Poor/rich Nigerians: Any Nexus?
Just before President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his 103- days medical treatment in the United Kingdom(at public costs) recently, the National bureau of statistics (NBS) has already prepared a politically motivated heartwarming news for him.
As we all know, Nigeria is such a place where purely non-political and scientific matters such as economics are politicised for obvious reasons. The Nigerian government is like an octopus whereby all successful persons must have a necessary connection to the umbilical chord of the central government. Politics in Nigeria is the biggest business therefore those who call the shots in both private and public sectors find their relevance and support from political power influencers. So what the NBS cooked as welcome news for the returning President can be explained from this perspective.
The cheering political news from the NBS which heralded the return of the then medically vacationing president was the public announcement that Nigeria has exited economic recession.
Nigeria had sleep walked into economic recession about two years ago when the current administration came on board and took over half a year to set the board rolling and since then, the rate of poverty has understandably quadrupled and ballooned out of control in reality.
Ironically, when the government agency announced an end to Nigeria’s troubling economic meltdown, there were wide disagreements amongst different sets of experts. From the real people facing continuous grinding poverty, it was clear that the statisticians at the National Bureau of Statistics wete simply playing politics. Afterall, a certain thinker had once said that if you want to tell scientific lie then put it in statistics.
When this story broke, the overwhelming opinion was that the so-called exit from recession is not been felt by most Nigerians since poverty has continued to expand and the costs of goods and services have also continued to increase without any sign that these indices may change. Infact, 70 percent of the journalists who reported the breaking news from the perspective of the National Bureau of Statistics are owed accumulated wages by their employers who are facing hard times producing the newspapers and running their electronic media houses no thanks to the poor economic policies of the current administration that plunged the economy to disastrous economic meltdown. But trust these propaganda machines in government to always invent some reasons for why the effects of the exit from recession haven't been felt by the people.
The explanation in official quarters was that the exit of Nigeria from economic recession wouldn’t be felt immediately by Nigerians but would happen progressively.
But an erstwhile governor of Cross River State Mr. Donald Duke punctured the claim of an end to economic recession when he was recently quoted as stating that it is a big lie to propagate that economic recession endes since even himself has become increasingly broke like millions of other poor Nigerians.
As if he (President Buhari) was responding to the rising skepticism on the veracity of the claim of exit from economic recession, when he visited the head office of his political party (All Progressives Congress), the president announced that he was thinking of appointing more of his party members into his cabinet and boards of agencies because the economic recession was over for good.
The reality is far from those political statements made by both the president and the officials who are busy announcing an end to economic recession. The government needs to plough all loopholes and leakages and stop wasting scarce resources chasing unattainable goals such as the wasting of $3 billion crude oil resources in chasing for crude oil in the North of Nigeria without success.
On daily basis, most observant Nigerians are seeing as young Nigerians are roaming the streets in their frantic pursuit of what to eat.
Again, the costs of living are still way too high beginning from the unaffordable high cost of premium motor spirit or petrol which has in the last two years seen its pump price sky rocket courtesy of the reviews of pump prices by this federal government.
Ironically, it was the same National Bureau of Statistics that recently warned of the dire consequences of not adopting radical economic measures to drive people away from mass poverty to prosperity.
The National Bureau of Statistics had stated in a report not too long ago that 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in “absolute poverty” –this figure had risen from 54.7% in 2004.
The bureau predicted this rising trend was likely to continue.
Nigeria as researchers say is Africa’s biggest oil producer but the sector has been tainted by accusations of corruption including the new set of allegations made by the minister of state for petroleum Dr Emmanuel Ibe that the Head of the state owned NNPC Alhaji Maikanti Baru awarded $26 billion contracts in clear breach of Public procurement Act and due process.
Corruption and misuse of public resources have continued to churn out millions of poverty stricken citizens in Nigeria coupled with the existence of weakened anti-graft institutions that are pollutted with political patronage. The report of the widening chasm between the poor and rich in Nigeria is therefore factually correct.
According to the report, absolute poverty is measured by the number of people who can afford only the bare essentials of shelter, food and clothing.
The NBS, a government agency, said there was a paradox at the heart of Nigeria as the economy was going from strength to strength, mainly because of oil production –yet Nigerians were getting poorer.
“Despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year, although it declined between 1985 and 1992, and between 1996 and 2004,” head of the NBS bureau Yemi Kale said.
Oil accounts for some 80% of Nigeria’s state revenues but it has hardly any capacity to refine crude oil into fuel, which has to be imported. The much talked about diversification of the economy and to need to tap into the rich solid minerals deposits and grow advanced technology to improve agricultural enterprises have all ended up as political rhetorics.
The NBS said that relative poverty was most apparent in the north of the country, with Sokoto state’s poverty rate the highest at 86.4%.
In the north-west and north-east of the country poverty rates were recorded at 77.7% and 76.3% respectively, compared to the south-west at 59.1%.
BBC Africa analyst Richard Hamilton says it is perhaps no surprise that extremist groups, such as Boko Haram, continue to have an appeal in northern parts of the country, where poverty and underdevelopment are at their most severe.
The report also revealed that Nigerians consider themselves to be getting poorer.
In 2010, 93.9% of respondents felt themselves to be poor compared to 75.5% six years earlier.
Mr. Kale says releasing such statistics from time to time is crucial for effective government planning.
“This kind of data helps them to know what is really happening so they can track their policies and programmes,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
“It gives them the opportunity to look at what they are doing…..and if there are areas they need to change, it makes it easier to modify strategies,” he added.
In 2017, the above reportage remains significantly factually correct. How come is the same NBS manufacturing fake news about a rebounce in Nigeria's economy? Do we run voodoo economy here?
Only this morning, a friend sent me a link to a story of how the wards at the university of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital have become so derelict, and that too many poor patients are left to die due to criminal neglects.
The question therefore that has to be asked is why the political authorities in Abuja and the 36 states of the federation have failed to tackle mass poverty but political appointees have continued to accumulate wealth at the detriment of the poor.
In Kogi as well as Lagos State, the rates of suicides connected to poverty are increasing by the day just as in Imo state and most other states including Bayelsa, Kwara, Abia, Osun states, the civil servants and pensioners are owed backlogs of wages even as these governors are seen frequenting foreign countries holidaying. These States can't pay wages to workers and pensioners even when all the State have twice this year received Billions of dollars from the Paris fund refund paid directly to them from the Central Bank of Nigeria. Last week the Accountant General of the federation regrettably told a Federal High Court Lagos division that although the Freedom of Information Act permits Nigerians to demand accountability but insists that his office will not oblige the information on how much has been paid to states from the Paris fund refund. This lack of accountability and transparency increases poverty amongst Nigerians because information is power and if the people know how much of their money have been mismanaged by their state governors they will demand accountability.
On this same matter of alienation and politically induced poverty, we may recall that the controversially proscribed indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) successfully got overwhelming supports of the people of the South East of Nigeria because it is generally believed that the Zone is heavily marginalized and left behind in terms of the distribution of national strategic assets and wealth. South East of Nigeria have no good roads network; no refineries even as a crude oil producing areas whereas places like Kaduna without crude oil have refineries.
One shocking phenomenon however is the high level of irresponsible insensitivity shown by political actors in Nigeria to the plight of the heavily impoverished masses.
It was exactly whilst contemplating on why political actors holding political offices have so hardened their minds to the realities of millions of Nigerians that a recent study emerged from the United Kingdom about how concerned the British political establishment is to the rise in poverty of some citizens.
Dareen McGarvey a journalist wrote that the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting a sharp rise in child poverty will provoke the usual, commendable, shrieks of indignation.
When news that more children than ever before are soon to be confined to economic deprivation, it’s sure to inspire a slew of robust dinner party debates, the reporter predicted.
The overriding emotion anyone should be feeling at news that in excess of a third of British children will soon be growing up in relative poverty is fear, the reporter stated.
"The tidal wave of social problems racing towards all of us because of this unsustainable inequality has the potential to overwhelm society".
"The cracks are already beginning to show. Take the various constitutional crises gripping Europe. Regardless of the political composition of the movement, the grievance that provokes is invariably the same: political and economic marginalization underscored by the most galling wealth polarization".
