Nigeria’s Pandemic of Hunger

Our Minister of Agriculture is Alhaji Muhammad Nanono from Kano State. The Minister of State for that ministry is Alhaji Mustapha Baba Shehuri from Borno State. You are wondering why the two of them come from the far north? Where else do you have farmers in Nigeria except in the North East and the North West? If you sincerely desire an answer to that question, you will need to ask your president, Muhammadu Buhari. My interest in discussing that ministry, however, is not the bigness of the babanriga sweeping its floor and its purse. I am interested in how, between those two gentlemen, the agric ministry became ministry of religious affairs. The ministry of agriculture under them, recently built a N30 million mosque for a community in Borno State and they justified it as being “appropriate in all ramifications.” They said they built the mosque for livestock farmers displaced by Boko Haram. So, how about farmers displaced by bandits in Benue, Niger, Zamfara, and those sacked by herdsmen in Oyo? If you are as troublesome as I am, you are likely to ask more questions.

The mission and mandate of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is stated on its website. The ministry says it “has the mandate to ensure food security in crop, livestock and fisheries, stimulate agricultural employment and services, promote the production and supply of raw materials to agro industries, provide markets for the products of the industrial sector, generate foreign exchange and aid rural socio-economic development.” I can’t see ‘praise and worship’ there. But that is what the ministry did with my money and has proceeded to tell me and all others who may not like what it did to shut up.

The news of this ‘act of worship’ broke a few weeks ago. I have waited to hear or read of a rebuke from the person who employed those who did it. It would appear that a rebuke would come from the Villa the day the sun rises from the West. The gentlemen who did it have even moved on to other things like tracing grazing routes and cow roads and things like that. I have waited to hear custodians of faith from the far north repudiating that expenditure as a sinful act. But there has not been one voice of reason from that pious zone on that misbehaviour. There is inverted spirituality here. The elite in that part of the country use religion to worship their politics and inanities. But I am a Muslim, so why am I wailing here? Where I come from, no matter what religion we profess, we see warts as intrusions into our beauty; we slam acts like this as indefensible steps in governmental misconduct. That is, perhaps why former president Goodluck Jonathan a few days ago described Western Nigeria as “the only part of Nigeria that has been able to manage religion and development very well.” Why would a religious nation see nothing wrong in using filthiness to water the flowers of piety? Even the direct victims of this baldness of sense in governance applauded it. Maybe we should just keep quiet and pretend that it is normal for the ministry of agriculture to leave grains and tubers and start planting mosques and churches here and there.

There is, therefore, a pandemic of hunger in the country with only the very rich inoculated against it by the system. Click To Tweet

An American wrote that “without relentless scrutiny, the government will misbehave.” The rational must agree with that point of view. Nigeria is right in the eye of a food crisis yet our Federal Government, through its ministry of agriculture, is working furiously to address hunger by building worship centers. Our country is officially recognized by the United Nations as a ‘famine country.’ There is trouble everywhere you turn in the land – and we all know it. The World Food Programme once stressed that “by the time a famine is declared, it is too late. . . it means people are already dying of hunger.” We know this is true with us from the north to the south, yet we have a government that is drooling behind cows and planting prayers with money meant for farm works.

Farmers loiter around their homes in Nigeria because pampered bandits and terrorists have chased them out of their farms. There is, therefore, a pandemic of hunger in the country with only the very rich inoculated against it by the system. On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed Resolution 217 A (III) through which it declared the right to food as a universal human right. Yet, as I write this, 73 years after that declaration, the figure from the world body exhibits a Nigeria in the throes of starvation. The UN has stated that as many as 5.1 million people in North-East of Nigeria alone faced starvation which would manifest between June and August 2021. Yet, it is in that very North East that the government is misbehaving, applying scarce money to fund faith.

There is a country called Venezuela. If anyone is in doubt of where a mismanaged country is headed, that is the current example. A journalist’s account of what that country has managed to become is sobering: “Most Venezuelans eat fewer than two meals a day. People awaken late in the morning so they can skip breakfast and go directly to lunch. Water scarcity has made us bathe in nearby rivers; water plants are not working to capacity. All of this speaks eloquently to the national mismanagement of resources…” Bloomberg also has an example: “She’s crying. And she’s furious. Both she and her husband have lost their jobs, she explains in a rapid-fire staccato, and so she had been doing hairdressing work to help make ends meet. That, too, ended when she decided to sell her scissors and blow-dryer to pay some bills.” The Bread for the World Institute has an elegant description of Venezuela’s tragedy: “The nation’s economy and political structure collapsed even though it possesses the world’s largest known petroleum reserves. More than 5 million people have now fled the country and an estimated 91 percent of those who remain live in poverty. Nearly a third of all Venezuelans—more than 9 million people— are food insecure or malnourished.” In Venezuela, traders set prices and sell in American dollars because the country’s local currency, the bolivar is worth less than the wrapper on sweets.

