Guest Columnist | Tayo Ogunbiyi
The year 2016 will go down in history as one of the most difficult years for Nigerians. It was a year when the nation’s economy passed through severe turbulent waters that nearly sink the whole nation. in 2016, inflation rate shrank at 17.1%, the GDP contracted by 2.06% and the economy by 0.36%. Oil price crashed to less than $50 per barrel while production output tumbled over 400,000 barrels due to militancy activities in Niger Delta region. Oil production plummeted to 1.69 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2016, down from 2.11 million barrel per day in the first quarter, with oil – based GDP contracting by 17.5% in quarter two compared to 1.9% in the first quarter. Naira was at a record low of #480 per dollar in the black market, as dollar exchanged for 365.25 in the interbank market.
The nation’s groaning unemployment situation also grew worse. Unofficial data puts the unemployment figure at about 20% (about 30million), but this number still did not include about 40million other Nigerian youths captured in a recent World Bank statistics. By implication, it means that if Nigeria’s population is 140 million, then 50% of Nigerians are unemployed, or worse still, at least 71% of Nigerian youths are unemployed. This is particularly disturbing and counterproductive because at least 70% of the population of this country is youth. According to reports, in 2016, the unemployed in the labour force increased by 1,158,700 persons, resulting in an increase in the national unemployment rate to 13.3% in Q2 2016 from 12.1 in 2016, 10.4% in 2015 from 9.9% in Q3 2015 and from 8.2% in Q2 2015.
Workers in both the public and private sectors were worst hit by the troubling economic situation. In order to make ends meet, some firms opted to downsize, thus complicating the already bad unemployment situation. For those who work in the public sector, the situation is a bit different. Though, they have the sheer luxury of keeping their jobs, it is only a few of them that can boast of receiving their wages as at when due. Except for Lagos State and a few others, most States in the country owe their workers outstanding salaries that run into months. The whole distressing episode is reinforced by the counsel of a particular State Governor in the South Eastern region of the country that public workers in his State could actually skip work twice or thrice a week to embrace subsistence farming in order to escape the excruciating claws of hunger. One obvious consequence of the ranging economic recession in the country is depression. Medically, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in things that the victim is ordinarily usually passionate about. It is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression and it affects how the victim feels, thinks and behaves. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems which include finding it difficult to embark on daily activities. It can also lead to marital troubles as depression victims find it very hard adjusting to family values and ethics. Indeed, coping with the stress of family life cause more difficulties to victims of depression who often want to be left alone. Perhaps, the worst of it all fallouts of depression is the feeling that life isn’t worth living which eventually makes depression victim contemplates suicide.
From all indications, the nation’s tough economic situation has increased the number of citizens who run the risk of experiencing the agonizing incident of clinical depression. According to reports, the rate of marital break ups has increased while matrimonial violence occasioned by economic woes has equally multiplied significantly. Indeed, there has been incidence of husband killing wife and vice versa. There have been reports of men absconding from home for weeks in order to escape growing economic responsibilities at home. Therefore, we now have more women who are over burdened with excruciating domestic pressures. Cases of pronounced mental health condition have also unsurprisingly increased. Along major cities in the country, you are likely to come across clean and beautifully dressed compatriots who talk and walk alone, actually without any destination in mind. This, to medical workers is a vital sign of depression induced insanity, which if not quickly attended to could lead to serious psychiatric condition.
Ironically, in the midst of all these uncertainties and stress comes the exciting hope of a better New Year. Not that there is any concrete rationale for the euphoria about the New Year. It is a natural feeling that does not need to be subjected to any empirical analysis. Here, the belief is that New Year would naturally bring with it good tidings. That is the nature of hope. Hope is hope. No more, no less.
However, one is of the view that for hope not to be mere hallucination, it must be anchored on more solid platforms. For instance, it is generally believed that the world is subjected to the authority of the Almighty God whom many anchor their hope, faith and trust in. This is good enough, especially if the one anchoring his hope on the Almighty has sufficient capacity to understand the nature and ways of God. Nevertheless, as good as placing one’s hope in God is, for hope to transcend the stage of expectation and move into the realm of reality, necessity places it on man to play key roles in speeding up the process of divine intervention.
The truth is that we would continue to live in the realm of delusion until we make bold to collectively change our ways as a people. For our hope not to be dashed this New Year, we need to embrace new ways of doing things. We need to stop cutting corners. We need to stop living in lies, deception and hypocrisy. It is only when we collectively embrace sacrificial change that we could boldly hope that the New Year would usher in our desired change.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.
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