Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lessons of the Nigerian Economic Meltdown

The Lessons of the Nigerian Economic Meltdown

We are 13 days to the end of 2009. It’s time to take stock of the going on in our lives. In this two part series. I would sharing with you some of the lessons learnt during this economic meltdown (I believe many of us already know some or have given some thoughts to them).

2009 in the lives of many Nigerians would be remembered for many things but one thing they mostly like to agree on is that it was a tough year. Except you are living on the moon, or basically cocooned or insulated from the goings in this country, the somber mood during this yuletide season should be a barometer for you to judge how the meltdown has affected all.

2009 was the year that saw both the country’s and citizen’s fortunes dwindled (Some Nigerian that made the Forbes list got delisted). Oil prices fell from Olympian heights, friends and foes lost money in the stock market and petroleum marketing even real estate investment that touted as the next big thing saw prices of land and properties head southwards. Some people who wanted to sell properties or lands to pay for huge loans taken from banks could not. Even banks started refusing landed property as collateral (can you imagine?)

There were budget cuts and people were retrenched (some were sacked outrightly). Banks basically stopped lending and people prayed more.

How has this meltdown affected you? How has it changed your relationship with God, family, friends and foes and ultimately yourself? Knowing what you know today, who would you do differently? Please share your thoughts with as I have shared mine with you. Please as critical as you want. Do not spare the rod as they say.

As for me 2009 will go down as a hard learning period for me and below are some the insights I picked from myself and other people during this past 11 months.

Many did not see the meltdown coming: Be honest, you did not see this coming? How could you, not with the giddy and blistering way stocks performed in 2007 and early part of 2008. Prof. Soludo said, we had nothing to worry about and that Nigerian banks were insulated! ( to think I was the people that believe him).

Even as things started to unravel, not many were willing to accept that the meltdown had come to our shores. We were all basically in denial. Even though, someone like me who had read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” a dozen times was behaving like the character “Hem” in the book. I was in denial (and so were many people!), so when the meltdown hit, it hit very had.

People became more religious: I am being cautious here, how i put across this point without offending people’s sensibility. I would have used the word “Spiritual” but I chose “religious” because even though many people try to appear spiritual in Nigeria, their actions don’t match most of what they profess (that is a subject for another day). Just take a look at most of the status update of your friends on Facebook, you would understand what am saying. Facebook are always talking about God (which in itself is not a bad thing) but checkout in what context. You would think most of your friends were hoping to start a church soon given all the Bible verse you see.

The meltdown was a health check for your Friendship: In good times, there are many a friend who are quick to profess their loyalty and how they would stick with you through thick and thin, well 2009 should have helped you sieve the wheat from the chaff. The fake friends faded away as quickly as smoker would blow a smoke away.

You suddenly know how much expense you incurred monthly: Let’s be honest many people in Nigeria do not have a monthly budget or make one (I for one don’t, and not that I don’t care, it’s just not a habit). But now that the alternative incomes have dried up (remember Notpesco, Shefteg and those racing stocks) who can blame you, if you didn’t take stock of how much you spent monthly? The meltdown made many seat up (myself inclusive) to take stock of their spending.

People developed clever (some time illegal) ways of saving cost: I have spoken to many people about this and you will be shocked at the revelations that came out. For example, if it were not for this meltdown. I would not have known that some people surf the internet illegal using the Telco operator network (ala Opera). Newspaper circulation has also dropped dramatically because patronage dropped, a lot of people now prefer go online to read the news (thanks to Proshare if you are still following stocks), because it was supposedly free (even Punch that wanted to lock people out, have had to open the website for readers to access). Most of those stock publications have disappeared at the vendors stand. I thought it was only teenagers and university students that called after 12 midnight, don’t be fool (older people and the working class have joined them)

Some people became appreciative for what they had: A Cow does not appreciate its tail until it loses it. Working in a tough business climate like Nigeria of course does not help matter coupled with the fear of job losses and shrinking fortune (ask business owners); people started looking for something positive to latch on (Please don’t say sports or beer!). Many people suddenly had something to be grateful for. Some were grateful for being alive, If you worked in a bank, you were grateful that your bank was not affected in the recent Tsunami.

For those employed, they were grateful that they had a work to go to (and not have to deal with payment of salary to other people at the end of the month). Either way, we all had something to grateful about. As matter of fact some husbands spent more time with the family and their wives were eternal grateful for the hard times (No more money for extra curriculum activities). They prayed with their families (for once!)

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