featured Op-Ed

Let Your Laughter Not Be Loud

Let Your Laughter Not Be Loud
  • PublishedApril 11, 2021

Do you watch ‘Stand-up’ Comedians or the ‘Gbenga Adeboyes’ of this world treating you with audio and video clips to sessions of rib-cracking jokes and comedies? Do you know that it is not just a simple assignment? Can you make it a goal this week to laugh and make someone laugh? Do you know that April 14 every year is International Moment of Laughter Day, a day to remind people to laugh? Do you know that International Movement of Laughter Day was dreamed up in 1997 by a humour consultant, Izzy Gesell? He says: “Laughter comes right after breathing as just about the healthiest thing you can do. It relieves stress, instils optimism, raises self-confidence, defuses resistance to change, and enhances all your relationships. If laughing isn’t your thing, try doing one of these: chuckling, giggling, guffawing, snickering, cackling, chortling, cracking-up, crowing, sniggering, snorting, tittering, chortling, chuckling, giggling, guffawing, teeheeing, tittering, and yucking.”

Do you know that the first World Laughter Day was celebrated in 1998 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a family doctor in India, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement? Do you know that the celebration of World Laughter Day is a positive manifestation for world peace and is intended to build up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter as we are having thousands of Laughter Clubs in more than 105 countries? Do you know that laughing is a science? Are you a humorous person? Do you take time to laugh at all? Do you value humour? Do you know that there are traditional theories of laughter and humor which include: Humor’s Bad Reputation, Superiority Theory, Relief Theory, Incongruity Theory, Humor as Play, Laughter as Play Signal, and Humour as Comedy? Are you a boss in the office with sense of humour? Do you know that the sense defines you? Do you know that two things are surprising about what philosophers said about humor and laughing? Can you believe that if you do not laugh at all or does not cherish humour, you are just in Platonic School?

Do you know that Plato, in his book, ‘The Republic’ (388e), says that the Guardians of the State should avoid laughter? His voice cuts in: “for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction. …if anyone represents men of worth as overpowered by laughter we must not accept it, much less if gods.”
Do you know that in another Plato’s writing called Philebus (48–50), as a leader, he shows objections to laughter at all or being humorous on duty? He says: “Taken generally the ridiculous is a certain kind of evil, specifically a vice. That vice is self-ignorance: the people we laugh at imagine themselves to be wealthier, better looking, or more virtuous than they really are. In laughing at them, we take delight in something evil—their self-ignorance—and that malice is morally objectionable.”
Can you believe that for the fact that Plato sees laughter and humour as objectionable, he says that in the ideal State, comedy should be tightly controlled? His voice cuts in: “We shall enjoin that such representations be left to slaves or hired aliens, and that they receive no serious consideration whatsoever. No free person, whether woman or man, shall be found taking lessons in them. No composer of comedy, iambic or lyric verse shall be permitted to hold any citizen up to laughter, by word or gesture, with passion or otherwise” (Laws, 7: 816e; 11: 935e).

Do you enjoy jokes while at work or in your home? Can you believe that Aristotle of Stagira had similar negative comments about laughter and humor as depicted in his conversations in Nicomachean Ethics (4, 8), as he agreed with Plato that laughter expresses scorn? Do you know that in his Rhetoric (2, 12), he describes wit as educated insolence? Can you believe that in the Nicomachean Ethics (4, 8) Aristotle warns: “Most people enjoy amusement and jesting more than they should … a jest is a kind of mockery, and law-givers forbid some kinds of mockery—perhaps they ought to have forbidden some kinds of jesting.”
Do you know that the Stoics, with their emphasis on self-control, agreed with Plato that laughter diminishes self-control? Have you read Enchiridion written by Epictetus? Can you believe that his followers said that he never laughed at all? In his book, Enchiridion advises: “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

Do you know that early Christian leaders such as Ambrose, Jerome, Basil, Ephraim, and John Chrysostom warned against either excessive laughter or laughter generally? The voice of Basil the Great cuts in: “Raucous laughter and uncontrollable shaking of the body are not indications of a well-regulated soul, or of personal dignity, or self-mastery” (in Wagner 1962, 271).

