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Nigeria: Pressure pot of stress, toying with providence

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WWITHIN this week, we have two crucial national deadlines to meet, and they are not just ordinary targets set for all Nigerians, there are life-defining or citizen’s status-defining matters involved.

  Sunday, January 29, is the end date for collection of unclaimed permanent voter’s cards (PVCs), an endeavour which many Nigerians are not finding funny as the antics of manipulative politicians and the malpractices of their conniving Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff are not helping matters. Tuesday, January 31, is the last date the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave for acceptance of old N200, N500 and N1000 notes across the country. Beyond the date, everybody must use the new design of those naira denominations as the old notes cease to be legal tenders. But the new notes are nowhere to be found. Yet, CBN insists on January 31 as expiry date for the old notes.

  Already, everyone across the country is running helter-skelter to meet the very tough deadlines. Look out on the street, you will find a country simmering in internal combustion. Almost everybody moves about with stress as meeting the deadlines stirs up odd emotions.

  Some people literally sleep overnight at INEC’s card distribution stations to collect their PVCs without much luck. At the banks, people are turning up with bags of the due-for-change old currencies whilst the new ones remain elusive. Fraudsters and vendors of counterfeit naira notes are on rampage in markets and the streets, swindling Nigerians with fake notes.

  Beyond the field day of scammers and the sharp practices of electoral officers, as well as bankers who are currently upbeat as they have their rare chances to gain the system, citizens are living with other stress. Among them the worrisome national trouble of petrol scarcity that is getting all of us mad. The somewhat intractable petrol scarcity has launched the pump price of petrol to an all-time high. In some parts of Nigeria, a litre of petrol is sold above N380.

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  In the next 30 days, the same Nigerians will line out in the sun to participate in a nationwide general elections. That will put the nation in pangs of fear and anxiety for two or three weeks.

  Should the elections not worsen the already fragile, if almost badgered sanity of the land, the country will plunge into another unity-threatening venture in the name of national census in the middle of the year.

  One wonders why all these vital datelines are so lumped together. Is someone trying to test the resilience of Nigerians or the elasticity of the binders that holds the country?

  In a land where people are truamatised daily, if hourly, by killings, arson, vandalism and very ‘near war’ situations, such flux of rocking situation can never be prerequisite to anything but mass depression. Joined to the unrestrained poverty, inflation and citizens’ extortion by every bully with the cloak of authority, the masses’ living on the edge is evident in every encounter.

  A trip to the market with one’s thinking cap and attentive faculties would surely exhume tears even from the most hard-hearted. Beholding a man with say N30,000 (the national minimum wage) in a market woman’s stall, haggling for some grains or tubers that could only last one week for a family of six persons can only spur tears.

  In fact, how Nigerians feed, clothe, shelter and send their children to school currently is a daily miracle. Even those who are in some forms of employment find it hard to commute to and from work with the current 300 per cent increase in transportation cost. Where those employed find life harsh, words to describe the situation of the over 50 per cent of Nigerians who are unemployed are difficult to find.

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  Indeed, life here is already brutish and life expectancy has dropped badly. We hear daily tales of society sliding to mundane nature with wanton bloodletting and life-on-edge developments.

  Notwithstanding, many citizens and families soldier on; braving the odds in ‘suffering and smiling’ manner.

  Given all the unsettling conditions, the most unexpected development is a society that wires them to a crazy charging point. Should the current choke of dire datelines be a consciously arranged chain of jolts, to achieve whatever goal, the reasoning is warped. If it is a coordinated choke therapy, Nigeria definitely does not need it. When the populace is already ‘simmering’ to boiling point, and emotions are high, it is very insensitive to push them out in scorching sun or buoy them further with events that raise tempers.

  Experts in managing social emotions reason that “it can be difficult to understand how to manage emotions in the midst of stress, and how to juggle more than one emotion at a time” ( www.etsy.com).

  Hence, it is foolhardy to consciously expose a populace that is struggling very hard to contain their hunger and emotions to sustained stress as Nigerians are undergoing now.

  “A hungry man is an angry man”, sang the late Sony Okosuns.

  Any study that approves of such sustained frequency of frenetic events for a country that is hanging precariously on such a precipe is not properly informed. Our land is dangling on a dangerous sling; we need not stretch our luck even if we are sure we have providence in our favour.

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  When considered critically, we will understand how dangerous every factor in this our current gamble with our gods can be. If things go awry, as they are tending towards now, the change of currency can render over half of our population, particularly those in the rural areas not effectively covered by commercial banks’ networks poorer.

  If the collection of PVC is not done well, it will mar the 2023 elections. Many citizens who are eligible to vote could be denied their opportunity to do so, and that would largely discredit the elections. Nigeria, given her current security situation cannot afford the backlash a bitterly condemned election can cause. We suffered that 1993 through 1998 until God intervened.

  The worst, imaginable, is what a mismanaged national census can cost Nigeria. The country’s experience in 1963 is instructive here.

  So, why should we have all those (and more) strong reference points to remind us of where we should not go, yet, we opt to head there.

  Though this may appear late, I still want to ask: why should Nigeria lump all these events together in one short period? Must they all happen at the same time?

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