Reborn

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It hurt. The tightness in her back and leg muscles, it really hurt. She stopped in a semi-crouch, her knees supporting her hands while she gulped in loads of the cold night air.

Her vision was blurred by sweat, tears and grime. But still, she saw it – the light. Yellow and enchanting, it beckoned on her. Another round of pain tore through her. It streaked through like lightning, setting all her nerves afire. Her hands bunched the material of her gown in an effort to contain the pain. But it was in vain because a wail escaped her lips.

Somebody coughed, and another person laughed out loud. The old woman who sold akara in the stall by the side of the road slowly packed up her utensils. The man in the LASTMA uniform withdrew his foot just in time to avoid losing it to an onrushing taxi. Then he crossed the road, and hopped into the waiting maruwa which zoomed off, a cloud of exhaust smoke in its wake. The short girl angrily waved the smoke away from her face; she yelled expletives at the back of the commercial tricycle and even ran a few feet after it. But the empty tray clutched under her armpit was too heavy, and her skirt too tight; so she stopped and threw a pebble instead.

It was well past 9pm, but the slums of Agege was still milling with people, bustling about different businesses. Nobody noticed her; nobody spared a second glance for the pregnant woman in the dirty gown who slowly drew herself up to a standing position.

Her knees shook with the effort, but she steeled herself. With her eyes set on the light, she clutched the straps of her Kasuma hold-all tighter, and took another step forward.


Kalu reached over for her hand and squeezed it in mute solidarity. She looked at him and smiled. It was better not talked about, the indignities they had undergone in the past hour. The prodding, spreading, jerking and screening; they wouldn’t talk about it, not even when they were alone.

The inner door swung open and their heads snapped up to face him. The doctor took his seat and shuffled the papers in the file he had just walked in with.

Efe felt her heart drop into the gloomy depths of her belly. It was empty still, so there was room. She knew even before he said it, that he hadn’t found anything wrong with them. The doctor was, sadly, a good man. She watched as his finger twitched, then he shifted in his chair, tugged at his tie and cleared his throat. It was the same routine, every time he came back with her pregnancy test results.

Twitch…shift…tug…ahem! “I am very sorry, madam but…”

She didn’t wait to hear it this time. She dragged her hand away and burst out into the hospital hallway. Kalu was yelling for her to stop but she couldn’t. The tears dropped as she ran…


A party was in full swing. Shingles dangled from the roof onto the floor in front of the building, and there were cracks and crevices in the unplastered wall. It looked ready to collapse any minute, but loud music blasted from within it.

The words came to her:

…door, door, borrow borrow tux

Flawa wey I tief plus

A rickety boom box

Boom boom boom baby, boom boom box…

 

The other houses lining the tiny paved street varied in size, but were just as ramshackle. She walked on.

A bright-colored bungalow to her left had soft lights, and the music was slow. A couple skipped over the narrow gutter in front and walked into the building; the man had his hand on the lady’s bum. A young girl in a yellow gown stood off to a corner puffing on a cigarette. She didn’t seem to care that the strong night air and the sheer material of her gown united to keep her body contours on arrogant display. Another girl in a pink miniskirt was talking to the driver of a blue Volvo through the wound down passenger window. Her skirt had hiked up, the flesh of her thighs and lower buttocks jiggled as she shifted her weight from one heel to the other.

Nobody seemed to notice the pregnant woman who stopped suddenly on the sandy edges of the narrow road. Nobody saw as she dumped her black bag in the dust, and her face contorted into an ugly mask. The pain this time was murderous in its intensity. She tried to stoop again, it hurt too much. She tried to stand, but a sharp pain stopped her mid-move.

She felt wetness, cold and unfeeling between her thighs; she had to keep moving. The light was still up there, closer. She willed her legs to move, to take her there, but they crumbled beneath her. She fell on her belly, bounced once and fell over to her side. Still.

The prostitute in the pink skirt got into the Volvo, and they zoomed off. A brown Peugeot with Federal Government plate numbers rolled up in front of the other one. A motorbike zoomed by.


“Get out!”

Mama threw another handful of clothes at her. A belt buckle hit Efe in the jaw but she didn’t feel the stinging pain. She only had eyes for Kalu who stood by and did nothing. Chikaodi appeared at the door, half-dragging half-carrying another of Efe’s suitcases.

“What?” Mama yelled. “Chika, drop it immediately. Kalu, get that bag from her, or do you want to lose your baby?”

Kalu stood like a human statue. His hands were in the pockets of a pair of brown chinos, his back was against the wall and his head was bent. A grieving human statue.

