Orukotan, Ayomikun Samuel: Begging And Beggars: At A Time Like This!

In any social order, the veracity of pluralism holds in diverse calling. Pluralism is a school of thought that clenches the universal belief of things existing in pair. In the world of algebra, Boolean is akin to pluralism. In any society therefore, this two of a kind trend exist, segregating the rich from the poor, beggars from lenders, villains from heroes, losers from winners etc. such is life in a pluralistic society.

Poverty is the bane of many African countries, including Nigeria. A report presented by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) at the AU summit in Egypt, 2008 has said that poverty fuels separatism wave in Africa. In retrospect, the report informed the need for African policy makers to prioritise anti-poverty initiatives.
According to Professor Yemi Osinbajo, 65 per cent (approximated value) of Nigerians still live below the poverty line despite governments’ intervention programmes to improve the welfare of its citizens. Today, the percentage has increased if only we would be honest with ourselves. Nigerian workers are no longer paid their monthly entitlements and other benefits as and when due in many states of the federal republic of Nigeria. Economic realities have pushed many Nigerians who were once above the poverty line, below it.

In many Nigerian states, the situations of workers are just too pathetic to behold. On top of this, many state governors have become wicked to the plights of these workers who continue to work tirelessly in spite of red bank accounts and empty money bag. Arguably, effectiveness of employees in the public service is now next to zero. Yesterday lenders have become beggars today and yesterday beggars now beg the more either wittingly or unwittingly.

In Nigeria today, the gap between beggars and lenders, the rich and the poor is just too wide. Closing this huge gap should be the headache of any responsive government. In a nation of beggars and lenders, you are either a beggar or a lender. A Lender is the privileged few who has never stolen public funds to enrich themselves but still financially capable at times like this.
It is worthy to note that those people who have enriched themselves with our money are beggars. They may be temporarily rich today but tomorrow time lag for them or their generation in indignity of pain, poverty and sicknesses. The law of karma must surely hold. For the sake of readers who are ardent positivists and optimists, I need to further explain the term begging and beggars.
Begging is an objective subject matter. In an unequivocal term, begging is the process of pleading with someone for help or favour. Begging is not exclusively limited to those who beseech on the street corner, highways and market places from passers-by. Begging is not limited to the physically-challenged-turned-beggar or less-privileged-turned-beggar. In fact, begging is a common ritual among Christians (devoted or not) and Moslems. Christians and Moslems are ‘beggars’. We all ‘beg’ God for one help or the other through supplications, petitions and worship. On that front, there is nothing wrong with begging.
A while ago, the Lagos State Government (LASG) sent packing beggars from streets, major roads and highways in Lagos just because begging has become an eyesore in a place like Lagos. I ask myself after the whole show. What are the plans of LASG for those beggars dislodged from their ancestral homes?
In Nigeria today, many public servants (Health workers, teachers, academics etc.) have become diurnal beggars. Even, in the private sector, beggars are there in leaps and in bounds. In the civil service today, there is little or no longer room for management fraud and its attendant forms of stealing. The salaries are no longer forth-coming like it used to, workers are being retrenched on daily basis due to economic realities and unforeseen contingencies keeps getting out of bed. The only sacred option is to beg instead of stealing from the common patrimony.
Though, many public servants are in this predicament of ‘begging stylishly’ because of poor saving culture, misplaced priorities and poor planning. Of course, beggars are slaves to their lenders.

More, many Nigerians have become temporary or permanent slave due to government’s inadequacies and economic realities. The 2016 national budget padding is a reflection of how desperate some beggars could be. Per Diem, many have resorted to the business of begging just to eke out a paltry living. On the other hand, it is a blessing in disguise because it has taught the “begging” public and private workers not to use the whole of the ten fingers to eat anymore. Notwithstanding, Government at all levels should take workers’ welfare more seriously. After all, it is one benchmark of measuring good governance.

Spiritual leaders should begin to manifest the light in a very dark world. At a time of universal deceit, they should be agents that proclaim only the truth. At a time when Armageddon cites everywhere, they should do the work of God without any form of deceit. Spiritual leaders have holistic assignments to perform at times like this.

Most unfortunately, some of our so called ‘religious leaders’ are now real time beggars. In the name of religion, many atrocities have been committed by ‘servants of God’. Many religious rituals have been commercialized by our so called Pastors, Prophets, Evangelists, Imams and Alfas. One of the best ways of gaining access into a man is through his belly. Because of the belly, lies have been told against God, the Holy Spirit has been grieved severally. Because of the belly, the spirit of hunger is now the driving force, no longer the Holy Spirit. At times like this, these are the fruits.
In the annals of Nigeria history, there was a time when higher education certificates such as B.Sc., M.Sc., HND or even NCE were regarded as “meal-ticket”. Then, holders of such valued certificates were believed to have passed the poverty line. In our day, the reality of time immemorial is no longer plausible. Many graduates with such valued credentials in sundry profession have become first class beggars.

