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Nigeria: Is It Cannibalistic-capitalism And Toll-gate Economy?

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Nigeria has long been drawn into the Western ways of life—indeed, into the capitalist mode of economy (but without its Welfarist safety-nets). Her productive and consumptive pattern overwhelmingly mimics European and American lifestyles. Also, it is a well known fact that the entire productive sector's machinery and other industrial materials are sourced from Europe or America (with sprinkles of Chinese/Asian-oriental origin). In addition, the consumptive attitude follows suite. Therefore, the taste of the majority of the citizenry is for goods and services that originate from Europe/America/Asian countries. To say it all: Nigerians are consumers (as they manufacture little or nothing of their own) and not producers! They voraciously consume goods and services imported from Europe, America and Asian countries. Indeed, they have failed to manufacture (start-to-finish) even the least manufactured goods for their own consumption and export.

The so-called industrial sector in the country, import all their industrial materials (equipment and raw-material) and sometimes (or do we say: many a time) the technical manpower to propel the existence of the companies. And this is the crux of the matter: total attachment and need for foreign products and services without equivalent zeal to emplace local inputs and outputs. In this bid to consume foreign products and services, an appreciable number of Nigerians, do all kinds of things (legal and illegal—moral and immoral) to get enough money to import, distribute and sustain their quest for foreign goods and services. The man-eat-man (or flesh-devouring) tactics euphemistically arises; and all kinds of manners and operative styles are hoisted and accepted as societal-economic norms. The result is (what we hereby term as) “Cannibalistic-Capitalism” and its operative ethos. Indeed, illicit economic “Toll-gates” are raised everywhere to make individual and group money for daily and longtime survival. Corruption therefore abounds everywhere and in all-strata of the society. But the question that follows this scenario now is: How did we get into this total mess and web-like conundrum; and how do we get out of it?

Before we attempt to answer this question, let us first of all define and situate the operative economic and social realities of present Nigeria as “Cannibalistic-Capitalism” and “Toll-gate economy”. To say the least, these ugly phenomena are also having an un-yielding grip on the political sphere in Nigeria too. Too bad! Therefore, the most noticeable—indeed clearly-visible cum relative words in this essay we would like to hereby define are: Cannibal; Capitalism; Toll-gate; and Economy.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines Cannibal as a:  Person who eats human flesh; animal that eats own species; or having that habit; hence regarded as cannibalistic. Capitalism is defined as: possession of capital or wealth; system in which private capital or wealth is used in production and distribution of goods; dominance of private capital and production for profit. Toll-gate means: Bar or gate across road to prevent passage of person, vehicle, etc. until toll (money, duty or tax) is paid. Economy means: Concerns and resources of a community; careful uses of resources, frugality; organized (economic) system.

Therefore, with these definitions in mind and a deep understanding of the operative system and methodologies in our country before now and presently, can one then be right, to equate Nigeria's socio-economic and political space as been occupied mainly by a cannibalistic systematic, emplaced to enrich some and impoverish many (whose seeming blood is used to sustain the life of the fat-cats amongst them—who also seem to actually cherish to devour the life-sustaining resources of the generality of their fellow species who are like them—otherwise called citizens or human beings)?

When few Nigerians (who think they are privileged and above the reprimand of the laws of the land) embezzle the monies meant to provide food, water, health facilities, electricity, critical and needed road arteries, education to enlighten and uplift the mental-status of citizens, industries and other services that are meant to provide jobs—which will thereafter provide the much-needed finances to the employed to take-care of their immediate and family needs, etc; what will all these unholy acts be equated to: Is it not present-day cannibalism wearing the cloak (cloth) of capitalism (albeit: crude-capitalism though, you may like to say)? What is grand, diversified and entrenched corruption? Can it not be rightly regarded as present-day cannibalistic behaviours?  When those who are entrusted with providing the security for life and property for the generality of the citizens or for those threatened with death (as depicted in Boko Haram enclaves—for example in the present times), decides to share the allotted or allocated monies for this purpose amongst themselves (as in Dasukigate), what can this kind of attitude be termed as? Can it not be appropriately termed as present-day showcasing of how cannibals behave (albeit: in the modern jungle which we are all living-in today)? When company owners exploit the labour of others (their employees) and pay them peanut and monkey salaries (i.e. life un-sustaining wages), and many of them (employers in private companies) also employ contract staff rather than permanent employees (that they know they must treat respectfully based on existing labour laws);  what is this called in modern times? Is it not “man-eat -man” tactics which is equivalent to cannibalistic-capitalism? When those in authority build mass-housing for the masses with government money that is a common wealth resource, and decides to share these same said houses amongst their family members, friends and cronies (thereby depriving shelter to the generality of the people), what will this be called in contemporary times? Is it not cannibalism (because same species have mindlessly devoured a core-life-supporting and sustaining need of their fellow species)?

Indeed, those who deny and embezzle the rights, privileges, freedoms, and life-supporting resources of their fellow species (called humans in this case), cannot be called any other thing than modern-day cannibals (albeit: masking in capitalists robes)! Flesh-eating is not, in today's world, all about eating other people's flesh but also not giving them their life-supports that creates and enhances their flesh!!

Capitalism entails free enterprise as against government-sponsored enterprise; it surely means allowing individual creative and innovative ideas to prosper in products, services and enterprises, as against government approving and sanctioning of what is good or what is bad in these same said areas! But is this scenario properly festering in Nigeria?

