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Friday Sermon: The Devil’s Rectangle 4: The Fourth Estate

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By Babatunde Jose

The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny. – Wole Soyinka

When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all the other liberties we hold dear are endangered. – Christopher Dodd

Information is golden to both the ruler and the ruled. There is no more Tempo etc. The press and their journalists have been bought for a dime and so have lost the courage and focus-totally abdicated their constitutional rights. The press removed Trump despite the over-bearing power of the Republican Party. – DF

The Press is the last leg of the quadrilateral called the Devil’s Rectangle; although it was intended to be a “watchdog” for the country and the last bastion of vox populi, with its functions spelt out in the Constitution, it has had difficulty fulfilling that role due to the demands of the various competing special interest groups.

Anywhere in the world, the press has always been involved in politics, formation of public opinion, perception of images of candidates for political offices, the definition of social reality and social norms, the education, information, enlightenment and entertainment of the public, as well as the presentation and clarification of issues, values, goals and changes in culture and society.” (Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. Columbia University Press.).

At various times, the press can champion causes dear to the people and even act as the vanguard of the people’s revolution. The press can be many things, for it is first and foremost a tool in the hands of its user.

Rather than singing a melody of restraint on the excesses of the political class, the Nigerian press as presently constituted has become a Babel. Henry Ward Beecher said that: “The pen is the tongue of the hand; a silent utterer of words for the eye”

Akogun Tola Adeniyi listed the press among the perpetrators of the ‘culture of silence’ in Nigeria political space.  “I have critically examined the factors that had kept Nigeria on her knees for this long and I have concluded that the timidity of our people, the fear in raising a voice in the face of severest oppression and deprivation and the loss of self-esteem ranked the highest in the scale of culprits.” 

He went on to say: “With our eyes wide open we allowed rogues, ruffians, and charlatans to dictate how our lives would be run and governed. Thieves of various shades and sizes seized our common patrimony, and we applauded them in mosques and churches even as they nonchalantly rape all of us with unprecedented impunity.

There is no iota of doubt; the complicity of the Nigerian press is responsible for this sad situation. Journalism has become a cash and carry industry and unlike our revered journalists of old, today’s members of the press are in it for their getonity rather than for the good of the people.

The press is in alliance with the First and Second Estate of the Realm and there are no more watchdogs to hold the Executive and Legislature accountable. In a profession where revered doyens of the profession such as Uncle Sam have not changed his residence from Anthony Village in over four decades, or late Allah De who lived in his Anjorin Street, Surulere abode till he died, our modern-day Press Barons live and hobnob with the powers that be in Asokoro, Parkview and the like. Many even ride exotic cars which were once the exclusive preserve of captains of commerce and industry: All these, from proceeds of political blackmail; ‘his master’s voice’ syndrome and running of stories favourable to the establishment.

The press is the vanguard of Vox Populi. It is the moulder of opinion and the purveyor of people’s feelings. Where the press is silent and fails to be the barometer of public opinion, then the collective voice of the people is attenuated and silenced.

Equally, where the press abdicates its constitutionally given role and decides to go into bed with the oppressors then the people are finished. Most of the so-called mass media are on the ringside of one political party, candidate or the other. The people have been reduced into a permanent condition of shut up!

The Nigerian press has become an enemy of the Nigerian people. They eulogise and celebrate plunderers of our patrimony, offer spurious defence for pen-robbers who presumably have paid tithes at the altar of the press lords; they justify high-wire corruption and chastise the government for going after their corrupt pipers.

Imagine the quantum of monies doled out to them through their so-called representatives during the last ‘gold rush’ under the embattled National Security Adviser. And it is possible the sponsors of national discord are still paying. To all intents and purposes, most of our celebrated journalists have gone rogue. The Joses, Odunewus, Enahoros would be turning in their graves.

Those members of the profession who fought on the barricades in the NADECO years or the ‘war against corruption in the terminal stage of the Gowon regime; will be looking at this period with shame. This is not the press they bequeathed to us. Today, there are no more ombudsmen, investigative reporters, no diligent expos, no in-depth analysis of issues and no crack team of guerrilla journalists: Welcome to the age of pre-paid stories and reports!

Even in the age of online newspapers, many are poorly managed and sloppy in rendition with monumental mistakes that would shame a fresh student of NIJ. Headlines are routinely cast with mediocrity; the age-old sub editing of stories is a thing of the past and pictures don’t often match the stories and often at times wrongly captioned. Poor site administrators: they repeat dead stories which often nauseate readers.