Do you know that John Chrysostom, warns: “Laughter often gives birth to foul discourse, and foul discourse to actions still more foul. Often from words and laughter proceed railing and insult; and from railing and insult, blows and wounds; and from blows and wounds, slaughter and murder. If, then, you would take good counsel for yourself, avoid not merely foul words and foul deeds, or blows and wounds and murders, but unseasonable laughter itself (in Schaff 1889, 442).

Can you believe that one of the earliest monastic orders of Pachom of Egypt, forbade joking at all for any reason (Adkin 1985, 151–152)? Have you read some materials about the Rule of St. Benedict, an influential monastic code? His advice to the monks cuts in: “prefer moderation in speech and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter; do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.”

Do you know that in Benedict’s Ladder of Humility, Step Ten is a restraint against laughter, and Step Eleven a warning against joking (Gilhus 1997, 65)? Can you believe that in the monastery of St. Columbanus Hibernus, the following punishments were prescribed: “He who smiles in the service … six strokes; if he breaks out in the noise of laughter, a special fast unless it has happened pardonably” (Resnick 1987, 95).

Can you believe that when the Puritans came to rule England in the mid-17th century, they outlawed comedies? Have you come across the book of William Prynne published in 1633 against laughter or making comedy? His voice cuts in: “Comedies are sinfull, heathenish, lewde, ungodly spectacles, and most pernicious corruptions; condemned in all ages, as intolerable mischiefes to churches, to republickes, to the manners, mindes, and soules of men. It encouraged Christians to live sober, serious lives, and not to be “immoderately tickled with mere lascivious vanities, or … lash out in excessive cachinnations in the public view of dissolute graceless persons.”

Have you read Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651)? Do you know that he sees human beings as naturally individualistic and competitive and that winning others in a competition brings laughter and losing brings sorrow? In Part I, ch. 6, his voice cuts in: “Sudden glory, is the passion which makes those grimaces called laughter; and is caused either by some sudden act of their own, that pleases them; or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in another, by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves. And it is incident most to them, that are conscious of the fewest abilities in themselves; who are forced to keep themselves in their own favor by observing the imperfections of other men. And therefore much laughter at the defects of others, is a sign of pusillanimity. For of great minds, one of the proper works is, to help and free others from scorn; and to compare themselves only with the most able.

Have you read about Rene Descartes’ “Passions of the Soul”? Do you know he argues that laughter accompanies three of the six basic emotions—wonder, love, (mild) hatred, desire, joy, and sadness? Do you know that in Part 3 of this book, “Of Particular Passions,” he considers laughter only as an expression of scorn and ridicule which must be avoided? Can you now see the perspective of this theory that sees laughter or humour as a bad reputation? Are you aware that Roger Scruton founded the Superiority Theory of laughter as he hinted that our laughter expresses feelings of superiority over other people or over a former state of ourselves? His voice cuts in: “If people dislike being laughed at, it is surely because laughter devalues its object in the subject’s eyes.” Do you know that Francis Hutcheson (1750) wrote a critique of Hobbes’ account of laughter and feelings of superiority by Hutcheson and deposed that the two positions about the causes of laughter were incompetent?

Do you know that he came out with a position that there are times when a person had occasions to laugh at himself without competing with any body? Do you know that he identified some moments of pity in laughter, a moment “we are in greater danger of weeping than laughing”? Can you rejoice and laugh when you as a Director meets your mates in school pushing wheel-barrows in motor-parks? Do you know that the Superiority Theory will not readily play as their conditions of life may draw pity and tears from you? Do you know that the third theory of laughter is the Relief Theory, a theory that sees laughter as a reflex action to express happiness? The voice of Lord Shaftesbury’s 1709 essay “An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humor,” cuts in: “The natural free spirits of ingenious men, if imprisoned or controlled, will find out other ways of motion to relieve themselves in their constraint; and whether it be in burlesque, mimicry, or buffoonery, they will be glad at any rate to vent themselves, and be revenged upon their constrainers.”

