Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Hunger as the Official Weapon of 2015 Polls

Nigerians are hungry – very hungry. And angry, very angry! But they are even hungrier than they are angry. And, as you probably know, if you have ever been hungry, the pain in the pit of the belly rubbishes anger. No matter how angry or sentimental one gets, hunger obliterates other emotions. And, across the centuries, it has proven to be an effective tool, weapon and strategy for many causes. It has been used in warfare to change the tide of battles.

In Nazi German, it came in handy as prisoners easily break down in the face of starvation. It was the ultimate punishment back then. I once overheard a certain politician say "don't worry, he would run back here after hunger catches up with him." He was referring to a party supporter who left for another party. Hunger can convert a devotee, turn a tough guy into jelly and make a politically sagacious fellow look stupid.

Hunger can colour an opinion, make a good man do terrible things and separate chief friends. And no two people have the same cravings. For some, it is the hunger and thirst for knowledge, information, shelter, fame and more wealth. Others hunger for revenge and relevance. But for folks subsisting below N200 a day, this hunger is for mere food – good old solid food that fills a killing, blinding hunger.

Take the power of a bag of rice, for instance, it can do what a well worded manifesto can't ever do! It can do what a good programme for the people can’t do. It can instigate an otherwise good man to sell his conscience for a morsel – Esau and the pot of pottage style. The things a bag of rice can do!
As the battle for the souls of the constituencies picks steam, politicians know that their money would do the talking and do the magic. Money – that ever elusive acquisition – is a game changer in any political equation. And the money show would soon begin but first, the stage has to be properly set. The hunger in the land has to be deepened, expanded and made more potent. That is why a systematic pauperisation of Nigerians is ongoing.

The project is to get us to a place where we would have no legs, let alone shoes. People are being crippled daily as they struggle to survive. While the unemployment figure rises, those employed are either owed salaries or kept on a living wage that barely keeps them alive. It is the era of poverty. I get calls from folks begging for money – folks who ordinarily have no business begging. And I weep daily.
It is heartbreaking but people are being forced to abandon principles, pride and their self esteem to beg. And if you think the big cities are still enjoying the good life and that I'm exaggerating, please visit the countryside. Go to your village and see the rampaging power of poverty at work. And if the comparatively richer southern states are having fun, come up to our poor North and go round some of our poorer states here.

Go to my state, Taraba, for instance, and see how poverty now struts the streets like a prized fighter. Don't just sit in Lagos and Abuja and think the world is a sweet place. Travel to the hinterlands and see why the market for votes would be robust next year. Don't be deceived. No one wants to eradicate any poverty because of its strategic importance next year. Forget the grand talk about poverty alleviation. And SURE-P, for all you know, could mean "Sure Poverty".

The scheme is useless in the face of the mounting wretchedness in the land. What the SURE-P fund is doing in many states is to assure a few of more millions and pauperise the majority. It sure did some magic but I can tell you assuredly that it only made the rich richer. In some states, the fund often gets stashed somewhere waiting for the Election Year as incumbents rev up to retain their seat or head to the Senate.

Elsewhere too, politicians are stacking up war arsenals from their sources. If he's a civil servant, then it is from the ministry's coffer. If he is a business man, then more dirty deals for fast cash has to be contrived. And it is not gun they are buying. No one needs a gun in 2015. The weapon for the coming Armageddon is cash – clean, crisply minted cash – in dollars, Euros and naira waiting to be let loose.
Get ready for the money shower. You don't need an umbrella for this downpour. And although Nigeria goes cashless from next month as announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), expect an ocean flow of cash. It is somewhere, like a secret virus, waiting to spread. I've met a number of politicians who have boasted of their stash.

One told me there is close to N20billion naira to wage the war of governorship poll. Another one tells all and sundry that some 10billion is cooling off – ready to be unleashed on the same project. May be they are only saying this to look affluent but don't ignore their confession. There are hidden monies everywhere like IED's ready to explode soon. It is not in vain that monies are currently getting missing from even pension funds.

The sad thing is that many good people would just be too willing to be bought with these tainted monies. I know a fellow who outright tells me he is in the market to be bought. He would only follow the highest bidder. I asked him if a good manifesto, a beautiful action plan and a clean reputation on the part of the candidate is not important. He looked at me and said "Emma, leave that thing.

There's too much hunger right now and we can't afford to pretend to be interested in anything else other than survival!" Hunger at work!
I know delegates getting prepared to sell. There are thugs waiting to be paid. Electoral officers are salivating too: it's market time again.

Journalists are strategising for the windfall. Some overnight publishers are perfecting their games and business plans. Security agencies and their staff are also patiently waiting. Then of course printers who would do all the posters and souvenirs.
A certain man has even imported new printing machines and has expanded the store. Two thousand and fifteen would be the biggest trade fair in town and no one wants to be left behind.

And therein lays the tragedy for us, fellow countrymen and women. We have been clobbered to submission by our oppressors. We have been cheapened by our need for sustenance. We have been frustrated to the point of looking past the integrity of the men who want our votes. All we say now is "just bring the money". Back in the villages, I hear the locals asking as they survey the list of aspirants: "Does he have money?" Hunger at work!

A certain delegate in the next election told me that of all the aspirants in a certain elective position, one guy appeals to him more. "But," he said, “The guy has no money. I like his ideas, his dreams for a better tomorrow, I even like fact that he represents something fresh but I've been bought. And I know this guy does not have the money or even the mind to buy me back!" Hunger at work!
But I'm sure there would be a few who would not sell out. Who would look hunger in the eyes and still maintain honor, dignity and self pride. Those who would look at the oppressor in the eyes and say: "I'm not for sale!" Conscience at work!

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