IHIDERO Victor Osae
Nigerians, more than any other countries in the world, constitute the highest number of refugee seekers in the world. War-torn Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan,Syria and Somalia put together do not form half of Nigerians seeking asylum outside of their fatherland. This was made known by Transparency International, a United Nations sub-committee while evaluating and presenting a graphical position of countries of the world. While the reasons for this has been blamed on the poor policies of government, many in the home front when asked about considering checking out of the country does not hesitate to tell their frustration and lost of hopes of the government. The aftermath is the current record which Nigerians bear as the largest visa seekers to the US, UK, Canada and Australia in the world. I remember a Nigerian saying that a cripple in America or the United Kingdom is better than a complete able-bodied Nigerian. The question that strikes one’s mind is the reason behind such a subjugating statement.
It is painful, very painful that a such demeaning words should come out of a mouth of a complete Nigerian, saying it was not the problem, to have said it with all regal grace, probe and certainly shows how bad and incomplete Nigerians thinks of themselves, even as they sink further into backwardness and ethno-religious wilderness into an unprecedented state of kleptomaniacism in different forms , colours and shades. Gone are those days when Nigerians were chasing Ghanaians out of their country, with that popular mantra as “Ghana must go”
Today , it is no more “Ghana must go “it is now “To Ghana we go“ it is now even laughable that other Nation of the world are shouting; Nigerian must go, even their fellow African Nations detest the presence of Nigerians in their countries. Indeed, when a flogger gets flogged, he will feel too ashamed to cry out. Such is the plight of the Nigerian government as they are loudly silent about their citizens who stuck in the maximum prisons in Libya, South Africa, China, Malaysia as well as UK and the rest of the world.
Nigerian are prisoners, even in their own country, they are struck, and stranded in the country of their father. The slave driver is their Governments of course; they have succeeded in making urchin, hobos, riff raff, vagrant out of the people. The policies of the ruling party are anti-people. Spiritual poverty have been successfully induced on the lives of the people who are the ready army of their political and economic warfare.
Apart from cultism, insecurity, kidnappings, thievery and fraud which is a very common place in the Southern part of Nigeria, the North harbours the largest numbers of destitute in the country. The numbers of destitute in Nigeria counts highest, more than any sub Saharan African Nation of the West. Families are struggling with dogs on the dung heap for food. Bridges have become a haven for its citizen; proper shelter befitting a man is now gold in the eyes of families who struggle for any demeaning job an offer. The question remains that these men and women have rights which their government have trampled on. The alienation of the people of their rights is Machiavellian.
God punish Lord Lugard for equipping Africans with the “divide and rule” tactics, which he later merged to administer punishment on a dissenting people. The poor have been disoriented by the government. That Lugard created this gap is not enough, he even transmitted it to a large section of the people. The Government of the day has made some members of the poor richer than the poor. Hence, there is the poorest of the poor. The power at play here is highly Machiavellian. The Machiavellian stratagem has equipped the government to make despoil among the people. They know that the day the oppressed starts liking one another, that day the oppressors will begin to shit on their pants. Hatred. Like farmers, government plants hatred even among its people. What they (government) now do is to pollute the minds at the northern poor against the South, Vice Versa that their problems are caused by their poor colleague from the south. Now, the poor is the cause of the poorest of the poor.
Destitution and Mendacity have a strong hold in the Northern Nigeria. The FIFA under 17 tournaments which the country hosted recently, saw a large exodus of destitute who were sent packing out of the states that played host in the tournament .Two weeks after, they (destitute) returned to the various states to continue their vagabondry.
Record shows that the North West zone, one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria have dominated the political terrain in the past forty years of Nigeria’s 50 years of independence, yet the area has an unprecedented number of destitute and beggar, with a poverty level of seventy-six per cent, with Jigawa, Kebbi and Adamawa mounting ninety per cent, the remaining percentage is left for other Northern states to share.
In the whole of Southern Nigeria, CBN statistic shows that destitution and poverty level rise to forty three percent. This when broken down to South- west, South-East and South-south, leaves each zones with a little percentage to contend with. It is arguably logical to conclude that the north has the highest number of destitute in the country. The forty-three percent of destitute in the south is made up of thirteen percent Northerners. It is from this stand point that this writer measures, or questions the hopes of and for destitute.
