Freestyle : Street economics

You’d be amazed to learn that Nigeria’s ordinary folk know more economics than they are given credit for.

But how would you know if you’ve never had the sweet and sour experience of commuting to and from your place of work in the country’s notoriously cramped public transportation — lampooned as “44 seating 99 standing” in  Fela Anikulapo-kuti’s hit song, Shuffering and Shmiling.

People’s parliament

You’d never find a more engagingly boisterous assembly or parliament, than the rowdy cabin of a public bus. Hop into any one that takes your fancy and casually float any controversial issue making the headlines in the media. You’ll be blown away by the babble of voices rendering a bewildering array of opinions from the mundane, through the ridiculous, the semi-literate and to the intellectually stimulating.

Remember how the ordinary people in the streets, supposedly ignorant in the complex ways of modern monetary economics, shot down the Central Bank’s proposal to “impose” a N5000.00 note on the populace a couple of years ago, The supposedly dumb people did it by marshalling convincing arguments in the streets, pressuring President Jonathan to withhold assent.

Their vociferous objection and arguments still tingle the ears. They were heard in the crowded buses; the booze bars and, of course, at neighbourhood newsstands where local activists converge to ponder the day’s headlines even if many could not afford the publications’ cover prices. “It (the N5000 note) will useless our money”, one dissenter cried in broken English. Another was more worried about the immediate effect on the average innocent citizen. “It will increase pick-pocketing and armed robbery. Imagine losing just one of those notes!”, he moaned, shuddering to think of the consequence to the average person. And when you thought you’d heard it all, along came one who demonstrated a deeper understanding of the issues: “Rubbish”, he spat, “they want to make nonsense of the Cash-Less policy”.

Economics sans jargons

Beat that if you can. That is what free-style economics is all about: economics sans jargons (economics without jargons); macroeconomics of the people, by the people, for the people delivered in the people-friendly style favoured by 2001 Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sprinkled with only a smattering of abstract concepts, theories and figures– duly broken down for easy absorption — the better to enlighten and add value.

Economics, one maverick American writer says, is so ever-present, so pervasive in every aspect of our lives that we don’t really perceive it. So, it is all common sense and we don’t even need to define it. Adapting the view of the late French President Charles de Gaulle on politics, we can safely say that economics is too serious a business to be left to government functionaries, big businesses and so-called economic experts alone.

This blog, Free-style, is about common sense. It will not leave readers scratching their heads. It will deal with issues most appropriately classified as political economy — how politics, government policy and the so-called ‘markets forces’ affect our pockets and standard of living.

Your street economist

Your resident street economist, yours truly, will endeavour to keep it simple and real while expecting in return honest comments, criticisms and reactions. After all, as Paul Krugman, another Nobel laureate says, an article that is not read is of no use to anyone.

Get this straight: politics and economics are two sides of a coin. The two stand and fall together. A wise man once said politics is about who gets what, when and how. Does that not sound a bit like what you think of economics?

So let’s put aside those things that make you want to yawn when economic issues dominate the news. Let’s make a carnival of it. Let’s do it in the streets, freestyle.

By Joni Akpederi

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