Mama let out a loud hiss and snatched the bag from Chikaodi herself. The girl straightened, and walked over to stand by Kalu. Her gait was sluggish and her left hand moved in slow circles over the mound of her pregnant belly.

“Tunde!”

The gateman came fast. “M-m-maa?” he answered, his blue beret clutched against the chest of his white uniform shirt.

“Enhen,” Mama puffed, “take these bags, all of them, and throw them outside. Then come and take this woman too.”

“Errr…” Tunde stuttered, “you-you say…”

“Are you deaf? My friend, do as I say before I lose my temper.” Livid with rage, the older woman was scary and Efe couldn’t help feeling a tinge of pity for her loyal gateman. Tunde darted a desperate look at his madam but her eyes were on Kalu. Tunde looked at his oga. Kalu did not move.

“Are you still standing there?” Mama screeched and advanced on him.

“So-so-sorry ma,” Tunde yelled as the first slap connected with his bald head. He grabbed the nearest suitcase and turned it towards the gate.

Efe had seen a lot coming. She had long expected it before Mama came visiting with the shy Chikaodi in tow. Just for the holidays, she had said. Kalu swore the girl was his second cousin but Efe wasn’t stupid; she saw the gowns the child wore, how the tips of her breasts proudly challenged anyone through them, and how her waist shimmied from side to side every time she served her husband’s food. Efe also saw the effect it had on Kalu.

She had long expected it before she came home that night to the sound of banging and moaning in the visitor’s room. She hadn’t had the courage to look. She had also expected it before Kalu began to slip out of their bed in the middle of the night.

She had seen it coming long before Kalu came to her with tears in his eyes, blubbering about infidelity and the child he had lodged in his ‘cousin’s womb. She had no blames in her heart for him, only pain. His betrayal of their vows hurt her deeply, but what she mourned most was her inadequacy to give her husband the one thing they both wanted most. So they agreed to take mother and child in, she had expected that too.

But she hadn’t expected to return from the doctor’s to find she was being thrown out and Kalu standing by while it happened. He didn’t lift a finger, much less say a word. It was the only thing that kept her straining over her shoulders while Tunde led her to the gate.

Her purse wasn’t among the bags thrown outside. It contained her phones, money and the pregnancy test result she had just gotten. It was then Efe remembered that she hadn’t told him, he didn’t know she was pregnant with their child. Finally.

So she had gone back to pound on the gate. She had pounded and yelled until she heard the lock snap back. She was going to push past Tunde and run back in. But it was Kalu who appeared at the gate.

“Hi,” she smiled through her tears at him. Her heart pounded with hope, “I knew you would come…”

“Just go”

No, she hadn’t heard right. “What?” she rasped, “but I’m…”

“Just go, Efe,” Kalu said again. His eyes stared over her shoulder, “go please.”

Then he pushed her.


“Puuuusshhhhh! Come on madam, wake up!”

“Ahn ahn, suffri suffri joor. You wan kill am?”

Efe was numb with pain, all she wanted to do was coil up and go to sleep. But this other lady wouldn’t let her.

Madam Glad, she said her name was, and she ran the brothel. The man with them would have paid any price to be elsewhere. A respectable and well married medical doctor, he had been seeking forbidden pleasures in the wrong place at the right time.

“Calm down, doc,” Madam Glad soothed him. “Na just belle she get, no be kpuruke.

“Just take her to a hospital for Chrissakes,” he railed. Sweat ran down his face in rivulets, his starched kaftan was soaked through at the armpits.

“Time no dey again nah, you sef talk am,” Madam Glad countered. “Enhen see am,” she pointed, “e don dey show again.”

Doc took a look, and she was right, the baby was crowning even more pronouncedly than the last time. “Shit!”

He rolled up his sleeves and knelt before Efe’s open thighs. He was calling for hot water and more towels when she passed out.

***

“Girlie oh!” someone was yelling in her face. Efe cringed as a deluge of icy water rained on her face. “E don do!” she heard Madam Glad yell, “she be like fish for your eye?”

Efe opened her eyes. The light from the naked bulb was too bright so she shut them.

“Listen to me, young lady,” the doctor was saying to her, “what is your name?”

She opened her eyes. He was younger than she remembered from before she passed out. His handsome features were ruined by anxiety as he stood over her.

“Efe”

“Splendid!” He swept one folded sleeve across his dripping brows. “Efe, listen to me. You need to work with me on this so we can get you and your baby…” He was interrupted by some commotion at the door.