The Audited Circulation of all the newspapers today is not up to the circulation of the old Lagos Weekend in the 70s. Then the Daily Times dominated the Nigerian publishing industry with 13 related papers and magazines. By 1975 the Daily Times had grown to a circulation of 275,000 copies while the Sunday Times reached 400,000. No other Nigerian newspaper has achieved such levels apart from MKO Abiola’s Daily Concord in the early 1990s which chalked up 100,000.

At that time, when the press talks, people listen. They were communicating; that dyadic relationship was maintained. Today, like William Hachten wrote in his epic book, ‘Muffled Drums; The News Media in Africa‘when the communicator no longer reaches the audience, then nobody is talking’.

The decline in newspaper circulation is a worldwide phenomenon not peculiar to this clime. Some of the falls have been spectacular. In the UK the Daily Mirror has suffered a sales plunge from 2,777,501 to 562,000; the paper once did 5,000,000. The best-selling daily, the Sun, dropped to 1,450,000, from 3,500,000.

Again, as individualism became more prevalent in society, certainly by the 1990s, the old forms of broadcasting media began to break up, allowing people wide choice of TV and radio and, eventually, infinite choice through the computer terminal.

With circulation of newspapers at an abysmal level and a general dearth of newsmagazines on the newsstand people are getting less informed and the space which was once occupied by the traditional press has been usurped by the iniquitous ‘social media’; a medium worse than what late Chris Okotie of Newbreed magazine termed  ‘witchcraft journalism’; purveyors of outlandish fake news, photoshopped illustrations, misrepresentation of facts including outright fabrications and posting of irrelevant stories; not to talk of propaganda of Goebellian proportion. Unfortunately, otherwise rational and intelligent social media users are taken in and swallow the gibberish hook line and sinker, turning them into educated illiterates overnight.

The overwhelming majority of journalists believe the internet is to blame for the dwindling fortune of the printed media, plus the growing availability of information through mobile phones. That, at least, makes sense. But it cannot be the definitive reason because the gradual, but inexorable, circulation decline predated the widespread use of the net through the extension of broadband.

Over the past decade there has been an observable drop in the quality of the Nigerian popular press, which has adopted the worst features of the London tabloids: enormous headlines, the systematic quest for scandal, stories invented from start to finish and flagrant attacks on people’s persona and privacy. Today, many of the dramatis personae in the orgy of yellow journalism have closed shop and litter the dustbin of history.

Ownership of the mass media in Nigeria tends to determine how they are used for political communications in the country. Other factors, such as ethnicity, religion, literacy, language of communication, legal limitations, political and socio-economic conditions, are also considered. However, the fact of ownership is not only the key which determines how the mass media are used for moulding the citizen’s perception of political reality in the country, but that it is also a more precise means of understanding and investigating the role of the press in political stability or instability, national integration or disintegration.

We might conclude that as Nigeria approaches another crossroad in its march for sustained democracy in socio-economic conditions which are less propitious, there is a need for the Nigerian mass media to operate in a way which contributes to national integration: That is if they are not already compromised.

 Subhana Rabbika Rabbil ‘izzati ‘amma yasifun. Wa salamun ‘alal-Mursalin. Wal hamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘alamin. Thy Lord is Holy and clear of all that is alleged against Him (by the non-believers); and He is Exalted. May God’s blessing be upon all Messengers. All praise truly belongs to Allah Who is the Sustainer of all the worlds.”

Barka Juma’at and Happy weekend.

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Friday Sermon: Facing Mount Arafat: Pilgrimage of the Hypocrites

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By Babatunde Jose

In 630 AD, Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his nascent Islamic group conquered the city of Mecca and his Quraish adversaries. It turned out to be an anti-climax as it was a bloodless war, despite the age long animosity of the Quraish to the young Islamic religion and its forced exile to Medina Munawara ten years earlier.

The first port of call of the Prophet (SAW) and his party was the Ka’aba, the ancient citadel of monotheism which had been serially desecrated and made to house over three hundred idols that were being worshipped by the Arab dwellers. It was even reported that the circumambulation of that building known from ancient times as the Tawaf, was sometimes performed naked, presumably accompanied by an orgy of spiritual nature by the Arab tribes.

The Ka’aba which was allegedly built by ‘father’ Abraham and his son Isma’il (the progenitor of the Arabs) as a monument to their God, 2000 years earlier, required spiritual and physical cleansing which the prophet (SAW) carried out personally with his followers.

