By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
My German priest friend visited me about sixteen years ago. After his touring experiences to some cities within this country called Nigeria, he made an indelible remark, which was a solid food for thought. I asked him as I was escorting him to the airport: “What have you to say about Nigerians?” He emphatically stated, “Nigerians are suffering but happy.” We laughed over it.
As I was waving at him as he was walking towards the departure apartment at Enugu Airport by then, tears ran down my cheeks as I was smiling and crying. His departing remark sent me into the world of ontology. How can someone be suffering and be happy at the same time? Really it was a difficult homework. That was almost two decades now.
If that my German friend comes back today, what will be his experience and remark? As things stand presently, he will probably say, “Nigerians are hungry and angry”. By the power conferred on me at Baptism and Ordination, I am a true prophet of the Most High God. Prophets are not toothless bull dogs. They speak out against societal evils. The reason why evil perseveres in our nation and society is that good men keep silent.
My people say that the mouth is guilty for not talking while the ear is responsible for not hearing. From all indications nationwide, I put it to you and to everyone that Nigerians are hungry and angry. A hungry man is not different from an angry man. Hunger and anger are identical twins. I travelled wild last week through the breadth and width of this country. Without mincing words, I saw hunger and anger written on the faces of ordinary Nigerians who form majority of the populace. I exclaimed, “What an eye-saw!”
As a practical example, my Hausa friend called me on phone few days ago. He was almost crying. I asked him what was amiss. His weak voice said it all. He shouted on top his failing voice, “Nyua ina kache ni de matana de yara. Doo Allah ka tameke ni!” I am not an expert in writing Hausa language.
I only speak and understand. However the translation of the Hausa jargons I inscribed above is: “Hunger is killing me, my wife and children. Please help me!” There was an outburst of anger in his voice. I replied, “Aboki, ka yi ankuri. Akwai nyua ko ina a cikin Nigeria.” The translation is: “My friend, have patience. There is hunger everywhere in Nigeria.” It is said that the hunger that kills a rich man, buries a poor man alive.
There is a lot of transferred aggression here and there. The other day I was taking a casual walk. Along the way I greeted and cracked a joke with a middle-aged man who was passing by. He raised his eyebrow towards me and shouted, “Idiot! Away with your greeting and joke! I have no time for people like you.”
Hearing this, I did not utter any word as reply to his insulting words. Applying my psychological and philosophical ingenuity, I perceived that the man was hungry and angry. He needed a balanced diet to fill his empty stomach and words of consolation to cool his tensed nerves. But there was an obstacle: Who will bell the cat?
As things stand now, numerous Nigerians are aggressive due to hunger. The most aspect of it is transferred aggression. The other day, a certain housewife returned home from village women’s emergency meeting. She was very hungry. She asked the maid to serve her lunch. The maid who had nothing to cook entered the kitchen and came out with small bottle of water. She offered it to her Mistress. With overwhelming hunger and anger, the Mistress slapped her to the point of confusion.
The maid was filled active dizziness. Confusion blocked her vision. Nevertheless she managed to find the kitchen door. As she was entering into the kitchen, the housedog came wagging its tail towards her. She used her caterpillar shoes to kick the dog mercilessly. The dog cried and roared like a lion. It was at this particular time that the husband of the hungry woman was coming home from his menial job. As usual he called the dog by its name. The dog did not wag its tail as it was writhing in pains.
The unsuspecting husband with smiles started caressing the dog. With all its venom, the dog jumped up and bit off the man’s nose. Blood flowed like river. The hungry and angry wife ignored him in the pool of his blood. Before half an hour, he bled to death. After an hour the hot temper of the wife cooled down. She went to attend to her bruised marital partner.
Unfortunately she found out that he was stone dead. She cried, “Had I known!” What a chain reaction! Hunger gave rise to anger which resulted in transferred aggression. The transferred aggression brought about death. Please let us be careful as we interact with hungry and angry Nigerians in these days.
Indeed the dividends of democracy have eluded us. Thus the monkey is working while the baboon is eating to its satisfaction. In simple man’s definition, democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Unfortunately this definition has become obsolete.
Democracy today is defined as the government of the politicians, by the politicians and for their pockets. If this polluted definition is found wanting, then how do we rationalize the decision of the Presidency to provide each of the Federal Lawmakers with Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) at the cost of two hundred million naira each? The Senators are 108 in number while the House of Representative has 360 honourable members.
Add the two figures and multiply by N200,000,000. What a scandalous sum! How can our elected lawmakers be cruising around in expensive vehicles while members of their constituencies are dying of hunger? The hunger has been combined with acute anger. Thus there is consternation all over the country.
One stupid man in my area of pastoral ministry has a jobless wife and seven children. Four of the children are in higher institutions of learning while three are in senior secondary schools. Before you know it, all of them were driven home for non-payment of school fees. In addition hunger is mesmerizing them at their schools. The stupid father with meager resources lives in Lagos while the jobless wife and children are home bound.
The academic future of the seven children is in serious jeopardy. Apart from that, they are all looking like ghosts due to hunger. One day, as they sat hopelessly with their poor mother at home, there was a horn-blast at the gate. One of the skinny children ran out to open the gate. Behold, it was their father who drove home in a luxurious jeep. When he came down from the vehicle he shouted, “My wife and children, praise the Lord! Rejoice! I am now owner of an ideal vehicle.”
The atmosphere in the compound turned sour. The hungry and angry wife and children started crying to the point that neighbours and passers-by filled the compound as if someone died. In fact the scenario was worse than death. In the presence of the sympathizers the hungry and angry wife and children beat the stupid husband and father to stupor. If not for the intervention of the sympathizers, the stupid man would have been transferred into the department of dead bodies.
In Economics we learned what is called priority of values. The basic necessities come first. If the stomach is empty, then the whole body is in danger of extermination. Nigerians do not need palliatives but good governance. If there is good governance, then the dividends of democracy are assured. The cost of governance in our country is too exorbitant.
But how can there be good governance without free and fair elections? To make an impression, we must go back to the drawing board. Our hunger and anger can never be quenched in the midst of electoral malpractices and selection of leaders. If our votes count, then we can get good leaders at the state and national levels. Only elected good leaders can provide the dividends of democracy for the teaming hungry and angry citizens.
The Holy Book says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people mourn” (Proverb 29:2). Are Nigerians rejoicing or mourning now? The answer is obvious. Until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must chew with caution. May God come to our aid!