May 25, 2024

The “Poor” Oppressing The “Rich?”, by Francis Ewherido

The use of the words, “rich” and “poor” here have nothing to do with the size of people’s pocket, bank accounts or assets. It is strictly based on other people’s perception of the person in question. If you are seen as rich, then you are rich and it has implications. There is an ongoing trend where the “rich” or “big man” is guilty as far as the “poor” or “ordinary people” are concerned. The “rich” can never be innocent in the “court” of the “poor.”

The rich are seen as perpetual oppressors, thieves, fraudsters, etc. Let me cite a few examples. A vehicle owner was driving on his lane when a motorbike rider driving against traffic ran into the motorist. Mark you the bike ran into the motorist. The bike rider died on the spot. Other bike riders mobilised and lynched the vehicle owner. They were not interested in the circumstances that led to their colleague’s death. There have been a few other cases like that. In one reported case in Abuja, the motorist abandoned his vehicle and ran for his life to escape jungle justice. They chased him to his house and killed him in front of his family members. 

Let me talk briefly about my personal experience. My Honda Accord was barely a month old in 2008. I was coming back from church one Sunday. At the intersection, I was driving on the left and had the right of way. So, I went ahead. A young man on the right got annoyed that I got to the intersection before him. He rammed into me from behind. I came down and he was arguing that I was at fault. A police station was 50 meters away. I suggested we involve the police. Then he started saying “you want to oppress me because you are a big man.” What infuriated me more was the traffic warden (policeman) who told us to proceed and saw the obvious wickedness of the young man and disobedience of traffic regulations. Instead of doing his job, he started pleading with me to forgive him since I had money to fix my car. I have other examples, but what necessitated this article was an incident last week. 

I contracted a fridge repairer to fix my big refrigerator and small office refrigerator in January this year. My wife paid him for the materials and workmanship upfront to encourage him to be fast with the repairs. He held on to the small fridge he took away and refused to come back to fix the big fridge since January 15 when we paid him. I avoided this kind of scenario in the past by replacing instead of fixing. But prices have risen sometimes by over 500 per cent. The scheme which allowed me to buy and pay in three or four monthly instalments has been stopped because of the fluctuating foreign exchange rates. Wetin man go do now? I have resorted to repairing my faulty electronics. Now these repairers are adding insult to injury. 

Anyway, we have been begging this man to return the small fridge he claimed to have repaired. After many pleas, I told him the last time I spoke with him that I will seek legal redress, but he continued to ignore us. Unfortunately for him, my wife ran into him where he could not escape. My wife called me. Initially, I wanted to go the whole length as I warned him. Then I remembered that in Nigeria, the “big man” is guilty in any dealing with the “poor man.” I told her to retrieve the fridge, collect our money and walk away. Mine is one in thousands of cases of artisans who collect money without rendering the services they collected the money for and in the process oppress the “rich.”

Now, who are some of these much hated “rich men” and “oppressors”? We have those in government. Some of them move with security details. Where their vehicle accidentally hits or kills a third party, the mob can’t attack them because there will be bloodbath. The security details will protect their oga from harm. We also have rich businessmen, company executives amongst others in this category too. Then, you have executives with company SUVs. They live in official residences owned or paid for by their employers or houses bought with mortgages that take a chunk of their salaries. We also have retired people who left with their official SUVs as part of their severance package. With the aid of the mortgage, they built houses in choice neighbourhoods. We also have “I get am before” group. The list goes on.

Some of the “I get am before” live in gated communities where residents can only have access if they pay their service charges up to date. Now some of these landlords have gone broke. They are not up to date on payment of service charges.  When they go out, they tell their friends and neighbours to send them gate pass before they can access the community and their homes. The beautiful SUVs they are driving were the last official vehicles left for them as part of their severance packages. All these fall into the category the “poor” call “rich” and are ready to deal with them if their vehicles are involved in an accident with a “poor” third party. 

I had an experience that shaped my thinking on this matter at a very young age. In the 70s, when fuel sold for 6k to 8.45k a litre, my father went to buy fuel. The “rich man” ahead of us with his Mercedes Benz 200 (It sold for about N13,000 brand new then) and asked for four litres, but the inattentive fuel attendant dispensed six litres. The “rich man” had money for only four litres. It did not make sense to me that the rich man could not pay for the extra two litres because his car could buy almost four of my father’s Peugeot 304. That was when I realized that people can be “asset rich” and “cash poor” long before I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, where it was properly explained. Some “rich men” are cash poor. Please be empathetic.

Some of us see “armed robbers” and “kidnappers” allegedly caught in the act being lynched or given some other forms of jungle justice and we urge the mob on. Are you aware that innocent husbands, wives, sons, etc., have been unjustly killed due to jungle justice? Do you know that your innocent young adult son carrying dreadlocks, or earrings and wearing ripped jeans can be lynched if he is unfortunately at a crime scene and his appearance fits the bill of a preconceived suspect by the mob? We need to be very careful with jungle justice. The rule of law should be our guiding principle on our conduct in a civilised society instead of resorting to jungle justice. They say that it is better for 1,000 “criminals” to go scot-free in error than have one innocent man to be behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Stereotyping makes me very uncomfortable. Let the rule of law prevail where the “rich” and “poor” are concerned.