By BUNMI SOFOLA
It was quite a sight watching Festus drive into the venue of a party in his flowing agbada. Cruising around looking for a parking slot, he finally manourvered his car into a tight spot – it was a fair distance from the party.
With his agbada ballooning almost in protest as he walked the fairly long distance to the huge marquees, I walked with him, intending to take the nasty scowl off his face. He was a friend of many years and that was the first time Iâ€™d seen him behind the wheel. â€œWhat happened to your driver?â€™ I asked him.
â€œDo you still call them that these days?â€ he asked. â€˜Theyâ€™re nothing more than shameless opportunists who want to fleece you for as much as they can get away with. The nicer you are to them, the more they come up with ridiculous excuses to squeeze money off you. Iâ€™d had my last driver for barely nine months within which heâ€™d begged for hand-outs for his kidsâ€™ hospital bills, his motherâ€™s medicine and his own rent. The last straw was when he asked for a loan of N25,000 to pay for a kiosk his wife just got. I told him I didnâ€™t have that kind of money now. 1 am a retiree and how was he expected to pay back the loan from his N30, 000 monthly salary? As soon as he got that monthâ€™s salary, he scampered never to be seen again.
â€œNow Iâ€™m back to driving myself and this has limited the type of parties I attend. I have to come to this one because the celebrant is a very close family friend. Imagine me craining my neck to find a parking slot then walking all that length to the party. Iâ€™m not used to that and until I get another driver, Iâ€™m restricted to outings where parking is no problem – like my clubs where I hold fairly important positions and have parking slots earmarked for me…â€
Problems with domestics are hitting epidemic proportions. No thanks to the current economicÂ meltdown. More working class people are skipping meals to save money and many more are cutting back on power and petrol for their â€˜l-better-pass-my-neighbourâ€™ generators as the little the have to spend is hit hard by inflation.
All of a sudden, the local markets are besieged by â€˜middle classâ€™ shoppers who mostly patronized super markets and shopping malls. With foodstuff prices hitting the roof, even the so-called affluents have to haggle themselves hoarse before they get a semblance of a bargain. Little wonder that working class people are now being clobbered by high prices and are being pushed to extreme measures to cope financially.
All of a sudden, youâ€™once docile house-helps are turned into petty thieves who steal any thing they can easily flog off. Theyâ€™d been tutored by their S^ginsâ€™ benefactors that their employers are rolling in money and could easily replace stolen items, so why should the helpers not help themselves for a change? Whatever is stolen, they believe would be a drop in the ocean of their boss wealth.
It is a sad fact that the impact of inflation is greater on the low income earners than any other groups. Apart from prices for items and services such as food and fuel rising so sharply, a lot of them find it difficult paying for essentials like medical bills – even the high price of kerosene has become a headache. They see the so-called affluent society having mind-boggling parties and they throngh these parties looking for left-over foods, unopened booze and careless wallets they could nick!
Can the Government afford to sit by while less priviledged citizens skip meals and put their health at risk by patronizing native doctors and quack chemists? The challenge to the Government is to ensure that the less priviledged are not forgotten.â€ observed one of your â€˜politiciansâ€™ who are usually heavy on the rhetoric. â€lnvestment to stimulate the economy must also benefit them…â€ Better said than done?!