by Tunji Adegboyega
Whatever our rich do, the poor protest: From generators to private aircraft. Now, it is bullet-proof vehicles. What is it?
I used to think it is only our students that do not rest, be they of the UI of Ibadan, or UI of Lagos, or UI of Ife, Kano or what have you! But no! Our rich too cannot rest. No thanks to our over-pampered but unappreciative hoi polloi a.k.a. the poor masses. In fact, I am beginning to think that our common man is suffering from the Pull Him Down (PHD) or Be As I Am (BAIA) syndrome. The other day, it was about Nigeria being one of the highest importers of generators. Sometime ago, the story changed to our being the country with the highest number of private jets. Just a few weeks back, the poor (as in the poor masses) in the country were angry when it was reported that we were number two in champagne consumption, worldwide. I had to passionately appeal to our President that he should not worry about that disappointing report card; I assured him that our country, in its characteristic fashion, will soon elbow out France, the leading consumer of champagne, so we can get our rightful title in the comity of champagne drunkards. Sure, something must have gone wrong somewhere to put us in the second position. In all these, and in their characteristic soft-heartedness, our rich never lifted a finger. Mum has been the word from them.
So, what is the bile this time around? They say Nigeria is the largest importer of bullet-proof cars! How is that a problem, except to the poor? Isn’t this a sign of good living? This was a position hitherto enjoyed by Iraq, Afghanistan and Latin American countries. Isn’t it cheery that money is not the problem of our rich but how to spend it? Isn’t it good enough news that we could import this number of armoured vehicles even when we are not in a war situation? And, what, in concrete terms does this boil down to?
They say in the last few years, about 800 to 900 (only) armoured vehicles have been imported into the country at a cost of about N60billion. Isn’t this chicken change to a major oil-producing country like Nigeria? Apparently one of our great musicians who sang years back that he was only poor; he was not crazy did not know that there is hardly any difference between both. Is it not better for one bullet-proof car to absorb the bullets that some 200 poor people could have been hired to absorb in the course of protecting our rich if our rich are not the considerate and godly type? All the rich have to do is replace the hapless poor with another batch once one batch has been exterminated. You see, a ngba adiye lowo iku, o ni won o je ki oun lo si akitan lo je (whereas we are preventing the chick from death, it is angry that it is not allowed to go looking for food on the dunghill).
Honestly, I am beginning to lose my temper. And, if I can feel this bad about these unsavoury developments, I can imagine what could be going on in the minds of our big people. I wonder when the poor will ever allow our rich a breather. These are the same rich people that allow our poor, alternatives to whatever they (the rich), enjoy.
When the rich take tea, the poor take pap. Even the poor acknowledge that both of them are drinking hot water. When the rich travel abroad for medical care, the poor also travel to the village for home-grown solutions to some of their chronic medical challenges. Our poor people have access to Egbesu Boys, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for their security when the rich go for police escorts and expensive body guards. When our rich fly in their private jets, the poor also travel in Keke Marwa, Okada, Molue, Danfo and all. In all these, how many times have we seen the rich giving themselves headache trying to find out how much per annum, the poor spend on pap, or OPC, or Keke Marwa, etc.? As far as the rich are concerned, they are satisfied classifying all these activities of the poor as informal sector of the economy which they cannot lose sleep over. The rich simply don’t care even though many of us believe that there is a lot of money in this informal sector.
The point is that our common man does not seem to know that people who are mute when pilloried as we are pillorying our rich are the most dangerous. Remember the tale of the man who took the duckling. He had to quickly return it when he told an elder that the mother duck did nothing after he had taken the duckling, and instead picked a chick. The hen reacted violently and the elder said the chicken was better material for pepper soup. I cannot understand the basis of this resentment for our rich; when in actual fact, it should have been the other way round. I mean, it is the rich who should have been wondering of what benefit are the poor beyond just clogging the space and constituting environmental nuisance. The silence of our rich is only not golden; it is also ominous. These are people who have almost all the dossier on the poor at their finger tips but do not care about such inconsequential details.
But the poor (when the rich buy generator, or exotic cars, exotic wines, or bullet-proof cars) sniff for information on the sum total on each of these items bought by the rich. They do not care if their nostrils gather dust in the process of sniffing for the information. They are so idle that they even compare and contrast and come to the conclusion that the country is first in terms of spending on these expensive items.
Honestly, these poor people have to be careful. The fact that we have the kind of God-fearing rich people that we have should not be taken for granted. Not all countries are that lucky. The poor here should not overstretch their luck because if these rich people change their mind, the result would be too unpalatable for them to bear. Anyway, in their own interest, the poor should call an emergency meeting where they would elect their executive officers so that we will all know their chairman who we can call (to order) whenever their members misbehave again. Things cannot continue like this. My fear is that if we do not have a leader that the rich can call to account for the misconduct of their members, the rich might one day be tempted to do the ultimate: ask that the poor be wiped out from all parts of the country or be dropped in the lagoon or the nearest Osu River; that mere seeing the poor makes them (the rich) want to throw up. I do not want things to degenerate to this extent.
Our poor should know that in most other places, whatever the rich do has to be applauded; no matter how silly it may seem. Even our revered Williams Shakespeare attest ed to the fact that the rich and the poor do not belong in the same category when he said: “When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”. Have the poor ever seen comets when beggars die? Have they ever seen where the heavens blaze forth the death of their ilk? Please, please, for God’s sake, let our rich be. Rather than be sad that they are doing well, we should be glad and grateful to God for their lives.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the riches! We cannot leave our rich to the vagaries of the insecurity in the land.
Read this article on the Nation Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.