“Maama,” one of the girls yelled, “see this bros oh!”

“Wetin?” Madam Glad turned from her post beside Efe’s head as a figure burst forward into the room. He stopped just shy of the foot of the bed and Efe gasped sharply.

“You know am?” Madam Glad asked her.

He had lost an awful lot of weight, and his hair was unkempt. But it was him – Kalu – standing in the room. Efe hardly believed it.

Madam Glad asked her again if she knew him and she nodded yes.

He was sobbing like a child, “I’ve been looking, Efe…everywhere…”

Efe didn’t want to hear. In that moment, brimming with their child, nothing else mattered to her. All she wanted was to feel him by her side, the father of her child. She raised her hand towards him, beckoned. Kalu hesitated for a minute, unsure.

Shuu! Collect the hand ni,” Madam Glad bellowed, “fear dey catch you?”

He grabbed her hand, and held on gingerly. Efe squeezed tight. He was really here, in flesh. Kalu. He raised her hand to his lips and she felt a rush of strength.

The doctor still stood over her, as confused as he was agitated. Efe blinked away the last of the tears from her eyes. Then she pushed.

A very ‘WAW’ Christmas to you

– Chisom Ojukwu

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Looking for God in Germany

Vin's article

It took Brother John four weeks to find a church in Germany and when he finally did, he had more questions than answers. Since he came here, his spiritual life has gradually receded into comatose.

Praying which used to be the first item on his daily routine back home has now become such a difficult task. His King James Bible sits quietly on the shelf where he dropped it the day he moved into his room and even when he tries to listen to those gospel songs that inspire him on Sunday mornings, they sound like Reggae in his ears.

Determined to mark his first 30 days in Germany with a thanksgiving service in church, Brother John launched a search on Google map. After some minutes of fixing his gaze meticulously on the computer screen, he found a church close to his city. He heaved a sigh of relief and made up his mind to attend the service on Sunday.

Brother John was dressed to the nines on Sunday morning. Now used to the weather and lifestyle of Europe, he knew what to wear, how to wear them and where to take a train to his destination.

On the train, he sat facing a fifty-something-year-old woman who smiled more than she talked. Every time their eyes met, the woman would smile as though her life depended on it.

When the train stopped at the Bahnhof, the woman proved to be more than a smiling figure. Despite the fact she couldn’t speak English fluently, she managed the show Brother John the direction to the church. It was just a few minutes’ walk from where the train stopped.

The church was a tall building older than everyone who worshiped there. Coming from a country where religious organizations contribute a great deal to noise pollution, Brother John thought this place was too quiet to be a church. There were no loud speakers on the roof and the sound-proof doors at the entrance made it difficult to tell what was happening inside from outside.

At the entrance of the church, some men and women were puffing smoke from their cigarettes. Beside them was a tray carrying a heap of packs and filters from already consumed cigarettes. Is the God in Germany merciful to the point of allowing this abomination in his house? Brother John was thinking aloud.

The door was heavier than it looked when Brother John tried to open it. In his country, he would have been welcomed by smiling female ushers dedicated to serving the lord with their strength. They would have directed him to vacant seats in the auditorium and most likely handed him a white envelope to package his offerings and other kingdom investments. But in this German church, he was all by himself.

Ambling through the aisles, he found a seat somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. His eyes roved through the hall and settled on the altar where a man was speaking.

Unlike the men of God in his country, this pastor was ordinary and completely bereft of the pizazz of a modern day pastor. He wore a jean and a black sweat shirt. From the interpreter’s headphone in front of his seat, Brother John learnt that the pastor was speaking about “forgiving our enemies as Jesus Christ did”. The congregation listened attentively.

Pastor ended his sermon with the Amazing grace hymn. They sang in German but Brother John sang in English. The announcement about the next meeting followed and the service was over. There was no testimony, offering or high praise session. There was no healing and deliverance session. There was no weekly prophecy and no time for prayer requests.

Brother John felt empty. This was different from everything he knew about God from his country. On his way out he saw more smokers at entrance of the church. Some lovers were also cuddling in the cold and God did not mind.

He walked home with a flood of questions on his mind. It is now five weeks and Brother John is still looking for God in Germany.

