Rich,Nigerians

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. — Proverbs 14:31, NIV

The Lebanese populace came out in force and they called their government out for being out of touch with suffering of its citizens and rewarding the rich. One million of its population took to the streets for  a seven day anti-government protest. Why is it relevant to Nigerians?  Very much so. It was not so much what they were protesting about; increased taxation but the fact that when people came out they put aside the artificial sectarianism fanned by politicians: “The politicians told us that we hate each other, but we don’t,” said Fatima Hammoud, 23. “I’m from a specific sect. My friend is from a specific sect. But we’re all here together for our futures and our children’s futures. We don’t want to live the way our parents lived.”  This speaks volumes. Without wanting to sound trite, the everyday suffering affects everyone regardless of their tribe, religion, gender and whatever permutations was set to divide people that that they keep them fighting against one another, while the country disintegrates on a daily basis.  The poor continues to suffer and suffer daily. Unity of purpose and tolerance is better for everyone.

The Lebanese context is not so dissimilar to Nigeria’s. What they did was they came out in numbers and in  one voice. They referred to all politicians, whom they want swept from power for bumbling into an economic crisis that threatens to savage people’s wallets, jeopardize supplies of gas and bread and deepen the chronic dysfunction of daily life. Does not sound different from Nigeria?

Igbos are not fairly treated in Nigeria ― Peter Obi(Opens in a new browser tab)

The game of divide and conquer no longer holds the people in their stupor. They woke to the political  cynical game and they refuse to play.

Lebanese  rejected Lebanon’s usual sectarian straitjacket — the political order that pits the country’s 18 officially recognized religious groups against one another in a ceaseless power struggle — to unite in scorn for the system.

When asked which sects they belonged to, Ms. Hammoud and her friend, Noor Maanaki, 21, implored a reporter not to identify their affiliations.

“We don’t believe in that,” said Ms. Hammoud, who has a degree in business and economics but has been able to find work only as a clerk selling women’s accessories. “We’re all Lebanese. On the streets, we are not Shiite or Sunni or Christians. We are citizens.”   Yes, we are Nigerians and that is what should matter the most.

Division costs lives, separation and poverty. This is monumental. It is a seismic shift for a country that had suffered such tragic upheaval in the sake of sectarianism and artificial boundaries and power grabbing. This is a paradigm  shift where geopolitically for decades was  defined by sect, whether Shiite or Sunni Muslim, Maronite Christian or one of several other groups. From lowly functionaries to president and prime minister, government offices are distributed by sect, and a sectarian civil war from 1975 to 1990 killed as many as a quarter million people.

The Lebanese have so far taken a unified stance. The result was remarkable- The prime minister, Saad Hariri, announced a package of economic reforms on Monday evening meant to defuse the protests, including halving the salaries of current and former members of Parliament and requiring the banks to contribute $3.4 billion toward the national debt.  Yes, it halved the salaries of their lawmakers. Imagine how that money could be put to good use; better health care, subsidies for essential food stuff, better schools and affordable housing for the working poor. That is for starters.

If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labour. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty-  Muhammad Yuzus

I am sure we all want to do well and better still, we take national pride when the nation achieves top honours.

It is a sinking feeling when Nigeria tops the league table  for extreme poverty. Over 87 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty.

According to the authors, energy-rich Nigeria overtook India in May to become the country with the world’s highest number of people – 87 million – living in extreme poverty, in comparison with India’s 73 million people.

The report says 14 of the 18 countries in the world where the number of people in extreme poverty is rising are in Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, currently ranked third, is also expected to overtake India soon.

In Nigeria, half of the population is living in extreme poverty. It is not a good result and especially as successive governments had pledged to eradicate poverty by 2030. I do not think Nigerians can live on pledge alone. Promises are empty when many are doing without and far too many needlessly dying of poverty and lack of opportunities to work their way out of poverty. It seems the lives of few rich ones should matter more than the many. From their blinkered view, the truth is lost on them and there is no point trying to convince  them that life is better for everyone when  the majority benefits.

When difficult conversations like this are mentioned, the knee jerk reaction of deniers : “but look; some Nigerians are making it!”

In Africa, Ethiopia is on track to meet the United Nations’ SDG of ending extreme poverty by 2030. Outside the top ten, only Ghana and Mauritania are also on track with the SDG target.

Like the air we breathe, you feel it before you see it. The consequences of poverty affects 86.9 million Nigerians!  That is the estimated number said to be existing in extreme poverty in Nigeria. Shockingly this represents over half of the population . And that is not the half of it , it is going to worsen as the country’s population swells to the third largest by the year 2050. The giant of Africa is merely in size alone as it will have no strength to feed its  teeming masses and according to the World Poverty Clock.

Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the most extreme poor people in the world. India has a population seven times larger than Nigeria’s. For years,successive administrations have made over exaggerated predictions of lifting the majority of the Nigerian population  out of poverty. Sadly, yet again it never materialised.  Hate to be the harbinger of doom, the countdown started decades ago and now we are left holding the begging bowl while we continue to add to the population without the thought of how they are going to be fed, catered or provided for.

The struggle to lift more citizens out of extreme poverty is a poor  indictment of successive Nigerian governments and frankly the truth is they have  mismanaged the country’s vast oil riches through incompetence and  ground breaking corruption.

You do not have to go far from your front door, it is that bad. No adequate  power, access to pipe borne water, high unemployment , inadequate shelter, pollution, lack of health and social  care. I can go on bit it is depressing. Ask the mother who can not afford to feed her children or have make choice if she should take her sick child to hospital or feed her other four children? The price of rice or the price of transport or workers who have not been paid for months and are expected to come to work and be productive on an empty stomach. We cannot keep presenting all is well. It is not.

The Brookings earlier warned of growing poverty in Nigeria ;“Back in February, the African Development Bank had said that 152 million Nigerians, representing almost 80% of the country’s estimated 193.3 million population, lived on less than $2 per day.”

However, Nigeria’s trade, industry and investment minister, Okechukwu Enelamah, suggested the figures reflected a period when Nigeria was in recession. “I think first we need to understand … there are reports that are lagging in indicators, which means people are reporting on history,” he said, that he hoped Nigeria’s economic policies would lead to a reduction in poverty. So when, will that happen? How long do people have to wait on hope? Action please. Minister, you are out of touch.

The fact is, Nigeria is not in a good place. So,the perspective of we are better off than it is predicted, is cold comfort.

The fact is, majority of Nigerians are living in extreme poverty.

If India can improve for their teeming population; the number of extreme poor in India is declining at a rate of about 44 people a minute, compared with Nigeria, where it has been rising by six people a minute.

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”  — Confucius,

 

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.