With the cleansing and institution of modern Hajj rites, it was never envisaged that impure people, people of doubtful religious piety, people of questionable faith, people of dubious religious persuasion, people with atavistic penchant for corruption and proclivity for political, social and economic crimes would turn the holy pilgrimage into a faith laundering annual exercise. This is exactly what our leaders have turned the Hajj into. But they forget that you cannot mock God.

This year again, they have gone to Mecca in droves to ‘face Mount Arafat’ on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhu’l Hijjah, which is tomorrow, Saturday 15th of June, a day for the atonement of sins, confession and supplication for Allah’s forgiveness. They will be chanting the Talbiyah: “Labbayka Allaahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamd wa’l-ni’mata laka wa’l-mulk, laa shareeka lak (Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner).”

Which God are they reciting Talbiyah to? A God whose injunctions they have serially flouted and abused, or His people whom they have abandoned and sentenced to a life of poverty and tattered penury. The concepts of justice, equity and fairness enjoined on them are being operated in the breach. These are three interrelated concepts that combine to make a spiritual whole.

Justice is the sum-total, in a sense, of all recognized rights and duties, as it often consists of nothing more than a balanced implementation of rights and duties, and of due regard for equality and fairness. The Quran is emphatic on the objectivity of justice, so much so that it defies any level of relativity and compromise in its basic conception. A perusal of the Quranic evidence on justice leaves one in no doubt that justice is integral to the basic outlook and philosophy of Islam. But are our leaders just?

The injustice being perpetrated by our leaders is being witnessed daily in our clime, where our rights are denied and trampled upon; no potable water, no roads, no  electricity for the vast majority who have had to live like cavemen in the 21 Century, no education for their children, no future for those that are educated not to talk of the teeming population of uneducated, no employment and where they are employed, no salaries. Yet our leaders have dusted their jalabiya and ihrams in anticipation of hoodwinking Allah. But He will not be deceived by these vile men who have refused to carry out the job which they were elected to do.

Should the country, for example, have spent 160 million Naira each to buy SUVs for our Legislators? Should we have spent so much on the Vice President’s lodge and other Governors’ lodges across the country? Does splurging a 90 billion Naira on pilgrimage make sense? Why are international companies exiting the country?

It has been alleged that an Executive Governor in one of the states flew his mother to Saudi Arabia in a private jet to perform Hajj. He is also recorded as defending the Government’s position that the minimum wage cannot be afforded by the country.

At a time, the government is dragging its feet to increase minimum wage for workers, the chairman of a federal agency, is alleged to have squandered over N3.5billion of taxpayers money on six Lexus LX600 Bulletproof SUVs. Very callous and ungodly act.

Yet as a result of the hike in the electricity tariff, over 300 Companies have shut down, and 380,000 jobs lost, as revealed by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.

In Surah Al-Nahl: Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He

instructs you that ye may receive admonition. (Quran 16:90)

In Surah Al Ma’idah, Ayah 9, it is said that we should stand firmly for Allah as witness to fairness:  O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: That is next to Piety: And fear Allah. For Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do. (Quran 5:9)

Narrow dictionary equivalents for Justice and Equity are the words Insaaf, ‘Adl and Qist. But the words are more comprehensive in their meaning and application.  The root meanings of the word ‘Adl’ include the sense of Justice, Equity, Fairness, Non-Discrimination, Counterbalance, to Rectify, Put in Order, Evenness, Proportion and the like. When Prophet Muhammad (SAW), said “help the oppressor and the oppressed”, he was stressing this same concept. The Companions responded that they understood what “helping the oppressed” meant, but what did he mean by “helping the oppressor”? He replied, “By preventing the oppressor from oppressing others”. The root meanings of the word Qist include Equity, Fairness, Justice, Fair Distribution, Correctness, Balance, and Scale. See Surah Al Nisa’, Quran 4:135

It has been said that the issues of injustice, unfairness and inequitable dispensation of resources are an all-pervasive malaise. From the flinching tramp by the roadside, the woman who sells her body for money, the rich with their insatiable thirst for more, to the legislator, who is the sole beneficiary of his legislations and the executive who corners the people’s commonwealth to feather their own nests, are all guilty. The disproportionate emoluments of our legislators, government officials, governors and the tribal lords in Aso Rock is not only an injustice but a sin.

