When Will We Reach Our Breaking Point?

Yesterday evening, I was in a Keke Marwa waiting for one more passenger to come in so we could be on our way to Powerline, Saabo. An old man entered the Keke Marwa, clutching a black nylon bag to his chest. He sat down slowly. I could tell he was tired. The driver told us that the fare was N80. The man shouted: “Haba now… It was N70 yesterday.” The driver, without hesitation, shouted that the man should come down and not waste his time. The old man smiled, a painful embarrassed smile, and then he told the driver to start driving. He looked around, at all of our faces, and he said: “One of these fine girls will pay the extra N10 Naira for me.”

When I got to my bus stop, I gave the driver N100 Naira for my fare, and I told him to use the N20 change to complete the old man’s fare. The old man sang my praises and prayed for me. I was too embarrassed to look at his face because I had not really done anything deserving of praises or prayer. I just gave him N20.

I didn’t feel like I had done enough for him.

As I walked home, I thought about the old man, and the millions of Nigerians who are struggling daily to make ends meet. Whenever I go the market, everything costs more than they did on the last visit. The sellers always shake their heads mournfully before they say: “Aunty, the price of everything don increase. Na only God go save us for this Nigeria.”

I know a family that has switched from eating meat to smoked fish, and I know a family that has switched from using Omo to washing soap. Everywhere around us, people are making serious adjustments and wasting anything has now become an unforgivable crime.

And as if things are not bad enough, now, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has approved the 20 to 50 percent fare increase for BRT, LAGBUS and other franchise buses, with effect from Match 1st. At a news conference on February 13th, Abiodun Dabiri, the managing Director of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, (LAMATA) said: “The current financial crunch has seen average cost of operations increase to about 110 per cent. With the cost of fuelling going up by 71 per cent, oil prices up by 64 per cent, tyre by 90 per cent, continued operations are threatened. In order to avert a collapse of the scheme, which currently serves over 500,000 commuters daily, the Lagos State Government has to consider the request of the operators for an upward review of bus fares.”

To some Lagosians, this news may slide past their eyes, but to the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who use these bus services daily, this news is not a welcome one; It is another painful blow to their already strained budgets.

I think about a man living in Ikorodu who makes N30,000 Naira monthly and who has a wife and five children. It is reported that the fare from Ikorodu to Fadelyi would increase from N120 to N200. So if the man has to make a trip from Ikorodu to his work place in Fadeyi daily, he will be spending an extra N160, which comes down an extra N3,200 per month. So basically, now, he will be spending almost thirty percent of his salary on transportation – and we have not even taken into account the okadas and keke marwas that he may have to take to get to his office or his home.

How will this man feed his family and send his children to school when his salary remains the same?

How will he survive?

For how long will Nigerians continue to absorb these price increases?

When will we reach our breaking point?

Should we all fold our arms and watch as things degenerate or do we stand up and do something?

Normally, one of the phrases Nigerians always use is: “E go better.” I have realised that nowadays, I do not hear this phrase as often as I used to.

What about you? Are you still optimistic about the future of our country? How are you managing with the current state of things in Nigeria?

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments section below.

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