22.02.2024 Extra FOOD NO DEY: 24 Years After, African China’s ‘Mr President’ Captures Suffering Under Tinubu’s Government

Published 22nd Feb, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu

On October 14, 2000, Chinagorom Onuoha, popularly known as African China, released Mr President, a conscious song about the government’s failure and its impact on the Nigerian masses.

China’s lyrics, written in Pidgin English, reflected his perception of the times under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. He begins with “Food no dey, brother eh, water no dey, and our road no good o, everyday for thief one day for owner e,” and then transitions later to the song’s catchy chorus: “Make una lead us well, no let this nation to fall inside well, Mr President, lead us well, if you be governor, govern us well, if you be senator, senate am well, if you be police, police well well, no de take bribe.”

With two dozen years between then and now, protests across the country over food scarcity, fuel price increases, rising inflation, high cost of living and police brutality mean the song remains a reflection of governance under President Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari, the immediate past president.

Over the past week, the naira has weakened against the dollar, the price of food has gone up, and inflation figures hit a new high of 29.9 percent.

African Chna’s song

These followed Tinubu’s decision to abruptly remove fuel subsidies and the country’s central bank’s floating of the naira for market forces to determine its value.

The presidency has declared war on bureau de change operators to arrest the situation, but as of Wednesday afternoon, the Senate debated food insecurity because, as China sang in 2000, food (still) no de.


Naira to dollar exchange rate figures from January to December 2000

FIJ went back in time to see the state of the country when China penned his famous song.

According to data provided by CEIC Data, a company that records global exchange rate data, a single US dollar was trading for 102.9 naira in October 2000.

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The year had begun with a N98.5 value for a dollar, but it rose to as high as N104.8 in July of that year and closed at N106.1 in December.

In the same year, Nigeria’s inflation rate went up to 6.93 percent from the 1999 figure of 6.62 percent. Although the 2000 inflation figure was a 0.31 percent increase, the situation was declining so much that by 2001, the figure had hit 18.87 percent.

African China says, “Fuel e no dey, brother eh, transportation no dey, and our road e no good o, what about the NEPA people o, we no get light.” Fuel queues owing to scarcity have become common in Nigeria in recent years. The increase in the commodity’s price has continued to raise the cost of intra-city transportation, making Nigerians groan.


News headline on Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Between 2017 and 2023, the power grid collapsed 59 times, leaving Nigerians in total darkness as power-generating companies (GenCos) and the government scratched their heads over solutions.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on its longest-ever strike action during the Buhari administration in 2020 and went on to record its second-longest strike action in 2022.

The organised labour movement was not left out, as it embarked on several strike actions to express displeasure.

For years, organised labour has said the country’s minimum wage is too little for any worker to survive on. With the rise in food prices, this claim does have merit.

In 2000, the minimum wage was N5,500 per month, but the price of a 50 kg bag of rice stood at a staggering N2,500, meaning one who earned that wage in 2000 would be able to afford two bags of rice while still having N500 to spare, assuming they spent on nothing else.

The price of the same bag of rice in 2024 is an average of N80,000, meaning one would have to save almost three months of the N30,000 minimum wage to afford one bag.

The current realities mean the entire lyrics of the 2000 hit song could be coined into an op-ed or open letter to the president that would ring true today as they did then.

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Published 22nd Feb, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu


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