The only time I ever hawked in my life was 1984. Even though my family could be classified as middle class at that time, things had become tough. My mum got a bag of what was called ‘Iyan Buhari’ (Buhari’s pounded yam), re-bagged it into smaller packages and bowls, put them on a tray and I hawked them around our neighborhood. I still remember how I shouted, ‘E ra’yan Buhari o’ (please buy Buhari’s pounded yam). ‘Iyan Buhari’ was a substitute for those who couldn’t afford pounded yam again. It was actually poorly made ‘poundo yam’ flour at that time. For those who are surprised that tea without milk is now called Buhari while garri and groundnut have now been christened Buhari and Osibajo, this is not the first time something negative or below accepted societal standard is named after Buhari. It is simply history repeating itself.
The first time my mum told me I would hawk ‘Iyan Buhari’, I resisted and she gave me the beating of my life. I couldn’t imagine myself hawking on our street. Even as a boy that was barely ten years old then, I knew hawking was below my dignity. I had been used to riding in my father’s car and went to one of the best private schools in Ibadan then. My mum even drove her own car – a Datsun 120Y model popularly called Panel Van. What would the other kids on my street think when they see me with a tray on my head? But then, Iya Bayo (my mother) doesn’t practice democracy. She shouts and beats in equal proportion. Iya Bayo has the loudest voice on the street. Her voice usually booms as if several loudspeakers were connected together. If she graduates from her shouting to beating, she would usually say, ‘Wa a gba pe Olorun o pe meji’ (You will soon understand that there is only one God). If you hear this statement from my mother, running won’t even help you. I don’t know where she got the strength but I could never outrun my mother. I usually preferred the red cable wire she always kept handy or the leather ‘koboko’ horsewhip to her slaps and ‘abara’. A single ‘abara’ in the hollow of your back will send you to Heaven and back. In retrospect, I knew I was cantankerous. On one occasion, I had thrown a big dead snake that my father bought from one of his trips across my mother’s shop where she was seated. I rolled in laughter as my mother fled and tumbled across her wares. It was moments later that I knew I had committed the unpardonable sin and the wages of sin was death. The foolishness in me had to die by fire, by force.
By the time she was done with me that day when she asked me to sell ‘Iyan Buhari’, I willingly surrendered my head for hawking. Unfortunately, I had crossed the line. When Iya Bayo beats you and then snaps her finger at you, you’re not only in trouble, you’re in ‘tonjour’. That means there will be no food for you that night. And that was the worst kind of punishment anyone can give me. Please beat me up but give me my food. ‘Iya meji o gbodo je oku igbe’ (I don’t like to suffer double jeopardy). That day, Iya Bayo snapped her fingers at me. And that is why I cannot forget that very first experience.
That explains why I was so much against a Buhari Presidency. That picture just wouldn’t go away. I’m therefore not too surprised we have come full cycle again. A few days ago, my wife told me a story someone shared on a radio call-in programme. A female driver had almost hit a pedestrian who walked into the road absent-minded. Or so it seemed. She was too sure she didn’t hit the little boy but the boy fell down like a sack of beans in front of her car. She rushed down, called for help, picked the boy and started driving off to the nearest hospital with the boy’s mother screaming in her car. A few metres away, the boy’s mother asked the female driver if she wanted the case to be settled amicably to which she replied in the affirmative. The boy’s mother then said, ‘If you give me 5k, this boy will wake up’. She was given the required amount and to the driver’s surprise, the boy’s mother said, ‘Akeem, open your eyes. Your school fees is now complete’. That is the level of despondency on the streets for those who still prefer to play the ostrich. People have lost their jobs. Some companies have cut salaries. Some have closed down outright. Hardly a day goes without someone sending a request for monetary help. Beggars are everywhere. The crime level has shot up abysmally. An estate agent told me last week that a landlord in Magodo agreed to an offer from a prospective tenant to the effect that he will pay the rent twice. The tenant moved in after he paid the first half. So many properties in Lagos have ‘to let’ or ‘for sale’ banners for over a year going- with no prospective tenant or buyer showing up. What are we to do now that we are now statistically in recession even though families and dinner tables have been in recession for over a year?