A deep look into Ola Rotimi’s IF …THE TRAGEDY OF THE RULED and Hopes of the Living Dead fortell the chances of destitute and beggars. The two characters to be seen here is, Garuba and Onyeama, with Akpan, Betty and the person of Fisherman supporting their actions and inactions. Garuba, a world boxing champion, who killed a fellow boxer in a bout is traumatised .He therefore withdraw to himself from the multi-talented building, But why is he traumatised and poor? His landlord and the system make a thing out of him. It is a situation of man turned into a thing. As Hamidu puts it; The Thingification of Garuba, traumatised [from a man of into a thing) to the extent that he can no longer talk , not that he is dumb. The system made him so. Onyeama a very young boy and scholar dies as a result of irresponsibility of the government, and the uselessness of Hamidu, the doctor who the government makes useless by not equipping hospitals with appropriate apparatus. What about Chinwe, a jobless first class graduate? Akpan? A seemingly aspiring lawyer turned into a drunk. Same thing goes for all the characters therein from the educated class to the illiterate class. They were all subjugated by the system. Defeated, and unable to contend, collectively, with their common foe, even at polls.
The struggle of man, woman and childrem were again re-instituted in the Hopes of Living Dead. Destitute and beggars who were once a Court Clerk, Editor, Catechist, Corporal, Teacher, Farmer and Musician though infected by leprosy fights for their rights to live life as every other persons, they are brought together by Dr Fred, who they call the mad Scotman for treatment .The efforts of the Scottish researcher is frustrated by the system. The Nigerian authority moves to kick the lepers out of the General Hospital. The lepers realises the dangers and agrees to come together to fight the government. It is now a fight between lepers versus government. It is a scene out of the Apocalypse to see how a group of lepers defeats the Nigerian police, even with guns, bare handed. At the end of the play, the lepers triumph as their collective needs is met.,
We all, as well as the lepers have our “but’. While leprosy becomes the ‘But’ of these gentlemen and ladies, they or their leaders as vanguard by Ikoli Harcourt whyte knows the power at play. He creates harmony among the disunited destitute. Disabuse their minds from any ethno-religious banalities, at a time when the government strive to use ‘divide and rule’ system to perpetrate bad, and oppressive governance.
Back from Ola Rotimi of blessed memory, to the present reality of increasing numbers of destitute in Nigeria which has taken different forms. Destitution either in its corporate or informal form personifies destitute in the UK, US as well as Europe than being thingified as destitute even in their country of origin. The struggle for survival has led many virile young men and women to seek better live anywhere but not Nigeria. Some months ago, the Libyan government embarked on a large deportation and slaughter of Nigerians whom they (Libyan) believe is killing the norms of their society. Morocco did the same some years ago. Another Nigerian was hanged in Malaysia; Thousands are struck in Chinese prisons. Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is loudly silent about the plight of its people.
Nigerians, both at home and abroad who have made efforts to savage this situation have been discouraged by the government or its policies. Other Nigerians including the destitute themselves have been conditioned to accept mendicancy as their destiny. The harder their disaporan brothers tries the more they fail, the reason being that these people have seen the joy of destitution. Mendacity has become the capital of the state known as destitution. They (destitute)lie to themselves every day in the places such as bridge, roundabout ,and other places which they have taken as haven. They lie more because it is their right to a good and proper housing as recommended by the United Nation. Unlike characters of the Hopes of the Living Dead, they fail to recognise their right to proper living. They fail to unite to fight their common `But’…
Destitute have been lull to sleep by the sweet music of always receiving. When they wake up the tune of the music is changed to promises, the ones given to them by government which they will never fulfill. You know when music or a sound that connotes danger is sang or played with a sonorous voice laced with tune, and sweet rhythms trust that the shallow minded must dance to the rhythms. Beg your pardon, music. Government and their agent is playing the music for their adversary to dance. They fail to know that the legendary Mr Kum of the Cambodian would one day visit them.
