Opinion: When slavemasters are in power

By Fola Ojo

According to a popular Bible story, once upon a time, King Pharaoh of Egypt played host to a people from a far land. One of the foreigners was the second in command. Overtime, the visitors grew in strength and number. Egyptians hated and despised the growth. They later made the settlers and dwellers to toil and build bricks without straws. They chained their visitors’ minds and walked around with a master-slave swagger. But in the historical account I read in the Good Book, no single Egyptian was a beneficiary of the inhumanity of slavery. It is an abominable experience to be a slave in your own country.

At least, 120 million Nigerians are in slavery. Are they chained to some visible concrete pillars; or trammelled in physical cages? No! Their destinies are manacled and shackled to some invisible poles natural eyes cannot see. But citizens of an affluent nation like Nigeria have no business with torturous thralldom in their own home. The inhumanity was, and still is, shoved upon them by more privileged Nigerians in power.

Challenges Nigeria faces today are innumerable as stars of the skies. Her problems are lodged in her present pestered and pelleted economy. They are with her pilfering politicians in power. They are visible in some of her poaching judges sitting in judgment over other men. They are in her environment where safety and security of citizens are like raw gold hard to mine. And lately, Nigeria’s problem has shown up in growing ethnic groups’ desiderata to grow apart into homogenous tribal tents from where seekers hope to flourish separately. The desire to stand alone is mostly driven by awkward and tormenting feelings the aggrieved Nigerians have. They believe that they are slaves in their own country. And they are sick of it.

Cherished old Nigeria where I grew up has withered off into the pit of pity before our eyes. A new era of error across the landscape has unfolded. The hungry and helpless are increasing in number as Nigeria continues to cart in huge sums of money annually from crude oil and other sources. Less than 10,000 Nigerians are sitting pretty on goldmine and humongous wealth. And many hapless others are dying from hunger and disease!

According to a report by the international poverty alleviation body, Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (otherwise known as OXFAM), the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men which totals $29.9bn, could end extreme poverty in the nation. The report reads: “The five richest men in Nigeria could bring nearly all Nigerians out of extreme poverty for one year”. OXFAM also reports that the richest Nigerian man will take 42 years to spend all ofhis wealth at N1m per day. And in one day, the richest Nigerian man can earn from his wealth 8,000 times more than what the poorest 10 per cent of Nigerians spend on average in one year for their basic consumption. This is a devouring world. The rich fella preys on the poor; the able poor preys on the disabled peon; and those who are weak and feeble become easy prey for the strong and mighty.

Within the first 10 months of 2015, Nigeria earned N3.27tn from the oil and gas sector. The non-oil sector brought home N2.577tn. In 2016, Nigeria raked in N7tn from oil export alone. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s staggering earned income does not reflect in the lives of 12 million unemployed youths roaming the streets of our urban cities and villages. Hunger and poverty have bred different kinds of ravaging false spirits among them. Our young people now do what they would not ordinarily do if they had means.

Nigeria’s affluence also does not reflect in its deplorable and decaying infrastructure; and we see no signs of affluence in our sickening hospitals that make sick patients sicker when they seek medical attention. The money the country hauls in shows not in our schools where Fulani herdsmen’s cows and venomous reptiles struggle for classroom seats with humans. Nigeria’s vast wealth is only evident in legislative quarters in Abuja; and in governors’ mansions scattered across Nigerian states. They only show in paraded long motorcades of bulletproof Prado jeeps, stretch armoured limousines; and customised armoured Bentleys purchased with the people’s money by men trusted with power.

The unemployment rate in Nigeria is around 15 per cent. It was 10.4 in 2015. The number of the unemployed now is 11.549 million. The Buhari/Osinbajo administration, we acknowledge, may be doing its best to alleviate the situation through its many budding welfare programmes, but whatever it is doing, and intends to do, will be a drop-in-the-bucket even over the next five years without significant changes. There are stifling and obstructive men in and out of government whose gods are their bellies. Many they are especially in our National Assembly. Corruption will not allow any good welfare programme to breathe. Those who were privileged to rule over many years have sold Nigerians to slavery. After bouts of many illnesses, Nigeria is not yet in the recovery room. She is in the emergency ward on the ventilator battling for life. And not even one of the very many emergency doctors on government duty today is sure how long the artificial breathing machine will retain its lubricating oil.

So, what do we do now? Whatever rough roads Nigeria is travelling today can be smoothened out with time, commonsense; and a change in strategy.

For every slavery situation, there is a team of deliverers. Yes; we have men spread all manner of endeavours. They are in the elite Avant Garde, and are from all ethnic groups. Some have served; some are still serving; and many are in business.

At the turn of every election, different kinds of human beings show their faces promising to be better than the fellows they want to unseat. They cast their opponents as bad; but offer no sensible plan to get the country out of squalour. But when Nigerians allow them to toast the champagne of victory secured through manipulations and thuggery after elections, their dogs go back to the vomits of cluelessness and corruption. We are already hearing their voices.

Nigerians should pick the brains of those seeking power to determine their knowledge base and what they offer the people. Where there is no vision, the people are destroyed. Nigerians should ask them what kind of nation they envisage building 50 years from now; do many of them know? Are they not just scheming only about winning an election and wining on private jets thereafter? Are they not only concerned about the next oil well to be acquired; the next arms contract; and the next stacks of money to be stolen and hidden behind walls and cemeteries?

Capacity Theory tutors us that people are entrusted with that which they have the capacity to handle. Who are Nigerians entrusting with power? Are they men and women with the capacity, ability, and knowledge to handle what will positively impact the society through governance? If you trust slave masters with power; slavery continues to celebrate endless birthdays. Nigerians must get it right! I hope they do. Punch

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