In Warri Language, pidgin English, there is a saying that goes “When mighty wind blow, tolotolo yansh go open”. It means that when a strong wind blows, the ass of a turkey will be exposed. It describes a situation when unexpected and unplanned situations expose private secrets or dirt usually covered beneath beautiful feathers.
When you hear figures like GDP and Per Capita income, it usually is not a true reflection of the economic situation at the Base of the Pyramid where the poor reside. The percentage of those who generate the wealth in developed societies is quite small; it is just that they generate so much wealth that when the total wealth generated is divided by the total population, a higher figure is obtained for nations like the United States, Japan, UK, Switzerland, etc. However, in these nations, there are the “wretched of the earth” who do not feel the impact of the GDP figures. The wealth does not usually percolate to the bottom.
In the United States of America, the evil effects of slavery and racism still weigh heavily on poor people. The income disparity and access to opportunities for indegenious African Americans is unnecessarily wide for a democratic society.
When you watch mainstream television, you hardly see some of the visuals you will see in this post. There are places in the United States of America that look like slums in Africa.
I had some American missionaries who came visiting in Nigeria. I noticed that they don’t take pictures of places like Word of Life Church building or Canaan Land, but they preferred pictures of naked children or slums. I came to realise that such pictures generate sympathy and missionary funds for them. COVID-I9 infection and deaths was disproportionately higher among African Americans. The News Stations did not show you the living conditions of these people. In this post you will see some of the living conditions of poor African Americans.
The rich get a disproportionately higher income, and you can’t blame them. They or their fathers or ancestors maximised the surplus labour of their workers, and the way life is, they must get a disproportionately higher income and maybe lower percentage taxes.
Such nations like the United States of America spend a disproportionately higher part of their GDP on the instruments of warfare and aggression. The wars in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan have consumed so many lives and taxpayers’ money that one wonders what the United States of America stands to really gain.
A lot of the wars the United States of America has gotten involved in, are very unnecessary in the real sense of it. The only beneficiaries are the military industrial complex. Apart from the palliatives that the elite are donating today, what attempts would be made to permanently change the lives and rights of Latinos and African Americans?
I have done a casual analysis of the donations by the elite; they are for healthcare workers and institutions; they will hardly affect the future of the wretched of the earth in the United States of America. What most people do not realise is that these donations are tax deductible. The donations will be deducted from the taxes of the rich. I really appreciate their goodwill, but the truth of the matter is that the situation of the poor will not change. It might even get worse after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the underdeveloped countries, the case is of a different coloration, but the problem remains the same. Many African nations export raw materials. The tragedy, however, is that the income from these raw materials are budgeted and cornered mostly by the elite.
The Deputy Senate President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege initiated the distribution of 5,000 Naira to the most vulnerable of the society in the Delta central senatorial district. This is a very laudable approach, but I was shocked to see the terrible visuals of extreme hardship, deprivation, neglect, and poverty in my senatorial district. This is a region known for oil production and with several oil wells. I did not imagine there was so much poverty in Urhobo Land despite the huge sums of money allocated to Delta State from the Federal Government.
During the time of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian economy was said to have been at about 8%; that growth rate did not percolate to the poor. New millionaires have emerged in the Niger Delta from dirty oil money, but the lot of the poor in this oil rich region has not been affected, either in terms of infrastructural development or standards of living.
Beyond the skyscrapers in Lagos, I saw a lot of poverty and hunger in several of the suburbs of Lagos. There were slums and shanties where those at the Base of the Pyramid lived in hunger and insecurity. The One Million Boys gang never dared to write letters to the rich in the elite housing estates of Magodo, Victoria Garden City, or Lekki areas. It is not the city or nation you live in that matters, it is what level of the social strata you belong to.
Behind the beauty and skyscrapers of Johannesburg, coronavirus revealed an ugly side of extreme poverty and lack among the black population of this ‘rich’ and beautiful nation. I was shocked to see the poor line up for palliatives in some churches who offered to give to the hungry.
In Japan, I was alarmed to learn that people sleep inside cubicles in internet cafes.
The skyscrapers do not reflect the reality of nations and cities. There are so many poor, neglected, and forgotten poor who hide behind the skyscrapers.
The big cathedrals don’t also speak the whole truth; there are several poor people that the church deliberately have to look for and lift out of poverty and give a sustainable future.
One of the lessons I learnt from COVID-19 is that things are not the way they seem. There is a lot swept under the table. Poverty and social injustice is a universal pandemic; the rate of affectation might vary, but we must, after all the social distancing, deliberately practice social justice and social inclusion.
The Skyscrapers Don’t Always Mean What They Stand For.
The elite, in Third World nations like Nigeria, corner a disproportionately large percentage of the national wealth without any corresponding effect on the people they claim to represent. Northern Nigeria has had a disproportionately higher number of presidents and rulers from the independence of Nigeria till date. In fact, in this present administration, there has been a deliberate attempt to give very juicy appointments to the cronies of the president. When you hear the average northern elite speak about their right to power, you will imagine they have the interest and the development of their people in mind. Far from it. It is only their personal interests and those of their families they have in mind.
Read previous Lessons From COVID-19 here.
The recent Almajiri Crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and the “unexplained mysterious deaths” in the north, has exposed the level of poverty, illiteracy, underdevelopment, and deception in the north.
When I saw how young northerners were hiding among cows, tomatoes, salt, and cement to flee to the southern part of Nigeria, I wondered what the average poor in Northern Nigeria has benefited from the several years of leadership and elite capture by their elite, just like other parts of Nigeria.
The Almajiris were being deported to their states of origin. Islam and being from the northern part of Nigeria was no longer important. Nobody wanted to accept the burden of the poor and vulnerable. Visuals from protesting COVID-19 ‘patients’ in isolation centres in some states in the north showed that the elite don’t really care about the poor. They only care about themselves. If the clamour for power by the elites from the different confederating units of Nigeria does not translate to the upliftment of their people, then it is the greatest social injustice and fraud.
When I hear Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigerian (MACBAN) and some northern elite talk about going to war at the slightest provocation, I see the greatest form of deception and social fraud. How many of the children of MACBAN leaders have their children in the bush? They are all schooling overseas.
How many children of the elite died during the 1966-1970 Civil War from the Northern part of Nigeria? Very few. How many of the children of the elite in the army, or outside the army, have died from the Boko Haram crisis? Very few. How many of the children of the elite from both North and South of Nigeria are in roadblocks or escorting rich men and money? None.
Always remember what Andrew Cuomo said, “The poorest always pay the greatest price in any crisis situation”.
Behind every social or human skyscraper there is the poor paying the greatest price.
The elite have always been in power and decision-making. They have been the politicians. According to David Easton, politics is about authoritative allocation of resources. Harrold Lasswel defined politics as “Who gets what, when, and how much”. After COVID-19, politics should include how much gets to the wretched of the earth behind our skyscrapers. The next pandemic might start with them, and make the skyscrapers uncomfortable. Politics is about the people, not only for their votes but for their welfare and elevation.
God Bless You.