The True Meaning of Recession – Reuben Abati Writes





There have been interesting arguments over Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun’s observation that “recession is just a word”, and NAN MD, Bayo Onanuga claiming that reports of hardship in the land is exaggerated propaganda. I think we need to break down the subject further from a layman’s perspective. Recession is a word, no doubt, but it is more than a word, it is an experience: the experience that the majority of Nigerians is going through.

If you are at a significant remove from that experience, it may be difficult to know how it feels, and if you are an economist, you are likely to be conveniently obsessed with textbook ideas.

Recession is when Nigerians begin to shift the traditional dates for social parties. You know we love parties a lot. Virtually every weekend, there is one party or the other, very loud celebrations where people wear the famous aso ebi, and the Naira becomes a flying object, being thrown all over the place, at the musician, the celebrant, and her friends and family, with so much joy floating in the air, and plates of jolloff rice, eaten half way and left to waste, area boys having their own share of the fun, and Nigerians showing the world that life is indeed for the living.

Sometimes, these parties make no sense: imagine a man throwing a big party to “turn the back” of his great grandfather who died 50 years ago (!) – a great grandfather he never knew, or a lavish party to celebrate the purchase of a second-hand car. Those things are very rare these days. And when some parties are held, the date on the invitation card is during the week: can you imagine being invited to a wedding on a Monday? I have seen that happen. The event was over and done with before 5 pm. Smart way to save money in a season of recession. There were guests of course, but not the kind of crowd you’d get at a typical Nigerian party on a Friday or Saturday. The celebrants actually confessed they didn’t have the means to feed too many people. That is what recession has done. Nobody boasts anymore about “declaring surplus” – a once-upon-a-time very famous phrase in this country!

When I was much younger, my friends and I used to gate-crash parties. Bored, with not much to do, we would dress up and go from one party to the other. It was called “mo gbo mo ya” – I heard and I came. In those days, all you needed was to go to a party to which you had not been invited, and without knowing anybody, you took a seat and before long, someone would come along and ask if you had eaten. In a matter of minutes, whatever you wanted would be placed before you. Drinks? Some friends used to boast about “finishing” a carton of beer, and they would have their fill and quietly sneak away. Try that these days and you would know that recession is more than a word. Virtually every party is now strictly by invitation. Even when it is not boldly stated on the invitation card, you’d get to know the truth when you attempt to gate-crash.

Parties are now organized with such strict protocols, it is like trying to access Aso Villa. You would be screened, your bag will be checked, and don’t think it is Boko Haram attack they are afraid of, they just want to be sure you are not gate-crashing, and if you don’t have an invitation card, you would of course be turned back. There are some exceptions of course, where the protocol is a matter of security: particularly at those parties where there would be many VIPs. Nigerian VIPs don’t like to mix with just anybody.

Even if you manage to gatecrash, nobody will attend to you. What operates at parties these days, is a KYG (Know-Your-Guest) system. After sitting down, someone has to identify you as his or her guest. You don’t get served food, unless your host or hostess gives specific instructions. And you can’t drink a carton of beer anymore at your host’s expense! I certainly can’t remember when last I saw anyone getting drunk at other people’s expense at a party. Even close friends of celebrants, the ones who are a bit

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