“Belle” politics and the economics of poverty


I once promised to do a post about why Governors like Fayose and co would always govern poor people. This piece which is thankfully co-authored by a friend cum writer is the answer to that question. We should start with the situation of the poor as we currently have it now in Nigeria.

What does it mean to live for less than $1 a day?

A lot of times we do not think deep about this standard. We assume that the bike man who supposedly graduated from a tertiary institution and picked up the trade belongs to that category of people who we categorize as poor. We assume that the road side mechanic who always wears the same dirty rag day in day out is a part of that standard and it is at that moment that we start to justify relative poverty and say a miracle would happen one day. These people exemplified above may be poor by living conditions, but they do not fall within the category of those who live less than one dollar a day. Absolute Poverty is no myth!

People who have no need for transportation because they have what we call legs if at all they choose to migrate, those whose source of food come directly from the ground up and have to till the ground and weed it and after harvest prepare such with firewood, those whose source of water is not tap water but wells and streams and rain, these are freely given, those whose children have to go begging as a trade so they could secure the next meal and the one after and the one after, those who consider a change of clothes daily as unnecessary as long as it serves the function it is meant to serve; cover their naked flesh, these people have no need of a dollar a day. They live nevertheless and even though they have no reason to live or no goal attached to their lives, they exist.

Now think again of that statistic that says 70.8% of the Nigerian population live less than $1 a day.

With this situation I have described, you would think there would be a moral obligation of the elite class to assist in whatever way they can to at least reduce this scourge of poverty, especially the political class. You would have been wrong. In Fact, the elite class, more especially the political class needs that kind of environment to thrive and remain as such. Life in this part of the world is a zero-sum game. The economists who said that human wants are endless and insatiable stopped short of the explanation of why that is so.

The man is made up of the body, the mind and the spirit according to the tripartite theory of man. Some dualists hold that the body is made of only the body and the mind. Before man can therefore be satisfied with his wants, he has to satisfy both the body and the mind. The spirit can only be satisfied when it reaches the spiritual realm. There is a little you have to do to satisfy the body. Even the richest man on the face of the planet will still require a reasonable standard to satisfy his body. The mind however is so immense that it requires a lot.

One of the many things you have to consider is a man’s ego. The accumulation of wealth beyond measure is usually in an attempt to satisfy this ego. The luxuries and the exclusiveness of being elite, the feeling that is gotten from being called a philanthropist or a grass root politician who loves the masses and mixes with them, the feeling of giving to the needy not necessarily because the needy needs but because of the praises of “tuale, sai baba, chairman and co are the only means of satisfying the ego.

Without the poor, there is a difficulty in identifying how else to rub one’s ego.

That superiority complex is gotten only because another is inferior and a recognition is accorded to the man who is superior whether it is when he passes by and doles out cash or whether it is eating roasted corn in the market with a camera man standing by or whether it is walking in the market in an art of solidarity also in front of the market or providing food during Ramadan to a multitude of people who have always been hungry before Ramadan, and in any case, will remain hungry thereafter, or giving money to primary school children and having the camera man take some shots. The poor are a part of our society and unfortunately for them a vital part in making our society what it is and as such might have to remain in that state to play their role.

There are lots of pictures that reiterate this notion. You just have to look beyond the pixels.

Now one would think that it is appropriate for the poor or those who Frantz Fanon called “The wretcheds of the earth” to take their lives a bit seriously and fashion-out a way to get out of their deplorable situation and be at at per with their overlords, unfortunately, this does not come naturally, not to a lot which have been held in such captivity for long and have thus resigned to fate. And we should note that it is not in the interest of all elites for this situation to linger for they realise that there shall come a time when the poor will really have nothing to eat except the rich, and they do not want to be part of this imminent calamity. But sadly, a lot of these quiet elites do not participate in the affairs of state to such levels as would make them effective widely and for long. So society is largely left to the machination of opportunists.

Hence, to break this vicious circle, we need to engage society from a holistic perspective to cater for the political awareness of the vast majority where they can learn to know what exactly to expect from political leadership towards the development of their persons. Then all society can be synergized to build a formidable economic strength.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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