In a survey recently conducted by the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), it has discovered that the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria is not due to paucity of Jobs as popularly thought but that: a lot of our graduates are just not employable. This critical unearthing which holds a little truth, boils down to the poor quality of Public education in Nigeria. Our educational system is also begging.

Alas, graduates don’t want to beg. It is overt, many of them hate to beg but who will save them from situations that act against their popular wish? The 2014 immigration Job screening turned National scam is a proof of their tenacity to cross the threshold of poverty as specified by the United Nations. Again, when will they become responsible citizens?

The people should be the concern of any humane government. The government should always ask themselves some basic questions in the course of governing the governed.  How many people are eating from the National cake? Are youth empowerment programmes sufficiently transparent enough, accountable to a fault and reaching the right beneficiaries? What are the yardsticks used by government at all levels to share the dividends of democracy if any?
A report in 2014, as carried out by the Nigeria Security and Reconciliation Programme, NSRP has reported that 79 per cent of Nigerian youths feel that only those close to politicians benefit mostly from seldom youth employment and empowerment interventions. The government of the day needs to prove this otherwise with more proactive measures.

Many factors have enlarged the number of beggars in the country. There is time for everything. This is time to get more serious with the herculean task of governance, not the time to pass the buck when the ticking clock does not trudge. This is the time to pay more attention to; worker’s welfare, continued increase in unemployment, high rate of poverty on mother land, the fight against corruption and everything that speaks badly of us as a nation-state. This Buhari led presidency surely has a lot to do in a country of fewer lenders and plenty beggars. May God help him.
Orukotan, Ayomikun Samuel, a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, writes from Ondo

Mail: orukotanayomikun@yahoo.com   phone No: +2347061926514

Orukotan, Ayomikun Samuel

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent www.omojuwa.com nor its associates

Paul Akingbola: The Monumental Predicament Of Africa? The Land Of Green

“If I could, I would. But why…” This was the intrapersonal conflict I departed Europe with, last winter. With its astonishing natural greens, Africa is considered the continent with the best soil on earth. While I grew up hearing this from my teachers throughout elementary school, I had expectations and still do anticipate fragrant fruits from ‘Mama’ Africa. I remember my grandmother affirming over and over again, the sweetness of her childhood despite its being characterized by polygamy. She would paint mental pictures of how she grew up hearing from her father, the mythical stories of African legends and the numerous supernatural beings and creatures. Recounting the numerous conquests of her grandfather, she shared with the several battles her late father, Abidogun had won and the ways with which he and his warriors were rewarded each time they triumphantly returned to the kingdom after war. I could evidently see in her eyes, the trueness of every story she told.

When asked to talk about nature one evening, my Granny? Iya Oloola (as fondly called) radiated a beautiful smile hummed by her (left cheek) dimple and began by acknowledging the existence of Oló-dú-ma-ré (meaning in Yoruba: owner of the universe, supreme god whose worth is invaluable). She explained the mystery behind the stars (how each one represents one man and why a minute of silence should be observed each time one fell from the sky), the magical powers of the illuminating moon and the static sun… Describing the distinctiveness of God’s love for mankind, Iya Oloola revealed how much her husband loved and sacrificed his life for her. “Love can cure any disease”, she concluded.

Many Africans were brought up by lenient parents, some by disciplinarians and many others by loving ones. I had an equal share of the leniency, discipline and love from my folks. Perhaps being served a big wrap of pounded-yam, a bowl of vegetable soup and a fat piece of meat having been whipped with hand-ground red pepper chafed all over the body just for lying to an Aunty would paint a better picture. This tutelage left me with no other choice than to live by my Grandma’s philosophy of trueness to oneself and above all, to God even before mankind? So I made more friends and less trouble even as I grew older with my father’s mantra-like statement: “Omoluabi se koko!” (~ is crucial!) in mind. The Omoluabi is a Yoruba philosophical and cultural concept to describe a person of good character. The concept signifies courage, hard work, humility and respect. An Omoluabi is a person of honour who believes in hard work, respects the rights of others, and gives to the community in deeds and in action. It’s stunning how embedded in every African culture, the philosophy is. This was more than enough to keep us all on track. Is it not enough to keep the greens in our land perpetually green; our resources managed to make the continent better?

