Friday, August 17, 2007

Overheard, brief summer, economic turmoil and bombarding the Garden City

I am sitting in a train carriage on my way out of London for work. Opposite me is a fifty-something year old American man who keeps applying and reapplying some kind of lip salve that makes his lips a funny white colour. Perhaps he has burnt his lips in the sun or has some sort of medical condition. He is wearing tortoiseshell glasses and a blue shirt with braces (the sort that Nigerian banking whiz kids rocked in the 90s before the finance houses collapsed) and throughout the journey he keeps up a monotonous conversation with various vassals and minions. “Who ordered the report on the India outsourcing? Have the clients been properly billed?” he drawls. The person at the other end barely has time to answer before he barks “Yes but I want to be sure that it’s billed to the right cost centre, is that clear?” He clicks his mobile shut and dials another number and the conversations continue. Nothing stops him, when the train passes through a tunnel and he loses his connection, he immediately dials again. Just listening to him and the way the tone of voice changes, it’s obvious that some minions are doing better than others. He even smiles once while talking to one. I think to myself, is this what it feels like to be Master of the Universe….I tried to see if I could pick up some trade secrets, maybe some hot investment tips but no way. I’ve heard some strange conversations on trains in my time but that’s a whole other blog.

It’s been raining most of this week, payback for the few days of summer that we’ve had I guess. At the weekend looking at all my colourful summer shirts I realized that I’ve hardly worn them this year. Shorts I’ve worn maybe twice, if that. Oh well….

My rusty economics has been receiving quite a stretch this week, what with stock markets plunging worldwide and Soludo at the Nigerian Central Bank announcing that from next year, he’ll be slashing two zeros off the naira. Expert opinions on both developments abound are so many and varied as to be useless. I wonder what it feels like to live through a Crash. Did people wake up in 1929 one morning to discover the markets had crashed, or was it a more gradual process? Were there warning signs that the smart ones picked up on, and the majority ignored? How will we know when the next one comes? Answers on the back of a postcard please.

Saw an interesting comment in one of the papers about how the denizens of the free market in the world’s financial centres were quite happy to receive a massive injection of public funds to shore up the stumbling market. So government intervention isn’t so bad then.

I’m reading Let Me Eat Cake by Paul Arnott, a kind of account of his growing up focusing on his love for cakes and sweet things. It reminds me a bit of Nigel Slater’s Toast in its evocation of a different Britain but isn’t as good. Earlier, I finished another collection of short stories, this time by a Chinese author. Yi Yun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers which won the Guardian First Book Prize was great reading- capturing different facets of contemporary China in beautiful language and engaging plots.

What on earth is happening in Port Harcourt, our Garden City? I had e mails from friends there yesterday talking about bombardment by helicopter gun ships as the army tried to corral the gangs that have been terrorizing the city. Scary stuff it sounded like. Hope Jaja’s keeping safe- we need that magnum opus.


catwalq said...

why do i like your blog?
always gives me a chance to walk in your shoes and look out at the world through your eyes. I like what I see and where I go.

...Soludo: me I need someone to explain to me what is going. When I first heard about the concept, it was explained to me that the benefit will be mostly for those who are borderline on the poverty line. It will lower the cost of living and raise the power of our naira against foreign currencies.
I was happy.
Then someone gave me another version about all those who have millions, trillions and gazzillons (ill gotten or not) in the bank who will basically loose alot. I would have thought that even though 1,000,000 become 10,000, it's purchasing power will be the same and we can make use of the kobo and one naira...
me am confused o
i did not take Economics in WAEC. Am allergic to that stuff...

sorry for the long comment.

A Kel called Wonder ...... said...

You dont want to be in Port Harcourt now my brother.

Thats all i can say. For the decimals and the naira, I doubt it will go through cos the other day the AC guys were campaigning to get soludo out!!!!. If it works out it makes our Naira stronger i suppose. Cos 1.25 naira will be equivalent to $1. (Nothing to loose really) Except there are loads of theories already some say the price of crude will increase, some say it's bad for those in diaospra(like u ). I really don't know and honestly can't be buvered. But anyway lets just see they are confused also.

Soludo has thought and thought, now hes come up with this. It's strange. Seeing the Naira would hopefully become the currency for Africa. Like Euro.... hummmmm

Lets see


Re: Soludo and the re denomination, I think if people stop by Imnakoya and Snazzy's blogs and peruse the comments, they will get a better idea of the new policy. We will all have to wait and see whether it works to the benefit of the common man

As to PHC - I am scared...I have family in the city and just hope they are fine. In fact, I should call my mom now and find out how her relatives are doing...

Afolabi said...

what's happening in ph scares the hell out of me. My parents say everything is alright, that it's the usual gang and cult fights spear headed by top political officials. God protect my family o!!!

uknaija said...

@thanks catwalq- keep dropping by
@a kel- okay if you find out let me know
@solomonsydelle- hope your family's safe- seems to be cooling down
@afolabi- hope you and yours are ok

Nyemoni said...

I am particularly pained by the going ons in Port Harcourt as I am from the state and spent the first 18 years of my life there...I wonder where PHC is headed? I get scared when asked to go to PH, even on official duties...

As per Chukwuma Soludo, his team and their plans for the Naira, I applaud them and pray that God will help them lead Nigeria to economic reform...

have a nice week..

Anonymous said...

i was born in PH but im not living there right now. It seems PH is another thing now o!. Anyways I found one blog and i wanted to tell u about it:

Jaja said...

Soludo has done well so far. lets watch how this one goes.

As per stock market.. I ve been very wary of Nigerian Stock Exchange...share values are always going up up up... and we dont exactly produce much. same money going round and round.. but anyway what do I know

Finally, thanks. I am quite fine. And that your big word 'Magnum opus' had me grining like a happy fool.
sofri sofri with the grammer, me i m not a london boy like u.


Ekoakete said...

I always try to keep phone coversations on the tube to a minimum length and volumne. Many others have no such scruples as you witnessed. It always makes me cringe particularly when you can hear there's a dispute going on there.

As per Soludo, the important thing is the purchasing power but as with most things Naija, we'll just have to wait and see.

Emz said...

Yeah, the Port Harcourt news is scary isn't it? Throws the idyllic memories one has of it off kilter. I've heard no end of horror stories from there recently. A friend's mum had her jewellery snatched in traffic, and it's sad that given what's going on there now, she's said to have got off lightly.