By Dele Sobowale
“A man cannot gradually enlarge his mind as he does his house.”—Alexis De Tocqueville, 1805-1859.
It is not just a man who cannot suddenly alter his mind-set as the need arises. Thousands of old men, especially, Nigerian politicians, irrespective of political affiliation, cannot expand minds that have atrophied as a result of decades of not using them to promote the collective interests of their fellow citizens. That is why today, virtually every part of Nigeria is heading rapidly towards the almajiri society. That is, a society consisting mostly of beggars and violent ones at that. Every economic and social index reaching us these days points to a nation that is rushing head-long into total chaos. We should not forget that Albert Camus, 1903-1960, told us, that “Chaos is a form of servitude.” We are already experiencing some of that social slavery now in many parts of Nigeria. The reasons we are now subjugated by forces beyond our own and governments’ control will be explained with facts beyond reasonable doubt.
“Today, the raw material of [Nigerian] experience is provided by men and women who no one [should respect.]” (Camus again – slightly modified). We are racing to become the first country since national economic reports were first rendered globally to be classified as an almajiri economy meaning an economy in which the percentage of the population which is unemployed and has no visible means of livelihood exceeds those of workers and income earners. Nigeria has always been a country with high dependence rate – every worker traditionally supported three or four non-workers. But, in the past, the dependents were children and old parents. Right now, we are approaching the point where every employed adult will also have another able-bodied adult as a ward in addition to more kids and old men and women. Nigeria’s ranking as the poverty capital of the world will then become unassailable for decades to come – if not up to the end of this century. If that prediction appears apocalyptic, then consider the overwhelming evidence and cry for our beloved nation.
Every report published by global institutions – World Bank, IMF, World Poverty Clock, World Health Organisation, the United Nations Organisation and Bloomberg, among others – have ranked Nigeria among the worst three to ten countries in the world on every aspect of the Human Misery Index. Space will not permit us to present a comprehensive summary of all the reports released since 2018 alone. But, the few selected should alert us to the dangers we face in the near future as our country lurches out of control of the Federal Government and the security forces. We will also take a look at reports rendered by domestic sources which indicate that large areas of Nigeria which until 2016 were regarded as peaceful have now become mini combat zones. Whole communities are now under attack by bandits and kidnappers and survivors are on the move with nothing but the rags on their backs – to become beggars in urban areas.
“[IMF] ranks Nigeria among bottom 3 in real GDP growth projection…Ghana, Ethiopia, Cote d’ Ivoire lead” VANGUARD, April 12, 2019.
Compared with growth projections of 8.8 for Ghana, 7.7 for Ethiopia and 7.4 for Cote d’ Ivoire, Nigeria is expected to grow by only 2.1 per cent. If that happens, Nigeria will add about 5 million more to those now living in extreme poverty. The predictions for 2020 are just a shade better. They will still be well below population growth estimates and increase the number of destitute people by another 5 million. That is 10 million, mostly beggars, added to the existing mob.
Meanwhile, the World Bank delivered its own verdict on the fate of Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria by saying that “the number of people living in extreme poverty is on the rise in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Nobody needs to be told which country is adding the largest number of poor people.
“13 million school age children out of school in Nigeria” has almost become accepted as a fact we now live with. Last week, the Federal Ministry of Education published a report claiming only 10.12 million kids are out of school. That claim remains to be verified. But, what most Nigerians don’t consider is what those 10 million-plus kids are doing with their idle time and hands. I made it mandatory to occasionally stop and observe what those idle kids on the loose do. Almost without exception, they engage in begging from as early an age as they can on their own carry a bowl. So, at least, we have ten million under-age pan-handlers. But, begging does not stop at fifteen. Once taken up as way of life, it continues for a long time. And, if they cannot solicit for alms on their own they grab a blind or disabled person and feed off the proceeds. Add 5m to the tally.
“The devil finds work for idle hands”, as we all know. Unknown to most of us, in addition to out of school kids, millions actually get turned out by Nigeria’s primary schools with no place to go – no secondary school; no apprenticeship; no skill training and no farm to work. No national study had been undertaken to estimate the number of young people who fall into that category. And while we are at it, we might as well add those who proceed to secondary school and leave at various stages without any further prospects in life. In the 1940s and 1950s, primary school leavers got jobs as cleaners and messengers in the public and private sectors. Today, none of them has a chance to get employed. Yet, ninety per cent of secondary school leavers would not go further – not to tertiary institutions or jobs. That class of idle hands is increasingly getting employed by cultists and robbery king pins. Otherwise, they beg their parents or others for money virtually all the time. There is no future however. Those in rural areas drift to cities to join the jobless horde already resident there. That leaves the graduates of tertiary institutions. Surely, they must be getting jobs.