When justice, equity and fairness depart from a society, that society is finished. We are reminded when Allah said: “And O my people! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due: Commit not evil in the land with intent to do mischief. (Quran 11:85)

But Allah said in Surah Taha that He would punish the transgressors saying: “. . . . . .And those on whom descends My Wrath do perish indeed!” (Quran 20:81)

However, for the genuine pilgrims who are intent on turning a new leaf, changing and mending their ways and returning to the path of righteousness; we wish them a rewarding Hajj. And to them we say “Hajj Mabrur!

May Allah’s condemnation never fall on us, Amin! And may Allah accept the prayers of the oppressed and the supplications of the hopeless and the distressed.

Barka Juma’at and Barka de Sallah.

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Friday Sermon: The Evil Leadership and Complacent Followers

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By Babatunde Jose

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Apostle, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.” (Quran 4:59)

One year after the coming of the present administration with its promise of ‘renewed hope’, and the complete dashing of all hopes: ‘high cost of living, hunger, starvation,  food inflation, insecurity, monumental corruption, divestments by multinational oil corporations, the flight of capital to other countries, the unabating spread of a culture of hate in the country, poor governance, and bad politics’, it becomes appropriate for us to revisit the morphology of the socio-political situation in the country. Hence, a return to the sermon on ‘the Evil Leadership and Complacent Followers’.

Islam makes no sharp division between sacred and secular affairs; it expects governments to be imbued with righteousness. Likewise, Islam expects Muslims to respect the authority of such a government for otherwise there can be no order or discipline. This, however, is the bane of religious precepts in a secular environment. It is not in consonant with participatory democracy and the qualities desired from followers in modern democratic society. This is the origin of the proverbial docility, acquiescence and unquestioning acceptance of leadership and the ‘rankadede’ syndrome, an unquestioning obeisance of leaders. The above verse of the Quran (Quran 4:59) assumes a theocratic state.

Modern nation states demand a different set of qualities and paradigms. Unfortunately, most of these qualities are lacking in the followership in our society.

As followers we are too timid and complacent. Starting from the issue of social services, we do not make forceful demands on our rulers. We acquiesce and resort to self-help. We make little or no demands on our leaders for accountability and limit our complaints to rancorous discussions at the beer parlor or at social events over plates of ‘jollof rice’ and Coca Cola. Yet a culture of protest is a sine qua non of democracy.

Protest movements are struggles to be seen and to be heard. In the last 60 years protest movements around the world have mobilized against injustices and inequalities to bring about substantial sociocultural, sociopolitical, and socio-economic changes. Whilst familiar repertoires of action persist, such as strikes, demonstrations, and occupations of public space, the landscape is very different from 60 years ago when the so-called ‘new social movements’ emerged.

Protest movements are a key function of democracy. They represent an expression of ideas and principles to challenge dominant orthodoxies and have resulted in significant changes to policies and legislation as well as to attitudinal transformations in local, national, and international contexts. Protest movements show no signs of abating in the twenty-first century as people challenge governments, regimes, economic structures, austerity, material inequalities as well as advocate for global issues such as food, water, energy, healthcare, and climate change.

Protest is an operation of democratic power which can be performative; it is both an act and an enactment. Protest is a collective struggle which calls into question ‘the inchoate and powerful dimensions of reigning notions of the political’. The democratic public performs its existence through resistance: it demands recognition, embodies visibility, articulates a political voice, and communicates ideas/demands. In doing so, protest constitutes ‘the people’, and through the aesthetics of protest, ruptures conventions of doing politics.

Protests emerge when people come together to react against exclusion, inequality and injustice, usually propagated by the state or government, though other actors or structures including environmental precarity or economic instability can mobilize people to act. “The founding moment of French political history was the Revolution. Since then, French people speak directly to power through protest: Although not necessarily in such a bloody way.”

Protest movements have been recognized as significant contributors to processes of political participation and transformations of culture and value systems, as well as to the development of both a national and transnational civil society.

In the words of Prof Wole Soyinka: Let us begin with some collective introspection. I have become increasingly convinced that, between leadership and the led, there is only a very thin dividing line, often nearly indistinguishable. There is no question in my mind that, most often, the so-called led are their own worst enemies, even to the point of self-betrayal and treachery to their own existence…” Wole Soyinka: ‘Handshake Across History’.

Public participation, therefore, as a political principle or practice, and may also be recognized as a right. … It implies that the public’s contribution will influence the decision. Public participation may also be regarded as a way of empowerment and as a vital part of democratic governance. The key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life.