By

Vincent Nzemeke (@vincentnzemeke)

Lessons From My Past

I have been to the Capital City, Abuja on only two occasions. My second visit was just two weeks ago, for my Call to Bar ceremony, and I had to put up with an in-law of mine, who is married with two lovely children. I had a tough time keeping Ezinne, the three-year old child away from my room. She would run in and insist on ransacking and inspecting every belonging of mine. During one of such occasions, she stumbled on my wig and gown, and as soon as I informed her what they were for, she declared emphatically that she wanted to be a lawyer. Ebube, her elder sister, laughed and informed me that only some days ago, Ezinne had made a lot of noise about wanting to become a pilot. I had a good laugh at that revelation. But it was not only humor that was sparked up in me, as that incident took my thought down the long path of memory.

I did not always want to be a lawyer. In fact, there existed a time when I was totally clueless and confused as little Ezinne. Being the best Biology student in secondary school, my parents concluded that I would be a surgeon, and frowned when I eventually went to the Arts class. My decision stemmed from my flair for the Art subjects, and more importantly, it was, for me, a chance of becoming an economist like my favourite sister, Ify.
At that time, I believed that if I followed my sister’s steps, I would become like Okonjo Iweala of the World Bank, Charles Soludo of the Central Bank, and Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke of the stock exchange. And so my sister became my greatest model and mentor. Then, it was not so much about what I really wanted to be in future, but who I wanted to imitate and eventually become like. I was blinded by my desire to become like other folks that I never looked deep down.

Time went by and I found myself in the Economics department. I later got wiser, and discovered a brand new path which I should follow if I desired career fulfillment – the path that led to the legal profession.

The legal profession held vast promises for me. It was an opportunity to be a true advocate of justice, especially in a nation like Nigeria, which has repeated instances of social injustice. I was also desirous of defending the rights of the vulnerable persons in the society, and the profession provided the most suitable platform.

Switching was not an easy task as I had to re-sit the JAMB exam and aptitude test, while also dedicating adequate study time to my courses. I sought counsel from few persons before I finally decided, and of all the pieces of advice I got, the one offered by a certain Chioma, a final year student still stands out in my mind. She berated me for not considering my friends in the Economics department. Being the assistant course representative at that time, she reminded me that I owed my friends and fellow students the great duty to remain with them in the career journey we had already begun. According to her, my decision to switch courses was most incongruous with my obligation to the class. I was to stand by my friends, she maintained, and any contrary decision will be tantamount to disloyalty and gross unfaithfulness to friendship.

There was a certain doctor who also stands prominent in my mind. I had a small medical challenge in school – one that I cannot remember now – and I visited the school clinic. When he inquired my discipline, I told him of my intention to switch, and he immediately launched into a litany of warning. He considered my decision thoughtless, and warned me to re-think. According to him, entrance into the legal profession would usher me into a world of endless poverty. He made reference to several relatives of his who were lawyers with a long history of impecuniosity. ‘You may end up as a charge-and-bail lawyer, so you better stay in Economics’, were his last words to me.

I really consider Economics an amazing course, which presents its graduates with wide prospects of employment. My decision to switch from it was driven by a far deeper conviction, a nagging yearning, whose end I could not yet fathom. I was satisfied in the knowledge that I would derive eternal glee in the very act of following the path that I was rightly convinced was meant for me. I neither followed Chioma’s advice nor that of the doctor, and so far, especially on the day I was called to the Nigeria Bar, looking back in time, I have found endless contentment in the path I treaded.

Experience, they say, is the best of teachers. So, from my career mistake, I learned a lot of lessons.  I am now convinced that each person must follow his/her own dreams, and strive to thread that unique way that is most suited for his/her destiny. I have also learned that role models and mentors are there to inspire us to be the best we can be. They are not persons to be followed sheepishly or blindly, for we all are made with our own unique abilities and destinies.

Again, I have learned that in life, there will always be dream killers, and discouragers. Focus and determination is the only solution to overcoming them. And for me, they were personified in Chioma, and the medical doctor. Chioma was wrong. I concede that there is nothing compared to faithful friendship. But any sort of friendship which becomes a barricade between a person and his/her dream, is at best, useless. It is almost seven years now, the wind of life has blown me and those erstwhile course mates of mine to different directions, and naturally, I have lost touch with most of them.

The doctor was also grossly wrong.  Fear is the seed of failure, and there is nothing as bitter as pessimism, and an abject lack of hope. His words were channeled to ignite fear in me, which if conceded to, will only distance me from my ambitions. Any man who prepares for poverty, will certainly find it at his doorpost. I did not set my eyes on poverty, never did, never will.

Having only been called to the Nigerian Bar, and currently in the NYSC orientation camp, I already have three letters of employment from very reputable law firms in Victoria Island/ Ikoyi, Lagos State. Surely, the doctor was very wrong.

