• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Economic hardship: Tribute to the common man

Building resilience in tough times

You bowing, you crying

You, dying like that one day without knowing why

you, struggling, you watching over another’s rest

you, looking no longer with laughter in your eyes

you my brother, your face full of fear and suffering

stand up, and shout No!”

-David Diop

He was restless all night, tossing and turning on the rumpled bed, without batting eye-lids. Indeed, he was agonising over the loss of job as one of the members of staff in the food processing factory of a multinational company that closed shop and exited the country, Nigeria, some three months ago. His name is Adams.

He was not only worried stiff over his inability to get his three children back to school, as even the public ones now collect fees but has just got a distress call from an uncle, Dansa in Kaduna State.

He made a phone call to inform him that two of his children fell victims to the well-publicized kidnap of school pupils at the LEA Primary School and the Government Secondary School in Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. That was on that fateful, black Thursday of March 7, 2024.

Worsening the heart-rending scenario is the demand by the bandits for the humongous sum of one billion naira, as ransom to set the helpless children free before March 27, 2024.

From where are they going to raise their own part of the ransom when their once richest relative, Badmus with vast acres of fertile farmland in Igbara Oke, Ondo State has since fled to Ibadan with his entire family?

But as if that was not enough a tragedy to groan over, his neighbour, Mike rushed in to inform him minutes back that three of his brothers had their irreplaceable lives wantonly wasted at the Delta community of Okuama a few days back. That was reportedly in retaliation for the 16 soldiers ambushed and killed by unknown gunmen.

So, what should writers, who as Toni Morrison, the late American author, rightly noted are witnesses to the events of history as they unfold, be doing at this challenging moment of the self-inflicted economic hardship in Nigeria? The task of course, is to tell our political leaders the home TRUTH. That is whether they like to listen to the voice of reason, or not.

And what is that bitter truth if not that TRUST, the basic element and connecting chord of the relationship between the political helmsmen and the led majority has been brazenly broken.

That has been serially done by the political elite’s sheer greed for self-aggrandizement, naked lust for money, maddening materialism and puerile political power, leaving the common man always holding the short end of the stick of national economy and much poorer than they met them.

The point being made here is that Nigerians have no other reason-except successively degenerating, clueless and conscienceless leadership- to be poor. That is, by any figment of imagination.

In fact, going by the UN ranking as of December 2023 countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti to name but a few could be considered poor. Their citizens can therefore, reason with their political leaders when they plead for understanding, especially in times of economic hardship. But not here in Nigeria.

For a country stupendously blessed by God with vast and varied natural resources such as low-sulphur oil, gas, fertile farmlands, rare gems of solid minerals, abundant sunshine and seasonal rains, we should ordinarily be the food basket of Africa, nay the world.

Similarly, with some of the best of brains the world can boast of, who have broken academic records in virtually all fields of human endeavor across the globe, Nigeria should also be the technological and intellectual hub of the world.

Unfortunately, some of those brilliant minds are either deploying their intellectual acumen to better the lot of some foreign countries, or have “japa-ed” there to work as second-class citizens in a pitiable second slavery syndrome.

It is a crying shame therefore, that Nigeria’s poverty rate is estimated to have reached 38.9percent in 2023, with about 87 million Nigerians living below the poverty line — the world’s second-largest after Southern Sudan. In a similar vein, Nigeria currently ranks 109th out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index, GHI.

This of course, signifies the prevalence of hunger in the nation, an inexcusable paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty natural resources. What is the missing link in all of these factors? Good, accountable, transparent, people-oriented, selfless leadership!

That is the pledge the politicians make to the long-suffering citizens at every electioneering campaign cycle. But they fulfill such mainly for themselves, their cronies, tribesmen, apologists and praise-singers, all of who they have mentally mesmerised to dance to their self-glorifying drumbeats of ethnicity, religion and party politics. But we can no longer tread this ignoble path of perfidy. No!

So, as concerned writers, journalists, analysts, we are expected to be like the river reflecting what passes before us, as Natalie Ginsburg rightly reiterated.

The best way forward, as one has severally clamoured for over the decades is to restructure this country along the six geo-political zones. Let each identify and control their agricultural, solid mineral and other natural resources and unleash such potentials within their boundaries, to bring out the best in them.

As a reminder; so, it was during the First Republic that made the then Eastern Region under Dr. Mike Okpara to attain the status of the fastest developing economy, bolstered by revenues from red palm oil, rubber and profitable trees in the Commonwealth group of nations.

Popular also was the wise investment of the reasonable revenue generated from cocoa in the Western Region, under the then Premier, Chief Obafemi Awolowo that funded Free Education policy, made possible good access roads, setting up of agricultural centre. There was also the famous Cocoa House, Ibadan and the first television station in Sub-Sahara Africa at Ibadan.

And on its part, the then Northern Region under the able leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello had a solid economy predicated on revenues from the production and export of groundnut heaped as pyramids, cotton, groundnut and hides and skin.

Back then it was unheard of that the premiers went cap-in-hand to the Lagos federal capital to share revenue from the Federation Account, as our current state governors head to Abuja to do every month-end. Yet, some cannot reasonably account for their expenditure and the positive effects such have on the quality of life of the average citizen.

Mister President should therefore, with all sense of honesty of purpose and patriotism, heed the increasing clamour for restructuring of the country; buoyed by fiscal federalism and save the lives of millions of the citizens from harrowing hunger and preventable poverty.

This piece is dedicated to all the fallen victims of insecurity, poverty and hunger in Nigeria.