Protest is possible because we have inalienable rights to assemble, to associate, and to speak. Rather, the enactment of protest signifies democracy in its most essential form, one that is founded on action and enactment: ‘Democracy is, properly speaking, the symbolic institution of the political in the form of the power of those who are not entitled to exercise power – a rupture in the order of legitimacy and domination. Democracy is the paradoxical power of those who do not count’ (Rancière and Panagia 2000: 124).

Protest is not only concerned with seeking recognition; protest seeks to disrupt the existing political order, transcend, or abandon its ideological trappings, and create new possibilities.

Protests invoke images of mass demonstrations, riots, and sit-ins, all of which are common tactics used by civic activists, often to advocate for a cause or protest a government policy. At the heart of protest culture is a firm belief in the value of free speech, and the power of the collective in making demands on the state. Protest culture thus has its roots in the democratic ideals that enable them to take place: justice, equality, and fraternity, to name some of them.

Protest culture, however, need not lead to a slippery slope of divisive identity politics, if it is rooted in a thoughtful, engaged citizenship. This cuts to the heart of the state’s distrust of protests – a fundamental lack of respect for, or trust in, the citizenry by the state due to paternalism. Such paternalism views protestors as petulant children who make demands without considering the complex challenges that policymakers face and inevitable trade-offs they have to make. Protests are seen as outlets for populism and xenophobia, rather than a meaningful intervention into existing debates.

In other climes they protest and riot over increase in the price of bread or rice, fuel and other issues that impinge on the welfare of the people. Here we are content to accept all that they throw at us with equanimity. What have we done about the fantabulous take home pay of our legislators? Nothing! We do not protest the potholes on our streets or the delay in refuse disposal. We make little or no demands on our leaders and do not hold them responsible for our degradation, impoverishment and accelerating poverty.

Political apathy can be categorized as the indifference of an individual and a lack of interest in participating in political activities. Political apathy can lead to low voter turnout and stagnation in government.

It has been argued that religion; in particular Islam, is a contributing factor to the situation of political docility and lethargy of its adherents. Obedience is a divine command from al-Qur’an and Hadith likewise. Islamic history records many instances as far as obedience is concerned.

On the authority of Ibn ‘Umar, The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: It is obligatory upon a Muslim that he should listen (to the ruler appointed over him) and obey him whether he likes it or not, except that he is ordered to do a sinful thing. If he is ordered to do a sinful act, a Muslim should neither listen to him nor should he obey his orders (Sahih Muslim, Book 20, Hadith 4533).

This perhaps accounts for the proverbial acceptance of some of our brothers in the faith for the misrule of their leaders and why they have remained apolitical.

This thesis is however faulted in the light of the ‘Arab Spring’ and other uprisings and protests in patently Islamic climes. It is therefore not Islam or Christianity that makes a citizen apathetic, irresponsible to his political duties and obligations; rather it is the political culture of lethargy and political de-participation.

Despite the suffering and challenges we face, we lack the culture of protest and rejection of bad governance. People are not prepared to make sacrifices on the barricades and as such resign their lives to fate. Yet, in this same country, we had, Aba Women Protest, Enugu Coal Miners Strike, Egba Women Protest, NADECO, Civil Society Groups, Occupy Nigeria and the recent ENDSARS Protest. But no nationwide protest over ASU/Government closure of universities for nearly a year, no pim on the excesses and political paganism of our legislators, nothing on the state of hunger and starvation in the country despite humongous expenditure on SUVs, Hajj and other scandalous spendings.

Yet, protests and counter-protests are all products of a healthy democracy, and thus help engage a wider public in important discourse that is often overlooked because it involves only a small minority of people.

In an age of increased complexity and in which the population has grown to demand more of a say, protest allows all people to make their voices heard, helping to surface opinions that might change Nigeria for the better, but might otherwise never be heard or taken seriously by the state.

Even in Islamic history, there are instances of the importance of followers asking questions and making demands on their leaders. A person cannot be a functioning member of his community if he or she lacks knowledge and wisdom. Equally a follower is expected to be courageous.