Finally, and most importantly, the past incident has enhanced my appreciation of the concept of time. It remains true, the old saying that no time is ever too late. Upon the discovery of a mistaken path already taken, one must be quick enough to make the necessary amends, or forever, live in regret, and wishful thinking.

By Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe was called up to the bar on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 alongside over three thousand Nigerian law graduates.

Twitter: @ojukwu_martin

The Lectern: Oil price fall, Naira devaluation and everything else

Very recently, there has been a lot of ginger around crude oil, naira, dollars, devaluation and how they together will be the death of us. While we have all appreciated the seriousness of the situation, a great majority of us have done so without any inkling of what all the gragra is about. What is this devaluation sef? Wetin concern me, concern central bank and external resaf? Shebi the oil don finish ni?

Chuba Ezekwesili in this month’s edition of The Lectern answers these and many more. That’s the small news. The big news is that he does it in as lay a combo of terms and illustrations as you will ever find in the econosphere. He titles it The Bricklayer’s Explanation…and indeed it is. Per chance you find yourself still confused after reading this, don’t lose heart. Just keep telling yourself that all is well; after all, it is not only the beautiful ones that are not yet born…Enjoy!

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That we might be read…

THE BRICKLAYER’S EXPLANATION TO OIL PRICE FALL, NAIRA DEVALUATION & EVERYTHING ELSE

So I logged onto Nigerian Twitter yesterday afternoon and found people abusing economists and financial analysts for speaking in jargons about the CBN’s actions. So for those who’re still confused about what’s going on with Nigeria’s economy and are trying to understand the implications, here’s a simplified version. No bricklayers were insulted in the writing of this post…at least, not explicitly.

So How Did This All Start?

First thing first, oil price fell. Why? Everyone’s increased their production of oil and no one plans on cutting back. In the US, shale oil’s getting cheaper, so there’s more oil out there…and we all know what happens when you have a lot more of a product — price falls. When price falls, consumers are happy and producers are unhappy. Consequently, nations that are consumers of oil have a lovely time, and oil producer countries …a not so lovely time.

So? What Does This Have to Do With the Naira?

Before we go on, a little info on currency and exchange markets. It’s important to note that our currency doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Essentially, a unit of our currency is exchanged for a unit of another currency. Hence the term, Foreign Exchange or Forex or FX, for short. When we buy products from outside Nigeria, we have to exchange our Naira for Dollars. Your Naira is useless outside of Nigeria. It’s why you convert your Naira to Dollars before you travel. You want to test it? Travel to Dubai with only Naira.

Back to the question you raised. Nigeria is fortunate(?) to be an oil producing nation…when oil prices are high. Presently, oil prices are not high and that’s bad for us. Nigeria’s economy is dependent on oil revenue: about 75% of Government revenue comes from our crude oil sales. So when oil prices fall, oil revenue falls too, and that’s bad for the economy.

In the currency market, exchange rates are often centered on the health of a country’s economy. When the economy of a country is strong, its currency is also strong in the foreign exchange market. When the economy appears to be weak, its currency loses value in the currency exchange rate. Nigeria’s dependent on oil, so when oil prices are weak, so our currency loses value in the foreign exchange market. This loss of value of Naira is called a ‘depreciation’ in currency value.

Here’s a simple example. If we began with a dollar exchange for a Naira, both are in a sense equal. However, once I have to give out 2 of my Naira for just 1 of your dollar then the value of Naira has fallen. In the past months, the exchange rate was $1 dollar to roughly N150. Thanks to depreciation and eventually devaluation (we’ll get to that later), it’s now $1 to N168.

Alright. I Get the Currency Part, But What Does Our External Reserves Have to Do with our Naira Value?

To explain this, we’ll have to look into what the External Reserves is and why it exists. Think of your External Reserves as a Savings account where you put some portion of your salary every month. That money gets saved for something later: paying your children’s university fees, buying a house, or importantly, in case things get bad in the future (perhaps you lose your job).

Likewise, countries keep these reserves, but mainly to safeguard the value of their domestic currency, boost their credit worthiness, protect against external shocks and provide a cushion for a rainy day when national revenue plummets. When Nigeria earns revenue from oil, it gets paid in dollars, so we simply stash a portion of the money in our reserves.

Moreover, the reserves of oil producing countries like Nigeria tend to benefit economically from higher oil prices. The higher the price of oil, the more money oil producing countries like Nigeria get to earn and save.

