By Busuyi Mekusi
Social stratification is one of the elements imported to human cohabitation, as distinctions got introduced to human relationships, on the bases of social-cultural privileging, classification induced by material-possession, fortuitous career placement, etc. The Marxist notion of the haves and the have nots, the land owners and land workers, the bourgeoisies and the proletariats provided the impetus to enunciate the principle of diametrical opposition that got introduced to the intentions of people at the lower wrung of the ladder to upstage the occupiers of the echelon, in an instance of total reversal of the status quo, to ensure a favourable migration of the previously socially disadvantaged in the game of socio-political and economic powers. Today, most capitalistic economies, including Nigeria, are home to unending contestations for spatial ownership and wealth acquisition.
While some Nigerian rich leveraged on political offices to attain economic power, others simply either genuinely or fraudulently grabbed the means of production and circulation of goods and services, leaving the teaming masses sentenced to unmitigated consumerism, at the mercy of exploitative profiteers. The stories in Nigeria are best illustrated by the bitter-sweet-sour soup of a destitute. Corruption remains the common means of identification, as the thieving middle-class that used to rival corrupt politicians have since been outwitted and left in the cold of unpaid salaries and unimaginable pensions’ default. Yet the political class has mastered how to make money from inflated contracts, jumbo salary and allowances, obscured allocated and disbursed security votes, and scandalous constituency projects, etc.
However loud the waves of recession are globally, the case of Nigeria has been very befuddling because of the ailing refineries that attract humongous turn-around maintenance funds, in dollars from the federal government, who ended up importing crude oil, sought locally, and still claims to pay ‘subsidies’, in most contentiously controversial manner. Crude thefts are on the increase, earnings are shrinking, and debt servicing is damaging. Borrowed monies are looted, in a dollarized economy where salaries and emoluments are gleefully denied workers. The leaders of labour unions that should have lived up to the responsibilities of their preferment have since melted into the oppressors, producing labour aristocrats.
The artistic reflections in Iyayi’s Violence are reminiscent of the contemporary realities in Nigeria. Described as a novel that mirrors the struggles and hardship of jobless youths, the text presents how the major character, Idemudia, and the wife, Adisa, relate to poverty in very queer ways. In a bid to take care of his family, Idemudia resorted to donating blood for money, to make ends meet. Following his hospitalisation as a result of human bio-physical fallibility, Adisa, the wife, commits adultery in order to make up for the gaps created by Idemudia’s indisposition. As expected in vexed human dealings, the spousal relationship got battered by the vicious conditions precipitated by depraved politico-economic leaders.
The stories of Idemudia and Adisa are true of many Nigerians today. The excruciating pains caused by poor leadership and corruption were exacerbated by the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, which undermined national and private economies. With reduced trading and earnings from the monolithic oil exports, the purchasing powers of citizens got vitiated, as some small and medium-scale enterprises collapsed, and many big companies became moribund. The implication was that people lost their sources of earnings and joined the overcrowded unemployment market. With the nuisance-value of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, mental health problems have compounded the general health underperformance that is intricately linked to high mortality rate and medical tourism by the ruling elites and captains of industries.
Researchers have posited that economic downtowns, including high poverty and unemployment, could exacerbate mental health problems, particularly depressive disorders. In most established manner, mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicidal behaviour. People that are prone to mental disorders include: women, individuals with lower education and income levels, those experiencing either job instability or loss. With financial pressures in homes, psychopathic men have turned their wives to object of abuse and violence. In financially stable marriages, some women are victims of infidelity and domestic violence, particularly in cultural environments where women have been objectified. The case of the deceased gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu, who was said to have been sustainably brutalised by the husband, is typical of the rages women are exposed to.
Cases of out-of-school children are rampant in Nigeria, with these uneducated children growing to adulthood with huge uncertainties. Some lack basic skills, while those who endeavour to acquire one abandon it for daily earnings, as achievable in commercial Okada riding. While bemoaning the high rate of joblessness among Nigerians recently, the President of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, opined that 40 per cent of youths were unemployed. This is more so as a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in the first quarter of 2021 indicated that unemployment rose from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 to 33 per cent. Deductive probability suggests that Nigerians, particularly youths, within the brackets of mental health disorders’ vulnerability are many. Little wonder the propensities with which youths abuse alcohol and hard drugs, trailed by tremendous violent acts.
A greater percentage of the 200 million Nigerians are struggling with one mental health challenge or another, with frustrations defining their attitudes, even as some commit suicide. In a 2021 report, Eighty-five people were said to have committed suicide in Nigeria in 2019, up from 79 in 2018 and 66 in 2017, with 51 cases recorded in 12 months. In the past few weeks, a number of people were reported to have jumped into the Lagos Lagoon, including Sodiq Aremu, while some others drank poison. It was awful relating to the recent suicide cases of Emmanuel Omole, an Abuja-based photographer and Folake Abiola an accountant with Globacom.
A few other demented Nigerians would rather vent their frustrations using other alternatives. This category of people might be responding to the frustration-aggression or displacement theory of John Dollard et al, which emphasises a psychodynamic approach that gets frustrated people to be aggressive towards the object of their frustrations. However, because of the impossibility of relating to the sources of their frustrations, they would direct their aggression toward something or someone else. The foregoing explains the pervasive palpable aggressions exchanged between Nigerians on roads, in markets, mosques and churches, with greater negative ventilations coming from kidnappers, bandits and terrorists, as politicians rehearse, with 2023 in view.
Frustration-aggression or displacement theory would better explain three major events that spiced the Nigerian media space lately: the ‘organ harvest’ allegation against Ike Ekweremadu and his wife in the United Kingdom; the nude woman that seized the dispensing nozzle in a Lagos fuel station, and a driver that bathed a LASTMA officer with faeces. In a desperate bid to save the life of their child, suffering from kidney disease, Ike and Beatrice had a deal with Ukpo in Nigeria and took him to the United Kingdom for kidney donation, for the essence of transplant for their daughter. The consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in East London, based on the misconception about the age of the donor, suspected foul play, because age and consent were key issues in organ donation.
As the controversies continued, but with huge sympathy and solidarity from individuals and corporations; senate, state governments, etc., majority of opinion suggests that Ukpo is merely trying to revolt against the establishment that Ekweremadu represents, being a politicians that have benefitted massively from political luxuries. The extrapolation by some is that the donor must have deliberately alleged human trafficking and organ harvesting in order to breach the agreement he had with the Ekweremadus, and secure asylum-residency in the United Kingdom. This demystification is reminiscent of the case of the embattled rich man in Sembène Ousmane’s Xala, El Hadji, whose impotence would only be cured through the spitting of a beggar by his office gate, in company of other destitute. A functional health-care system in Nigeria would have saved Ekweremadu from this ‘misplaced’ dangerous revolt.
The case of the bizarre hijack and spraying of fuel by a nude woman at a filling station in Falomo area of Lagos is predictably suggestive of mental health disorder, with the venting of frustrations on motorists who queued for fuel, that are similarly victims of a repressive political system and exploitative economy. Another despicable expression of frustration and aggression was a bus driver who stripped himself naked on the road, defecated in his hand, smeared the face of a LASTMA official with faeces and assaulted another, to prevent the seizure of his vehicle.
As these pockets of revolts continue, one is worried that the impetuses of the French revolution, Tunisia Arab Spring, #ENDSARS protest, and lately the Sri Lanka civilian insurrection could spark a conflagration in a nation whose public institutions have been shut for months, due to strike actions by staff Unions. Undoubtedly, a full-scale revolt of the poor in an unsecured space like Nigeria is nothing but a calamity!
Leave a Reply