Do you know that Spencer in his essay “On the Physiology of Laughter” (1911) explains that emotions take the physical form of nervous energy? According to him, when we are angry, nervous energy produces small aggressive movements such as clenching our fists; and if the energy reaches a certain level, we attack the offending person? Do you know that when we are in danger or in fear, the energy produces small-scale movements in preparation for fleeing; and if the fear gets strong enough, we flee? And when we are excited with a good happenstance, out of reflex, we laugh? John Dewey’s (1894: 558–559) Relief Theory cuts in: “Laughter marks the ending … of a period of suspense, or expectation.” It is a “sudden relaxation of strain, so far as occurring through the medium of the breathing and vocal apparatus… The laugh is thus a phenomenon of the same general kind as the sigh of relief.”

Do you know that we have the Incongruity Theory of Laughter, a theory that is the perception of something incongruous—something that violates our mental patterns and expectations? Have you been listening or watching the stand-up comedians? Do you know that they use Incongruity Theory, using the set-up and punch? Do you know that the set-up is the first part of the joke to create the expectation while the punch (line) is the last part that violates that expectation? In the language of the Incongruity Theory, do you know that the joke’s ending is incongruous with the beginning? Do you know that Cicero, in his book titled “On the Orator” (ch. 63), he describes a joke as: “The most common kind of joke is that in which we expect one thing and another is said; here our own disappointed expectation makes us laugh.”

Have you read about William Hazlitt? Do you know that he contrasted moments that are tragic and comic in his popular essay titled: “On Wit and Humor”:
“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps: for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.

We weep at what thwarts or exceeds our desires in serious matters; we laugh at what only disappoints our expectations in trifles… . To explain the nature of laughter and tears, is to account for the condition of human life; for it is in a manner compounded of the two! It is a tragedy or a comedy—sad or merry, as it happens… . Tears may be considered as the natural and involuntary resource of the mind overcome by some sudden and violent emotion, before it has had time to reconcile its feelings to the change of circumstances: while laughter may be defined to be the same sort of convulsive and involuntary movement, occasioned by mere surprise or contrast , before it has time to reconcile its belief to contrary appearances (Hazlitt 1819).”

Have you read about Thomas Aquinas? Do you know that he founded the Theory of seeing Humour as Play or Laughter as Play Signal? In his Summa Theologiae (2a2ae, Q. 168) Aquinas voice cuts in: “Whether there can be virtue in actions done in play,…the sin of playing too much and the sin of playing too little….As bodily tiredness is eased by resting the body, so psychological tiredness is eased by resting the soul. As we have explained in discussing the feelings, pleasure is rest for the soul. And therefore the remedy for weariness of soul lies in slackening the tension of mental study and taking some pleasure… . Those words and deeds in which nothing is sought beyond the soul’s pleasure are called playful or humorous, and it is necessary to make use of them at times for solace of soul (2a2ae, Q. 168, Art. 2).

Do you know that Thomas Aquinas sees somebody that does not enjoy humour as a danger to himself and the society? He cuts in: “The person who is never playful or humorous is acting “against reason” and so is guilty of a vice… Anything conflicting with reason in human action is vicious. It is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by never showing himself agreeable to others or being a kill-joy or wet blanket on their enjoyment. And so Seneca says, “Bear yourself with wit, lest you be regarded as sour or despised as dull.” Now those who lack playfulness are sinful, those who never say anything to make you smile, or are grumpy with those who do (2a2ae, Q. 168, Art. 4).

Do you know that the Theory of Laughter as a Comedy has long institutional history? Do you know that comedy, tragedy and tragedo-comedy were based on the violation of mental patterns and expectations to depict humans live, in the shadow of failure, folly, and death? Do you know that represents life as full of tension, danger, and struggle, with success or failure often depending on chance factors? Do you know that these are themes of tragedy, too? Do you know that where they diverge is in the responses of the lead characters to life’s incongruities? Do you know the mood of the audience will show whether an episode is a tragedy or a comedy? Do you know that more often than not, the epic drama of tragedy involves struggle to death, showing heroic tradition that extols ideals, the willingness to fight for them, and honor? Do you know that the entire issues in our country is a long epic drama, drawing laughter and tears with equal strengths? Some tragic, some comic and while some are tragi-comedic?