"I’m one of those formerly “poor people” vomited up from the gaping class wound at the heart of British society to offer “shocking”, “inspiring” testimony about the adversity they have since transcended. You might find me recounting the day my drunk mum chased me with a knife or see me on television looking very bored as I explain, yet again, that I managed to avoid smoking crack because somebody knocked on the front door as the pipe was being passed to me", the reporter masterfully captures.
"I’m one of structural poverty’s most comforting cultural tropes: the survivor who lived to tell the tale."
It’s now commonplace, the reporter says to point out the correlation between poverty and nearly every other social problem you care to mention.
"Not just economic hardship, but poverty of the sort that fertilizes cultures of abuse. This problem transcends left/right politics and will eventually overwhelm any society that refuses to deal with it".
"When these problems flare up, they are rarely contained within a household or a community. Instead, they spill into our society and multiply, at a massive cost to us all."
"They spill into overcrowded casualty and high-dependency hospital wards. They spill into six-month waiting lists to access clinical psychologists and psychiatric counseling facilities", the reporter argues.
"They spill into overrun social work departments and inundated supported accommodation projects barely keeping their heads above water. They spill into stressful housing offices, packed to capacity crisis centres and outmoded addictions services. And, for some, they spill into police stations, courts, children’s homes, secure units, young offender institutions and prisons".
Poverty is not only about a lack of employment or opportunity but about having no margin for error while living in constant stress and emotional unpredictability, the reporter wrote.
For many children growing up in the chaos, deprivation leaves them emotionally disfigured and physiologically primed for chronic health problems, the reporter cautioned.
"What do you think is driving many of our current social problems where crime, violence, homelessness, addiction and the mental health epidemic are concerned? It all begins with a child living in social deprivation. And when it comes to the scourge of child neglect and abuse, poverty is the factory floor".
"For now, the problems remain contained, confined only to the communities we call “deprived”, where the poor can be monitored, surveyed, policed and punished. But only for so long", tge journalist warned.
The reporter urged that action on poverty will require a far-reaching, long-term political consensus. It will require compromises and excruciating levels of humility from all of us, including the poor, the reporter said. The reporter however made an interesting finding below.
"A great irony of British life is that lower-class people are often regarded, by their affluent superiors, as being a little coarse and unsophisticated, rough around the edges – when the true vulgarity on display is the apathy of many of those who regard themselves as educated and insightful; those who blindly believe, from the comfort of their economically gated communities, that this untenable status quo, built on sand, won’t soon collapse in on itself, as the coming wave of social dysfunction crashes aground and washes us all away."
In Nigeria, most people are worried that even religious and civil society leaders who should speak truth to power are busy dining and winning with the misbehaving politicians. Shan George an actress even protested the acquisition of exotic jets being bought by religious leaders and asked that rather than buy private jets the pastors should fix the bad roads in which their followers commute to and fro their houses to the religious houses.
Emmanuel Ojeifo a Catholic Priest states that the second dimension of religion is the social dimension.
He submitted that this dimension of religion depicts our relationship with our brothers and sisters.
"Every good religion tries to maintain these two dimensions: the vertical axis, which is our relationship with God who is mystery, and the horizontal axis, which is our relationship with our brothers and sisters. It is like a sign of the cross".
Fr. Ojeifo further submitted that tge above postulation is because we cannot live in isolation.
God, he said, created us for community, for friendship with him and with one another.
"That is why no one believes alone, because no one is saved alone. We need to put our knowledge and love of God unto the service of our brothers and sisters."
Making reference charity to uplift humanity, Ojeifo refers to Jesus where he says that when we host a party, we should not invite our big friends who can repay our kindness, but that we should invite the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb and the less privileged people of society, who cannot repay us.
"That is a corporal work of mercy - feeding the hungry poor - which is part of the social dimension of our Christian faith. We cannot claim to love God if we do not serve the poor."
"The face of Jesus is revealed in the faces of the poor and suffering. We touch the flesh of Jesus when we serve them. Mind you, the corporal works of mercy are not social work, like what NGOs do. No. The corporal works of mercy as mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the homeless, visiting the sick and the imprisoned) have an interior spiritual dimension, because they are the avenues where we show the merciful face of Jesus to the world".
The different segments of the Nigerian government at the center and states must implement transparent policies to lift millions of people in Nigeria out of mass/absolute poverty.