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Opinion

The world is like Nigeria, a riddle

By Owei Lakemfa

The world is like Nigeria, a riddle

— Owei Lakemfa

Nigeria has built a society where a handful have cornered the wealth of the country and privatised its resources. Where a senator nets N14 million ($38,356) monthly, and the worker on the National Minimum Wage earns N18,000 ($50.57) monthly. The wider world is not too different. In 2017, twenty-six persons owned the equivalent of the entire wealth owned by 3.8 billion persons who are over half of humanity. In 2017, the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $90 billion or $2.5 billion a day.

The oil wealth of Nigeria can ensure that all her children are in standard schools with a meal per day, but ironically, 13.2 million of her children are out of school, and the standard of the schools is largely questionable. A space with 150-200 children huddled together cannot be called a classroom; perhaps it is a rally. Yet, Nigeria is simply part of the world’s statistics which show that 262 million children are out of school.

Most parts of Nigeria in the 1960s to early ’80s had relatively free healthcare; now people die due to lack of affordable healthcare. But so also in the wider world where every day, at least 10,000 die due to lack of access to affordable healthcare.

There is freedom of religion unless you are a minority. So while the coalition of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and their allies are using jets supplied by the United States of America to exterminate Shiites called Houthis in Yemen, the Nigerian government which had on a single day in 2015 killed over 300 Shiites, now routinely guns them down on the streets of Abuja for demanding that the Buhari administration obeys four court orders granting bail to their leader.

Like in Nigeria where all-round violence by terrorists, bandits and state agencies have greatly devalued life, so are some European countries proposing laws that make it a criminal offence for anybody to rescue drowning Africans in the Mediterranean Sea.

When the Bible quoted God in Genesis 1:28 as blessing Adam and Eve (humanity) and telling them: “Go ye and multiply”, He did not say: “Go ye and multiply like pigs.” He trusted us to have the gumption to know we should not breed like rabbits and that the woman is not a mere reproduction machine. Nigeria has had disputed census figures, but that its population has grown quite rapidly, is not in dispute. The 1953 census gave a figure of 30,403,305; eleven years after, it was 54,959,426; in 1991, it was 88,992,202. In 2006, it was 140, 431,790; in 2000, it was 123 million, and 182 million fifteen years later with an estimated 263 million by 2030.

China was 430 million in 1850, 580 million in 1953 and now, over 1.3 billion. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were about 125 million in 1750; 389 million in 1941 and now collectively, about 1.63 billion people. Humanity in the 20th Century increased from 1.5 billion to 6.1 billion and is today, 6,928,198,253.

Nigeria through conflict and violence has witnessed some depopulation beginning with its three-year Civil War from 1967 in which an estimated two million souls were lost. In the last decade, the Boko Haram terrorists have killed over 27,000 with an estimated two million displaced. The herders-farmers conflicts or attacks are now competing in figures with the Boko Haram. In the first six months of 2018, over 1,300 Nigerians were killed and an estimated 300,000 people displaced in this violence. While the conflicts continue, additional souls are being lost to organised kidnapping and banditry.

Similarly, the world is being indirectly de-populated through armed conflicts. In the first half of the 20th Century, about 70 million died in the First and Second World Wars with the latter war claiming 54.4 million lives. While the defunct Soviet Union had the highest fatalities in the Second World War with 26.6 million dead, Poland suffered the highest demography loss with 6,028,000 or 17.2 per cent of its population of 35,100,000, wiped out.

As for the displaced, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in his annual Global Trends Report said the continued crises, especially in Asia and Africa in 2017, raised the number of forced displacements to 68.5 million. Due to mismanagement, especially of its human and natural resources, poverty and hunger have grown so much in Nigeria that it has infamously become the world’s poverty capital with 87 million Nigerians living below $2 a day.

The increases are also reflected universally. The UN reports that side by side with growing wealth is the growing number of hungry. In its “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018”, it reported that as of 2017, 821 million people were hungry and over 150 million children stunted. So, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 is appearing like a mirage. Just as the Nigerian rich is belching at the table and wasting funds on frivolities like Inauguration and Democracy Days, so has the world no business with hunger.

It is not that the world has no surplus food, it is who has the food, how it is priced and the inhuman ideology and logic that throws away food. The United Kingdom’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, IMechE, reported in 2013 that two billion tonnes of food or half of all the food produced in the world never make it on to a plate: it ends up as waste every year. That about half of the food bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.

This trend has not changed. The reasons include commercial considerations, profit maintenance, unnecessarily strict sell-by dates: “Western consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food” “poor engineering and agricultural practices”, poor infrastructure and storage facilities. These are not natural issues, but human decisions which can be changed given a different ideological attitude. The worldly naturally is beautiful and can sustain the entire humanity, the problem is that the rich and powerful insist on taking far more than they need, leaving the rest of humanity with crumbs.

The world, like Nigeria, is a riddle: how can humanity be so rich and yet be so poor; why should the powerful strive for conflict when we can collectively live peaceful lives? The world, like Nigeria, is a bad song with indecent lyrics, a broken drum with the poor beat, dance like the steps of the unstable; a prayer, waiting for an Amen!

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