We cannot continue to complain. That is what we have been doing for over a year without results. We can’t continue to look up to the government. Even the government needs help. Though I criticize our leaders a lot, I pity them even more. We can’t wait for government to do anything. They would have if they knew what to do. We need to accept the reality of our situation. We must deal decisively with our culture of wastage, excessiveness and lasciviousness. Avoid ‘Aso-Ebi’ syndrome. Excess fat must go. We need to exercise discipline in all areas. Cost discipline is important for companies and families. If your revenue is thinning out, then reduce your cost. For those in Lagos, can you use Uber instead of driving your own car? Or try to share a ride? Uber is a cheaper option in quite a few instances. Can you share an office instead of renting yours? Explore rent-share options. Eat in more and take home-cooked meals to work. Thankfully, they are healthier. Use power saving devices. Consciously operate a budget. Buy in bulk and get some cost savings. Use loyalty vouchers. They are available at major outlets now. Those points can amount to something significant on a rainy day. Explore local holidays instead of international destinations. Do Star Times or GoTV instead of the full option- how many channels do we watch anyway? What of your data plans? Save as much as possible.
If you still have a job, please hold on to it. Try as much as possible not to lose it. Half a loaf is better than none. Better still, get an additional stream of income. During recession, inflation usually outpaces income so multiple streams of income is key to surviving recession. Having a single income during recession is tantamount to taunting Mother Luck. Be innovative. Try new things- what if you succeed? If you have land, try your hand on some farming. You can raise snails even in your backyard. They eat almost anything without salt- including leftovers. It might be difficult to go it alone so consider partnerships. Pool resources together with people you’re agreeable with and start a new line of business. Partnerships help you share the risks. Be part of a cooperative society. Do ‘esusu’ contributions. Make your salary work for you if you earn one. Don’t just put your money into any kind of account. Shop around for the best interest rates. Ensure you earn something on your bank savings- no matter how little- to cope with the inflationary trend. Avoid Ponzi schemes. Ponzi schemes are popular during recession. They often come under the guise of Multi level marketing. If the return is too good to believe, then it is too good to be true. The easiest thing to lose in the world is money.
During recession, opportunities usually come along unnoticed. In fact, recession is an opportunity. The days of penny stocks may just be here again. First Bank is now N3. Zenith is N14. UBA is N4. Those are banks (together with Access and GTB) that control more than 50% of banking transactions. However, you may need to consult a stock advisor to do a proper trend analysis. These days, please investigate before you invest. Invest in IT. There is no way businesses can survive without an information technology framework nowadays. Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria should be an eye-opener. I think the real estate sector is one area to look at also. The price is crashing fast. There is a property for rent in my estate which has been on the market for over one year now. Last year, asking price was N1.8m per annum. A few months back, it was N1.5m. Two weeks ago, it had come down to N1.1m per annum. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. People are going to fling their assets so they can survive. Position. But you need cash so you can take advantage. In recession, cash is king. Don’t ever forget that.
The most important factor is that we must never revert to despondency. We must never give up or lose hope. We have been this way before even though we didn’t learn our lessons then. Suicide is not an option. That is a cowardly way out. A few days ago, there was a report of a man who kept on chanting ‘Buhari’ before diving into the lagoon in Lagos. He was saved by passengers in a passing speedboat. We must keep hope alive. I survived my mother’s beating. By the time I got to secondary school, she used her voice more and her hands less. She had knocked some common sense into my head. I now thank God for my mother’s beatings. She knocked me into shape or else I might have been a vagabond. She beat me out of love and not out of hatred. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. This current situation will knock some sense into our heads. It’s not meant to kill us. We will survive this recession also.
Credit: Bayo Adeyinka