According to Mohammed Al-Işfahani: “courage is a quality of the soul, its heart’s strength against shock and composure when experiencing fear.” The Path to Virtue: The Ethical Philosophy of AlRaghib Al-Işfahani: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, p 275)  

The earliest followers in Islam were credible, honest and courageous. Therefore, they established themselves as independent, critical thinkers whose knowledge and wisdom are dependable. Bashir bin Sa‘ad (r.a) was a courageous follower during Omar’s (r.a) regime. He was bold enough to tell Caliph ‘Omar that they will straighten him as they do with their arrows if he fails to properly perform his duties as a leader.

Caliph Omar said, “It is the duty of the leader and followers to listen to each other and to voice out their concern.” He added, “When followers do not participate and provide input, they are not contributing something useful. And we are not useful if we do not consent to their contributions.” (Ali, A.J. (2005), Islamic Perspectives on Management and Organization. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. P 135)

Of Tragedy and Hope: The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. Lacking clothes, they go about naked; they carry the sheaves but still go hungry.  They crush the olives among the terraces; they tread the winepresses yet suffer thirst. The groans of the dying rise from the city, the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing (Job 24:8-12)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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Friday Sermon: Ebi ’Npawa ooo: Hunger is Killing Us ooo!

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By Babatunde Jose

Globally, almost one in ten people go to bed hungry every night.

‘Ebi ‘npawa oo’, is a cry of suffering and anguish, the call of the bedraggled and impoverished, the wretched of the society who having nothing to eat, and cannot afford the little food that is available, wail to their leaders to make known their state of desperation and want. For too long they have been left high and dry on the roadside of life. They did not just start being hungry, they were born hungry, and grew up hungry and will probably die hungry. Hunger accompanies them to school and on the playfields, they are still hungry. At home they go to bed hungry.

The last one year had been ‘shege’ for them, but it did not start last year. Hunger had been with them for the past many decades when their fathers and father’s fathers stopped going to the farm and migrated to the city for the bright lights and jobs as houseboys, truck pushers and other menial occupations, some even as thieves. Victims of rural-urban migration and its attendant consequences.

Their plight was exacerbated with the rise of insecurity occasioned by action of terrorists, kidnappers, herders and cattle rustlers, and the ubiquitous tribal engineered political conflicts. Going to the farm had become a dangerous proposition.

Bad weather resulting from climate change added to the milieu in the form of droughts, famine and on occasion flash floods and mudslides that washed away their farms and livestock.

Ebi npawa did not start with the current administration in Nigeria. Hunger had ravaged the land before its coming. It has been a hallmark of our people so much so that we have been classed among the 10 most hungry nations in the world, a pathetic situation when viewed in association with our current title as the poverty capital of the world. Yet, poverty and hunger are twins born of the same mother.

However, hunger is not an exclusive preserve of the Nigerian situation but a worldwide phenomenon. Hunger is a ‘feeling of pain, emptiness, or weakness induced by lack of food’. The main cause of hunger is not a shortage of food, but the ability to access it. The world produces enough food to feed all of its 8 billion people, yet 828 million people go hungry.

Millions live with hunger and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford to buy enough food. The problem is access and availability, both of which are disrupted by things like extreme weather, food waste, one’s gender and – worst of all – conflict. Therefore, ending hunger is the greatest challenge of our time, but it is solvable if we all work towards it. But are our leaders working assiduously towards it?

There are multiple causes of chronic hunger and food insecurity in the world. A few contributing factors include inflation and the concomitant decrease in the value of money, causing food prices to rise, forcing people to buy less food.

We are currently going through this phase in Nigeria. Our staples such as rice, beans, yam and gari are increasingly beyond the reach of the people. The cost of a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage. How can they cope?

Natural disasters: From floods to wildfires to drought and earthquakes, weather and climate change-related catastrophes destroy crops and farmland. This depletes food supply, increasing food prices.

Disease, war, or other disruptive events: Whether it’s an ongoing civil war or an infectious disease outbreak, events that damage infrastructure and the food supply chain often led to shortages that cause hunger crises. We currently do not have answers to them, or we have not deemed it a priority to address this issue. But ministries and MDAs can afford to schedule seminars and training programs outside the country and purchase very costly bullet-proof SUVs for their principal officers, while others wallow in hunger.

Unequal distribution of wealth: Some parts of a country may be affected by extreme poverty that lingers for generations, while others are more affluent. Unlike those who are more affluent, people in poverty don’t have savings to help them weather hardships.

Conflict is the number one driver of hunger in the world, and it’s entirely preventable. It uproots families, destroys economies, ruins infrastructure and halts agricultural production. 60% of the world’s hungriest people live in conflict zones or its periphery. 68M people are currently displaced due to conflict.