“Only one out of every 100 graduates get jobs in Nigeria – SMEDAN DG.”—The NATION, Saturday April 6, 2019.
Think again. In fact, what exists here is a situation where the beggars are housed, fed, clothed and otherwise fully supported by parents and relatives – out of shame. The more courageous or helpless females move into prostitution. The rest wait for hand-outs from parents, guardians and others. By contrast, I was born on May 8, 1944, nearly 75 years ago. Everybody born before or ten years after 1944 who graduated from a university had a job waiting with car and driver attached – especially if he was in the Sales Department. My Area Sales Managers, at BOOTS COMPANY NIGERIA LIMITED in 1977, all School Certificate holders were provided with cars and drivers. One of my classmates at Igbobi College, Yaba, 1958-1962 set, changed jobs three times in one year.
“Nigerians Must Go”
Again by contrast, today, a typical graduate would be desperate to be invited for the first interview in three years. And, there will be no car and no driver. The Nigerian born in 1944 was regarded as more fortunate than the Malaysian born the same year. Today, our Malaysians counterparts are well-regarded globally and welcome everywhere. We are ending our lives in a country regarded as the largest almajiri society in the world and globally scorned. Even South Africans and Ghanaians don’t want us around.
Those old enough to recollect what happened in 1983/4 would bear witness to the fact that Nigeria under General Buhari sent Ghanaians packing out of our country in an episode which gave birth to the Ghana Must Go epithet. Buhari is back in office now. Ghana is now throwing out Nigerians. We have become international nuisances in all countries of the world. Ask the Saudis, the Italians, Americans, Canadians or Liberians; ask Qatar what they think about us.
“Nigeria, Seven Others Face Acute Hunger – UN.” DAILY INDEPENDENT.
On April 4, 2019, DAILY INDEPENDENT published a report which pronounced as follows.
“No fewer than 113 million people experienced high levels of food insecurity in the world’s most severe food crisis in 2018, the Global Report on Food Crisis 2019 has found….These countries were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.” Nigeria naturally contributed the largest number among the 113 million.
“2,300 children die daily in Nigeria – FG” national newspaper, April 10, 2019.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (created by the Babangida administration) declared that “One out of 10 children under five years old that dies in the world is a Nigerian and one out of every eight Nigerian children dies before his or her fifth birthday.” But Dr Shuaib is not finished with the trope of bad news yet. He also told the world, not just Nigerians, that “145 women die daily from preventable diseases related pregnancy and child birth in the country. He likened the number of deaths to having 16 plane crashes daily in Nigeria with no survivors.”
“Residents lament as water scarcity persists in Lokoja” – DAILY TRUST. April.
The same story could have been written about any state capital in Nigeria. Residents must dig boreholes if they want assured water supply. No government, Federal or State, guarantees water anymore – even in state capitals. How can agro-allied industries develop in a country where water supply is not readily provided by government?
“US asks citizens to reconsider travelling to Nigeria”.
First, America is not alone in asking its citizens to stay away from here. Most countries have quietly passed the same message to their people. You might think that we lose only the revenue derived from tourism. That will be wrong. A prospective investor who cannot visit cannot invest. So, we lose out on Foreign Direct Investment badly needed to create jobs. Armed robbery, random violence and kidnapping now make vast sections of Nigeria virtually ungovernable. But kidnapping now tops them all. What then is the situation with kidnapping? Read and despair even more.
“Outrage over rising spate of kidnappings” – DAILY TRUST
The paper in its front page provided graphic illustration of the “Reported Cases of kidnapping from January 1 – April 1, 2019. Out of the 74 cases reported, the South had 27 cases (39 per cent) and the North 37 cases (61 per cent). Katsina, President Buhari’s own state, accounted for 16 (22.8 per cent) of all reported cases of kidnapping nationwide. More than one out of five incidents occurs in the President’s backyard. How can the rest of us in Nigeria believe that Buhari can protect us when he cannot guarantee safety in Daura? Who is the lunatic investor who will now head for Katsina? That is not all. Katsina, Zamfara, Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State were responsible for almost half (47.1 per cent) of all the crimes reported. Under President Buhari and Governor El-Rufai, Kaduna is rapidly becoming a place to avoid at all costs by everyone. Kaduna, once the heart of the North, is now the theatre for prolonged ethnic/religious war which will deliver no good dividends. More refugees will result and some are already arriving in Lagos; mostly to join the beggars here.
Obviously, Nigeria leads the world in misery. We are so far in front there is no chance in fifty years that any other nation will overtake us. Everything points to loss of jobs and the means of generating them. We are becoming the world’s first almajiri society. The question is: Does Buhari really care? Do the political leaders, APC and PDP, give a damn?
I doubt it very much.