• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Living large in the midst of mass poverty!

Group seeks Nasarawa govt’s support to end hunger, poverty

They do not care about us, do they? The answer is an emphatic “no!” They take obscene pleasure in buying expensive SUV cars to drive on pothole-riddled roads. They want top-notch private jets to fly over 133 million multidimensionally poor citizens. They throw lavish parties in a country ranked 109 out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI). They build mind-boggling mansions at humongous sums, brazenly taken from the public purse, or even borrowed, to renovate their palatial official houses, if only to satisfy their lusty lifestyle and sleazy, epicurean tastes.

“They”, of course, refers to the crop of our self- serving and greed -driven political leaders, buoyed by the structure skewed in their favour. They believe that our aberrant variant of democracy offers them the golden opportunity and veritable platform for lucrative business transactions. So, they pay millions of naira for nomination forms as aspirants, at the political party level for the national assembly, or to become state governors, and president. And once they succeed as candidates and eventually mount the pedestal of all-conquering political power, their moving mission is to recoup their investment. You cannot blame them on this, can you?

Read also: Poverty is greatest threat to Nigeria’s democracy, says Dogara

“Us” refers to the long-suffering masses of the citizens in a richly blessed country called Nigeria. Yet, when you, as a concerned citizen raises alarm over their undeserved opulent lifestyle, worse still in a country where the Human Development Index (HDI l, or the gap between the millions of poor people and the favoured few keeps widening every blessed day, they get irritated. Not done, their spokespersons and mentally mesmerized praise-singers lambast you with unprintable mud-slinging slogans and guttersnipe epithets.

As far as they are concerned, their might is right. They represent the country, including you. It means that their decisions, as well as actions, must be seen as the best for us all – like it or not. That is even reprehensible in an economy that has found itself caught in dire straits. But unknown to them, as the wise ones say: ” Only your true friend will tell you the truth at the expense of losing your friendship.”

“While other nations are faced with the challenges of the 21st century, we are bogged down by the avarice of the elite.

“Every time we believe that we have seen the worst from our country, the shameless, opportunistic power-grabbers take us back to a new low.”

-Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF, New York, June,2010).

What it means therefore, is that when Mister Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP in the 2023 general elections, describes the move by the federal government to buy expensive presidential jets for both President Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President, Kashim Shettima as “insensitive and shameless” he is not coming from the perspective of the opposition party, as perceived by the presidency. No!

Rather, he is speaking the mind of millions of poverty-ridden citizens, who cannot understand the sheer opulence of their leaders while they groan daily in preventable hunger and joblessness. Obi has therefore, spoken as Tinubu’s true friend.

That perhaps, explains why the irrepressible, ace broadcaster, Rufai Oseni of Arise Television has urged Tinubu and Shettima to fly the popular Air Peace, or other local airlines. Doing so would signify patriotism, will it not? Of course, it will. And the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has reminded both political leaders that “even the Pope, with authority over 2 billion people worldwide flies on commercial flights.” That also shows true servant -leadership.

More like Obi, the HURIWA organization has described the proposed purchase of the jets as ” an expensive gambit “. It is more so, at a time the hike in the pump price of premium motor spirit and devaluation of the Naira, along with the sudden removal of fuel subsidy have cumulatively triggered the highest inflation of 33.69% ever, with food inflation skyrocketing to over 40%.

Indeed, our leaders should be worried by the recent revelations made by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) that more than 300 companies have closed shop since Tinubu took over as president. And 380,000 jobs have been lost in two months! While lamenting the bitter fact that their warehouses are loaded with unsold products, due to the low purchasing power of the potential customers, another scary dimension is the mass exit of several multinational companies to more economically stable countries. Such include Procter and Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Glaxosmith Kline, Microsoft, Sanofi, Bolt Food, Jumia Food and Guinness, to name but a few.

Such sordid economic situation, which the ‘New York Times’ has raised alarm over and which currently tumbled from the first to the fourth position on the African continent is unsustainable. So, what is the best way out of the woods?

As serially canvassed by yours truly over the decades, our political leaders must show leadership by example. Living large with a convoy of 76 exotic cars, renovating residence with billions of tax payers’ money and flying jumbo jets while the people you claim to lead are agonizing in mass misery all amounts to sheer vanity! And as the Biblical King Solomon, acclaimed as the richest man who ever walked on Planet Earth did confess, “vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.” The best path to tread therefore, especially in this trying time, is that of prudence, frugality, and sharing in the pains of the led majority.

Read also: Banks’ spend on CSR more than double amid rising poverty

As Leo Tolstoy, the acclaimed Russian thinker rightly advised, “no one ever regrets living too simply.” Such austere lifestyle, including being on the side of the suffering masses have interestingly been the connecting chord and propelling philosophies of avatars such as Jesus the Christ, Prophet Muhammed, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa. Those attributes have stood them out, head and shoulders above their money – hungry and materialistic peers.

One is therefore, urging both President Tinubu and his vice, Shettima to learn lasting lessons from the then Uruguayan President in 2012, Jose Mujica, who shunned the luxurious presidential villa in the capital, Montevideo and relocated to his wife’s farmhouse in the village. That was apart from donating 90 per cent of his salary to charity.

Similarly, they should glean from the green leaves of the inspiring life of the then Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, who in 2021 gave up 100 per cent of his gross salary put at 110,000 Euros. Such exemplary self-sacrifice, or servant -leadership, as canvassed by President Umar Yar’ Adua (of blessed memory) is what Nigeria currently needs, not living large in the midst of mass poverty. Or worse still, telling us that we are not the only ones suffering. A loving father should be concerned about the welfare of his children, at all times.