It happened in Rwanda some year ago that one ethnic dominated ruling class saw their other country men as nothing. This class dominated the other class for years. One day the oppressed class woke up to fight their adversary, the rest as it is known to all and sundry is history. If care is not taken Nigeria would outrun the record of genocide set by Rwandan government in the `90s, as the three ethnic major groups in the country appears to be the bane in the social, political and economic live of the country. Since independence, they the major ethnic groups have suffocated other ethnics as they still dominate other groups. There seem to be no hope no more at the end of the tunnel for those in the Delta, Middle Belt and other minor groups in the north. Credibility does not count but tribe. Yoruba, Hausa and may be Igbos seem to be the ordained and borrowed rulers of Nigeria. The Ibos have been pushed out of the box, disillusioned and drenched in the rain of defeat, and also, forced, are beginning or assuming the position of another Uyensi. Beg your pardon, cockroaches. These industrious, Virile and creative people have become a minority even in their majority. Their silence seems to be, or mean or even portend their acceptance of their fate. When Franz Kafka famously write that a man wakes up one morning and finds that he has suddenly become an insect, people thought he drunk, or mad. Years later the Hutus in Rwanda were seem calling the Tutsi Uyensi, cockroaches, this beliefs have surreptitiously been a factor in Nigeria. Northern Muslims do not see or recognise the existence of any other ethnics or religions. To them, people outside the Islamic box are seen as cockroaches. Permit this writer, to once again introduce you to Soyinka’s The credo of being and Nothingness The literary Hercules, revokes Renes Descartes philosophy which equipped “I Think, Therefore I am”. The issue raised by this philosophy remains the bane of crises in Nigeria. “I Think Therefore I am” “you don’t think (Islam) or Christianity, therefore you are not,” Cockroaches. Religions, especially the common ones find or attains glorification at the derision of another. While this may be an issue for another day, the fact remains that religious bodies in Nigeria have not helped to solve the problems of destitution. They sometimes have even worsened the lives of destitute who seek refuge in their fold. The church is a major player, some pastors, evangelists and prophets extort the little monies from the hands of destitute through different offerings (unheard of) which will take eternity for other religious bodies to gather.
Pastors today are one of the richest people in Nigeria, yet they are so irresponsible and insensitive to the plight of destitute. Only few donate to save or rescue the destitute. In 2005, Ghanaian government under John Kuffour lamented the huge amount of church money which was to leave Ghana to the Nigerian headquarters. This writer is not against church success or Men of God. Christ Himself, did not come to save the rich, He came because of the poor, needy, hopeless and vagrant. That they be saved with restored hope was why He came. He trekked tens of thousands of miles around the world, was it because He could not afford a horse or a donkey? He put on a gown and a sandal, was it because He could not afford rich jewelleries and garments? Was He ever seen dinning with the rich. Cracking jokes and laughing? He was always with the poor and need teaching, not extorting money. Even His disciples, except Judas, and Apostles were found wanton. Those ones that were suffered the consequences.
United Nations remains unyielding in pursuing the right it guarantees citizen of the world. If it has done what it is suppose to do, destitution in Africa would have been an a lower percentage, international bodies, especially the likes of ECOWAS, EAEC, AU and other bodies not mentioned are a mere pretenders. They see these things and shut their eyes. UN, no doubt is playing its part. But those ones in Africa, what exactly are they doing there? This is the time for beggars (Nigerians as a whole) to wake up from their slumbering consciousness of the dark ages and confront their existence with a militant resolve of that obtainable in Aminata So Fall’s The Beggars strike. Nigerians, before the face of the world should go on strike rejecting every gifts or helping hands that comes their way. They (Nigerian) are the suppose giant of Africa with a population of over a hundred and fifty million where twenty per cent of the population are stranded in prisons in Ghana, South Africa, Libya, Senegal, Cameroun and other African nations. For a country so richly endowed with mineral resources to watch their citizens being treated like dogs fighting for bones thrown at them in a dung heap and do nothing is a case of watching the body rot while it lives.
This feature story was written in 2010 by the author for New Nigerian Newspapers