Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Reflections on Nigeria's 1985 budget

By Abdullahi-Alhassan

Josy Ajiboye's cartoon in the Sunday Times edition of January 13, 1985, said it all. Two dishevelled men carrying shovels and a woman with a tray on her head evidently carrying some wares, are clearly amazed at the amount of money earmarked by the Buhari government to be spent on this and that in 1985. With mouths agape, all three sarcastically retort: "We don hear! Implementation nko?".

The cartoon is symbolic in many respects. The men and women are a symbolic representation of Nigeria's lumpen proletariats - the true workers of the society. They abound in large numbers and cut across ethnicity and religion. Their cry is a collective cry of anguish at the treachery and deceit of the government. On countless occasions, they have seen individuals use them to ride to power in order to satisfy their own selfish aims and ambitions. They have seen billions of Naira budgeted year in and year out by various ruling governments to "develop the country and ease the sufferings of the masses". But at the end of it all, the masses' positions have never changed.

Buhari came and said his was a corrective regime. A new budget for 1984 was announced. One year after, he is counting his blessings and saying: "There have been greater improvements in our socio-economic lives... greater security, cleaner towns and cities, notably Lagos and Kano, more reliable power supply and telephone services, mre drugs in hospitals..." But what have all these got to do with the common man? He does not need any security as he knows every person in his village by name. He does not live in cities and does not know what power-supply or telephone services are. He uses fire-wood and palm-oil lamp to see, and sends his children to his neighbours when he wants something from them. He goes to his native doctor when he is sick and relies on mother nature for his herbs in cases of dysentery and other related diseases. He grows his own food, fetches his own water and teaches his own children not to spite their elders.

It is that stray child that he is worried about. That child who abandoned the farm, his heritage and his bride to go to school in order to "one day be the ruler of his own country". He has completed his studies but has no job having lost the one he had because, according to Buhari "It was, of course, a painful necessity to resort to retrenchment so as to prevent the economy from going under". But how can something that does not have life go under? With no job and therefore no steady money coming his way, he is finding it difficult to survive. Food is non- existent and the few that exist, he cannot afford them because their prices are beyond him. And yet Buhari can afford to come and tell him that:

"We still have inflation, un- employment, shortages, higher prices and salaries in arrears..." Bloody hell! Why then did this man come? His younger brothers no longer go to school because their old man in the village can't afford to pay their school fees. His mother can't sell her wares on the roadside again because of the demolition of her stall along with those of her neighbours. So for whom is the budget? Let them chop, after all, in this part of the world, "Na monkey de work and baboon de chop..."

talking drums 1985-01-21 what hope for Africa's growing millions