The living conditions of Nigerians, especially the less-priviledged, have now become a source of concern for everyone, including the few priviledged individuals in the country.
Expectedly, many people and organisations, local and foreign, are taking their turn to lament the situation and proffer solutions. This week, President Muhammadu Buhari took his turn to talk about the disturbing situation.
Tellingly, the president chose a special time in the Muslims month of Ramadhan fast when the Islam faithful are expected to show empathy and kindness and generosity to one another and their Christian counterparts to speak on the aggravating matter.
The president, who spoke when he hosted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ministers, service chiefs and heads of security and top government to a breaking of the Ramadhan fast at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said he is upset by the poor living condition of Nigerians, especially the less-privileged in the society.
The Ramadhan is a holy month during which the Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and lead a life of self-denial, sacrifice and abstinence.
“When I drive around the country what upset me very much is the status of our poor people in this country – you see young people, the so-called almajiris with tore dresses, with plastic bowl,” the president said. “They are looking basically for what to eat. The question of education (to them) is a luxury.”
No doubt, Nigerians did not just wake into living in poor conditions, and certainly, it is not a thing of choice for the young almajiri boys to hobble in the streets looking for food either. Some people caused living conditions to deteriorate and made it possible, probably necessary, for parents to let their children wander in streets.
Who are they? Speaking like he always does, the president seems to give the best and, maybe, the only answer when he said: “I think Nigerian elite are all failing because, I think, we should have a programme that will, at least, guarantee some basic education for our people, no matter how poor they are.”
Even without the president saying so, we all know that members of the elite class are guilty and corruption is the principal reason for their guilt. For too long and for unjust reasons, the elite have engaged in the habit of corruptly enriching themselves with resources meant for the development of the state, people and infrastructure.
On the other hand, masses are left to wallow in poverty, disease and squalor. Even more regrettable, parents are made unable to fend for their children and themselves. Thus, the fact that almajirai litter the streets in our major cities is of little or no wonder and a consequence of our leaders’ actions.
Happily, the almajirai menace, if the authorities want it to be so, can be easily and squarely addressed. Let the authorities at all levels shun corruption, show concern and patriotism and, above all, possess political will to make elementary education free and compulsory and almajirai can be put off the streets.
Though an elite himself, the president was right to frown at the inability of his guilty and less forthright elite to address the welfare and educational needs of the less-privileged in the society in order to ameliorate the pathetic conditions of Nigerians.
Agreed, the Buhari-led administration has introduced people-friendly programmes like the school feeding and trader money to alleviate the hardship facing the less-privileged. However, to truly and meaningfully fight and win battles against illiteracy and poverty, the government should initiate and pursue policies and programmes that will empower the country’s poor economically and politically, raise their level of political awareness and consciousness and, thus, enable them to mobilise themselves to resist manipulations by corrupt public office holders.
In the meantime, it is heartwarming that the rate of enrolment into schools has improved because children now get good meal a day.
Ideally, we should be merciful to one another and show concern on what happens to others, especially in this holy month of Ramadhan. And, like Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said, we should remind ourselves of our responsibilities to God and our brothers in order to build a humane, responsive and responsible nation.
More than any other year, it is important for Muslims to spend the fasting period in deep and sober reflection not only on their relationship with the Creator but on how to live and relate with each other peacefully, and how this relationship affects the country and its future.
This is because the country has recently had more than its own share of religious and communal conflicts, kidnappings and other criminal activities. These conflicts have resulted in the death of many people and destruction of property worth billions of naira.
If, in all this however, the ordinary Nigerian is to be blamed, it can only be because of his joblessness, poverty, illiteracy and, consequently, economic and political powerlessness – all of which are not his own making but which have all helped to make him a ready tool for use by corrupt officials and religious bigots in pursuit of their selfish interests.
The Nigerian masses have never been averse to living together and have, in fact, always lived together and in peace, no matter the differences in their ethnic origins or faiths. In other words, we have poverty, illiteracy and conflicts not because of the differences among us, but because these differences are being exploited and manipulated in a way that sets people against each other.
Hence, a period like the fasting offers great opportunity to rethink our ways and re-trace our steps. Obviously, the best panacea against disharmony and wasteful conflicts is to always practice the lessons that we have learned during the period of Ramadhan which include patience, perseverance, love and respect for one another.
We cannot afford to be bogged down or diverted by unnecessary misunderstandings, conflicts, shedding of blood and destruction of property which will ultimately leave the country disunited.
Thus, all those who have contributed to the conflicts and underdevelopment of the country and its people should change their ways and turn a new leaf in line with the spirit and lessons of the Ramadhan.
Downplaying May 2019 presidential inauguration
Determined to downplay the significance of the Democracy Day, the federal government said this week that President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration for second term of office billed to hold on May 29, 2019, would be a low-key event.
This development was made known to the public by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed.
“Since the first observance of June 12 as Democracy Day falls into an election year, and as a measure to sustain June 12 as Democracy Day,” the minister said, “celebration of the inauguration and the advancement of democracy in the country will now take place on June 12. The country can ill-afford two major celebrations within a two-week interval.”
According to the minister, many of the activities scheduled to take place on the inauguration day will now to take place, instead, on June 12, the day now christened as Democracy Day. President Muhammadu Buhadu has made a proclamation last year abrogating May 29 as the nation’s Democracy Day.
June 12, 1993, was the day Nigeria was believed to have held what was considered its freest and credible presidential election. Unfortunately, the election, widely believed to have been won by the late M. K. Abiola, was annulled by the then military regime headed by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB).
Crucially, invitations have been sent to all world leaders to attend Democracy Day ceremonies which will now be marked on June 12.
Until then, the best people can do for the president and Nigeria is prayer for the success and development as the country marches unto the next level.
However, while the decision to make the May 29 event low-key can hardly be faulted, especially if viewed against the backdrop of the economic difficulty the country is going through, there are few reasons to believe that the country’s leaders, with the exception of the president and few others, are ready to bid farewell to corruption that’s considered the bane of our nation’s development.
No doubt, the situation will make better sense if the president’s low-key inauguration is accompanied by commitment from leaders at all levels to shun corruption and practice good governance, all with the hope of making life better and meaningful for Nigerians.