• Monday, December 11, 2023
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What has the poor got to do with it?


The truth is that I cannot be persuaded that the choices poor people make aren’t what’s behind their poverty … they play when they are supposed to work, generally they make wrong choices at every given opportunity and their desire to depend more on others and less on themselves is incredibly amazing,’ the first man informed. His voice came out rather hard. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed. A drunk’s sort of laughter escaped from him.

‘You got it wrong for I think explaining poverty is beyond the textbook,’ another man contributed loudly with some overly wild gesticulations. He added intensity to the flame of the argument.

‘That’s true and that’s where Paul got it all wrong,’ a middle-aged man lent his voice, ‘for most of the books on poverty are written by those who have no experience of it.’ A short laughter seized those of us seated at the table. And, he continued: ‘Life is essentially made of varieties and ranges … from the very strongest to the weakest, from the most knowledgeable to the least … we’re all humans and that’s why we must find our various placing even across the financial ladder. The majority will always remain poor and a much fewer percentage of the populace will be extremely rich comparatively … it’s in the plot of nature and in the skewed

do with it? 

opportunities in all societies including the one we all live in – be it in the form of knowledge, capital, social relations and even talents.’ His eyes appeared rather unsteady as they crossed path with mine.

‘Poor people are there to complete the eco-system,’ a fair-skinned man of average height and built suggested. Moments later, he looked lost.

‘In life everyone must find their own level,’ someone else contributed. I wondered if the laughter that ran out of him was called for.

‘Like water,’ another man shouted from an adjacent table. We all turned. He stood up and staggered to the urinal behind. Two men from across the aisle pulled over their seats to join in the conversation.

‘I speak with all honesty when I say it’s difficult to make poor people prosperous, I mean successful,’ Paul, the first man, contributed. He was unnecessarily loud.

‘Life’s too short for all these shouts, disagreements and arguments… stupid fights, silly discussions,’ a man on the eastside of life said, a bit dozily. ‘One thing is clear with what I know of what is happening around Lagos.’ Everyone waited without patience. ‘If you are not living on the Island, you are on the fringe of poverty.’ He released a loud belch into the air without excusing anyone. I thought it was rude.

‘Correct,’ a teenage-looking man beside Paul contributed. He raised a bottle of Star lager and downed its content in one gulp. I had my doubts. It was not a time to disagree.

‘And, you?’ Paul called, pouting his lips at me. ‘What do you think?’ he asked.

I turned around in the search of someone, pretending I did not know the question was mine to chew.

‘It’s you he’s referring to,’ someone said, tapping me on my right shoulder. He looked half-sane.

‘Well,’ I began, scratching my head, gathering my thoughts. ‘Hmmm, my contribution is that poverty is too big a thing to be left entirely to the poor. If they could deal with it on their own, there would be nothing like it. The government must help create an enabling environment for the great escape, say, like stabilising power, uh!’

‘Correct.’ It was from an old man. ‘The poor must also learn to compete too for the resources are limited.’ My mind went back to Dora.

I settled down to the bowl of suya and bottle of malt drink in front of me. Everyone turned. It was to look at my drink. I was the only one on non-alcoholic. Silence came. Some silence has words. This one had. See you next week.


Tony Monye