A sensible Nigeria will work well for all; it will not defend the 'right' of some people to suffering, to trekking barefooted from Kaura Namoda to Katsina Ala, and down to Kara Market in Lagos. Click To Tweet

But any normal Nigerian would read his country in the Venezuelan horrid story. We are there already. During the last sallah, I was to buy crates of Coca-Cola and Fanta in a shopping mall. But the sellers asked me to choose one of the two products; “you can’t buy both,” the cashier told me. I didn’t understand. I asked why? There is a scarcity of these products, someone whispered to me. The picture got clearer this last Saturday: an alarmed shopper photographed and posted online what he saw on a fruit juice shelf in a popular supermarket: “Dear Customer, kindly note that you can only buy 2pcs (two pieces) of juice (per customer) due to low stocks of juices.”

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Everything takes us back to the structure of Nigeria. There is nothing you won’t see in a structurally defective country. What is the business of the Federal Government intruding into building worship houses? Someone in Kano would wonder why anyone would be wasting his time writing about this. He would say it is spiritual, normal and politically correct and makes a lot of sense to embrace religion and abandon farming. But where I come from, we say what is not good is bad. A ministry of religious affairs building a worship house is within its mandate. A ministry of agriculture declaring its building of a worship centre as ‘appropriate’ is aberrant.

In a Nigeria rebuilt to its original shape, there won’t be an overfed Federal Government itchy to misapply resources. That is why the south is loud and insistent on federalism as designed by its authors. But the political north would rather protect what they see as their advantage in the current setup. Is that why the two ministers in the agric ministry are northerners? What is so special about that ministry that it has to be cocooned in the bed chamber of the north? Someone said the elite of the north are already sculpturing ‘restructuring’ in the image that suits their greed. They think the south is a fool forever. They want the beat of death to sound on. You read a former Nassarawa State governor, Abdullahi Adamu who would rather see the southern demand for sanity in this federation as separatist. He was in the news on Sunday lambasting southern governors. He said by making structural demands of the federation, “the southern governors are sounding like a broken record..” He then, for emphasis, proceeded to ask his interviewer: “You know what a broken record does? It cracks.” He said each of the governors “is under an oath of loyalty, and of preservation of the sovereignty of this country.” He said “that means that each of them is duty-bound to stay away from any act, or word that has the tendency to be perceived as being separatist…” What else have the governors done beyond banning trekking of people from the north to the south, grazing cows and spreading devastation, death, rape and tears? But Adamu, like his other people, would rather invoke the right of the trekkers over the customary and legal rights of the land owners. He even issued threats. He said: “These governors know the constitution, and they know that every Nigerian has the right of movement, association, and the right to pursue legitimate goals. However, if these governors are saying no to cattle routes and open grazing, what are the alternatives that they have provided? If northern governors come together and take a position, what will happen? What right have you to tell Nigerians not to move freely? If northern groups also say no to southern businesses in their domain, how will that end up? There is a limit. Not that we can’t talk. We have the capacity to do more. But what we won’t take lightly, is for any part of this country to think that they have a louder voice. That is not true. When the North starts talking, maybe there will be sense. If we want this country to stay on, we will.” Interesting.

Adamu said “when the north starts talking, maybe there will be sense.” But that is exactly what the south is asking the north to do. Come out and TALK and let Nigeria have ‘sense.’ A sensible Nigeria will work well for all; it will not defend the ‘right’ of some people to suffering, to trekking barefooted from Kaura Namoda to Katsina Ala, and down to Kara Market in Lagos. A Nigeria with ‘sense’ will not load a federal ministry with persons from a part of the country to enable crass misbehaviour to fester. It won’t. Adamu should lead his brothers to come out and talk. Keeping quiet and manipulating one part of the oppressed against another will expire soon. And when that happens, it will be too late to raise a hand and say, “excuse me sir, I have something to say.”