It is not far from being the maxim truth that the predicament of the land of green, Africa, is monumental. Is it only about the dwindling status of our economies? How about the epic unjust nature of our systems and the inexplicable absence of peace in some, and perhaps the negative peace reigning or enthroned in many other parts of the continent? While we are all too often hasty to place top on the priority list, corruption as the cause of this menace, pondering over the source of this dreaded scourge took me on a mental journey. I remember how our Monarchs lived luxuriously at the detriment of their people in the pre-colonial era? The westerners even called us barbarians just because several innocent souls were buried with our passing-away kings. I’m not saying this was barbaric. But, was it not? We are however, happy to see the significant reduction in the number of such occurrences in the last decades. At least they were in search of only one person to be buried with the immediate past Ooni of Ife on his demise the other day. But things were better back then, you’d say. Since I can’t disapprove, please allow me to disagree. Meanwhile, I am tempted to agree with the belief that culture loss is the brain behind the plague that has bewildered the African continent, possibly because wider majority share this feeling.

Stepping one’s feet into Europe for the first time is a to-be-celebrated feat for my people. My first time was amazing too, dominated by a long pondering silence filled with admiration. I just couldn’t have enough of the coolness of the weather, the serene view and the elegant nature of country’s layout. Germany’s beautiful; far incomparable to my home even from the airport. I wondered why we are still underdeveloped, yet glad to be categorized as “developing”. Privileged to walk into a bank in Berlin, I stood near a queue (distracted by an interesting broadcast message) with my heart glued to the phone. I saw an aged woman walk in and right behind me, she stood. After a little while I noticed two other people joined her and there the three of them were, innocently standing right behind me until a security man came closer to hint them that I wasn’t on the row; showing them the right place to stand. This event wasn’t a mere coincidence to me. So I shared it with a colleague who retorted: “Ode l’Oyinbo!”; (meaning, white men are fools). Then did I understand how pitiable queuing to use the ATM was like back home? disorderliness of the highest order.

Aside the enchanting beautiful night lights in the ancient city of Leipzig, I paid keen attention to details all through that period. I observed that for seven straight days, I didn’t hear the car horn more than twice despite a few traffic congestions. I saw how road users patiently waited for pedestrian to cross at interjections. I admired the boys and girls happily disposing the wraps from their candy towards trashcans in public places. I heard the young men say “excuse me” on several occasions. I heard ladies say thank you for things they paid for at malls and grocery stores. I heard mothers say thank you to their children for assisting in the offload of what the family would eat or use. I even heard a father say “sorry” to his son on the telephone for not making it home for dinner. I wished I could swap Africa for Europe.

I have traveled across Africa. The level of impatience among my people is alarming. Everyone is more or less intolerant and seemingly bereaved of love. Did civilization bring all of these too? You’d say we are busy and hardworking people but the creators of this jobs and civilization are still very patient, tolerant and loving. I see an adaptation error here. Waiting on the queue for the larger majority is like being hospitalized. Hustle and bustle triggers excessive horning even on (free) highways and within cities thereby claiming lives. Freedom to life encourages disposing a wraps of consumed or used commodities on the streets which has blocked drainages… Freedom of expression motivates saying anything without recourse to the likely physical or mental damage it could incite. Saying “excuse me” implies having a low self-esteem. (Excessive) use of “thank you” means not knowing one’s rights or responsibilities. Saying sorry presents one as not grown enough to know what one as unable to differentiate between right and wrong. I’m not sure stealing is still a problem here. Bribery is a norm? I doubt if the lives of others still matter. The land of green has therefore been turned into a fallowed soil for cultivation of the evil called corruption alongside its accomplices.

Is the problem is civilization? No, but our “mentality” is. It is obvious civilization has come to stay. As a peace scholar, I know how ‘peace in’ affects ‘peace out’. This applies to change too. Pathetic how an unchanged person dreams of changing something! I can’t count how many times well-wishers encouraged me to abscond each time I traveled abroad. They were doing me some good? Would those celebrated nations have been so if its people fled? If I could, I would. But why should I? No place like home; my mantra.

If just like me, you are tired of this remediable predicament, then it’s time to do something; make a decision to stop wishing but start doing. This is my perceived major difference between change-agents and change-makers. There’s therefore, now a chance to fight for change first at the intrapersonal level (in your mind). If every other means failed us, African youths, I am certain the bottom-up approach can get us out of this fix, for we are the future of this land. The statement “Rome was not built in a day” has only motivated complacency over time, causing us to reap sordid boons from the drenched land of green. But we can change this! And it begins with you and me, all of us.

A dying clergy man once said to his son: “when I was a child, I wanted to change the world. As grew, I wanted to change my country. As I grew older, I desired changing my little town and later, my home. But here I am today, lying helplessly on this sick bed wishing I had changed myself first. Perhaps this would have been the beginning of the change I dreamed all my life.” It’s good to say, better to act, how about both?

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates