When a woman is hungry

Casmir Igbokwe

Ms Esther Odozi reportedly lay half-naked on the premises of Ikeja Magistrates’ Court last Monday. She was shouting, “Hunger! Hunger! Government must do something today. I have not received anything from the plenty crude oil money government is spending in our state. Nigerians are wicked.”

This 21-year-old mother left her five children in Agbor Owanta, Delta State, to look for fortunes in Lagos. What she got instead were misfortunes. As she rolled on the ground with her bare breasts, she told curious passersby that she would not leave the area until Governor Tunde Fashola of Lagos State gave her N200, 000 to start business of garri and melon.

I’m not sure if Fashola eventually attended to the woman. What is certain, though, is that the country is drifting. There is hunger in the land; and there is anger as well. Many able-bodied youths roam the streets without jobs, without future. Danger is lurking all around us. The legendary musician, Sonny Okosun, in his song, Which Way Nigeria, regretted that we still found it hard to start after many years of our independence. He asked, “How long shall we be patient before we reach the Promised Land?”

I have been asking a senior colleague and Managing Editor of Hallmark Newspaper, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, the same question. Almost on a daily basis, we ruminate over the problems of Nigeria. We wonder why we have remained backward in spite of petro-dollars, in spite of the human and natural resources God has blessed this country with.

For me, the rain started beating us from the top. An Igbo adage says when a man on top of a palm tree pollutes the air, the flies get confused. Our so-called leaders from the local to the central government have fouled the air, and Nigerians are confused.

The economy is in a shambles. Despite the assurances being given about macro- economic gains by the managers of the economy, the reality is that over 70 per cent of Nigerians live from hand to mouth. There is no serious attempt to diversify the economy. The tragedy is that industrialised nations are looking for ways of doing away with oil, which is the mainstay of our economy. In some western countries like the United States, there are many electric cars and buses now plying the roads.

We are not an industrialised nation but God gave us arable land and clement weather. We have failed to utilise this nature’s gift to our advantage. We no longer reckon with agriculture which sustained us before and soon after independence. Almost everybody wants oil money.

The quest for this money has made our politics a very dangerous one. People know that the easiest way to make money is to be in government. That is why even when the nation is burning, all that matters to most of our politicians these days are 2015 elections. That is why the leader of the  defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force, Mujahid Asari Dokubo, and Co. will threaten that as far as 2015 presidential election is concerned, no Goodluck Jonathan, no Nigeria! And that explains why corruption has thrived and continues to thrive in Nigeria.

Those who cannot easily steal from the national coffers engage in other forms of crimes to get back at the society. Today in Nigeria, armed robbery has a cousin called kidnapping. Together, these twin evils have combined to bring fear into the homes of many Nigerians.         

Besides, unemployed youths have formed street gangs in many parts of the country. Some have become willing tools in the hands of terrorists who promise them paradise when they kill innocent people in churches or die in suicide bombing of other public places.

The women who don’t have the heart to go into kidnapping or suicide bombing profession end up as prostitutes, strip dancers and child traffickers. In Abia, Imo and some other states, there are baby factories where girls get paid to have babies for their proprietors. Some of them masquerade as motherless babies home, but all they do is to trade in babies.

Many Nigerians are wondering why Nigeria is not part of the itinerary of President Barack Obama of the US who is visiting Africa again. He had similarly visited our neighbour, Ghana, a few years back and also ignored our country. The fact is that you cannot force people to respect you. Respect is earned, and as far as the US is concerned, we have not earned the respect of President Obama.

The time has come to save Nigeria so the country will not die. Happily, President Jonathan just woke up to the reality of the threat posed to this country by the Boko Haram Islamist sect. The state of emergency imposed on the three Northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa appears to be working as the terrorists are in disarray at the moment.    

That’s what leadership is all about – taking the bull by the horns and frontally facing whatever problems the country is confronted with. Nigerians expect the leadership of the country at all levels to declare a state of emergency in education, health, economy, corruption and poverty.

If care is not taken, Odozi may not just be the only half-naked woman to confront us; soon millions of others may march to the seat of power in different states totally naked. The sight may not be as pleasant as some men are already imagining.

First published in Hallmark on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

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