So if We Have an External Reserve, Why’re We Worried?

Well, having a bank account doesn’t mean you have money. We have a reserve, but our money no plenty. Nigeria has been dancing shoki with its reserves. When oil price was high, we apparently weren’t saving that much into our reserves. In fact, our reserves have been on a downward trend for years. We’ve been using our External Reserves to keep the value of Naira stable for months. When our currency appears to be falling, we take out some dollars from our external reserves and purchase Naira. Increased demand for Naira leads to increased value of Naira, and that’s how we stabilize our currency.

However, we sacrifice a portion of our External Reserves to pull this off. For instance, “while the central bank stepped in Nov. 7 to send the Naira to its biggest one-day gain in three years, intervening in the market has reduced foreign reserves to a four-month low of $37.8 billion.” In the last few months, even Russia with their large reserves had to devalue their currency by 23%.

So is This why Everyone Was Making Noise About CBN Devaluing the Naira?

Yes. Now there’s only so much spending from the reserves that the CBN can do, especially given that we’ve really sucked at growing our reserves when oil price was in the $100 range. It’s like when your office was paying you N100k, you were clubbing every weekend rather than saving some money. Then the minute your office decided to increase your income tax, that’s when your jobless relative comes to live with you too. So now, your salary is not only less, it’s burning faster cause there’s an extra mouth to feed.

The drop in oil price does not only send our currency downwards, it also makes it difficult for the CBN to defend our currency. It’s a double whammy. Essentially, if the CBN keeps trying to defend the rate at N150, it’ll burn through the reserves pretty fast and then we’ll be screwed. So relaxing this currency threshold to N168 means they can relax a bit. They don’t have to keep using as much of the reserves to prop up the Naira. If you’re still curious on how it all works, Feyi goes into the intricacies of devaluation in his fantastic post here.

Okayyy! I Think I Understand Now, But How Does This Affect Me?

Like many other economic events, devalution creates winners and losers. Let’s start with the losers. If you generate revenue in Naira and incur costs in dollars, this is a bad time for you. Any activity that has you converting Naira for Dollars will hurt you way more than a few months ago.

Let’s have a moment of silence for our Igbo brother who will be ‘importing containers’ this christmas. Life just got harder for them. Given that importers have to pay for their imported goods in dollars…and dollars just got more expensive, the cost of their goods have increased overnight.

Same thing happens to those tush parents who’ve got their kids in Nigerian schools that only accept their fees in dollars or Nigerians that have children schooling abroad. If you like flying, shopping or doing anything abroad, your cost of doing so has risen. On the contrary, if you earn in dollars and pay in Naira, life is looking pretty good at the moment.

Exporters also benefit. The fall in value of Naira means more exports because our exports have gotten cheaper. But ermm…what exactly are we exporting?

Phew. So It Doesn’t Affect Me Like That

Don’t be so sure. Nigeria’s an import-dependent nation, which means that most of what you purchase is produced abroad. I heard we import our toothpick too. If the prices of imports have risen, trust your Nigerian brothers and sisters to increase their prices too…leading to what’s popularly known as inflation.

I Was Hearing All These Oversabies Saying CRR, MPR. What Does This Mean?

CRR stands for Cash Reserve Ratio. It’s the proportion of what a bank can lend, to what it has in its coffers. So if the bank has N1000 and its ratio is 50%, can only use 50% of that money (N500) for business. Given that awon banks do not mess around with profit making, they will make sure that N500 brings back maximum profit. Banks are like the servant in Jesus’ parable that got 10 talents from his master, not the lazy one that got 1 talent. So to make max profit off the N500, they will raise interest rate if you want to borrow their money.

MPR stands for Monetary Policy Rate. The Central Bank uses the MPR to control base interest rate. The higher the rate, the less money in circulation. How? If interest rate is higher, will you borrow money from the bank knowing that you’ll pay much more later on? Nope. Instead, you’ll take your money from your pocket and give it to the bank, so they’ll make you more money.

Remember that thanks to devaluation, awon boys will be increasing prices left and right. General price increase in a given period leads to inflation. To tackle this, CBN increases CRR and MPR to reduce demand for money. This way, they prevent inflationary rise.

Okayy. I think I Understand That Part, So What’s This Austerity Thing Aunt Ngozi was Talking About?

That one is another long story. So, we’ve all been in situations when we’re broke. Ok, maybe just some of us. We adjust our lifestyle around the middle of the month when our salary hasn’t been paid. You go from eating jollof rice to drinking garri. When friends tell you to come out and party, you form ‘I’m very busy’.

