My intervention today is a personal one. It may roll into the problems confronting the nation as regards the escalating poverty level and the demand culture from the people around us. I believe and even know that it is like that with many averagely better off citizens, as the case has become the living proof of the Yoruba proverb that “Olowo kan laarin otosi mefa, otosi ni gbogbo won,” which translates to mean “one rich man in the midst of six destitute individuals is also destitute”.
My attitude towards giving to people around me, whom I consider to be in need, has always been extremely generous. Some would come when I am close to being broke and I am nursing the spirit of rejecting them. After a while, a counselling spirit would descend on me with a sense of guilt. I would feel that the fellow might have no other source of help and might commit suicide. At times, I would feel that my failure to give might lead the fellow into depression or even death. At times, I would reason that the little help required of me might save a whole family from which the man or woman came. All manner of justifications would come over me on why I must look for money and give the desperate and distraught guy. The needs of such individuals range from hunger to paying rents, school fees, hospital bills and whatever. The next thing is I would find my lean hand in my flat pocket bringing out the shekels of survival and dashing it out. The other variant of this beggarly culture is the solicitation for loans that are never likely to be refunded. Beyond the deliberate refusal of some of the debtors to pay, most are just incapable of honouring the obligation. Over the years, I sustained myself with the message of hope that givers never lack and “oke ni owo afunni ngbe (a giver’s hand is always on top)”. It seems the proverb is fast running deficient of correctness today for the giver is about running bankrupt. The hand of the giver is getting weak to be lifted up as to be on top. It seems the pocket where the charity has been flowing from is fast getting depleted and the stream of income is no longer as it used to be as bounteous. Notwithstanding this parlous state of the economy, the population of the needy attacking me left, right and centre is swelling in geometrical proportions. People needing help for one thing or the other are not in short supply and their protest is enough to make Europe quake. Do not ask me why I chose Europe as the place that can feel their protest. It is because African leaders, and Nigerian leaders in particular, have become impervious to such complaints or protests by the masses. The government is not concerned about what is happening to the people as the economy nosedives and plunges into the abyss of poverty and mass despondency. It is a raging inferno that has destroyed all in its path. While the local currency, gloriously named “Naira” by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, is fast becoming useless and deserves prayers that it does not become like Sao Tome and Principe’s Dobras, the leadership of the nation and the managers of its economy and fiscal policies do not seem to know the purpose for which they were put in office.
The masses are daily afflicted with loss of jobs in quick speed and large numbers, while graduates populate the streets without jobs. The unemployment market in Nigeria has become the largest ever witnessed with its inability to contribute anything meaningful to the economy. The statistics reveals that it is approaching 50 per cent already. I know that my condition is not peculiar to me. It is like that with many of my friends, associates and Nigerians at large, who used to contribute heavily to charity in the past. Today, as individuals, young and old, approach you for help, you receive messages of solicitation from organizations who feel they have obligations to assist the needy. These organizations, in their self-imposed responsibilities, do not know that we that they are approaching to fund their “Rockefeller” foundations also have our own unregistered foundations without nomenclatures by which we have been doing what they are now asking us to do through them. Many of us leave home in the morning with fake smiles, pretending faces of comfort, just to conceal our inner torments, torture and turmoil. These I call the “The Three Ts”. We leave home, at times, with our children complaining of insufficiency and at times lack. We bid byes to our wives with the women complaining of inability to meet certain obligations requiring financial ability. This may come in the form of the need to assist their own relatives or friends too or meet personal needs. Yet, the community of help-seekers is developing faster in inverse relationship to the group of givers. People do not know that the rich also cry and lament the poor state of the economy. They think we just pluck money from trees and have money-making machines in our homes. They do not know that our smiles are just to conceal our truths and secrets. They do not know that most people are also living on old glories and the stories of our prosperity of the past that some of them heard that draw them to us for help and support are no longer flowing in the same narratives. The economy is imperiling us too. We are running poor and bankrupt. Our fowl is sweating. It is the coat of feathers that does not let you know. And that is why this piece is titled in the Yoruba proverb of Ediye n laagun, which literally means that fowls also sweat. Our cars that you see on the roads at times are fueled after quarrelling with our drivers on how quick the car is consuming fuel. Those cars are the only dumb witnesses of how we fight with our mechanics on the costs of maintaining them.
I have even auctioned some of them to deplete what used to be a fleet of about nine cars to only three that I believe I have the capacity to maintain. Yet, the community of help seekers would not pardon us and let us live in peace. Our leaders do not care a hoot because they know that the people are incapable of organizing themselves or embarking on a revolution. In some countries, if they witness 10 per cent of what Nigerians are passing through, the whole world will shake and tremble from the revolutionary uprising that would erupt. The leaders, no matter how deaf they are, would have scampered for safety at the approach of the masses like the advancing troops of Malcolm towards Dusinane against Macbeth. Nigerian leaders have declared the people to be eunuchs incapable of organizing a revolt. They are comfortable in their luxury. What an average deviant Nigerian then specializes in is how to rob the rich in his area and community. He has perfected the trade of kidnapping for ransom. Those who do not want to go into crime are those who come to beg for help and survival. Some have even seen this approach to life as an open sesame to survival that they do not even think it may be necessary to look for work, as the givers in their areas keep sustaining their entitlement mentality. This can never be a way of life. This can never be a way to prosper. No nation prospers with a docile mass of people who cannot revolt against injustice and impoverishment. Don’t you know it is time for you to revolt against the system that has pauperized you? Do you think 2023 will bring a prosperity you have never seen before by following politicians around? You are a terrible joker whose jokes are no longer entertaining or exciting. You had better rise up and challenge your oppressors. You had better take your fate in your hands and mould your destiny to suit the future you desire. Do not come to my house or barge into my phone with messages of desperation and lack, expecting me to be the messiah to solve all problems. Sorry, I am feeling the heat too! As rich as Dangote is, I know he cannot enrich all people of Kano, if he were to be dashing money to them all. It is an improved and well managed economy that can bring prosperity and it is only government that creates such an enabling environment.
But this government that would rather keep quiet in the face of the brazenness of bandits and terrorists who are bold enough to even kill in the presidential guard cannot guarantee any meaningful change in our state of affairs. I doubt if 2023 has anything great to offer. It is time for the masses to rise up and challenge the economic system of deprivation, despoilation and inflation that we are running in this country. It is time for us to engage in critical thinking towards bringing down the irresponsible apparatus of mass enslavement that has kept us all beggars. My work and income cannot sustain the kind of charity on which my people want to live. I doubt if there is anyone in private business today that can achieve that. I may not be able to say the same about government officials and politicians who have unrestricted access to government funds. Those ones might be able to meet such humongous demands of the people in a charity display. I don’t think I have the capacity, as the clients who pay for my services also groan under economic depression. Even the government itself is said to be broke. It is time we asked the government to find a lasting solution to the national code of poverty that is getting engraved into our statutory living. We must all rise up and challenge the status quo. It is not enviable and sustainable.
In conclusion, do not feel offended if you come to my house and I refuse to open my doors. Do not feel aggrieved if the blue ticks on WhatsApp show that I have read your multiple messages of solicitation for help and I fail to respond or credit your account. You know by now that I have already committed the 10 digits of your account numbers to memory that you do not even need to send them to me anymore. I have not lost your account number and neither have I forgotten them. It is my pocket that is revolting against your sense of entitlement that is too effete to protest against your oppressors. Ire o!