A Country of Hungry People

When I first wrote about a “stomach revolution” as the real threat to Nigeria, I was simply stating the obvious. A little earlier, I had predicted that famine would descend on most Nigerians soon. Both predictions are now being fulfilled, unfortunately.
In almost all radio programmes I’ve listened to, in recent times, callers reiterated that “people are suffering”. They referred to the existing hyperinflation that had emptied Nigerians’ pockets and made them miserable. Unable to buy food items in the markets, many have returned home yawning. In the streets, these days, you hardly find smiling faces. Driving a personal car to work has become a privilege – the cost of fuel competes with many workers’ pay. Hardest hit have been city dwellers.
The evidence that a worse crisis lies ahead is on farmlands now: crops have failed. Farmers I’ve interviewed point to diseases and unfavourable rain pattern this year. What this means is that the prices of food items will remain high even during harvest periods. Already, the planting season is ending. The beans to be planted in the north by September may not receive enough rains because early cessation of rainfall is expected. Add to crop failure the invasion of farming communities by Boko Haram and you have a catastrophe of unimaginable proportion!
The federal and state governments should consider the threat of famine as an emergency. There is a limit to what people can endure. What did they say about a hungry man? A hungry man or woman is an angry man or woman as well as a mad man or woman. And the centre cannot hold anywhere the majority of the people are angry and mad. In a country of mad men and women, no policy would succeed.
A stomach revolution could be deadlier than all known revolutions. Snippets of storms in the Nigerian people’s stomachs could be seen in the changing faces of theft cases reported nowadays. A farmer has told me that, for the first time in several decades, his crops have been looted on the farms. In open compounds, women can no longer leave their boiling food on a stove and take their eyes off the pots. Or leave food in an unlocked cupboard. There have been reports of “thieves” scooping soup from a boiling pot. Cups of garri have gone missing from polythene bags. Now that the price of kerosene has tripled, we are likely to see many more city dwellers cooking with firewood. As a result, more houses may go up in flames.
There is no city in the world that is meant for the rich alone. The revolution building up in people’s stomachs is sure to consume some rich and some poor Nigerians. Under the cover of mob action, hungry people may loot shops. The TSA won’t be able to stop civil servants from stealing.
I wonder the kind of people that will be able to govern millions of starving people. Who will preach law and order? Or talk about corruption? Or ask people to vote for “saints” in an election? Everyone should pray — and work — against the envisaged revolution before it gets too late.


What Says the President?

I have waited in vain to hear President Buhari’s response to several charges of nepotism and corruption perpetrated in Nigeria on his watch. In at least four top federal agencies, the children/candidates of the rich and the powerful have been employed without anybody advertising vacancies as required by the civil service rules. In fact, I have read details of how slots were shared among the people in power today: one got 50 slots, another 170, and yet another 28! In each of the accused agencies, a fresh employee could earn N500, 000 per month. Conversely, jobs in the police were thrown open for the poor. In the police, a successful candidate won’t get N50, 000 per month. Another opportunity being created for the underprivileged is the government’s social intervention programme, which promises to pay graduates N23, 000 per month. Even then, one has to outshine competitors before they could be hired, a thing the children of the rich were not subjected to. As I write this, some federal agencies are employing people based on lists submitted by Senator X and Chieftain Y.
So I ask again: what has the president, who said he was allergic to corruption, said or done about these acts of corruption? Does he expect anyone, after hearing these tales, to take government seriously when it says that it’s fighting corruption? The president told traditional rulers, a few days ago, to plead with their subjects to go into farming. Would graduates listen to them?
Early in the life of the Buhari administration, I was among those who pleaded with fellow compatriots to give it time to correct some perceived mistakes. Of the first 48 appointments the president made, none came from the south-east. Today, the marginalisation of the south-east is visible even to the blind. Nor can the side-lining of northern Christians be hidden. Some of us find it difficult to talk about nepotism or tribalism, but the glaring lop-sidedness in federal appointments leaves us speechless. Why, for instance, should the entire security structure be under the control of one section in a pluralistic Nigeria? In case the president or his aides feigned ignorance of what has been trending in the social media, the charge is this: one section of the country has, under Buhari, produced the chief of army staff, inspector-general of police, minister of defence, national security adviser, minister of internal affairs, head of DSS, head of Customs, head of EFCC, head of immigration, head of the judiciary, head of the legislature, and head of the executive.
Neither the president nor his handlers have provided an explanation for these. Silence means consent? The president must not allow his most prized asset (integrity) to be washed down the drains. My friends – Muslims, Christians, pagans from the north and south – hold the same opinion: Buhari doesn’t know what to do or is being led astray.


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