By Isaac Asabor
It was John F. Kennedy that said that “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”. Giving meaning to this saying, the World Summit for Social Development was convened by the United Nations in Copenhagen in March 1995 on poverty, unemployment and social disintegration. It is a shame on our global leaders that the social problem they tried to surmount 25 years ago still exists in all countries, particularly in African and Asian countries.
In as much as one would agree with the fact that the social problems of poverty, unemployment and social integration are collectively a cog in the wheel of social development, it would be germane in this context to conjecture that they are intertwined but poverty still remains the worst of all the social problems that is crippling virtually every effort that the youths are making to see that they become successful. Suffice it to say that it is at the root of other social problems.
A popular aphorism succinctly describes poverty as a disease. No doubt, it is a disease in the sense that it incapacitates its victim’s abilities, talent, intellect, dream, ambition, goal, efforts, performance, plan, self-respect, self-awareness and self-confidence. Another aphorism couched in philosophical term says “A man is not poor everyday”. In other words, a man is only poor on the particular day he could not fend for himself and his family.
No matter how African Traditional Philosophers want people to see poverty, the fact remains that once a person, particularly the youth, is poverty stricken, no matter the pressure from his I-can-do-it spirit, his swagger, as most youths would say, hardly can he succeed in any endeavor except there is a divine intervention or “mother luck” on his side. Poverty, no doubt, has rendered many youths absolutely hopeless and despondent. Many cannot buy things they want, many cannot pursue their goals and many cannot exercise their inalienable right to freedom of speech for the fact that it would not be accepted because of their poor status. Without sounding hyperbolical, the youths in various universities across the country are already being warned not to make any attempt to write their semester examinations without paying their respective school fees, while some have been killed with the same reason. It would be recalled that some years back some jobless ones among them were left to scramble to death at the National stadium.
Many poor youths in the Christendom see poverty as the handiwork of those demonic elements in the spiritual realm. This trite fact is beyond dispute; after all it has been written that “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places”.
Poverty is a serious issue to contend with that most Christians are wont to attack it in a violent manner. After all, the word of God says that “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”.
Have you ever observed a deliverance service carried out against poverty? If you have not you are missing a lot. Paul C. Jong in one of his books on Holy Spirit captured the scenario thus: “Those who attend such meetings tend to cry out instead of uttering prayers. When the atmosphere reaches its feverish peak, people scream out and faint in every corner. However, the preacher on stage keeps the microphone to his lips and makes the sound of the wind while he guides people ever deeper into religious fanaticism. He prays by speaking in strange tongues and jumps off stage to lay his hands on people’s heads”. No doubt, the foregoing aptly paints the picture of a typical deliverance service towards the casting out of demons that were satanically assigned to unleash the affliction of poverty on their victims. Poverty is truly a disease. To free oneself from its stranglehold demands both spiritual and physical efforts.
As been witnessed in the recent times in the country, the youths have unprecedentedly become vulnerable to thuggery or rather political hirelings to politicians so much that it has become an integral part of politics. The political sphere has become characterized with incessant intimidation, assault and in some cases bloodshed by warring party gangs. The reason for their vulnerability cannot be farfetched as some of them have become so cheap, as a result of unemployment and poverty that the politicians now capitalize on their collective financial weakness. It goes without saying that a youth can be paid just N10,000 (Ten Thousand Naira) to be involved in thuggery.
To further expatiate on the foregoing, it is not an exaggeration to say that political thuggery can therefore be defined as any negative behavior associated with violence, hooliganism, kidnapping, murder, assassination, gang action and troubleshooting that is connected or related to any political process. Political thugs are often criminals or social delinquents. They are strongly instrumental in distorting electoral results, snatching of ballot boxes, alteration of election results, elimination of political opponents, under the influence of drugs and supernatural powers. They are constantly involved in organized acts of violence, intimidation and blackmail, directed against a political opponent to achieve political objectives.
For instance, on October 14, 20202, precisely on Wednesday, hoodlums were reported to have attacked and robbed End SARS protesters on a peaceful protest at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The hoodlums launched the attack around 3 p.m. leaving several of the protesters running scampering for safety upon sighting the attackers who arrived at the scene with brand new machetes and axes to rob protesters of their phones.
In the same vein, the protest in Benin-City, the Edo State capital, turned violent after the thugs attack #EndSARS protesters on October 16, 2020 thus making the protest to become awry. According to report, at least, one person was reported dead.
There are speculations that the political hirelings were paid to carry out the biddings of their paymaster.
However, on the part of most youths, they have seemingly accepted poverty to be insurmountable that they no longer fight it through education, skill acquisition and wealth creation. The Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 11 verse 4 says: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” Most youths, no doubt, have brilliant ideas that would definitely liberate them from poverty and from the nefarious grips of unscrupulous politicians who have turned them to slaves whilst their own children are in overseas bettering their lives and futures.
It is expedient to say in the context of the foregoing scripture that most youths have for long been observing the wind and regarding the cloud. Simply put, before engaging in any worthwhile enterprise, all they see are problems that may likely be encountered on the way; and this attitude discourages them. The attitude, no doubt, have left many of them poorer. Most youths have refused to swim against the stubborn tide of poverty. Nelson Mandela in his quote on the fight against poverty, said: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” Put in another way, poverty is a choice. Many youths in our country see the government as being responsible for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. To me, it is a wrong line of thinking. This attitude has made many potential entrepreneurs to remain docile and dependent on politicians.
Be that as it may, the truth remains that the plight of many youths is undoubtedly a paradox. Or how else can one explain the plight of people whose country is richly blessed in every sense of the word struggling with poverty and unemployment?
There is a scripture in the bible that says “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”. The question now is, are some of us who are opportune, lucky or blessed with material wealth righteous when dealing with the poor among the youths?
Again, those of us that are entrusted with public fund, are we handling it righteously without betraying the trust and confidence which the people repose in us?
There is no denying the fact if the environment is conducive many youths would be able to realize their potentials, build self-confidence and live a life that would be full of dignity, achievement and fulfilment. Have we truly asked ourselves the reason why our youths in the northern part of the country are easily recruited into the Boko Haram sect and other evil associations?
A situation where some Nigerians are swimming in questionable opulence whereas others are daily demoralized by poverty does not paint a picture of a democratic government that is striving towards the attainment of an ideal social justice and equity for her citizenry.
Still in the same nexus, our leaders should shun corruption as much as possible in order to pave way for good governance that would, no doubt, reduce poverty, unemployment and social disintegration.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Policy Analyst.