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  1. Perishable said:

    I never knew witchery and witchcraft have found their way into the curricula of our security academies until the recent Igboho night experience. Click To Tweet(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Monday, 5 July, 2021)It was in Hubert Ogunde’s ‘Jayesinmi’ that we last saw witches transforming into cats – black cat, red cat. I never knew witchery and witchcraft have found their way into the curricula of our security academies until the recent Igboho night experience. Media reports said Sunday Igboho had cats as pets and those were victims of the deep state’s bullet treatment he got last Thursday. As men and women bled, cats and kittens fell too. We read that operatives were there, they missed their prey but saw and killed a big cat and arrested the small ones. “They took away the cats as if the man turned to a cat,” a report quoted an eyewitness. One of the agents reportedly believed their elusive prize was hiding behind the skins of the feline. So our 21st century security people could really hold it that man can turn animal in moments of danger?The report said it was a Yoruba officer who pointed out the cats as objects of interest. Not surprised. Animals inhabit a special place in the Yoruba man’s spirituality. They have for them meaningful names complete with panegyrics. Listen to elders and appraise their pets’ praise-names, their oriki. There are pets with bitter kola eyeballs (olojuorogbo); there are those with cheeks of kolanut (ele’eke obi). There are animals who ‘tiro’ their eyelashes; there are the mysterious ones with tribal marks. Still, there are powerful, special ones who collect dowry without offering a daughter’s hand in marriage. Like the names, reasons why people keep pets vary and are very many too, some peculiar.The Broadcasting Corporation of Oyọ State (BCOS) used to have a television drama series with the title ‘Bàtà Wàhálà’ (Shoes of Trouble). It is the story of a polygamous house of commotion where every member keeps a pet as a weapon of domestic war. Adesola Olateju’s 2005 ‘The Yoruba Animal Metaphors’ reminds us of that family: “One of them names her dog ‘lilo ni ó lo’ (go-she-must), another one names her cat ‘Ewà ńbi won ninú’ (beauty- nauseates-them) and another names her goat ‘Jé nri ‘lé gbé’ (leave-me-and let-me remain), while the eldest wife names her dog ‘Sùúrù lérè’ (patience is rewarding). Their husband also has a goat he names ‘Méé l’Olorun-wi’ (God-approves-of marrying-many-wives).” -p.317. We read that Sunday Igboho kept his own cats as security against rodents troubling his household. In other words, the carnivores were in the house to teach rats lessons in the language they understood. The whole setup sounds like a metaphoric warning to destructive intruders to keep off. Unfortunately, reporters who covered the midnight press conference of the SSS did not ask questions on the cats: Were they truly arrested? If they were, where are they and what are their offence(s)? What are their colours so that we ask what spirits live in them?If I ever meet Igboho one-on-one, I will ask him what names he gave his cats – and his favourite colours. Maybe that will tell us a little about him and the unknown part of his ways.The Irish warn us to “beware of people who dislike cats” – like the 14th century Europe which killed thousands of cats (plus sometimes their owners) because of the Black Death pandemic which killed a third of its population. But it turned out that they killed the wrong foe. “Such a shame they didn’t realize the cats could kill the rats carrying the plague,” said Icy Sedgwick in her ‘Cats in Folklore.’ My own people love cats; that is why they look at their present helpless condition and say pithily that “when the cat is out, the house becomes that of the mouse.”It is significant that the cat imagery came out of the smokes of the Igboho night escape. Cats have the enviable reputation of escaping precarious situations unscathed. They shame death; they routinely cheat death. They are experts at hard landing. They never land on their backs no matter the height of their fall. An expert said cats are also built to “flatten their bodies and squeeze through impossibly tight spaces.” Does that tell you something about the man from Igboho and how he escaped the security surprise? American journalist and writer, John Grogan said “cats will outsmart dogs every time.”Beyond the cats, we should not be tired of asking questions and demanding answers. Why is it difficult for the Nigerian state to sit back and ask itself the reason people like Igboho have crowds and street support? Why was there no Igboho throughout the day before yesterday when Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a Fulani from Buhari’s Katsina state, was president of Nigeria? Are Igboho’s Yoruba agitation activities that bad to justify the very wicked treatment he and his cats and his household got from the state last Thursday? Or is he just being taught a lesson for being too stubborn and foolhardy? Was it plain luck or potent amulets that saved him? He is the only one with the right answer to the last question. But, observe cats when they come face to face with threats; they respond in three ways: they either fight or freeze or flee. They came for Igboho, he escaped – and people died. His enemies taunt him and call him Arikuyeri (he who sees death and