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Self Help: The good, the bad and the ugly

Self Help: The good, the bad and the ugly

By Bayo Fasunwon
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Deprivations are real. Economics teaches that human wants are insatiable, and the resources needed to satisfy human needs are scarce. In the midst of staring deprivations, men device means to cope, survive, and surmount scarcity. While growing up under the watchful eyes of the social critic, Dr. Tai Solarin, the reality of insufficiency was laid bare. He trained us to believe that dependency on any man or institution for survival was tantamount to conscious personal enslavement of one and the generation after him. The idea of self-reliance was edged deep into our soul like the tattoos of slavery on the cheeks of valiant men subdued and packaged for the market.

Our subconscious mind was inundated with the idea that no one can help those who cannot help themselves. That was our mantra, the idea that makes us to expect nothing, but strive for something. Back then, we were naïve, drinking whatever philosophy was thrown at memorized quotes, verses, and us without knowing the deep meaning of marks made by ink on paper white.  Now, grown, faced with the reality of life, the callousness of government, and the selfishness of the political elites, we suddenly realized that if we do not save ourselves, nobody would.

In the early days of independence until the birth of the 80s, and the twilight of the 90s in Nigeria, the workers were kings. For those who cared, access were given to own either a brand new Volkswagen beetle or a Peugeot 504. Staff quarters, and government flats were available for rent, purchase and mortgage payments. Education was gold, as the educated were destined to make it in life. Now, the reverse is the case. Loans for vehicle fairly used vehicles are nonexistent, no housing for workers and mortgages have been selectively given. No worker can save for the rainy days, as cost of living has soared, and the establishments cared less about how you survive.  Food, shelter, and clothing, which are the traditional basics of life, have increased to include transportation, education, and communication. All these are costly to acquire, and the government does little or nothing to empower its impoverished and overworked labour force to acquire these necessities. Here comes the need for self-help schemes.

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The Cooperative societies have become the succor of many government-employed staffs. There, they are assured that they could still eat their cake and have it. The provisions to take double of their total contributions, at a very low percentage are the reason why some civil servants are proud owners of cars, houses, and even mobile phones. The education for self-reliance becomes a guiding principle that pushes the cooperative members to sacrifice a part of their salaries as compulsory savings, with a bid to acquire loans for meeting dire future needs. Many wards of civil servants have by these ventures attended educational institutions, set up businesses and gotten a foothold in life.

However, joining cooperative societies with the aim of actualizing self-reliance do not always come with a sweet ending. Faced by the demands of life, some have joined several cooperatives, taken loan beyond their capacity and at the end of the month, go home empty handed. For some, balanced diet and healthy living have been sacrificed due to the need to save and meet particular needs. The most unfortunate aspect of the cooperative societies’ scheme is that the leprous hands of government have found its way into the organisations. There seems to be unwritten code in the hearts of leadership that Nigerians must always be poor.  Government, within the context of the labour laws helps to deduct the contributions of members from their salaries. It is expected that these deductions are remitted to the various Cooperative societies at the end of the month, but the reverse is the case.

Governments have over the years owed Cooperative deductions for close to a year, without remittance. This prevents the Cooperative from giving out loans to needy contributors as at when requested. Many contributors have lost opportunities, and some have died heartbroken, while some who eventually get the money realize that inflation had reduced the purchasing power of the money that should have accrued to them a year ago. When workers cannot access funds from Cooperatives, and they are not sure that pensions and gratuities would come retirement, corruption becomes a welcome idea of self-help. The criminality of government is deducting without remittance is fraudulent, robbery, short payment and a conspiracy to commit murder and sponsor suicides. This is bad, and government ought to repent.

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When citizens begin to build houses, sink boreholes, erect electric poles, lay bumps on the roads, and provide social amenities for themselves, there is a grave indication that government has failed in her responsibilities. When government cannot provide social amenities and leaves it in the hands of the people, a license has been given to chaos. Houses would be built without layouts, the dead would co- habit with living, the  fuel stations would sit comfortably in residential areas, acidic and contaminated water would find its way to peoples’ bellies, hospitals would be filled with patients, merchants would make monies form fake drugs, and the future of the nation would die in droves.

There have been many hues and cries about the security situation in the country. A nation is at war, and the battleground is not defined. People are murdered, genocide is silently taking place, and palpable fear dominates the landscape.  Cries for help when attacks commence either in the broad daylight or in the darkest night are unattended to. Many families count their losses, dreams are cut short, and the dead are buried while the living carries the pain in their hearts forever. Government would always condemn the actions and are pained over such dastard acts, but security is never beefed up. Security agencies terrorize those they should protect, incarcerate the innocent, and turn the other eye when evil perpetrators walk freely with their AK47s. The man who killed in self-defense is jailed while those who kill to feed their cows roam wild, unchained.

Nigeria should remember the bloodshed, the jungle justice, and the amputations that accompanied the security self help that were mounted by men when government failed in her duty to protect lives and properties. The militant arm of the OPC, the Egbesu boys, the Bakassi boys (of the Issakaba fame) and vigilantes decided to help the common person enjoy the fruits of their labours. Unfortunately, these self-help schemes were also hijacked by criminals and soon the self-help schemes became organisations of terror. Left to protect themselves against invading herdsmen, bandits, disguised genocide and marauders, the nation has legalized an impending civil war.

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The conscious or unconscious allowance of bloodshed by groups of people in the political system is sending a message to State governments, local governments and individuals to prepare for war. Sadly, Nigerians are preparing. As long as the centre cannot hold the country together in a secured environment, and is perceived to shield criminals who are bent on genocide and internal colonialism, mere anarchy will be unleashed upon this nation. Government should realize that survival is the first rule in the jungle.

Any perceived encroachment on the territorial space of any animal would be vehemently resisted, blood for blood. When Christians are left with no other option but self help; the Muslims are feeling threatened without  hope and ethnic groups have convinced themselves that they have no part in the entity called Nigeria, then shall come the call: “To your tents o my people”. As long as government buries its her in the sand, and watch as one ethnic group continues to oppress another, then the 1967 Civil war will be a child’s play. At that time when self-help becomes the national mantra, the falcon would not hear the falconer, and things would definitely fall apart.

Nigeria should remember that the murderous activities of herdsmen are hinged on their belief and embrace of self-help illusions; the Adubi war was executed on the principles of self help and the Kiriji was were outcomes of self-help. While self-help is a welcome idea, however it becomes evil when government abdicates her duty, and allows the citizens to help themselves out of vicissitudes of life, restraints would be lost and the people would be constraint to use every available options, legal, extra legal and illegal in order to achieve their continual existence and livelihood. Then,  self-help becomes ugly.

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Self Help: The good, the bad and the ugly

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