Kadaria Ahmed, the TV host and journalist you’d remember from interviewing former presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, with such impressively sterile air of non-partisanship, tweeted on Thursday that living within your means shouldn’t be equated as anti-wealth, also adding that we have ”developed appetites that do not support our productivity.” Sure, this caused a furor on Twitter: most Nigerians weren’t happy with the statement and found it patronizing.
So don’t know how we started equating a call for people to live within their means to being anti wealth. The hard truth is we have developed appetites that are not supported by our productivity. So what we need to do is recalibrate so our work supports our wants.
— Kadaria Ahmed (@KadariaAhmed) March 7, 2019
If you want to call me out, do it with your chest and let’s expose the hypocritical narrative you are trying to push. You can’t ask us to accept the poverty-ridden outcome of economic mismanagement as “living within our means.” We will ALWAYS want more. We can’t all be almajiris! https://t.co/fzyQ7owXOZ
— David Hundeyin (@DavidHundeyin) March 7, 2019
But instead of economic development and reducing poverty they’re trying to ram “live on your means” down our throats daily.
Majority of Nigerians, including educated but unpaid government workers and folks living in ABJECT POVERTY don’t have any means to live on to start with. https://t.co/jsD2fYtuM8
— Dr. Dípò | The Career🔌 (@OgbeniDipo) March 7, 2019
”Live within your means” is not even Kadaria’s original idea; it had entered our current political conversation during President Buhari’s campaign drive last month, when the handlers of his Twitter account tweeted that he is aware that Nigerians want to live comfortable lives, but it’s only realistic that we work hard and live within what we can afford. Then, my first reaction was feeling again the indignation at a ruling political class being so out of touch with reality, even though statistics are continually painting a bleak picture of Nigeria’s critical dysfunction.
”Live within your means,” as I have observed, is now a political dog whistle for the further entrenchment of poverty, income inequality and capitalism. It is so simplistic that it blatantly ignores the fact that Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, taking over from India, and that you can have a job, have a house, drive a car and still be poor. As of 2018, 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, according to World Poverty Clock. The average Nigerian has no quality of life.
As if the problem of financial inequality isn’t bad enough, Nigeria is one of the countries in the world doing the least to tackle it, according to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRI), conducted by the Development Finance International and Oxfam. The near-obliteration of the Nigerian middle class has further widened the gulf between the rich and the poor, and this was perfectly exemplified when Aliko Dangote moved up 39 spots from his previous 103rd position to emerge as world’s 64th richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. One of the richest men in the world coming from the poverty capital of the world? I have to laugh.
Anyone can develop ”appetites” that doesn’t support their productivity. But the Nigerian political hierarchy is peculiarly anti-people, wherein politicians travel out for medical check-ups while the healthcare system continues to decay, there’s the nonchalance towards increasing the minimum wage, tertiary education crippled by strikes, and power supply is still epileptic. The problem with Kadaria’s tweet is that it is entry-level gaslighting, distorting reality in such a way that it puts the onus on Nigerians to get themselves out politically-induced poverty, and never holding thieving politicians accountable.
In the era of stomach infrastructure, and as we have seen in this current election season, politicians running for office have weaponised poverty by sharing bags of rice and groceries, with the objective to buy votes. To these politicians and ruling elites, to be poor in Nigeria is a valuable status they need to maintain and preserve, exploiting it for their own political gain over and over again while they live on stolen, looted funds.
Kadaria’s statement might have been widely accepted if Nigerians weren’t vastly poor. Kadaria, who is privileged, didn’t take into consideration the optics of saying we should ”recalibrate” so that our work supports our wants. How about those without a job? According to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate increased to 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 percent in the second quarter of 2018. Surely, this is likely to increase this year, as the government doesn’t seem to have a clue how to solve this potentially disastrous problem. With President Buhari elected to pilot the affairs of the country for a second democratic time, it doesn’t particularly inspire confidence.
The demographic worst hit by our government’s incompetence are women on every level. They are the ones who really bear the brunt of poverty, whose children are born at home because they cannot afford the 1000 naira it would take them to travel to a hospital to have their babies. So for Kadaria Ahmed and Juliet Kego and all these privileged women to virtue signal on social media is disappointing to say the very least.