Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 2, 2014

STILL ON THE QUESTION OF POVERTY AND INEQUALITY IN NIGERIA AS 2015 GENERAL ELECTION APPROACHES



    To philosophers such as Karl Marx and even to some extent Ibn Khaldun the process of history, the dominant happenings in this world, were all explained by one major theme: material acquisition. To Karl Marx, the type of cloth we wear, the food we eat, our culture, religion, and politics are all influenced by various economic factors. The Marxist theory of Dialectical materialism centred as it is on materialism and opposing social forces, associated changes in our society and history to these major worldly factors. The same thematic methodology need borrowing here if the current mess Nigeria found herself in is to be properly position in it right perspective. From the issue of Boko Haram insurgency in the North, ethno-religious crisis in central Nigeria to Niger Delta militancy in coastal Nigeria, the single underlying cause behind all these is economic need of opposing sides. The corner of Nigeria from where Boko Haram originated is the poorest section of the country, the underlying factor behind the recurring crisis in central Nigeria is control of economic resources particularly land, while Niger Delta militancy, as all the world knew about, is on resources control - crude oil. The earlier our policy makers in Abuja come to the realization that the first genesis of Boko Haram is economic problems and needs, that is poverty, followed by an ideology of a particular sect, the better for government efforts to contain the crisis. The current amnesty program in place in the Delta region has to some extent reduce the militancy but not eliminate it, as part of the underlying causes of the problem ( and also a consequence of it) youth unemployment and inequality remain. 




    The states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa are the most poorest in the country if you take the major indicators of poverty into consideration. The encroaching desert has made hundreds thousands of farmers to abandon their farms while cattle rearers migrated South for greener posture for their animals. Inside big cities such Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, the growing army of unemployed who are available for recruit by any criminal is very worrying. The fact that the region share border with the impoverish parts of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon is a clear pointer to the role played by poverty in putting the region in the current mess it founds itself. Thus, it will seem naive or deliberate for anyone to discountenance the role of poverty in all these. The degree of inequality in the Niger Delta and the gap between oil barons and ordinary citizens is very glaring, hence the haste by everyone in the region to enter oil bunkering in order to make millions quickly and become rich. It is well known fact that some of the most expensive mansions in the capital city Abuja are own by people from Niger Delta who equally own other choice properties in their region. But, enter their villages -the country side- there you see people suffering and crying of absence of amenities such as good roads. The main cause of crisis between the so-called settlers and indigenes in the central Nigeria is control of resources such as land, business premises, farmlands, and grazing grounds; it become clear and more pronounce in recent years because poverty have beaten harder and youth are out of jobs. 



     The above factors define the current scenario in Nigeria and were at play for some number of years before now. Problems such as that of absence of regular electric light, scarcity of farm employment, and other jobs, deteriorating security situation and crimes, and poor condition of health institutions have combined to make things difficult for ordinary Nigerians. Like i mention in my previous article here, in an environment where free and fair elections are conducted it is easier for the people to make their choices and vote those that can salvage them from their current bondage. But, in absence of such an environment citizens will be left in confusion and total lost of confidence in Democracy and it ability to bring about the desire changes. Hence, the need for building of effective media and civil society organizations as watch dog for the people; who will put government back on track when ever its goes astray. But, where media (the so-called fourth estate) and the civil society are bought by the political class and big corporations the ordinary man confidence in the ability of the civil institutions and with it democracy to provide for him the minimum standard of welfare will further nosedive, leaving him at the mercy of any alternative ideology even if it is Utopian. The poor man don't care since it is a matter of survival, and those that are supposed to care for him has abandoned him for nature to take it cause. That is the peril and risk to the government that abandon its people and a system that is so corrupted that leaders can do what ever they want and no one will held them responsible for it. 


    The rich become richer and poor poorer has been in play since this country got its independence, it is only the rate at which this take place that has upped in recent years; making commentators such as myself to wonder whether our government care for a moment about the consequences of this widening gap between the haves and the have nots. But, for any reasonable observer of the happenings in this country, the reason for governments lack of concern is not difficult to forthom. The single most important weapon by which the poor can punished any government in power for its actions or otherwise -democratic election- has come under heavy abuse and being twisted to favour the corrupt elites that has been in power since the demise of colonialism. It is even more surprising in a country that claim to be conducting free and fair elections, that less than a year to election the government did not care about the dire condition majority of voters are in. This tells you that elections in Nigeria are being rigged all this while. While this is happening some radical elements in different regions of the country are taken advantage of the situation to sell their dangerous ideologies to the gullible public, majority of whom are the poor left abandoned by a careless government. Thus, we are in a country of extremes: a government that compose of unsympathetic capitalist class on one hand and growing number of religious and ethnic extremists on the other hand. It is the innocent poor that is left in the middle, while the radical elements are doing all they can to recruit him the government don't seem to have care for him. It is, therefore, easier to see why people are being recruited into the hands of these religious and tribal radicals. 



    As Nigeria march towards becoming the largest economy on the continent, surpassing South Africa, the issue of how to tackle poverty and the widening gap between the rich and poor will continue to pop up. We wait to see whether Nigeria will become India or Brazil of Africa or both; where in the case of India you have extreme poverty going side by side with rapid economic growth, while in the case of Brazil you encounter a peculiar case of inequality going together with economic growth. But, despite the poverty of India and inequality of Brazil their democratic system seem to be working better than that of Nigeria, increasingly given hope to the poor in these great nations. Unlike our case where the democratic transition has been punctuated by election rigging and poor governance. Nigerian economy will be better if we can have a free and fair elections as well as good governance. But, where non of these exist then there is trouble and less hope. It is, therefore, up to the Nigerian elite to see that they provide these things. In a world where protest has become normal and toppling of government by ordinary citizens on the street has become common, it is in the interest of our government to ensure that it listen to the people cry. Otherwise, what happen in Ukraine in the last few weeks and North Africa in the last two years would come here. Remember that the only constant thing in this world is change, therefore anything is possible including changes to the present system.