By Afolabi Aribigbola
The rating of Nigerians among the comity of nations in recent time classified the country as one of the poorest countries of the world as over 88.4. million Nigerians were said to be living in extreme poverty in 2016. In 2022, the country was referred to as poverty capital of the world to depict the magnitude of the poverty crisis in the country and early in 2023, 63 percent of the population were classified as multi-dimensionally poor. The summary of all these is that when it comes to the issue of poverty, Nigeria is a leader while available records indicate that over 137 people in the country are critically poor. And that due to high incidence of poverty, millions of the populace of the country are really suffering and deprived of the essential goods and services that makes for good living.
Unfortunately, happenings in the country over the years and especially in the recent past, where the rich and top government officials continue to exhibit opulence and profligacy in pattern of living has motivated some discerning people including this columnist to begin to wonder whether the country is in truth and indeed a poor one as variously presented. Of course, the continued display of affluence by the privileged in the country especially the political office holders in the midst of poverty ridden populace has become a serious source of concern to me and many humane Nigerians that cannot imagine the humongous level of poverty in the country while some are living in excessive affluence, consuming most expensive commodities that can be found in any part of the world. The unashamedly display of opulence by a few of the country’s population and lack of concern for the plight of majority of Nigerians wallowing in abject poverty with the removal of subsidy and merging of the autonomous and official foreign exchange market resulting in high commodities prices beyond the people. These western capitalist induced policies has instigated unprecedented increases in the prices of basic consumers’ products which have further devalued the quality of life of Nigerians. It has also thrown Nigerians into deeper realm of poverty, this has brought to the fore the question of whether the country is actually poor or not. Indeed, the rulers of the country at all levels have continued to live as if the country is prospering whereas it is regressing in all sectors, resulting in untold sufferings by the poor and the vulnerable.
As the country is drifting backward with high incidence of poverty, the country has not been able to come up with policies to counter the crisis of poverty bedeviling the country. The Federal Government got approval of the National Assembly to spend a meagre N500 billion as palliatives. The most important component of the proposal was that N8,000 will be transferred to 12 million households monthly for six months. As this was being criticized for being inadequate to ameliorate the humongous crisis associated with petrol subsidy removal, the country media space was inundated with the proposal that the National Assembly plan to spend N40billion on 465 exotic and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials, and N70billion as ‘palliatives for their members. This coming against the backdrop of widespread poverty in the county. Also top government officials continue to travel with long convoy consisting of expensive cars in all parts of the country. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu during the last Muslim holiday in Lagos was criticized when he drove through Lagos with very long convoy of cars. The Governors of the 36 states and other top government officials including members of the National Assembly still go around with long convoys of vehicles which often follow them without carrying people. Also in many local communities, Nigerians still spend huge sums of money on mundane social outings such as burials, marriages and birthdays. All these avoidable wastage spendings are undertaken in the midst of abject poverty. Unfortunately, many borrowed to undertake the social functions, all in attempts to show that they have money and in some cases to sustain obnoxious archaic retrogressive culture.
The incontestable and incontrovertible reality and situation in Nigeria, is that majority of her people are very poorly. This has not only been clearly alluded to and pointed out by several individuals, national and multilateral agencies, the practical reality is obvious for all to see. At the moment, majority of the people of the country are suffering lack and want as many cannot put food on their tables. And many people in recent times go to and from work on foot. There are many more beggars on the streets both physically challenged and those that are financially challenged. It is sad that this seem not to reflect the way our leaders especially political leaders conduct themselves because of cheap access to the commonwealth of the country.
They still continue to live a life of profligacy and wastages. The people of the country particularly, the political leaders that have been elected and chosen to cater for the welfare and prosperity of the people of the country. They must reverse the dangerous trend of escalating poverty in the country. This is because increasing poverty has the potency to engender crisis of a great magnitude. It has been well said that hungry people are angry people. For this not to materialize in the country, steps must be taken to change some of the negative scenarios presented above. The leaders must drastically reduce profligacy in government spending and must come out with practical programmes to solve the heightening poverty crisis in the country.
Moving around with long convoy of expensive high fuel consumption cars when the cost of fuel is high must be discouraged and stopped. More importantly, government at all levels must come out with programmes designed to reduce and eliminate poverty in the country. A situation where everything is left at the disposal of the Federal Government cannot be expected to resolve the poverty crisis in the country. Members of the public must support the government by contributing to poverty reduction, reduce wastages on mundane issues and focus their spending on creative ventures and activities that will increase the productive base of the county rather than dissipating energy and resources on expensive commodities as the current practice by many affluence Nigerians.
On whether the country is poor or not, the reality as early noted is that the country is very poor except the people want to deceive themselves. People must begin to live in the reality that poverty is high among Nigerians and be conscious of the need to fight the cankerworm through proactive feasible government policies and programmes and not cosmetics ones that are usually undertaken by governments that would want only impress their followers rather than reduce the problems . Again poverty reduction programmes and policies are better undertaken at the state and local government levels as the practice in other prosperous clime and being the governments closer to the people. The Nigerian government must key and act in ways to solve poverty that is widespread in the country.