People in high-offices have been wickedly cornering government resources to themselves, to their cronies and family members. Therefore, thereby stunting and definitely, not encouraging individual creative and innovative ideas (remembering that ideas are things and that even physical things—indeed everything whether manufactured or mentally or manually encapsulated started from an idea). They, many a time also use high-government offices to steal and misappropriate people's proposals for a better society—materially and mentally (therein acting-out their “idea-thieves” mentality—which is  against a better society); and because the original owners—the God-given owners of the original ideas are not involved in the implementation stages of the stolen proposals and ideas, these worthy ideas that could have uplifted our society and humanity, crash and become un-sustainable and un-maintainable. Too bad! Is this not the worst type cannibalistic-capitalism?

Also, there are a lot of illegal economic-toll-gates everywhere! Indeed, many government tables/offices and even in private offices, have long been converted to illegal toll-gates: where money and individually conspired and collected duties are imposed on those who have to pass-through or use these tables/offices. Why do people embezzle money allocated/budgeted through their offices for the betterment of the segment of society which their tables/offices supervise, in-order to uplift?  Is this not negative (illegal) individual/group toll-gate economy? If not, then tell us what it is! When some (repeat: some) Policemen, Customs and Immigration officials, and other security-related agencies stay on their road-blocks and offices, and collect bribe before allowing passage to their so-assumed culprits—what do you call this? It is indeed a clear manifestation of toll-gate economy, and the cannibalizing of other people's rights, freedom and resources—which they could have used to better our economy in other better ways.

To say the least, many have indeed converted their offices (high and low) to toll-gates: where they impose and collect their illegal levies, duties and taxes, as it suites/fits them; and as it oppresses the hapless public and masses too. We are not exaggerating here, I hate generalization and stereo-typing, but it is real, and that is what has now been tagged as: “Presence-of-pervasive corruption” in our society. No doubt, the whole society has been turned into markets and highways where (unseen and non-physical) gates-before-entry-and-exit have long been erected, and where levies are illegally imposed and collected. Indeed, naked and wicked cash-nexus is apparent and potent, and it is therefore suffocating our society. But this can be dismantled with a strong political will (remembering how and what the great chicken farmer and our own General and High Chief Mathew Aremu did to the real toll-gates on our major highways when he was the choir-master and drum-major of our country).

As defined earlier, economy totally means a careful use of resources and an organized (economic) system. And with this is in mind, can it now be rightly said that: there has been a careful use of our resources (repeat: our societal resources) to organize a better (economic) system for our society? If the answer is no! Then bear in mind henceforth that our resource-managers (high and low) heretofore, and seemingly in current times, have been engaged in cannibalistic-capitalism and toll-gate economic system  that has not benefitted our society in ways that deserves commendation.

If our economic managers (high and low) have not concerned themselves totally (now and before now), to better the concerns and resources of our community (society) in all its ramifications, for the good of its entire people, then count them out (individually and wholesomely) as good managers of the economy. They can at best be regarded as species who are not totally concerned about what negatively happens to their kind of species as a result of their faulty economic management; and therefore, can only be appropriately tagged as cannibalistic economic managers in today's world economic-jungle.

In conclusion, we ask: which way Nigeria? Is it the continuation of what we called here: Cannibalistic-capitalism that clearly exists in our society today? Or do we too, continue to allow the seeming Toll-gate economy that exists presently and before now? Are they sustainable? Can they sustain the structure and fabrics of our society for now and forever? Methinks no! They (what exist now and before now) is and will not take the country far—it is surely a quicksand that will not in any way make the high-rise structures been erected on it not to collapse: thereby killing all its occupants; and it will also leave a mind-boggling collateral damage to by-standers and free-users of the roads where these said individual and group toll-gates have long been illegally erected. The existing naked and wicked cash-nexus is an open-sore and if allowed to fester longer than the body (our society) can sustain, their parasitic tendencies and tentacles will surely attract germs and diseases that will bring-about killer deaths to the whole body (society) too. The quick-fix and sledge-hammer methods of our earlier  mentioned great chicken farmer (who is located somewhere known to all of us in Ogun state) is not what is called-for here. What is required is a dual-mandate killer-punch that will totally devastate and dismantle both the long-existing cannibalistic type of capitalism and the toll-gate economy that have become hydra-headed monsters in our society.  Indeed, a full-proof strategy is required, followed by a sure and achievable tactics, to knell the coffins of these dual ills that have long-confronted our society as a result of its total linkage and taste for foreign (especially Western and Asian) manufactured goods and services, and ways of life (lifestyle—if you like to call it so). Let's think about it seriously and do something seriously to extinguish them before they extinguish us (that is: kill our society in general).

In all, let us ruminate on these “food for thought” lines: In Nigeria, it looks like humility is the worst ware to be displayed for sale—indeed, many are not ready to buy it to say of wearing it. Also, gentility is a seeming sign of weakness: Many people would like to settle their scores in a fight or shouting-match—and all these are signs of cannibalism. Indeed, a drive towards consensus when on issue-highways, are not acceptable as the best rule of engagements and fruitful journey-destinations. Instead of jaw-jawing on issues that will lead to the shedding of blood (a systematic of cannibals), those who are supposed to know better and who are entrusted to handle issues better (the so-called leaders) allow these same contentious issues to snow-ball into war-warring— thereafter leading to the massive shedding of blood of others who are guilty or innocent (a mantra of cannibalism). Examples of such abound in our country: The avoidable late 1960s civil war, Niger Delta Militancy, the June 12 annulment altercation, Boko Haram insurgency etc. etc. Why Nigeria? Why do our leaders allow these shedding of blood of fellow citizens many a time? We need answers that will wipe-out the potent and often reoccurring shedding of blood (which is cannibalistic-like); and the complete  stoppage of the denial of what is due other species like them (humans), through the operative system as encapsulated in the prevailing  toll-gate economy.

Written by Ejike Kingsley Osuji.
[email protected]

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