A recent trip back to Nigeria brought the reality home. Nigerians, an inimitable set of the most hardworking and intelligent people on the face of the earth, contributing to global development in all spheres of human existence, are not insulated from global job losses after all. The brimful arrival lounge of the Murtala Mohammed International airport was all confirmation needed. Luggage of all sizes and colours belonging to returnee Nigerians struggled with the attendant human traffic for relevance. In the midst of this urban chaos was frustration and disillusionment boldly inscribed.
A chat with some of them unearthed the deep currents of dissatisfaction flowing copiously beneath the ocean of thoughts in which their jerky return to the land of their birth has subsumed them. Job losses, redundancies, shrunken investments, “Madoff syndrome” attacks, mounting bills to pay, and switched off services and utilities all topped their bill of complaints. In a 21st century re-enactment of the biblical parody of the prodigal son, they are coming back home with the hope of finding jobs where they are none, creating non-existent opportunities as well as reverse the brain drain in our universities to brain gain. A sudden flash of realisation and alien patriotic zeal seem to suddenly burst on their sight.
The facts on the ground are grim. Governments, Multinationals, Corporations and blue chips across the globe where these vibrant Nigerians once regarded as their fortes, impregnable safe havens, are now grunting under the smashing yoke of the latest capitalist malady called recession. Initially it was the capital market, and then oil and gas, motoring, manufacturing, banking, aviation and now media institutions are all reeling in this unfathomable descent to nothingness. Internet giant, Yahoo ran up one-off costs of more than $600m during the first quarter as it shed 1,600 jobs, equivalent to 10 per cent of its workforce, and took a hefty accounting charge on its international operations. For the full year, the company remained in the black with profits of $424m, compared to $660m in 2007, fended off a takeover offer from Microsoft, struck an aborted co-operation partnership with Google and wrestled with a shareholder rebellion.
On their part, Microsoft announced the most sweeping job cuts in its history as a worsening economy and weak spending on technology sent quarterly profit sharply lower. Microsoft stated in a release that “in the light of the further deterioration of global economic conditions, it was eliminating up to 5,000 jobs in R&D, marketing, sales, finance, legal, HR and IT over the next 18 months, including 1,400 jobs today.” Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Bank Paribas, Airfrance-Klm, British Airways, Rfi, Bbc have all tasted the bitter fruit of job cuts in the face of dwindling fortunes with over two hundred thousand hands waking up into unexpected docility.
All these notwithstanding, the end of this global job sludge appears far from the vista of realistic permutations as the world economy is firmly on the part to losing no fewer than 51 million jobs by the end of 2009. In its recent damning report, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that the global job cuts which could climb 51 million by the end of this year is a direct consequence of the disparaging economic meltdown, which has dealt heavy blow on economies of Europe, America and Asia. The ILO figures indicate that developed economies would be hit hardest with the fastest rise in unemployment rates, from an average of 5.7 per cent in 2007 up to 6.6 to 7.9 per cent in 2009 and East Asia which had the lowest regional unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent in 2007 is forecast to experience a jump of between 4.5 to 5.5 per cent in a year.
Putting it plainly, this crisis carries the prospects of pushing another 200 million workers into extreme poverty as they and their dependants are faced with the grim reality of being forced out of a living in informal, underpaid and unstable work situations especially in Africa and South Asia. With no remarkable progress in poverty reduction and the colossal weakening of the middle classes, and the attendant socio-political and security implications, the situation could get even worse especially for Africans in Diaspora.
With this seemingly unending dramatic twist of events, Nigeria has once again proven to be the last resort to many of its citizens in Diaspora what with the current unprecedented scramble for Lagos and Abuja flight tickets from major destinations in the world. As they come in their droves, it is only apposite to assure them of Nigerians’ usually receptive and legendary courtesies to both foreign and indigenous visitors. They should be reminded of their country’s peculiar circumstances in case they may have forgotten due to long sojourn overseas. They are indeed welcome to their country, which is powered by the lethal fumes of generators and fuelled by crime. A Nigeria that subsists largely in a yet to be recognised but trail-blazing leadership meltdown where every family unit constitutes a government on its own, providing water, power, security and tarrying roads.
A refreshingly new country where banks and other financial institutions declare cooked and cancerous profits and dividends under a distended money market regime that stands economics on its head awaits them. Also waiting with its long arms of welcome is the history grabbing, Obama-endorsing capital market, tucked firmly in the ‘safe’ hands of Transcorp patrons and led by one of their own, a “been to” with a shouting green card to match. This market, imbued with a loathsome distaste for good corporate governance, and all its manipulative tendencies that are not market-driven, awaits them with its prostituting spiral fall and the trademark regulatory impotence that stalks its existence.
The 21st century Nigeria feverishly longs to embrace her prodigals in her bosom from where poverty and ill-gotten wealth both flow, coalescing into a confluence of motion without movement, and forming tributaries of widespread deprivation, infrastructural decay, moral decadence and militancy of epic proportions. Beneath this bosom is a history of job losses, which has long transmuted into job scarcity with recruitment tests into banks and para-military bodies recording over 200,000 applicants as well as sending some of them to their early graves. Yes, this is the Nigeria they have read so much about, where the minimum wage rests comfortably within the State confines of $52 and any attempt to disparage the tokenism is stoutly resisted and termed as blackmail by the ruling class.
A different country awaits them, a Nigeria where electoral excellence has been elevated to the realm of rocket science and pharmacognosy. Where town union elections end up in bloodbath, professional and student bodies fight continually over elections, their teachers fare no better, up to selections in traditional institutions, blood must flow. An experience of a lifetime beckons for these incoming agents of brain gain. Welcome to educational paralysis, an overarching rustication of academic ideals where intellectuals gather to listen to the foolishness of idiots because of donations, decorate with degrees, the very people who ruin them and bestow honoris causa on nonentities all for filthy lucre.
Welcome back to your country, the 20th hungriest country in the world, where 65 per cent of its population live in food insecurity with insufficient access to the amount and variety of food necessary for a healthy and productive life. Welcome back home, welcome to Nigeria.Atayi Babs