The Politics of Collective Immiseration
by Moses Oludele Idowu
“There are only two families in the world, the Haves and Have-Nots.” – Miguel de Cervantes
“A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true.” – Isaac Newton
The large crowd I saw at Bourdillon, in front of the house of Bola Tinubu, President of Nigeria and one of the leading politicians who have heavily profited from politics in this political dispensation, made me sad and caused my heart to sink. The long line of crowds of multitudes waiting for crumbs from one of the biggest political profiteers of this era is a reality to what I have been saying for a long time. Poverty is real in the land. But this is not the issue; the real issue is, if nothing is done to arrest this drift, if nothing is done to redirect the economic program and policies in more progressive and practical ways, poverty will envelope everyone soon, – except the very rich.
I have been told and have seen it firsthand myself the truth of what many are saying that this is the worst Christmas in living memory. There is poverty everywhere.
“But there has always been poverty in Nigeria and Jesus said, ‘The poor you will always have with you’ “, some wiseacre who are poor in theology would say. Yes, there has always been poverty in Nigeria; but it is poverty that can be managed. Poverty that most often could be hidden. But now poverty is visible and no one can hide it.
Some well- dressed men gatecrashed to a christening ceremony of a child and begged the woman in charge of food to just give them soup, out of the leftovers. She should not even bother with meat but just only soup which they would take home to make garri. This is not in Hausa or Igboland, it happens here in Yorubaland, and they are Yorubas – land of culture and honour, now under siege of poverty, extreme poverty as a result of gross misrule by pseudo- progressives of APC.
A northern politician once said something that Yorubas ought to ponder seriously about if we are still a thinking people. He said if Bola Ahmed Tinubu had come before Obafemi Awolowo, most Yorubas would be almajiris today.
Did you hear that? I never heard a word so true from the mouth of a politician of the Fourth Republic. If destiny had pushed this man ahead and he was the first then most people in this Yoruba land will be beggars by now. Because everything will be priced out of the reach of the poor: housing, market, schools, colleges, universities… With scholarships only for children of those who are ready to ‘ranka dede’ him and lick the boot of his aides and foot soldiers.
All over Yoruba land and even Nigeria the reports coming are not good. Poverty, institutional, multi-level, multi- dimensional poverty is on the march and Nigerians are shrinking and shrinking into their holes and shells.
That poverty is on the march is not the issue. That is not the problem. Even as bad as things are they can be turned around. Poverty is not the issue. The real issue, the real trouble that I see now is that there is no political will and no intellectual capacity and moral sagacity to understand the real trouble bedeviling the economy, to arrest and address what Professor Eskor Toyo calls “Nigeria’s basic economic deformities” and set this nation on the path of progress. And unless this is done, unless the economic war is won poverty will continue to spread and deepen.
It is not about prayer or confessing positive things. Often times we muddle these things because we neither understand true Religion or Theology and Logic. Theology is compatible with Reason, in point of fact, it is built on it. This is why the more Nigerians pray the poorer they become; because both leaders and followers are operating outside of Reason.
Can I be honest with you? Poverty will be worse in 2024 than even 2023 that people are crying about. Because there is nothing in place to avert recurrence, to arrest the march of poverty, to put people back to jobs, to put industries back in motion. Now Nigeria is on fast pace to de-industrialization. As the currency continues to weaken and more money required to purchase raw materials the prospect of survival will become narrower and foreign investors will begin to leave amidst other uncertainties.
The same ruinous policies that Buhari pursued for 8 years – borrowing, printing money ( ways and means), doling out N20,000 to imaginary beneficiaries and numbers and party members…, these are the same policies being pursued by this dumb government. Poverty will continue. Poverty does not end because someone wishes it or prays about it. This is where Nigerians miss it and why they suffer so much. Poverty is arrested by deliberate programs of attack, calculated schemes of intellectual, industrial, moral and financial empowerment, social stability and collective engagement. It requires an assortment of weapons to kill and defeat this hydra- headed enemy of man.
It is war. Poverty must be fought and defeated. Else, we will all lose. I shall come to this at the end.
The more debts increase the lower the quality of currency will be and the more will be required to service existing debts that are matured. Governors who are largely economic illiterates have mapped out strategies to borrow another 2-3 trillions in the new year. They have lost it. The federal government now shells out billions to states on palliative and the states too shell out to those they wish. That is what the largest community of black in the world has become: from hand to mouth. Just borrowing and sharing. An economy based on such transaction is an economy of doom for everyone. It is collective Immiseration.
In a way it serves the political class for people to be poor because it gives them leverage. An economically- empowered and liberated person cannot be told who to vote for. He cannot be pushed to do the bidding of politicians. Because he doesn’t need them. Politicians fear and hate such category of persons. They are dangerous, too dangerous to their survival. They possess independent minds and Nigerian politicians dont like people with independent minds.
That is why democracy is actually designed and can only function best among people who are economically empowered and politically literate. Those two things: economic empowerment and political literacy are crucial.
Poverty serves the interest of Nigerian politicians. The crowds of have- nots thronging their houses and queueing on their streets gives them a sense of empowerment and self- assurance. It boosts their ego, that these “slaves” depend on them for survival and need their favour.
That is why they prefer to dole out cash, crumbs to crowds rather than govern well and wipe out poverty among the masses.
We have known cases where as crowds struggle to collect pittance lives were lost. It happened a couple of time in Kwara State during the era of Bukola Saraki where on each occasion as many as 30 people died. Over pittance.
I ask the man who shared the Bourdillon video whether the crowds got anything? Nothing, he told me. They got nothing.
They would trek back the long distance home on empty stomachs.
They have no need of them now. Elections are over and no election is in sight or coming till another four years. This people are cruel. They have no mercy. They don’t care about people as they pretend to be.
Nigerians deserve their fate. Everyone gets what he deserves with leadership.
However, there is something dangerous about this which everyone needs to watch out for. If poverty is not tamed or arrested everyone will lose at the end. Even the rich will also cry. If nothing is done to arrest this rampaging poverty that is spreading all over the land; then there could be a boomerang effect. I don’t know what it would be. When a river course is blocked and it is not allowed its natural flow, it will cut out another channel elsewhere and return with vengeance.
These children who are crying to sleep now because of hunger will grow up one day and may join the army or somewhere else. The teenager who is dropping out of university today because his parents could not afford the new fees won’t forget and will not forgive. Nigeria is taking a big risk.
Who knows where a Jehu or Hitler or Rawlings may spring or come from?
Now there is hunger in the land. That much is certain. Soon hunger will turn to anger and anger will crystallize into popular action, and action to…
It is really amazing that Nigerians have to come to this sorry state under civilians. What excuse will politicians give now for the state of things? That the military spoiled everything and destroyed everything… And 25 years are not enough to undo what the military “destroyed”? Everything of value today that Nigeria has was built by the military – national hospital, Third Mainland Bridge, Aso Rock, Alscon etc. And they never sold oil for the fraction that is now selling today or in the last 24 years.
What is the excuse that poverty has deepened in the same period when oil sold for a hundred dollars per barrel under the politicians for a substantial period of time?
Pay day does come. Yes, there shall be a payday. I don’t know how but I know eternal principles that cannot fail. Seedtime and harvest wont cease. The one who sows must also reap. Politicians will reap in full and with compound interest what they have sown in the last 25 years to Nigeria.
© Moses Oludele Idowu
December 26, 2023
All Rights Reserved