Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Politics, poverty & the rest of us


It does not need any clinical diagnosis neither is it treated with pills and herbs, poverty you will agree with me, is a dreaded disease that limits man’s potentials and capacities both in the physical behavioural and intellectual spheres of life and most times reduces a man to a caricature of   his real self. In the physical realm, it is indicated by complete lack of the basic requirements of life such as –food, shelter and clothing even a capsule account for comfort. In the behavioural realm, poverty distorts a man’s real self and makes him behave like a fool even when he knows he is not a fool. And in the intellectual perspective, poverty can enslave man’s innate worth and subject him to intellectual doldrums.

In my opinion, if you ask, he is that “unfortunate” person who cannot provide  his basic requirements of life: a man or woman that cannot afford to put food on his table; pay his dues, and lay claims to some measure of comfort. He can close his eyes, zero his mind and pull the trigger provided it will put food on his table at the end of the day and perhaps pay some bills; that is a poor man!
Therefore if the above analysis truly captures a poor man anybody who can provide those needs to “the poor man”, is what the Christian churches call “Andinyanga”, meaning, the deliverer!!!
This “deliverance-political philosophy in addition to commercial adventurism drove the colonial movement to Africa. Africans were, according to historical records, lacking so much in comfort, modern technology coupled with knowledge and modern organized political order. The British therefore took advantage of that, invaded and exploited African States in the guise of delivering African societies from “natural misfortunate”. They delivered us from malaria by building hospitals; from wild beasts by building roads and houses; they deliver us from evil by building churches and schools to propagate and   establish imperialism and impose on their superior culture on our inferior one.
In this literary communion, I intend to discuss how the privileged take undue advantage of the less privileged with the variable being poverty and I will narrow my analysis to intellectual poverty and moral bankruptcy. I will like to dwell precisely on how politicians in the developing and underdeveloped   societies take advantage of poverty and joblessness to exploit the people and rob the electorates of their mandate.
Studies show that socio-economic development influences the political culture of a nation while the political culture affects quality of government, while manifestoes and party ideologies influence their membership drive in one country, pecuniary interests determines the support base of the other.
Nigeria with a population of over one hundred and fifty million has over   60% of her youths unemployed. We are witnesses to situations where graduates and tradesmen are roaming our streets in search of jobs. We are living witnesses to high cost of living and low standard of living in Nigeria. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources, yet we rate very high in material poverty. Exception of a few privileged ones, an average Nigerian needs to go extra mile to secure his basic requirements of life.
 Except those who have invested long in specialized businesses or senior officers who have spent decades   in the civil services, an average Nigerian can hardly secure socially acceptable standard of living. Poverty has eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigerian society and has been largely synonymous with corruption which is the bane of socio-political and economic development in our nation. Poor people lack the command over basic consumption needs. Poverty  denotes the absence  of adequate food, high rate of infant mortality, low life expectancy, low educational opportunities, inadequate health care system, poor  housing scheme, lack of access to policy and decision  making  process. Poverty is a state of deprivation. This perhaps explains why (Johnson 1974 in Odu et al 2003) defines poverty as a situation where the resources of an individual or family are inadequate to provide a socially acceptable standard of living.
Like I stated earlier in the opening paragraphs that poverty can make a caricature of a man and make him behave like a fool even when he knows he is not a fool, this why and how power seekers take advantage of poverty and exploit the poor. They systematically place the poor below poverty line so that they will be readily available for use anytime, any day! During political and electioneering campaigns, they give them peanuts,  buy them gifts and  other forms of baits  just to get their votes and support, and after   elections, they turn  their back against  them, change their telephone numbers  and build tall walls against the people who  held the ladder  for them to climb  to those offices.
 Poverty has dealt an excruciating blow on the sensibilities of our people. For instance, a forth night ago, I was on an official assignment to report a political meeting where far-reaching decisions bothering on political loyalty and allegiance to the state government were to be made. I ran into a group of people with no smiling faces, a people, who, until that evening have been complaining and cursing the conveners of that meeting for dumping them immediately after election. Looking into the hall, I could see hunger, starvation and deprivation seated on their faces. From behind, I could hear bitter murmurs of disagreement, the youths, elders and women all complained. They accused their leaders of dumping and neglecting them after the elections. From the obvious they were not happy with them, but they had no option than to stay and play the fool even when they know they were not fools, after all, at the end, they will go home with envelops,   just to put food on their tables.
