In Nigeria, you soon realise that there is a limited supply of the finer things in life. Commodities which are regarded as basic in other countries are articles of ostentation here. These days In Nigeria, we have been told to buckle for austerity measures, even though we see our politicians loosening the belts while our commonwealth feeds their proclivities.
I am therefore not too critical of the scarcity mind-set of Nigerians. Surely, it is patronising to criticise one who abandons shame while hustling for a plate of rice, when you easily afford three healthy meals a day. Nevertheless, the problem in Nigeria is not that there is scarcity; the problem is our reaction to scarcity.
While reacting to scarcity, the gut Nigerian reaction is to get their share while the commodity remains available. This is flawed. With this model, others are deprived from enjoying their entitlements. Similarly with this model, you deprive your future self from benefits that will be exhausted at the second time of asking. This reaction to scarcity is unsustainable; it has led to our captivity in scarcity and the ever rowdy and thorny paths to satisfaction.
What is the solution?
An illustration is apt. I was unfortunate to be in an attendance queue recently. It had been a long day, and as such, people were irritable. Before long, and as a result of our scarcity mentality, the line orderly line broke up into several offshoots. It was a mess. A process that should take 10 minutes took an hour. This reflects a wider problem. Rather than patiently waiting for one’s turn in Nigeria, we often break ranks, using our connections to game the system – we get our rewards, but we leave a broken system. This broken system is our creation; this broken system we lament about and criticise.
A second solution is the reaction! A couple years back, there was a stampede at the National Stadium in Abuja, while trying to gain employment into the Nigerian immigration service. This was not a situation that could have been solved by mere patience, in fact the patient in that instance were all stampeded under the boots of the more impatient. The reaction we missed was: a concerted drive by young people to rethink job creation in Nigeria; a concerted drive to demand of the government, better policies on job creation which we safeguarded through constant critical analysis by the youth.
In essence, scarcity is a part of Nigerian living. Our reaction to scarcity has led to the destruction of systems which would otherwise work. Our reaction to scarcity has been to live with it as though part of life, rather than offering critical robust suggestions on how to address it and even remove the need for its reaction.
In essence, especially with the economic outlook of Nigeria in 2016, the reaction of Nigerians to scarcity in 2016 will go a long way in determining the country we bequeath to the next generation.