#Reflections

Nigeria’s hardship:Hunger not for dying

By Busuyi Mekusi

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Growing up, we and others in our generation were socialised to believe that suffering does not kill, but uncontrolled excitement or unmitigated joy does. Such proposition was a response to the aggressive display that children would stage during outer engagements, particularly in the daytime, while the night period would be a moment for moonlight storytelling. Just like the sequence of the collapse of communalism to individualism that characterised industrial revolution in Europe, African societies gradually lost the public squares and outer playing grounds to claustrophobic apartments that bore modern items of the newly-European-influenced civilization like television, record player, amplifiers, and standing gas-light. Before long, children that saw other people’s homes as theirs were exposed to man-made boundaries and barriers, and, as a result, the idea of an eye considered to give birth to a child that would end up being nurtured by all eyes got thrown overboard, and got supplanted by the notion of konko janbele, kaluku lo n se tire (everybody, mind your own business).

Unfortunately, even though the use and application of rights, privileges, positions, wealth, etc.,  have been personalised, amidst the erection of palpable borders, collective victimhood and culpability have been precipitated by insecurity, climate change, vexatious economies, racial disputations and ethnic contestations. As a result, these challenges that we ought to unite to confront as common enemies have lingered, unnecessarily, putting humanity on the edge in a world willfully divided by the various leaders that struggle to unite it on the other hand. Apart from the hates that have been elicited by the attempts by some to oppress and exploit the others, the various manifestations of socio-political and economic inequalities have continued to sustain the gap between the gluttonous rich and the famished poor. As climate change is putting pressures on the globe, food insecurity is one of the many evidences, others being flooding, typhoons, earthquakes, desert fires, which are complements to wars and terrorism that dot the global space, from Europe to Asia, and from the Middle East to Africa.

Each time I see a free-range mother hen scattering food served it or the ground, and making a clucking noise to attract the chicks to feed, I get reminded by leaders that are found of eating fat at the expense of their followers. Historically, Nigerian leaders have perfected personal interest over committed or sacrificial service to the people. Like hungry mother dog that is desperate to wean her puppies, they gnaw at the commonwealth, uniting about its despoliation, resulting in unabashed importation of virtually all materials, including the American dollar that the political and ruling class promoted over the naira.

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Saboteurs also went on overdrive and hijacked the forex market, with gossips unleashed as the instrument for manipulating the economy, whereas market forces are established models that should nudge the naira. While one hopes that the remarkable efforts being made by the regime of PBAT would birth a new order in the forex market, it would be more desirable that; the economy should be made more productive, importation of frivolous items curtailed, the dollarization of the Nigeria economy confronted, and corruption effectively tackled, so that we could have an economy that speaks to the reality of citizens, and build a virile productive present and future.                                        

It is no longer news that there is hunger in Nigeria, not just because the purchasing power of citizens has been drastically impaired, but because the prices of goods and commodities have gone out of the rich of majority Nigerians. Diets are no longer balance; packaged goods have had their contents under-scaled, with proportional negative impacts on the health of citizens who are good at speculating possible ailments they would be suffering from because of the phobia they have for hospitals, or lack of access to medicare, as a result of poverty. Responses to the claims of hunger in the country have been, unfortunately, coloured by ethnicity, political association, crass ignorance and jejune idiocy. With the variegation in opinion assuming provocation in certain instances, the unanimity between both the fairly rich and palpably poor is that hunger, coming as high costs of goods and commodities cum services, is real, and the noticeably rich are afraid that they could be ‘eaten’ up by the endemically poor.

In a most responsive way to join in the mitigation of the poverty ravaging Nigerians, the Nigeria Customs Service, through its old zonal headquarters in Yaba Area of Lagos, had informed Nigerians of the sales of 25kg of seized food items at N10, 000. Characteristic of the mob attitude of Nigerians, when it comes to accessing consumables or other material things, even as useless as campaign vests and caps, some hoodlums were said to have invaded the place, and disrupted the exercise, reportedly leading to the untimely death of a pregnant woman and six others. This public shame was a painful reminder of the deaths of seven job seekers in 2014, during stampede in the National Stadium, Abuja, while scrambling for seats in a recruitment exercise involving over 20, 000 applicants. The then Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, was prosecuted for the scandalous exercise, but got off the hook, just like many others.

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It was a great paradox that seven Nigerians died at the stampede to buy cheap rice, in an attempt to cheat hunger, but ended up embracing death. The Yoruba are of the opinion that the throat is analogous to a passage to heaven, not just in an attempt to respond to the  possibility of death that could come through one being choked while eating, but because of the philosophical understanding that foods are baits. Inclusive of the different explanations given by some to justify their arguments that hardships and economic challenges are not limited to Nigeria, references have been made to social supports provided for low-income earners in countries like the United Kingdom, with specifics glossed over, in terms of the political behaviours of leaders and the health of the economy. Notwithstanding the self-serving plausibility in the sermons of people trying to excuse hardships in Nigeria, and the attempts by some to politicise the shades of poverty in Nigeria, it is a big shame that hunger can be reasons for death in Nigeria, when nature has blessed the country with arable land.

It is noteworthy that the Tinubu government has clearly unfolded the plans to; acquire massive land across Nigeria for farming; support farmers with the provision of inputs and fertilisers, recalibrate livestock production; enhance the capacity of off-takers, etc., it is strongly advised that climate-smart mechanised agricultural value-chain should be vigorously supported across the country. Apart from new initiatives needed to blur the lip-service paid in the past to effective storage of perishable products, cottage industries should be encouraged to off-take some agricultural products that would engender more participation of farmers in the agric sector.

The creation of farming clusters must be pursued, with decisive decisions taken to end open grazing of herds, with the practice being replaced by ranching, to stop avoidable destruction of farms all over the country, and prevent reckless herders/farmers conflicts that have harvested so many helpless Nigerians to the congregation of the dead. This is not to stress that ranching would lead to more productivity in the sector.

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Even though the climate is now vexatious, revolting against the indiscretion of man, like a belligerent woman that feminism is helping to help find her voice, agricultural practices could be enhanced with science and technology, with dissent and healthy improved variants of crops produced by Nigerian researchers, to stimulate the efforts of new young recruits into the agro-preneur initiatives of governments at all levels. Apart from the proclivity for acerbic criticism of leaders and desirability of street protests, citizens must be ready to be a part of ‘grow-what-you-eat’ revolution that would help re-inflate the diminished Nigeria food basket. Associations of agro-business owners should not become a cartel that would turn themselves to a menace, and help greedy public servants corner what is meant for genuine growers. The various steps taken by the federal government, like the new L-press funded through a loan from the World Bank, should not be reduced to an instrument of political patronage.               

A visit to major roundabouts and T-junctions in major cities in the southwest, particularly Akure, would suggest that hunger cannot be for dying, given the food contents that are usually placed to appease the emotions of spirits. The stench at Agbogbo roundabout in Akure would show how wasteful we are,  using what could be used to arrest the hunger of many citizens left to perish waiting for the visitations of spirits, who are usually helped by mentally-challenged people whose concerns are the free open place, where they enjoy so much latitude, and are insulated from the depressing arithmetic of subsidy removal, exchange rate and high costs of goods and commodities, but for the incessant harassment by religious hypocritical men and women who use the cover of the night to turn them to sexual pawns.

As we await the light at the end of the tunnel, as repeatedly assured by PBAT, we need boosters to stay afloat, while waiting to rejoice on the fall of the many troublers of our dear nation!       

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Nigeria’s hardship:Hunger not for dying

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