By Adekunle Adekoya
NOW, we are at a destination many of us certainly don’t like. We are also bewildered that we ever got to this destination, since none of us, including those who watch horror movies ever imagined a situation such as the one in which we now find ourselves.
The rate at which more Nigerians are falling into the poverty pits is very alarming.
There is a video trending in the social media. It is that of a gentleman throwing down currency notes to a crowd in front of his house from his balcony. Somebody who knows him remarked that the said person is a politician, and that is his way of “empowering” his constituents. It wasn’t an amusing spectacle; it is in fact another evidence of the deepening poverty in the country.
It’s just a little over a week that our Moslem brothers and sisters celebrated the feast of Eid-ulAdha. This 2021 celebration is unarguably the first of its kind celebrated, given the high price of rams, and foodstuffs.
Things are so hard that that many could not slaughter rams this year; the price had gone high, completely out of reach; unaffordable. I watched in horror as many of my Moslem neighbours went to Eid prayers, came back and continued the celebration quietly, indoors.
Boisterous children, otherwise excited at such times with the slaughter of rams and preparation of food, stayed glued to television sets and consoled themselves that better times are ahead. For me, it was a sobering experience, but that is not all.
It is the month of July, and the sight of fresh yam tubers, with damp earth clinging on to them is still a rarity, compared with last year, and the year before. When the new yam appears in markets, our people usually heave a sigh of relief as arrival of the tubers widen choice of staples to feed on. It also helps moderate prices of other staples as well. It is not looking like that this year. The few tuber of yam that have strayed into Lagos are so expensive as to be totally unaffordable.
How, for goodness’ sake can a tuber of yam, just about eight inches in length cost all of N1,200? And for how many people? A family of six — daddy, mommy, and four children will need at least three of such tubers, at N3,600 for a hearty breakfast. And that does not include the sauce, or whatever goes with the yam, even if it is palm oil. With rice at N30,000 or thereabouts for a 50-kilogramme bag, another staple is going out of reach of the average Nigerian. And gari? Beans? Prices of loaves of bread are going higher even as the slices are getting thinner!
There is hunger in the land. One of the causes of hunger is that millions of our farmers can no longer go to farm. When they do, they are attacked by rampaging herdsmen, shot, or butchered. Occasionally they escape, with gory tales of woes. The women that accompany them, or who are farmers in their own right are raped, also attacked, shot, or slashed with cutlasses. As a result, they are afraid to go back to the farms; self-preservation is a well-honed instinct.
The herdsmen graze their cattle on cultivated crops, and at the end of the season, there is no harvest. Even the farmers, people who sell their harvest for money with which to procure other needs, are now hungry. They also have to buy food. The grim reality is that famine looms in the land, and there seems to exist a consensus that this is self-inflicted, since we have done what we shouldn’t do, and left undone that we should have done.
To be fair, government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria has promoted agriculture massively in the last five years, and other things being equal, food should be one of the things we need not worry about much now, except sustainability of its production.
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the CBN is a reference case in point, among other laudable initiatives. But if farmers can’t go to farm, of what use is credit for agri-business? Why have we neglected to tackle headlong the issue of insecurity in a wholesale manner? We are now even afraid to let children go to school for fear of kidnappers.
Subsistence farmers are now locked out of their farmlands by marauding herdsmen wielding assault rifles. Haven’t we given with one hand and taken with the other? Are we not now seeing that we have given nothing? There is still opportunity to avert famine in the land by taking concrete action towards solving the insecurity problem. We cannot abandon our stomachs; the mouth is a shrine that demands its offering, which must be given.
The power elite, and men of means certainly must know and feel what is going on. Surely they must be aware of that prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond the skies, they are now headed for outer space. Since Nigeria is yet to grow an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, hunger will maul all of us together here unless something is done, and fast too!