From impeccable survey, 70% of those youths were jobless; the women who cheered the political leaders had to do so because, according to one of them ’’the more they cheered them, the more they will land well”.
Political stakeholders in the area had been ordered from the centre to re-mobilize and service the party structure in case there’s a fresh call for the polls. And the same people they had ignored and dumped after election were invited for a meeting with the stakeholders. This are the same people whose consent, opinion and contributions have never been sought before taking any decision or embarking on any project, not even in the formation of the state executive council, the boards and state government parastatals , local government transition committees, or any other project, policies and programmes of the government whose emergence they contributed immensely to.
But ironically when they all gathered, for the usual soap box oration, the stakeholders, flattered the group and described them as the winning team.  Hear one of them “We   thank you all for coming out in this number in spite of the short notice. We appreciate your efforts and support during the last general elections (5 months ago). We have come to brief you on the journey so far and to seek your continued loyalty and support for our great party. We have enough to eat, drink and envelops for every one of you’’.
The moment the orator mentioned that there is food, drink and transport money, the murmurs ended abruptly and the people began to clap their hands. The tone of discussion changed. The people began to cheer and hail the stakeholders, referring to them as “their good leaders”  “you are a leader!
However, what baffled me was not only how they acted as fools when they were not, but when the same people who rained abuses and curses on these leaders, suddenly changed from songs of sorrow to songs of praises instantly. The answer is not farfetched, sure the presence of money and the hope that at the end of the day, they will smile home with five to ten thousand naira each.
In Nigeria, especially this part of the country, poverty has reduced great men to beggars and has enslaved their intellects. It has made many men slaves for ambition and prisoners of success. Surveys have revealed that if majority of the youths are gainfully employed, most political rallies and thuggery will be scanty. There will be little or no available candidates for thuggery and electoral violence. Therefore the politicians, fully aware of this fact, equip themselves with the Machiavellian political philosophy and give them peanuts so that they will come back tomorrow.
Most of our politicians believe that if they truly develop these youths, there will be nobody to do the dirty jobs which, according to our political culture are useful. It is a very common feature before and during elections to see our politicians turn emergency philanthropists just to woo the electorate and rob them of their votes. They prefer to give you fish each time you are hungry but refuse to teach you how to fish so that you will depend on them and see them as the “helper” who deserve their support.
This perhaps explains why “our poverty is their strength”. In my calculation as a policy scientist, Nigerian governments at various levels until recently are not sincere about the war against poverty. Each administration will come with its own tag only to siphon our money to the privileged while the less privileged remain intact in his or her poverty.
Therefore, if the current war against corruption is to succeed, the problem of poverty should be addressed, not the way the previous governments have been doing, but in spirit and in truth.
I support the idea of slashing down the cost of governance and slicing the jumbo salaries of public   office holders so that the money could be saved for job creation. Industries should be built in every local government to engage our teeming youths. Recruitment into the military, paramilitary and civil service should be depoliticized. The police force should be motivated with good pay package. The implementation of policies on the reduction or alleviation of poverty should not be left in the hands of politicians, but by career civil servants who should be closely supervised and monitored to ensure that the policies targets are achieved.
Without any intent of sedition ,  it should be known that the war against  poor leadership in Nigeria will never be won until our political  culture is   overhauled and our political culture will remain filthy  until  the  dreaded  disease called  poverty is eradicated or at least reduced  to the barest  minimum.
Poverty, corruption and bad leadership have over the years, underdeveloped and drag our corporate image to the mud. Therefore, we should support    President Mohammed Buhari in his avowed determination to wipe away corruption. Corrupt leaders should be prosecuted and if found guilty, made to face the music. We should stop celebrating criminals and accommodating   bad leadership.
Emile Dunkiem, the famous sociologist, in his structural functionalism theory viewed the society as a physical object. He noted that when one part of the system becomes dysfunctional, it affects the other parts and the entire system suffers the pain.
In the same vein, when a chunk of the society are poor there’s no need to even pray, there must be deviance, crime and anti-social vices. And until the issues of poverty and corruption are addressed, the Nigeria society will remain dysfunctional. What do you think?

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