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Money, money everywhere but none to spend

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Sir: Some years ago, I was in a European country on one of those scholarships. It was an intensive training programme which allowed you little or no time to hop around or do your shopping. So, what we used to do then was an adlib kind of thing. As we walked along the streets to the training centre, we would look around for any item that may possibly catch our fancy. If we found any, we’d make a purchase and just toss the item in our wardrobes. Doing this everyday meant that I eventually bought just the items I needed.

On one of those days, I had budgeted 50 Euros for my shopping. I loved the 50 euro best, and I think that this was especially because of its resemblance to our own 50 naira note. If some of us are familiar with the Euro, you’d ordinarily know that what difference there is between the 50 euro and our own 50 naira note is in power and dignity. But I didn’t know this at that time. So, I walked that day along the Potsdamer Platz Arcades with Marcos Hamacher our, coordinator, my 50 euro note at the ready. But something in the way Marco Hamacher looked first at me, and at the 50 euro dancing between my fingers again and again stopped me in my tracks. I looked at him. ‘What’s the matter Marco’, I asked him. He looked forlorn, and at me before saying, ‘Bob, that’s a lot of money you have there!’

Incredulity took over. I found out eventually that the 50 euro which I was fiddling with could get an average German family for two weeks. Where I came from a 50 naira note has some ambivalence. In the best of times, it is money used for church offerings, tossed at beggars and you leave it as tip to that little boy who runs your errands. All anyone can buy with it are toffee sweets, tom-tom and peanuts. In those good old days, even those who sprayed those notes at funeral and at outlandish parties did not go as low as spraying 50 naira notes. The disrespect in spraying either 20 or 50 naira notes can be better avoided if you swallow your pride and break your 1000 notes into clear crisp notes. For those who brave the odds to spray notes above 50 naira notes at parties and funerals, they have a way of either reducing their spray to the merest decimal or have their people hang around to ensure that what has been sprayed is collected back pronto.

But today, however, things are at their worst. Most Nigerians can fight to the death to secure and extend the spending life-span of their 50 naira. In Benin, Edo State, (and I guess in many cities in Nigeria), if a commuter has 50 naira and the fare from point A to point B is 40 naira, commuters and transporters insult each other’s grandfathers and spit in one another’s face just because of the balance. Yet it is at these very precarious and uncertain times that we hear of unbelievable sums of stolen money either being hidden in villages, stored in cemeteries or high-brow edifices.

It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil. In Nigeria, money has become the root of poverty. Nobody yet has been able to sum up the damage which these monies being dug up from villages and abandoned shops and high-brow buildings have wreaked on us. But while these monies are being recovered, a 2016 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report positioned Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Cameroun, on the same rank, while ‘smaller’ and less endowed countries like Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Ghana fared better on the HDI statistics. People in countries like the Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Libya have a life expectancy of 64 and above. Nigeria is with Lesotho, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and the Central African Republic as countries where the people will most likely die by their 45th birthday.

Bob Etemiku, Lagos
@DsighRobert


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