Nigeria’s proposed austerity measures are similar…except on a grander scale. To cushion the effect of the falling crude oil prices, we have to cut back on spending and quite literally tighten our belts. The Government is cutting back on wastage (less government traveling and all that sort). The Government’s also raising taxes on luxury goods such as private jets, yachts and champagne. Somewhere in this luxury tax is the amusing observation that the revenue from taxes on the rich will still go back to the rich.

For the proletariat, the sweet subsidy you enjoy when you fuel your car will also get cut. Prepare to pay more for fuel. This is a good thing. Subsidy has to go anyways.

Wow. That was Long. So, Any Lesson to Learn from All This?

Yes. First lesson: Nigeria is the most reactive and least proactive nation you could’ve been born into. This isn’t the first time oil prices have fallen. Government should’ve gotten used to fluctuating oil price and prepared accordingly. And, since oil is the figurative oil in Nigeria’s economic engine, judicious and prudent management of oil revenue should’ve been practiced. However, we largely mismanaged our wealth during the time of booms and we’re now trying to behave ourselves in the time of slump. Let’s see how that goes.

The second lesson to be learnt is that we should’ve diversified our economic sources of revenue a long time ago to prevent price shock of primary products from affecting us drastically. Also, State Governments should’ve been pressured to increase their internally generated revenue much sooner. We can’t keep reacting to every economic shock that hits us.

Anyways, this is getting too long and no one probably got to the end, so no need for a witty or wise ending. But, if you reached this point, congrats! After spending all that time reading this, make sure you show off your new macroeconomic knowledge to your friends. And please, stop abusing econ-nerds. We have feelings too. Selah.

By

Chuba Ezekwesili

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Chuba Ezekwesili currently works for the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) as a Research Aanalyst. He enjoys reading up on matters pertaining to Economics and is an avid technology geek with a belief that the intersection of both can create immense economic development. You can find him at @chubaezeks on Twitter.

If you have a piece you would like to people to read from ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you just know that you want to ‘be read’ but can’t figure out what subject matter to write about, no wahala. Send me an email too and we can work up something for you. We must write…that we might be read.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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Dear future me…

dear

Dear future me,

WHO AM I?

That is the question I was born with this morning.

In between puffs of cigarette smoke, our mutual friend asked, who are you? You should remember…I laughed, loud and hard, and opened my mouth to answer – but nothing.

I did not know. I do not know who I am.

You know me very well, brother, so you can understand why it came as a shock that I couldn’t answer that question. Shouldn’t I have had it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have had for an answer, words of wisdom, with fancy conjunctions stringing together their exquisitely-woven philosophies? I should have, right? But I did not. And I can‘t help but wonder if that is an answer by itself.

I do not know how long it has been for you since we wrote this letter, but I hope – I really hope – that you have an answer by now. There is also a lot more that I hope you are by now. There are some I hope you aren’t as well.

I hope our family is a huge part of who you are. I hope our parents are alive and aging well. I hope Poppa hasn’t gone bald (for both our sakes) and he still enjoys walking around the house in baggy Ankara trousers and looping singlets. I hope he still derives pleasure in swinging that broom – to rid cobwebs from a corner – or machete – to trim those flowers – or whatever equipment it is he is besotted with at the moment, with which he tends the house. I hope he has a lucrative line selling in Onitsha or Nnewi and that the umunna meetings he attends these days are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than anything else. I also hope he now has time to sit in the garden at night, surrounded by luxuriant grass swimming in a flood of garden-light, sipping something healthy and reading books. Somehow I know the dude is a reader, he just had to give it up even before he had the chance to choose it.

I hope Maama is old and agile, like granny; I hope the calls are less frequent, where she narrates her dreams and prescribes the bible verses that would cure the impending doom. I hope she still calls to pray for you and run her business ideas by you. Even though you do not need it, she probably tells you about every new job opening in the Federal Ministry because “government jobs dikwa very reliable”; I know you know to pretend to listen every time and say you’ll think about it. I know she’ll probably never be worry-less but I hope she is very happy, and that she got that doctorate degree she always wanted. I hope she has a horde of grandchildren whom she can fuss over, and worry over, and whom she can tell more of those folktales we heard very few of.

