By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
There is hunger in the land. Real hunger. There is food everywhere. But majority of our citizens cannot afford to feed three times daily. Inflation is eroding the purchasing power of the naira. Transportation costs have gone up. The costs of medications have gone up. Incomes have not gone up. It is cheap to die; it is also expensive to die. A paradox. A little emergency could take one’s life. Organ failure, expensive to treat, can take one’s life too. People are starving. I do not refer to quality of feeding. I am concerned that there are too many people who are now compelled to go through days without meals. It has led to executive begging. It has created parents who cannot provide meals for their kids. Parents losing moral authority because they lack what it takes to make them the real head of the family. And the cause of this socio-economic tornado is Government, our own equivalent of a natural disaster.
One of the real worries is that we have a federal government that does not care, that does not connect with the people. We are dealing with a government that is so distant that it proposes to distribute eight thousand naira to the poorest people. Eight thousand naira in present day Nigeria? Eight thousand naira cannot feed a family for two days. Is this what a government is bragging about, thumping its chest in empty vanity?
We are dealing with state governors who do not really care about the citizens. State governors who are more interested in dishing out political patronage than dealing with the hopelessness that is gradually enveloping the country. We are dealing with Houses of Assembly which are not thinking about necessary legislation to reduce hunger and poverty. We are dealing with a National Assembly that is more interested in approving fat bonuses, salaries, and emoluments for themselves than providing hope for the people. For example, while seventy billion naira was approved for about five hundred legislators, five hundred billion was allocated to over two hundred million hungry Nigerians. Ominously, thirty-five billion was allocated to the National Judicial Council. The optics, to say the least, are horrifyingly scary and despicable. Indeed, there is palpable contempt for the ordinary citizens in the country.
There are too many people who can no longer drive their cars. They simple cannot buy fuel in their cars. There are too many people who cannot get to their place of work every day. Their monthly pay cannot take them to where they earn their living. And the government is silent on the plight of the people. Even IBB the military dictator was more conciliatory to the people after he announced harsh economic measures in the SAP days! President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has refused or failed to connect with the people. He is following the ugly footsteps of his immediate predecessor in office. No! we expected more than this from President Tinubu who had been active in the trenches on behalf of the citizenry in the past!
There is anger too. Anger with the men and women who occupy the government houses across the country. They are angry with the judiciary. Angry with religious leaders. Angry with traditional rulers for hobnobbing with politicians at the expense of the welfare and survival of their subjects. As we know, hunger gives birth to anger. And anger from hunger is dangerous. Nigerians are angry with the political class. Angry with Senate President Senator Godswill Akpabio who shamelessly mocked the poor people of this country over letting them breathe! The bible says in Proverbs 17 verse 5: “whoever mocks the poor insults their Maker’. Nigerians are angry with the men and women who rigged their way into office, who currently hold them captive, and who are stuffing their pockets with the national patrimony.
Let no one deceive Abuja that all is well. Let Abuja not deceive itself that all is well. All is not well. There is also fear, worry, and uncertainty. Where will this take us to? No one is assuring the citizens of the country that their lot will be different at the end of the hellish conditions. Taxes and financial obligations are on the increase. Undergraduates are being asked to pay more for half baked services. ASUU has been emasculated by the federal government after muzzling the judiciary. NLC and other unions have been bullied into acquiescence. The civil liberties organisations which tormented the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan have all gone silent.
President Tinubu must step out. He is currently invisible, almost absent in the spirit of liberal democracy. One of the duties or obligations of leadership is to provide hope for the citizenry. Even in a season of infinite hopelessness, government must provide hope and a compass that will point in a positive direction. The president should connect with the people. But he cannot connect with the people if he does not hear them. If he does not listen to them. Ensconced in the luxury and false luxury of Aso Rock, it is very easy to be bogged down by inanities. But the truth, the reality of the situation lies out there. I am sure the Nigerien president who was challenged last week by that nation’s army is surprised at the venom being poured on him by ordinary citizens. Power is held in trust on behalf of the people! Army takeover is not a model for the 21st century, but if dubious politicians drive the citizenry crazy and into frustration, they will welcome any form of change. The spate of coups in West Africa is worrisome. There is, there should be no alternative to the ballot box in effecting a change of government!
Palliative measures should be rolled out immediately. Workers need state assistance. Transportation should be subsidized. Wages should increase by a modest percentage. The ordinary citizens who eke out a living from menial jobs in the private sector deserve assistance. University lecturers should be paid their entitlements. Their salaries which have remained stagnant since 2009 should be reviewed. Food should be subsidized.
The governments across the country should check this slide into hopelessness. A policy that kills people first before making the economy strong is dangerous. President Tinubu should know that the buck stops at his desk. He should connect with the people as a democrat. Else, the people will start praying for a dramatic change through the judicial system!