We are still in January, first month of the New Year. It is the month that closely follows the end of year celebrations, when families meet, people travel, when people get too much to eat, too much to drink, when people sit back a bit and enjoy the throes of dying year, the joy of being counted in the new year. Some do it with reckless abandon, deliberately forgetting the throes that come with spending beyond one’s income in December.
It is the month when some travel home to show wealth, real or imaginary, ill-gotten or legitimate. It is also a period when some return home and look for future partners. It is certainly not a period for dying; yet people die even on the first day of the new month.
For some, the last week of the last month of the year is a period of thanksgiving. It is a period of looking back and evaluating achievements and failures, of things done and things not done. As one enters middle of January, there is a feeling of passing from one calendar year into another.
January is the month of paying rents. After the merriment of the last days of December and the early days in January, the worker faces the reality of the month of January. The first month of the year carries both the sweetness of renewal and the dearth of funds to meet some obligations, like school fees, and routine feeding expenses. The rice in the house has been well consumed on account of many visitors and holidaying family members.
In the calendar of workers, it is said to be the longest month; it seems the month has one hundred days. Workers have no choice but to wait and wait for the end to come and for the coming to be over. They then go back into the old cycle. January Effects! It is also when some make promises, about what to avoid, what to do, and what to start.
January is filled with some spirits; the spirit of renewal, of commencement and entering a new course. How successful people are in this quest for renewal is a different matter. To overcome the effects, one must do some practical thinking. The harshness of the economy and the fact that in some states salaries are not paid make things worse.
However, one of the problems of the Nigerian worker is the wage level. Hardly in any public sector can we find any worker who can say that his pay is enough to move him to the end of the month in some comfort.
What this exposes the Nigerian worker to is ‘creating ways and means’ for survival. This is one of the reasons for rampant corruption in the Civil Service. The January Effects also affect traders and service men. When there is no money to spend, things are at a standstill. Stocks from the previous year remain on the shelf until things begin to pick up again, say from March or April. Government spending, which stimulates the economy, is also slow.
It is common knowledge that Government is the greatest spender in the Nigerian economy. The informal sector is impoverished – no power supply, no water, no small credits to stimulate business. Government should, as a matter of urgency, develop policies that would help small-time businesses to wake up and run on their own steam from Day One in the year. Healthy economies run twenty-four hours throughout the year. One of the ways to achieve this, apart from loans and credits, is the availability of power supply, stabilizing tax and lowering production cost generally.
Going forward, we must cut our coat according to the cloth, not according to our size. Again, we have to create a system in which you do not have to be a fraudster or work in Oil Company to live fairly comfortably in Nigeria. But our elders say that you must first chase away the fox before you tell the hen not to wander near the bush of your compound.