This is happening in our land too, in the conflict zones of the North. For more than ten years now, some people have not been able to access their farms, not to mention engaging in any productive activity. Insecurity in the Northern farming communities has been the greatest impediment to food security and the harbinger of hunger.

Climate change is another cause of global hunger, triggering frequent and intense extreme weather events. Over 80% of the world’s hungry people live in disaster-prone countries where flash floods, landslides and other vagaries of nature are wreaking havoc on people’s lives.

Now, for some disturbing statistics, according to Global Poverty report:

• 828 million people – or one in nine people in the world – do not have enough to eat.

60% of the hungry people on the planet are women and girls.

• Every year, developing countries are robbed of more than $1 trillion by their thieving, kamikaze leaders. Money that could fight poverty, disease, and hunger.

• Despite world poverty, between 1/4 and 1/3 of the 4 billion metric tons of food produced annually is lost or wasted.

• 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries.

• Of all the 26 countries where the rate of extreme poverty is over 40%, only 2 are NOT in sub-Saharan Africa.

• Poor people in developing countries spend 60-80% of their income on food. Americans spend less than 10%.

• Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. That is 8,500 children per day.

• A third of all childhood death in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by hunger.

• 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

• Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.

• 165 million people suffer from childhood malnutrition.

• 75% of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and 5 animal species.

40% of all the food African farmers grow is lost due to insects, pests, and mold.

Hunger, poverty and food prices are inseparably linked. Not every person living in poverty is hungry, but almost all hungry people are living in poverty. Hunger can be viewed as a dimension of extreme poverty. It is often called the most severe and critical manifestation of poverty.

The only way for people to move beyond chronic hunger and their vulnerability to ever-rising food prices is to employ sustainable methods based on self-reliance. Empower rural communities to strengthen their self-resourcefulness, specifically in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, where the highest concentrations of hungry people live.

Among other methods, offer the tools and training to increase farm production at the local level; support them as they create, stock, and manage their own food banks; and encourage clusters of rural villages to develop sustainable, self-reliant, hunger-free communities. Here, funds meant for the alleviation of the conditions of the poor and hungry are embezzled and stolen by the overfed leaders.

“We are facing hunger on an unprecedented scale, food prices have never been higher, and millions of lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance. … Together, we can build a safer, more resilient, and inclusive world – and banish the scourge of famine and starvation once and for all. But we must act now.” — Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

The leaders know the solution to hunger is food and more food. The problem of growing more food is insecurity and conflicts: the menace of terrorists, kidnappers, and merchants of death. Unfortunately, they know where the terrorists hide and some of their sponsors.

Rather than do the needful, they leave leprosy and are treating ringworm. They embezzle money meant to purchase arms and ammunition to combat insurgents. If they can ‘chop’ money meant for armored personnel carriers, what will the monies meant for drones mean to them? That is pepper soup money!

A leadership of vipers, they have no regard for the feelings of the people. Our problem is not only one of leadership but that of a complacent followership; a followership that does not ask questions and is content to accept 2000 Naira at election time to vote for the idiots who make their lives miserable.  There are 200 million solutions to our problems. Our attitude would therefore determine our altitude!

In the interim, let those who have a little patch in their homes grow something, pepper, cucumber, greens, lettuce, efo, and any other vegetable. Even tatase can grow and bear fruit from a sand bucket. Tomatoes grow in the backyard too, including Plantain. When we cultivate the habit of growing some of what we eat, we would have shamed the demon called hunger.

In the words of Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, “The state of pervasive insecurity continues to adversely impact agricultural production and the value it brings to the economy, especially in the Northern parts of the country.

“Insecurity resulting from terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling has compelled many crop farmers and pastoralists to abandon their lands and relocate to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad, and Cameroun.

“This has drastically caused a reduction in the production of food and skyrocketed prices of foodstuffs. Food scarcity in Nigeria is so dire that a report by Cadre Harmonize warns that between June and August this year, about 31.5 million Nigerians may face severe food shortages and scarcity.”

But things can still be made right. However, in the words of Pat Utomi, “Nigeria is a mess right now. A huge mess. Even the blind can see it. And the deaf can hear the cry of anguish of Nigeria’s children. Can the country be rescued? Possibly. But the myths, years of delusions of grandeur and criminal capture of the Nigerian state threaten the possibility.”

Prayer!!!

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Quran 1:1-7)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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