Talking of grandchildren, I hope you contributed – maybe even still contributing – a sizable chunk of that lot. I hope our siblings are well and alive, and still bound together by the laughter and unpretentiousness that made our childhood memorable. I hope you and Piro found a way to buy more land in one place, so that you built your houses within walking distance of each other, no gates or fences in between. I hope the girls visit during Christmas with their families, and I hope you all stay awake long into the night, gisting about nothing in particular, reminiscing and playing video games. And when the kids fall asleep, I hope they can do so easily and stay till morning regardless of whose house they are in at the time, Poppa’s, Piro’s or yours.

Fiona thinks what I just wrote doesn’t make any sense – yes, she’s reading over my shoulder; the woman never learnt either of courtesy or coyness. You know how big and chummy a family she comes from so she can’t possibly understand why I would, in her words, “make something so little to coman be looking imirimious”. This woman i

It’s been six hours since I typed that last ‘I’. After Fiona yabbed what I wrote, I shot back – I called her Phyno and told her to go collabo with Wande cole if she had nothing better doing. She hates it when any reference is made to the straggly hairs that occasionally sprout on her chin but I have boyfriend immunity so I call her Phyno. When I hit her with the line, she smacked me over the head; I spat chewed gum at her, and she started a pillow fight. We went through the throw pillows in the sitting room and went on to the large-size fluffy pillows in the bedroom and then…why am I recounting this? You know exactly what happened afterwards.

Anyway, Phyno is asleep now and I hope you married her. Because she’s a great girl. She says I only say it to get in her pants but you and I know I mean it when I say that she makes imperfection look perfect. I hope you married her and if you didn’t, I hope you married a truly beautiful woman who is your best friend. And I hope she married a man who loves her even more than I love her now.

Because you married her, I am sure that you love your wife with all that you are and will ever be (if you still have time left). I hope that she loves you just as much. I hope your dreams and passions align so that neither of you has to die so that the other can live; movies make those sad endings look sweet but really, man, the Word says that God gave us the earth and its fullness for a reason – to savor it!

I hope you know the Bible well enough now to know what verse it is I just quoted…and I hope you just smiled because there is no such verse. Or is there? Anyway, I hope you love our God nearly as much as I try to and I hope you worship him in the people whose paths cross yours every day.

I hope the future isn’t as shitty as we fear it will be. If it is, I know you have found a way to be happy while keeping life sane and productive in your immediate environment. I hope you have not given up on hope of a better future too; tell the children the lores of how we right now live in fear and suspicion of our own kin; use characters like the tortoise and the lion to relay to them how we in their past, go to bed afraid we’ll never wake only to wake wishing we never did. Don’t scare them oh, you bully; okay, scare them a little if you must, but let them learn the lesson – they must learn to live together like brothers or they will perish together as fools. For the adults, the ones with whom we dreamt big, drank down and pissed it all away, tell them you lot haven’t failed yet. For as long as you breathe and your hearts thud, failure cannot laugh in your faces yet. Don’t let him.

If it isn’t – if the future is not as shitty as we fear it will be – then I am glad I was one of those who hoped. I am glad that somewhere along the line, we did something right, something different, and turned it around for better. And I hope I played my part.

I read Long Walk to Freedom again today – don’t bother saying it. It’s just that I am constantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sacrifice he and all those other good people had to make for the prize of freedom. There are times when I find that I am all fired up about the good fight – like two days ago when the members of parliament ‘turned up’ in full glare of the public eye, or that time Piro was arrested and detained for not giving up his seat on the bus to a uniformed man. Times like that, I see thorns, red thorns.

But there are also those times when I think about the ‘goods’ of my life, and I find that I am not fired up for any fight whatsoever, good or bad. Like yesterday, just sitting, all snuggled up and watching Chioma Jesus music videos with Fiona; and that time last week when I stumbled upon that video clip from last Christmas, of mum dancing Alanta while we cheered. Times like that, I see roses, red roses.

I hope having to worry about such is already in your past. Because it would mean you survived it all. Evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing – true; but it also thrives in a society where the good men are in a hurry to be good and get themselves killed off. There is a reason martyrs never get to laugh last.

I hope you never have to choose that path; I hope you never have to choose between the people or/and the things you love. And if it ever happens that you have to, I hope that somewhere in the life I have already lived, the life I am living now, or the life I will live before I become you, we learnt something that will help you make the right choice.

If you kept your part of our bargain, then it’s our birthday today. As you celebrate, I hope you have grown – not just aged – but really grown with every passing second of this shy but ruthless fellow called time. I trust that you are not worse, neither are you the same person I am right now; you are a better person. For that reason alone, it’s a pleasure knowing that I’ll be you.

Happy birthday.

Yours,

Me.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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