Do you know you have to watch this drama through the prism of the present situations in our country?
Can you recall that in a breaking news on 4th January, 2020, it was reported that the power supply dropped from 3,993.65 megawatts, MW, to 3,608 MW, indicating a drop of 385.65 MW, because of many challenges, including inadequate gas, poor transmission infrastructure and limited distribution facilities? Can you believe that 2,026.5 MW was not generated due to unavailability of gas.” “60 MW was not generated due to unavailability of transmission infrastructure, while 2,417.1 MW was not generated due to high frequency resulting from unavailability of distribution infrastructure and in financial terms, the power sector lost an estimated N2, 162,000,000 (Two Billion One Hundred and Sixty-Two Million Naira) on 2nd January, 2020, due to constraints from insufficient gas supply, distribution infrastructure and transmission infrastructure” as the Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, continue to embark on load-shedding nationwide? Can you believe that as we speak, 40% of Nigeria’s population lack power supply? Have you ever interrogated Nigeria’s power demand? Do you know that it is no longer a controversy that Nigeria has the largest population and economy in Africa? Can you believe that Nigerians consume 144 kwh per capita annually relative to its population, a quantity that is only 3.5% as much as that consumed by South Africans? Can you believe that peer-review of countries reveals that Ghana consumes over twice as much, Tunisia over ten times, and South Africa almost thirty times far more electricity per capita than Nigeria does currently? Do you know that in all, Nigeria has only 12 GW installed and unfortunately, only just one-third of that is delivered? Do you know that Nigerian power production falls far short of demand? Do you know that is a primary constraint on economic growth and a veritable source of poverty and want? Do you know that those Nigerian industries and enterprises embarking on self-generation are using dirty diesel generators with terrible economic and environmental cost? Do you know that the amount of self-generation of electricity in Nigeria is nearly 14GW capacity produced through diesel and petrol generators?

Do you know that the World Bank projects electricity demand will have grown by a factor of over 5 between 2009 and 2020, and 16.8 by 2035? Do you know that studies show that Nigeria’s on-grid electricity demand seems to be about 4 – 12 times the total electricity distributed on the grid (at 3200 MW, or 3.2 GW)? Do you know that the studies show that Nigeria needs well over 63GW of new generation to satisfy unmet demand and possibly to reduce the pervasive nature of the expensive and dirty self-generation of electricity? Using Simulation Models for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED) based on GDP growth of 7% per annum, do you know that manufacturing as the main growth driver of the economy and to account for 15% GDP by 2030 (from 6% in 2000); per capita electricity consumption is to rise to 4,000 kWh/annum (from less than 200kWh/annum) using population growth rate at 1.80%? Do you know that the Energy Commission of Nigeria in 2013 used simulations models for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED) based on scenario assumptions? Do you know that basing the GDP growth at 7% per annum, manufacturing as the main growth driver which is to account for 15% of GDP by 2030 (from 6% in 2005); per capita electricity consumption must increase to 4,000kWh in Nigeria which was consistent with the MDG objective of reducing poverty by half by 2015? As we march to Agenda 2030, do you know that we are yet to fulfill the prescribed requirement for electricity for 2015 now in 2021?

Can you now see why we need Off-Grid Electricity Development in Nigeria as one of the potential pathways to achieve universal electricity access in Nigeria? Do you know that relying solely on central grid systems results in a doubling of coal generation and a tripling of natural gas generation by 2050 which will compromise the quality of our environment? Do you know that the pandemic has imposed further duties on us to consume more electricity to store vaccines at regulated temperatures? Can you recall that during the lock-down, billions of people were using the Internet, cloud data storage, and on-demand air conditioning, all powered by abundant electricity? Do you know that during this period, programmes were held through netflix, Zoom, Call of Duty meetings, engaging in games and sports virtually, all requiring lots more electricity around the clock? Can you see that rather than pursue the substance of our problems, we are rushing to the National Assembly to give us a new electoral law, thus making the poor and the vulnerable to look forward to miracles of palliative and blessings from above? A good reason to laugh! Can you believe that the Transmission Company of Nigeria revealed that some of the power generating plants could not generate any megawatt of electricity while it expects some of the 27 existing electricity generation companies (Gencos) in the country to cut down their power production capacities as they deal with reduced gas supply for power production? Do you know that without fixing the problem of electricity and increase it per capita, the voyage to Agenda 2030 is a pyrrhic dream? Is this not a laughing matter?

