By Sunday Ogidigbo
The poverty line in Nigeria is no longer imaginary. Everywhere you turn, you can see the yawning gulf of divide between the rich and the poor. The poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, no thanks to the scourge of greed that pervades the land among the ruling class. In Nigeria, the poor have their own market. The close to 100 million Nigerians living below poverty line buy used cloths, used electronics and their food stuff from the bush and night markets. The few that are at the border line of poverty and wealth drive used cars and U.K used phones if they must use a smart phone.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, the poor have their own schools, primary, secondary and Tertiary. Yes, the poor have their own school, and more worrisome is the fact that these schools are all not fully functional. At the primary and secondary school level, there is the rife case of students without teachers. The ratio of students to teachers in most schools is as high as 1:150 or more. The functionality of the education system is also worsened by the fact that nowadays it takes an average of six to seven years to complete a degree in Nigeria. As I write, Nigerian Polytechnics have been on strike for eight months running.
In Nigeria, the poor have their hospitals or no hospitals at all. The health care system has taken a hit as hospitals are often without drugs, or there are not enough doctors. In fact there are hospitals where surgeons carry out operations with table lamps due to frequency of power supply interruption! It is a common case in Nigeria that anytime the death of a rich, former or serving public officer is announced, we are always told they passed away in one hospital in India, United Kingdom, United States, or Germany while the not so fortunate pine away with death and disease in moribund hospitals.
In Nigeria, the poor live in ghettos and rundown shanty towns and most settlements are without any form of social amenities. If you can have ghettos within 20 minutes drive outside the Abuja City centre without roads, electricity, water supply, refuse disposal system-nothing, you can imagine the lot of places like Chibok.
In Nigeria, the children of the poor are the most disadvantaged. The few opportuned to get educational funds find it almost impossible to get jobs; hence they are forced into all manner of menial and illegal ways of making money. This unfortunate state of things helps to recycle poverty among the poor.
In Nigeria, the justice system unapologetically favours the rich. If you are able to “settle” with wads of cash, you are able to walk away free. Poor people are awaiting trial for stealing umbrellas, shoes, and other such ridiculous items. Many go to jail because they couldn’t afford to bribe the judge. Meanwhile, millions of Naira go missing fraudulently daily in top positions. Plots of land are allocated and reallocated to the senators who demand it just because, and life continues.
In Nigeria, it is unfortunate and pathetic to note that the poor, who are at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid, bear the brunt of all the socio-economic and political woes in the polity. When a bomb goes off, the victims are 99.9% poor Nigerians. It is customary to reduce them to statistics; names and pictures of victims are not announced or published. When the rich die in a plane crash or a road accident, the nation mourns, Presidential meetings are cancelled. Let 2,000 Nigerians die or get missing, the business of governance cannot be stopped, they argue.
In Nigeria, the poor is almost hopeless and helpless. The Police Officers who are given the duty to maintain peace and provide security for all have been assigned as private guards and drivers to the very rich and powerful. In the community where I live, there are less than 10 Police Officers to the near 10,000 residents.
In Nigeria, the burden on the poor is getting heavier; the political thing of war that birthed terrorism is making matters worse for the mass of our people. The political class should beware, if the army of the educated unemployed children of the poor in Nigeria come together to revolt, it would be catastrophic, and even terrorists will flee.
Sunday Ogidigbo can be reached via his twitter handle @sundayogidigbo