfish reasons is fanning embers of discord, peddling falsehood and spinning devilish propaganda. Let their homes know no peace – those filching the nation’s resources and/or using their stolen wealth to promote hate and spread propaganda to deceive poor, innocent Nigerians. May the evil they wish this country befall their homes.

 

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