Chronicles of Anger, Hunger and Frenzy of Happy People

Anthony Kila writes about the growing anger among the citizenry over rising cost of living in Nigeria and the need for government to address the issues at stake.

Dear Readers,

This weekend marks a year since Nigerians went to the polls to vote in the new administration led by President Bola Tinubu and Vice President KashimShettima.

Like most things in Nigeria, the process was very contended, highly divisive, rowdy and very improvable; that is all done now anyway. I am tempted to say I dare anyone to come out to say that they truly suspected, imagined or let alone warned anybody that a year from 25th February 2023, one GBP will be worth over N2000, one US dollar will be worth over N1750, that a litre of petrol will cost over N550 or that a bag of rice will cost over sixty-five thousand Naira in a situation wherein the felt inflation seems way higher than the reported inflation.

If such people exist, they should come forward to receive prizes for their scientific ability to predict government and market or deliverance from witchcraft.

Let us face it, neither the most adherent supporters of the President and his party nor his fiercest opponents can truly say they knew things would be this tough by today.

As with lovers that approach their beloved with passion and hope, those that wish Asiwaju well and are happy with his victory and believe in him, the first reaction is surprise and confusion, then silence, for as hopefuls they are confused and dumbfounded at the harsh way things currently stand.

As with those forced to coexist, there is little time for surprise, the first reaction is anger and a desire to mock, expose and fight.

The reaction of citizens that feel forced to coexist with a leader is very similar to the passengers of a commercial vehicle in Lagos: in times of crisis there is no empathy for the driver or conductor, what erupts is a sense of suspicion, anger and the desire to ensure that the culprit does not get away with an inch.

Of all the difficulties that the country is facing however the most pervasive and uniting is that of hunger. The hunger is due to the inability of people to put food on their tables or just in their plates.

Whilst economist ponder and argue if the inability to get food is caused mainly by scarcity of food that stems from low production or mainly by increase in cost of production and distribution that translates into increase in price, normal citizens are just hungry and angry. The anger that comes with hunger is a very well treated link in popular literature.

For all, let us remember the 17th Century maxim made popular in our times by Bob Marley with his warning that “a hungry man is an angry man”. Also widely known are some effects of hunger like violence, crime, sins and even cannibalism.

What is less discussed is the link between hunger and some non-violent perhaps even non-criminal acts but that are nonetheless acts and pronunciations that are at odds with reality and expectations. Genius or psychotic come to mind.

Hunger or fear of hunger must have been what led some people to believe and try to make others believe that Mohammed UmaruBago, the Governor of Niger state, ordered that food stuff produced in the state should not be allowed to leave the state.

Without hunger in the land, I am assuming that most will quickly see that no Governor can order such in a country with a common currency, national parliament, common law and most importantly wherein States go to the Federal Government to receive money for sustenance. I even heard some normally sane and even informed people propose some kind of retaliatory measures. Signs of the time…

Also worthy of mention is the happy portion of the society that in what appears to be some sort of newly acquired sadomasochistic taste claim to be happy that the country is going through hard times. These are people who with no trace of irony but with palpable sardonic presentation claim to be pleased that people are suffering. Some of the people in this category have gone to the point of saying they want to see more hunger in the land. There is a video making the rounds on social media, it is the video of some happy men with no food but with lots of drinks chanting “Jagaban you’re good for us / Who God has made king / Nobody can take it from them”. To each their own…

In the middle of all these, senior citizens of the country,organised and presented as the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), are threatening to come out naked to show Nigerians how they have gone mad from hunger. Their national President, Godwin Abumisi, used a prepared text to warn the world that Nigerian Senior Citizens are ready to come out naked to the butt to demonstrate their discontent with the state of affairs in general and also their non-inclusion in the minimum wage committee. I am assuming that their protest will be a peaceful one since the NUP President’s only concern seems to be that they might be arrested for coming out hungrily and nakedly.

For the records, the first set of people to shout they are hungry were the people of Lagos who while being arranged by the police in a way that they will not disturb the jolly ride of the President and his visitors with their own existence shouted “we are hungry”.

I am happy to observe that Lagos legislators have requested that members of the executive meet to discuss plans for this season of hunger.

There have also been some people who though adult and with a voice on social media have gone on to question the rising price of locally made products like cat fish and garri, asking if these have anything to do with the dollar and concluding that traders are just evil unpatriotic Nigerians. It is safe to assume that to such people macroeconomics was optional accessory in life until hunger made them think they should have an opinion it. 

Elsewhere, in the north of the country, some people are intercepting trailer loads of food items destined for a neighbouring country. Ordinarily, trailer loads of food items leaving Nigeria would be praised as export, as a source of forex generation and a symbol of much hoped diversification from crude oil dependency and mono export economy, some patriots would even have boasted that Nigeria is feeding other countries.

At times like this however, export is seen as sabotage and even criminal. Hunger is indeed not only bad for the tummy but it is clearly also bad for the mind.

We have also seen normally taciturn traditional and political leaders warning us that this particular hunger might not end well for the president and country.

To this newly found voices, many are quick to respond that these leaders were inaudible during the lacklustre years of the administration led by their fellow northerner. Hunger aside, the responders pointing fingers at those that were mute when things were going bad during the Buhari years should be careful because a full list of hitherto muted voices will include many of those currently in power, starting from our darling President Tinubu.

Join me if you can on twitter @anthonykila to continue these conversations.

-Kila is Institute Director at CIAPS.

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