A woman's desperation to earn a living
Her demand for capital to start a business in the stead of receiving the N500 handed to her to take care of the hunger she carped about is a testament to the industrious spirit of the average Nigerian. I don't know about you but that was what got to me in the entire episode.
One would have doubted her citizenship if she had put up such a show for a mere N500. Even those into showbusiness charge over N500 for a ticket, not to talk of having same amount as the gross income. Thus, it becomes economically untenable for our subject to host such a show and get N500 for all her troubles.
On a more serious note, it is heartening that she played to the popular Chinese maxim which held, "Don't give me the fish but teach me to fish." For accepting the fish will only take care of the current but wouldn't be there for the subsequent. Let me at this point take you to the scene for you to get a good grasp of my disquisition.
It was a bizarre sight last Monday at the Ikeja Magistrate's Court as one Esther Odozi aged 21 exposed her boobs in protest against hunger which she said was killing her and her five kids she left back home in Agbor Owanta in Delta State.
Now the scales must have fallen off their eyes. Talking of those who are of the firm belief that it isn't true that there are Nigerians who are so poor that they can't feed themselves. Yes there are people who are of that opinion. If you haven't encountered them, I have. Such Thomases may even dismiss this as a fluke, but let's continue, trusting that the story will convince them on its merit.
She stunned passersby as she laid half-naked in the premises of the court shouting, "hunger, hunger. Government must do something today. I have not received anything from the plenty crude oil money government is spending in our state. Nigerians are wicked."
Rejecting the N500 given to her by an onlooker she said, "I don't want your money. I want Fashola to give me N200 000." I must admit my perplexity as to why she would demand N200 000 from Fashola when she had referred to the spending spree going on in her home state of Delta. I guess it can be attributed to poverty which has the potency of sometimes confusing its victim.
And this woman was really a hapless victim of poverty. Though she appeared to have been rendered incoherent, she spared her lucidity for the one thing that mattered most. That one thing that is capable of extricating her from the clutches of penury. Esther, who said she is a widow with five children to take care of, recounted that she tried to survive on her own by engaging in crop farming until she was hit by a car which caused her an injury that jeopardised her ability to work on the farm.
She then declared, "I will not leave this court without seeing N200 000 to start business. I want to sell melon and garri. Tell Emmanuel Uduaghan, the governor of my state and the federal government to do something about my condition. They must give me part of the petrol money. I must take care of my five children."
I take back what I said earlier, this woman apparently know what she was doing. She was just seeking her share of the national cake or do I say Niger-Delta cake. Notice the use of 'must'. Now we know that not only the violent like MEND and NDPVF take it by force even a one-woman squad can as well. But beyond the rhetoric, the woman should get what she is asking for.
We can all agree that she isn't asking for too much. If the government failed to act, well-meaning individuals should see to it that she gets the N200 000 she is demanding. Since she already has a 'business plan' let's see to it that the business takes off.
It wouldn't even be a bad idea for the education of her children to be taken up. Given that she is whining about hunger, you can best imagine what becomes of other needs. You may ask what is it that qualifies her to be helped? Her clarity of purpose and the determination to take her destiny in her hands does just that.
It is often said that desperate situation requires desperate measures. For her to have gone to the length of desecrating the temple of womanhood, like a barrister described it, it shows she has indeed ran out of options. This is not to encourage the stripping of oneself to prove a point. Her courage to protest is what am happy for and I am sure democracy wherever he is, is pleased by that as well.
At least her protest was not in the fashion of those who kill, maim and destroy. This indicates that Nigerians of today are no longer the Nigerians of yore. We have grown past the Nigerians about whom the legendary Fela Kuti sang; suffering and smiling.
What I am driving at is that the culture of protest has crept into our consciousness and it is fast coming in different forms. Government should take this to mind as the citizens have become increasingly aware of government's responsibilities and they are placing demands on government to that effect.
I am however startled by this new precedent that has been set. Who knows what the next woman in such or worst predicament will do? What would then become of the sanctity of being a woman? How would morality fare? These are questions we wouldn't have to bother ourselves with the answers if this new style of protest did not continue or escalate.
The woman in question didn't just descend from the blues. She must have relatives. I find it hard to believe that none of her kin could raise the required amount or something substantial to have kept Esther from the embarrassment of bringing to the public glare a part of her body that should be concealed.
Even if a relative couldn't foot the capital, contributions from everyone of them could have got the job done. However, it's possible that poverty has become so pervasive in the land that you can hardly find anyone with an extra sum to spare.
This highlights the need for the government to work social welfare into its agenda. Of a truth, not until hunger is banished from the land, the transformation agenda would at best remain a clanging cymbal. One who hears about the publicised growth in our economy would find the ordeal of Esther Odozi hard to believe. Human face should therefore be put to our economic growth.
Meanwhile, there must be a reason that explains why the woman accused Nigerians as being wicked. Not too long ago, a research by the Lagos State's Ministry of Economic Planing and Budgeting revealed that over N1 billion was spent monthly by Lagos residents on merriment and parties in the state.
How cruel can life get? Indeed, great is the gulf between the haves and have-nots in our society. It is not fair for some to dissipate as much as N1 billion on convivialities while a greater majority languish in abject poverty. It plays out the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
While we should hold nothing against those who are in for glee, they and the government should spare a thought for those who are in need especially those who would prefer to be made fishermen instead of being eaters of fish.
Ugochukwu writes from Lokoja, please follow me on twitter via @ugsylvester