Hurray! This is the time to laugh! Are you aware that on Thursday 8th April, 2021, in response to the growing levels of internal displacement in Nigeria, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced the launch of the Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund – a Islamic philanthropic tool to collect yearly alms by Nigerian Islamic institutions and Muslims to support the most vulnerable internally displaced families in the country? While the relentless violence by the non-state armed group in north east Nigeria continues to cause mass suffering and displacement in the region, do you know that we are also concerned about the critically evolving situation in north west Nigeria, where violence and banditry is aggravating communities, forcing families to flee their homes? The voice of Ms. Chansa Kapaya, UNHCR Representative to Nigeria cuts in:
“But as displacement situation increases, so too does the willingness and generosity of Nigerians to respond. Undoubtedly, the private sector, including citizens, companies and foundations in Nigeria has a crucial role in assisting vulnerable internally displaced families. My hope is that the launch of this Fund will encourage the Muslim community to give generously to support IDPs in dire need.”
Do you know that UNHCR’s Zakat Fund was originally established in 2019 and has since helped millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict, violence, and persecution? Do you know that the Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund has received the endorsement of 10 fatwas by leading Muslim scholars and Islamic institutions in the Middle East, East Asia, and North America? Do you know that with the launch of the Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund in Nigeria, Muslims in Nigeria and across the world will now be able to contribute their Zakat to Nigerian IDP beneficiaries and the Zakat contributions will be used for livelihoods development for IDPs and the provision of emergency relief items including mattresses, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, laundry soap, and solar lanterns? Do you know that in 2020, UNHCR’s Islamic Philanthropy programme was able to provide critical assistance to over 2.1 million people in 13 countries as explained by Mr. Khaled Khalifa, Senior Advisor on Islamic Philanthropy to UNHCR’s High Commissioner? Do you know that as of March 2021, there are 2.9 million internally displaced women, men and children in Nigeria? His voice cuts in: “With the vast majority of IDPs in Nigeria being eligible for Zakat, we endeavour, through the Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund, to channel Zakat to help alleviate their suffering. The fund does not charge any administrative fees on collection and implementation of Zakat activities. 100 per cent of your contribution goes to those in need. It is a globally trusted, Sharia’ compliant program that offers a most effective vehicle to any donor to channel their Zakat to those who are eligible to receive it.”

Are you aware that in 2021, the Nigerian refugee crisis is now seven-year old since violent attacks of the Islamist group Boko Haram started to spill over Nigeria’s north-eastern frontier in 2014? Do you know that Cameroon, Chad and Niger have been drawn into what has become a devastating regional conflict and to date, the Lake Chad Basin region is grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency? Do you know that over 3.2 million people are displaced, including over 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, over 684,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and 304,000 refugees in the four countries? Do you know that the crisis has been promoted by conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition, which have risen to critical levels in all four countries and despite the efforts of Governments and humanitarian aid, some 12.5 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad Basin region, with 5.3 million people remaining food insecure? Do you know that the challenges of protecting the displaced are compounded by the deteriorating security situation as well as socio-economic fragility, with communities in the Sahel region facing chronic poverty, a harsh climatic conditions, recurrent epidemics, poor infrastructure and limited access to basic services?

Do you know that as more funds are launched for us, the theatres of wars are multiplying? Do you know that our country is at the verge of submitting a supplementary budget to be financed through foreign loans to procure high resolution weapons to kill more of ourselves, the bandits of the system and the wretched of the earth who are victims of hunger, neglect, climatic change and poverty? Is this not good enough for us to laugh and laugh and laugh? We must laugh oooo!

Can you recall that on Friday 13th November, 2020, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Friday, November 13, 2020, unveiled the first Nigerian electric car named Hyundai Kona, the car, which is a product of Stallion Group, was launched at the VON Automobiles Nigeria in Ojo, Lagos State where the car was manufactured? Do you know that the new Kona, an Electric car is regarded in European motoring industry as the world’s number one, with the cost, put at about N24 million? While speaking during the unveiling of the product, do you know that Sanwo-Olu observed that VON has over 40 to 50 years of vehicle manufacturing history, when they were assembling various Volkswagen products?

Do you know that the head of the company, Manish, hinted that the changes in global temperature and weather patterns as seen today are caused by human activity and Kona, is one way to respond to the global weather challenges?

