Sunday, June 23, 2013

One day

The Rhodes- Vivour Kidnap incident had an amusing element. Newspapers reported that though the family paid the demanded ransom, the Rhodes- Vivours were not released because the families of the other kidnapped victims were yet to pay. They were held till all families paid. At the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations, a placard read “one day the poor would have nothing left to eat but the rich”. That time is here in Nigeria. We appear to be sitting ducks waiting our time.Recently, a family who went to pick up their son from the airport lost their ten year-old son to a stray bullet; a man was shot dead on a Sunday morning whilst trying to protect his wife from men harassing her at an ATM; a colleague whose parent was kidnapped was not released till a ransom was paid; 16 students and teachers were murdered in the North.  We have heard so many stories of kidnap, bombings and assault that we have become numb and resigned. All we do is hold our hands up to God to protect us. I wonder if the government’s failure to be responsible gives people the right to feel entitled.
The question to answer is what do we do? For the individual, it is to be careful and cautious. For those who have relationships with people in power, this is the time to tell them to do right because once you leave your house, your fate is the same as the next man’s. That said, the solution to this problem lies with the government. The state of insecurity we are in today is the result of our leaders' failure to use resources to create value and  benefits for the people. Our leaders have created pockets of wealthy people, such that the chasm between the "haves" and "have-nots" is so wide that the haves-not have given up hope and turned on the hustling haves. Yet our leaders are not insulated because they would not hold offices forever.Whilst there are other factors responsible for the present state of insecurity, I believe that economic deprivation and poverty plays a large role in where we are. The earlier our arrested development problem  is addressed, the better for us. The government has to  invest in infrastructure - physical and institutional - that allows people engage in more productive activities. All things being equal, if I am assured of power; available and decent transport, affordable and liveable housing; good roads, good hospitals with working facilities, and a legal and enforcement system that is just, I would not wake up one morning and kill another being because I am frustrated or feel threatened.I am assured that with all our flaws, a significant number of Nigerians are hard-working and creative. It is not in our culture to be lazy or dependent. The Yorubas say “the well-being of the tree, is the well-being of the bird”. Governors are allocated huge amounts as monthly security votes; these monies should be put to better use than patronage. Creating safety nets for all and not just a few family members and friends who do not benefit, anyway (getting your distant cousin on poverty alleviation programme or giving her N20,000 is not a viable means of survival).I believe that Nigeria’s development phase  is at the right time because other nations have gone before us and have created examples of what to do and what not to do to develop. Ours should be a case of picking a dress at a store and fitting it to suit us.
I close with the words of Joseph Stiglitz “development is not about helping a few people get rich or creating a handful of pointless protected industries that only benefit the country’s elite; it is not about bringing in Prada and Benetton, Ralph Lauren or Louis Vuitton, for the urban rich  and leaving the rural poor in their misery….. Development is about transforming societies, improving the lives of the poor, enabling everyone to have a chance at success and access to health care and education”.One day the poor would have nothing left to eat but the rich.

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