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Tentacles of Multidimensional Poverty in Nigeria

Following the sudden and tragic demise of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, professionally known as MohBad, a flurry of discussions has erupted within the social circles of Nigeria and beyond. The circumstances surrounding his passing have given rise to numerous speculations and theories, with questions about what truly transpired and who may be responsible. In response to this tragedy, some individuals have expressed a fervent desire for revenge and have called for swift, extrajudicial actions to avenge his untimely death. Yet, what has captured my attention amid this tumultuous period is the alarming exposure of the dark and corrupt underbelly of the music industry, particularly in its dealings with aspiring artists.

Many artists hailing from humble backgrounds harbor the belief that signing with a record label will be their ticket to a brighter future. Unfortunately, the reality often diverges from these hopeful expectations, leading to frustration and a downward spiral in their lives. MohBad's struggles were evident, not only in his music but also in his conversations and demeanor. His battle with personal demons was a recurrent theme, and the revelations that have surfaced since his passing have shed a stark light on the industry's inner workings. The heartbreaking narrative of this young and vibrant talent, with a promising career and a bright future ahead, serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges and pitfalls that many artists face, and the urgent need for reform within the music industry to protect the well-being and aspirations of its rising stars.

In the midst of all this, the pervasive web of multidimensional poverty has transformed Nigerian society into something more ominous. People are caught in a relentless struggle for survival, operating on autopilot as they scrape together meager resources to stay afloat. The desperation to escape poverty has pushed many Nigerians to seek any means possible, even if it means sacrificing others in their path. It's a harsh reality, akin to the jungle that David Hundeyin eloquently described.


Money has become the focal point of existence, overshadowing almost every aspect of life. Relationships have shifted towards transactional exchanges, as the struggle for survival blurs the lines between genuine connections and opportunistic ones. To put it bluntly, it often feels like a choice between outsmarting others or facing ruthless obliteration, with the very food from one's mouth at stake. Furthermore, the desperation to break free from poverty has led millions to fall victim to various scams, illustrating the lengths to which individuals are willing to go in pursuit of economic relief.

The underestimated influence of poverty in the Mohbad saga is striking. Poverty screams in Nigeria. Everything is hard (including the simplest things) even a loaf of bread, a cup of garri, a cup of rice or a tin of milk is now a luxury for more people. Poverty has evolved into a tool for subjugation and manipulation, serving as a justification for exploiting individuals and keeping them captive when they attempt to assert their rights. When one finds themselves in poverty, they possess almost no bargaining power when they find themselves in conflict with those in positions of authority. While the multitalented late musician was undoubtedly outspoken, the pervasive corruption within the system and the multitude of impoverished individuals struggling to survive made his burden insurmountable.


Beyond the realm of the music industry, countless Nigerians are trapped in the grip of poverty, living in a state of subjugation when dealing with the privileged elite. Poverty renders people susceptible, serving as a formidable instrument for fostering division and control, similar to the effects of brainwashing. Friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even family members are often sacrificed in pursuit of promises of material gain or upward social mobility.


The extraordinary lengths some individuals are forced to go to in order to survive in Nigeria might seem like scenes from a horror film or a work of fiction. Millions struggle to secure basic sustenance, while the twin specters of inflation and unemployment (coupled with underemployment) cast a shadow of despair over the land. With a population of 200 million plus; over 63% of Nigeria is impacted by multidimensional poverty based on 2022 national figures as shown in the poverty map website (see picture below). Looking at the figures as they jump up and down on Nigeria's Bureau of Statistics page, it is clear how the prices of basic items continue to fluctuate in the upward direction.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the 3 measures of multidimensional poverty include standard of living (sanitation, access to clean water, electricity etc.), education (years of schooling and schooling attendance) and health (nutrition and child mortality). The 2023 UNDP multidimensional poverty data shows that of the 100 countries surveyed 6.1 billion, 1.1 billion are poor and of that 1.1 billion, 534 million live in Sub Sharan Africa alone. Which is to say half of the poor people in the world live in Sub Sharan Africa. See the screenshot of infographics from the UNDP website below.


Despite 15.93% nominal and 2.51% real GDP growth, those figures do not mean much to ordinary Nigerians on the streets trying to survive. What is GDP if it does not translate to practical well-being? The vacuum left by failed governance has created multiple opportunities for impunity to thrive leaving citizens to fight for themselves because as a poor person or even a middle class with no connection to the corridors of power, you are on your own.


Too many citizens take laws into their own hands and others are a government unto themselves. If Mohbad was a child of a rich man in Nigeria, would he have suffered the way he suffered? man cried out constantly about his unfortunate dealings with a record label that would allegedly cost him his life. He even submitted complaints to the police but not much was done as the details of the inaction by the Nigerian police remain shrouded in mystery.


Poverty and the lack of sufficient safety nets are major contributors to why many young people end up as street urchins and find mentors with the wrong crowd. When you come from nothing in society, from the ghetto as a nobody, it takes so much to come through at the top with your soul unscathed in Nigeria. From job hunting, surviving in the workplace, running a business, going through school, getting an international passport, raising a family, visiting the hospital, and just about everything that seems normal elsewhere; Nigeria is just different.

Attempting to find one's purpose in a country marked by inherent dysfunctionality can be a harrowing experience for its citizens. Being a Nigerian is emotionally and mentally exhausting. You check the headlines, it's from one bad news to the next. The very act of understanding the extent of one's endurance as a Nigerian can be immensely draining. Even upon leaving the nation's borders, the weight of the green passport continues to hang heavily. Recent events, such as the #ENDSARS protest, the outcomes of the last elections, and the decisions of the election tribunal, only serve to emphasize the intricate and disheartening nature of the situation.


Having lived abroad since 2019, I have come to realize through practical experience that nothing can replace the importance of securing basic necessities. Once these fundamental needs are met, a cascade of positive developments tends to follow. People being able to get on with their lives without being burdened with the weight of doing these things themselves makes a world of difference. Regrettably, in Nigeria, the erosion of something as fundamental as social trust is painfully evident. Suspicion and mistrust pervade even the smallest interactions, and this prevailing insecurity often forms the bedrock upon which self-serving decisions are made by those in positions of authority and influence.

God grant Mohbad eternal rest and I am hoping his death will not just fade away when all the dust settles because there is so much that we need to reflect on as a nation, probe our institutions, shed more length on the entertainment industry, work conditions and it should be a rallying point for young people in Nigeria to unite and fight the common enemies determined to stifle our progress. It is also an opportunity for young people with a dream of building a lasting music career to strive to be educated on the terms of contract when signing music deals; particularly to read beyond the lines. At least, we can understand why Burna Boy's mum follows him everywhere; parents should protect their children, not leave them to the vultures.

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