Poverty is ravaging the Nigerian nation, according to the national bureau of statistics (NBS). In their 2011 survey, it was reported that about 70% of Nigerian were living in poverty, whose benchmark is $2 (N360) per day. Over 100 million people were thus said to be living in poverty, out of an estimated population of 160 million people.
This is an alarming situation for any country to be in and taken in context, portends very grave danger for the stability and security of the nation. However, above and beyond the intellectual dimensions and definitions of poverty, are the stark realities that confront the poor.
Among the indignities faced by the poor in their quest for survival is the lack of choice. Poverty robs a man of being able to look for other alternatives, as their situation constrains to make do with whatever is on offer. No matter how debasing and undignifying it may be, you are forced to do it.
It kills aspirations and ambitions. It makes it difficult to aspire to bigger and better things in life. A man who has had nothing to eat all day thinks only of the stomach and other such basic necessities. Dreams and ambitions are mere flights of fantasy and more of an escape from reality than anything else.
They have no voice and are seen as unreasonable in the comity of men. No matter the vision you carry, you lack the respect of your fellow man, because you are seen as a failure. There is also an inability to take advantage of opportunities when they occur, as the resources to do so is lacking. This keeps such persons trapped in poverty and they only wish and wish.
Stigmatization is the order of the day. The poor are more likely to be accused when something goes missing, most likely to beaten, unjustly go to prison or extra-judicially killed. No safety nets exist for such members of the society and before one can say Jack Robinson, they are rounded up and deported from the streets of Lagos and any other Nigerian city for that matter. They are less Nigerian than the rest of us.
The environments in which they live is appalling, living in the slums and ghettos, were destitution and crime are a normal way of life; moving around with bowed heads, afraid to look others in the eye or walk with the dignity befitting a human being.
These and many more indignities are the daily experience of the poor in our society, a society where some steal billions and go scot-free while others are sentenced to forty years in jail for stealing mobile phones. We spare no thoughts for them and most of the time, join in their exploitation and dehumanization.
In truth, we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The day it will erupt (and it surely will as long as these conditions persists) will be nothing short of catastrophic for this nation. And the signs are already there for the discerning, manifestations of the frustrations and anger festering in the minds of millions of hapless and helpless persons. But as Asa says in her beautiful and poetic song, ‘there’s fire on the mountain and no one is running. One day the river will overflow and there’ll be no where for us to go, and we will run, wishing we had put out the fire’.
Nigerians of goodwill must act now.We must realize that poverty anywhere is a threat everywhere.
Piece written by Oke Okpomo
Okpomoy2k@yahoo.com Follow him on twitter@kpomskerio