dodges). But Igbo people say only a tree sees the enemy coming to cut it down and waits. Chinua Achebe says it is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless. He notes, however, that sometimes, it is better to be a coward. Achebe adds most profoundly that “we often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live.” But my people also say that he who fears death will never sit on his father’s throne. So? A perfect case of courage dilemma.What the state is doing to the southern strongmen who are taking it on is to melt their steel. Click To TweetThe same way this government mismanaged our diversity, it has mismanaged the agitation for a more equitable Nigeria. Many calm people who were not with Igboho now sympathize with him – and the government should be worried. Making an Igboho out of everybody is what the state has done. Everyone, outside those who benefit from the dysfunctional present, has sat up. People are now more aware that they live in a very wicked Nigeria where region and religion determine what is right and what is wrong. They see that what the state is doing to the southern strongmen who are taking it on is to melt their steel. And positions are getting hardened. My people counsel that if this fire is stubborn, feed water to it. And what happens when even water proves heady? You take it to the home of drought. Everyone is now meeting fire with water; water with drought. We saw this exactly in the ignored warnings and the eunuch show-of-force that birthed Saturday’s Yoruba Nation rally in Lagos. The more the threat, the stronger the resolve to challenge it.Click Here to Read More Articles from Lasisi OlagunjuWords are potent determiners of peace and war. They can draw kola nuts from the pocket of the pleased; they can also provoke bullets from the barrel of the insulted. You heard Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State last week when he said bandits or Boko Haram terrorists could not be given same treatment as Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)? It was his response to critics’ challenge that the APC Federal Government should not be pampering northern terrorists while pummeling southern agitators.In an interview with BBC Pidgin, El-Rufai said those demanding swift attacks on bandits as has been done to Kanu and his IPOB were wrong. He spoke as if northern bandits and terrorists are ghosts without tractable tracts. El-Rufai said: “No! No! No! No! People are comparing apples to oranges. Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of IPOB, a proscribed organisation. He is identifiable, in constant communication and everyone knows where he is. Let’s take Boko Haram for instance. Shekau was in hiding and for the past 10 years and the military had been waging a war to get him. It is not like Shekau was in Saudi Arabia, sitting in one place, tweeting about the break-up of Nigeria or asking Boko Haram to go and kill Helen and Nasir el-Rufai. Nnamdi Kanu is in one place while Shekau is waging guerrilla warfare. The insurgency is still going on and the Federal Government is not giving up. Regarding bandits, they are not centralised under one leadership. Who is the head of the bandits? Who is the equivalent of Nnamdi Kanu with banditry? Bandits are just collections of independent criminals. It is a business for them. It is not a case of Nigeria must break up. I want to challenge anyone to tell me the central leader of bandits in the same position as Kanu.” Now, how more insensitive can people be and how many more Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho has this arrogance of sectional power created?But really, how did we get here? Democracy kills; there is poison in its medicine. When it dawns on you that democracy kills, you become confused, you ask if really there is anything called salvation in governance, and if salvation exists, where lies it? Once upon a time, Fire said he wanted his father’s throne. The people had mercy on him. He got the stool but used it to raze down the town. He was sacked. Then Sun came out, weeping and begging and saying that it was his turn to claim his father’s crown. The people queued behind him and he got it. And with that crown, he is destroying everything, everybody, everywhere, the people and their future.I hope this government – the president, his cabal, everybody – know that the usually ‘well-behaved’ south west has spinned out of control. The Abuja people think they are too far away to suffer the vibrations of the threats in town. They may be right. The walls around them are too impregnable for the rabble to breach. But we, people of my class, are the low-hanging fruits. Notwithstanding our own existential struggles as victims of an unfair system, we are the endangered sub-set of the elite band. A poor journalist where I work had a personal experience during the EndSARS crisis. He drove his rickety car into protesters who thoroughly harassed him for wearing “a well-ironed shirt.” He managed to get out of the net, came to the office scared and shaken. That is why we are, and we must, and will continue shouting and demanding that all wrongs be righted now before it is too late – if it is not too late already.Follow Us on Social Media Related Posts:Proponents of Oodua Nation Defy Security in Lagos [Photo]Edo Legislature Now to Sit at Government HouseThat Failed Kidnap Attempt on Sunday IgbohoShare

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