Hurray! Have you heard the news that on 8th April, 2021, it was reported that the Federal Government through one of its agencies, the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria has set up a 22-member project team for the development of an electric vehicle in compliance with the directives of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in 2019? While inaugurating the project team on Thursday 8th April, 2021, in Zaria, do you know that the Chairman, NITT Governing Council, said the project is aimed at reducing emissions and pollution? Do you know that the terms of reference of the team include; to evolve the technology/design framework of the NITT model of an electric vehicle, develop a prototype of the NITT electric vehicle, and promote the NITT model of electric vehicle in the Nigerian automobile industry, determine the budgetary allocation to support the new project, identify capacity development requirements for the sustenance of the new project and establish the necessity or technical support or partnership with other institutions or research bodies? Can you recall that as part of the Federal Government’s move towards having an eco-friendly environment and encouraging the use of renewable energy, the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), on 5th February, 2021, unveiled Nigeria’s first locally assembled electric car, too?
Can you recall that on 6th March, 2015, it was reported that a Nigerian College Student, Mr Segun Oyeyiola built a $6000 Wind and Solar Powered Car by starting with a Volkswagen Beetle and converted it into a fully renewable off-road vehicle using solar and wind energy without using any fuel? Do you know that the problem with solar-powered cars is that you can only drive them during the day? Can you believe that this problem has been solved for the first time in the world by this Nigerian student who added a wind turbine to his Beetle, thus making him to drive all night, too?

Can you clap for this senior engineering student in the Electronic and Electrical Department of Obafemi Awolowo University, who installed a giant solar panel on top of his Beetle; inserted a wind turbine under the bonnet and driving his car with ease without any fuel? Do you know that you have to laugh? A deep laughter? Do you know that his name is not part of the engineers representing local capacity in the new vehicle company? Do you know that his name is conspicuously absent in the new list of the members of the committee set up by Federal Government to look into ways of how such initiative will thrive in Nigeria? Is this not enough celebration to make us laugh, laugh and laugh? A deep laughter!

Are you aware that on Wednesday 7th April 2021, the President, World Bank Group, Mr David Malpass, said the group is working actively in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund on the common framework that the G20 established for dealing with debt overhang and debt burdens? Do you know that Debt Overhang is the relationship between heavy debt and low growth and is a fundamental concept in the literature that argues in favor of debt relief? His voice cuts in: “We are working actively in collaboration with the IMF on the common framework that the G20 established for dealing with debt overhang and debt burdens. It’s focused on the poorest countries, the IDA countries, and we look forward to progress on that.”

Can you recall that on 5th October, 2020, Malpass of the World Bank called for debt write-offs as the world faces what he called an “inequality pandemic”? Are you aware that a growing number of poor countries, some already in humanitarian crisis, will soon have to choose between servicing their lenders or helping their most vulnerable citizens, as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are warning that the tools to deal with a looming debt crisis are not up to the job?

Do you know that low-income nations were due to pay at least $40 billion to banks and bondholders this year, and plans to pause some of those interest payments – let alone cancel any of the principal – are patchy and “too shallow”, according to the World Bank? Can you believe that the UN’s flagship $10.19 billion appeal to raise emergency funds to help the poorest countries respond to the coronavirus pandemic and its humanitarian fallout is stuck at around $2.8 billion as Development Economists say the impacts of COVID-19 and the global recession threaten to push 150 million people into extreme poverty and cause a “lost decade” of reverses and long-term economic “scarring”? Do you know that World Bank chief, David Malpass said that, unchecked, the impact of the recession could be “a threat to the maintenance of social order… and even to the defence of democracy” as he puts it: “enormous budget deficits and debt payments” are “overwhelming” some countries? Do you know that the IMF, meanwhile, has warned that the world is at a “critical juncture” to prevent a pandemic-related “debt quagmire”, which could hit people in low-income countries the hardest and that the whole “architecture” of debt owed by countries needs an overhaul? Can you believe that the 76 countries with the lowest incomes owe at least $573 billion in debt and are due to pay about $41 billion to service those debts in 2020 at a time that those bills are competing with rising domestic demands, dwindling tax revenues, falling remittances, and shrinking economies?

According to IMF Research, do you know that when a state cannot or will not pay back even some of its loans – a sovereign debt default, it becomes harder to borrow or attract investment in future, opens up legal liabilities, and can have destabilising knock-on effects including “capital flight and fiscal austerity”? His voice cuts in: “Countries need money now to respond to the pandemic, and the quickest way to do that is to basically stop debt repayments.”

Are you aware that the primary policy tool to stave off a debt crisis that global institutions have so far come up with is the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), a package that allows countries to pause debt repayments to creditors willing to participate? Do you know that If all eligible countries take up the deal, it will free up about $11 billion for social spending by governments to give countries “a little bit of breathing space”? Can you believe that the issues in some countries are no longer temporary liquidity problems, but rather more fundamental solvency concerns? Do you know that the Chinese government is owed about 25 percent of DSSI countries’ repayments this year? Do you know that China is not a member of the Paris Club, a group of countries that coordinate their development lending and have agreed over 30 DSSI packages so far? Do you know that Chinese banks and institutions hold very significant amounts of emerging market debt and it is one of several non-Paris Club lenders that have said they will follow the same approach (others include Saudi Arabia and India)?

Do you know that the World Bank itself and several other multilateral development banks do not offer DSSI terms as they fear jeopardising their AAA credit ratings? Do you know that any stumble in the repayment of loans can affect the credit ratings of a country, a bank, or a company and that in turn will affect the future costs of borrowing and confidence in its creditworthiness? Do you know that Nigerian government spent equivalent of 83% of revenue to service debt in 2020? Do you know that the Federal Government of Nigeria achieved a debt service to revenue ratio of 83% in 2020 according to the information contained in the Budget Implementation Report of the government for the year ended December 2020 as published on 17th January, 2021? Are we not great, greater than the greatest? Shall we not continue to laugh and laugh and laugh at this sweet comedy?

Hurray! As Nigeria is begging for suspension of interest and possible debt forgiveness, do you know that we have a good news to celebrate and laugh till we are tired? Are you aware that on Tuesday 6th April, 2021, the list of billionaires was released by Forbes Magazine of the United States of America? Can you believe that Nigerians and South Africans dominate the top 10 spot on Forbes’ Africa billionaires list, which is an annual ranking of the richest Africans?

Do you know that Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has only three dollar-billionaires, namely: Aliko Dangote, chairman of Dangote group; Mike Adenuga, chairman of Globacom; and Abulsamad Rabiu, chairman of BUA group? Can you believe that Mrs Folorunso Alakija, executive vice-chairman of Famfa Oil Limited, fell off the list — second year in a row? Can you recall that in 2019, Alakija made the Forbes list of world billionaires and was ranked 1941 in a list of 2,153 billionaires; with a net worth of $1.1 billion? Do you know that the oil tycoon dropped off the global billionaires’ list in 2020, although she still emerged as 20th richest African billionaire in 2020? According to Forbes, do you know that Alakija’s fortune dropped below $1 billon due to lower oil prices because she is mainly into oil exploration? Do you know that Dangote retained the top spot of Africa’s richest person with a net worth of $11.5 billion, making him the 191st wealthiest person in the world? Do you know that he owns 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company, and has shares in publicly-traded salt and sugar manufacturing companies? Do you know that Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, was ranked 440th richest in the world with a net worth of $6.1 billion, up from $5.6bn in 2020? Do you know that Rabiu emerged as 574th richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $4.9 billion and also maintains the position of sixth wealthiest person in Africa?

Do you know that despite the worldwide economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Forbes said an additional 660 individuals were added to its 2021 billionaires list? Do you know that Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Amazon, remains the world’s richest man for the fourth straight year with an estimated worth of $177 billion, followed by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, in second place with $151 billion? Do you know that altogether, the 2,755 billionaires on Forbes list are worth $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion in 2020? Can you believe that the United States of America has the highest number of 724 billionaires, followed by China (including Hong Kong and Macao) with 698? Do you know that Forbes said it used stock prices and exchange rates from March 5 to calculate net worth? Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon, remains the world’s richest man for the fourth straight year with an estimated worth of $177 billion? Can you believe that he holds 5% of his wealth in liquid cash? Do you know that he is followed by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, in second place with $151 billion and altogether, the 2,755 billionaires on Forbes list are worth $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion in 2020?

Do you know that Forbes said it used stock prices and exchange rates from March 5 to calculate net worths. A statement from Forbes cuts in: “It’s been a year like no other, and we aren’t talking about the pandemic. There were rapid-fire public offerings, surging cryptocurrencies and skyrocketing stock prices. The number of billionaires on Forbes’ 35th annual list of the world’s wealthiest exploded to an unprecedented 2,755 — 660 more than a year ago. Of those, a record high 493 were new to the list–roughly one every 17 hours, including 210 from China and Hong Kong. Another 250 who’d fallen off in the past came roaring back. A staggering 86% are richer than a year ago.”
Where are the dancing troupes? Are you aware that on 6th April, 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised upward its growth forecast for the Nigerian economy in 2021 to 2.5 per cent from its earlier projection of 1.5 per cent it announced in January? Do you know that the IMF announced the new projection in its World Economic Outlook update released on Tuesday 6th April, 2021?

Do you know that the new growth projection is 1.0 per cent higher than the multilateral institution’s 2021 forecast in January? Can you recall that the Nigerian economy exited recession in the fourth quarter of 2020 with a modest 0.11 per cent growth? Do you know that the IMF also projected that in sub-Saharan Africa, growth will strengthen to 3.4 per cent in 2021, 0.2 per cent higher than the previous forecast? Do you know that the IMF expects the world economy to grow by 6 per cent in 2021, up from its 5.5 per cent forecast in January, a stronger economic recovery in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccine rollouts get underway? Do you know that the IMF expects the world economy to grow by 6% in 2021, up from its 5.5% forecast in January, 2021? Do you know that for advanced economies, the IMF estimated growth of 5.1%, with the United States set to expand by 6.4%? With insecurity here and there including jail break, terror and banditry, shall we continue to laugh for the automatic accomplishment of this forecast? The time to laugh is now. A statement cuts in: “Global growth is projected at 6 percent in 2021, moderating to 4.4 percent in 2022. The projections for 2021 and 2022 are stronger than in the October 2020 WEO. The upward revision reflects additional fiscal support in a few large economies, the anticipated vaccine-powered recovery in the second half of 2021, and continued adaptation of economic activity to subdued mobility. High uncertainty surrounds this outlook, related to the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support to provide a bridge to vaccine-powered normalization, and the evolution of financial conditions.”

Hurray! Are you aware that the South African retail giant, Shoprite International Limited says it will consider an outright sale or potential sale of the majority stake of its Nigerian subsidiary, Retail Supermarket Nigeria Ltd? Do you know that the retail giant said it was planning to discontinue its operations in Nigeria after 15 years of full operation? The statement of the company cuts: “Following approaches from various potential investors, and in line with our re-evaluation of the Group’s operating model in Nigeria, the Board has decided to initiate a formal process to consider the potential sale of all, or a majority stake, in Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Shoprite International Limited. As such, Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited may be classified as a discontinued operation when Shoprite reports its results for the year. Any further updates will be provided to the market at the appropriate time.”
According to the company, do you know that the decision was due to the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on the retail industry? Can you recall that Shoprite is a South African company, and they launched their first store in Lagos in December 2005? Do you know that its international outlets (excluding Nigeria) contributed 11.6% to group sales and reported a 1.4% decline in sales from its books in 2018? Do you know that South African operations contributed 78% of overall sales and saw 8.7% rise for the year? Do you know that the retail giant has been struggling with staying afloat in Nigeria recently as the company in H2 2019 Shoprite lost about 8.1% of sales, which was due to the September 2019 xenophobic attacks? According to reports, do you know that another South African retailer, Mr. Price, had announced it would also exit Nigeria and focus on the South African domestic market, an event coming after they closed 4 of the 5 retail outlets in Nigeria? Shall we not laugh loud as these companies are leaving our countries, rendering unemployed thousands of employees engaged in their chains? Yes!

The time to laugh is now! Happy celebration of Laughter Day. In view of the climate of insecurity enveloping the country, the voice of Epictetus in Enchiridion cuts in again: “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained”. God bless Osun! God bless Nigeria!


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