Who still remembers Success from Warri? I wrote this reflection back then. Where is she in 2023? I am bringing it back because not much has changed in Nigeria since her story went viral on social media. How much has the life of success improved? She is probably grown now but how many of those promises made to her actually materialized?
The story of success, the primary school pupil who preferred flogging for not paying her school fees of N5,000 instead of being sent home is a reflection of many Nigerian children and even more of the magnitude of multi-dimensional poverty in Nigeria. N5,000 is less than $15 but in Nigeria, many families cannot afford it. In Nigeria, improved GDP rarely translates to sustainable economic opportunities. If it took a lawmaker's social media viral post power to reach out to Success and her family then truly, the Government has failed its citizens. It then means if the incident did not happen and it was not posted on Instablog (Nigeria’s foremost gossip blog on Instagram), she would have not gotten the help she needed. What of the millions of children from families who are in the same situation as success who are wallowing in poverty? People can argue that it was her day and her moment but really, what of those who will never have this kind of opportunity? It is nothing but a reflection of a failed system and the Government official coming to their house is only trying to score political points. Acting like they are not aware of the millions of Nigerians suffering as a result of archaic shallow nepotism-inclined policies would simply mean the devil needs to come for lying lessons from these politicians.
Yes, so it means in the “Nigerian” normalized context, Success is one lucky girl. Nigeria, a country ranked first on the extreme poverty list of the world (Brookings Report) with millions of Nigerians wallowing in abject poverty is an example of a poverty paradox; blessed with so much but mismanaged by the few holding onto power. Nigeria’s poverty is also manifested in hunger. Nigerians are grossly malnourished and hungry. The absence of sustainable social protection programs that consist of policies and programs specifically designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability has led to the inefficient labor market, and exposure of many Nigerians to risks; reducing their capacity to manage economic and social risks like unemployment, sickness, disabilities, and old age. In developed countries of the world, citizens can boast of the barest minimum but in Nigeria, you fend for your entire existence from scratch. This invariably puts a lot of young Nigerians at a disadvantage compared to their age mates in developed countries especially when you are not from a wealthy background.
Past Social protection in interventions in Nigeria include;
Family Economic Advancement Programme
Better Life for Rural Women
Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure
National Directorate of Employment
Family Support Programme and others by State Governments.
In the end, these interventions were not sustainable coupled with mismanagement affected the objectives and goals set to be achieved by these programs. The story of Success is a reminder of the reality of millions of Nigerians being affected by Multi-dimensional poverty. A country so grossly mismanaged leaving millions of Nigerians among the 821b million people struggling with chronic hunger. The minimum wage in Nigeria is presently at N15,000 but some people earn less than for a whole month. The question now is what is N15,000 worth? With prices of food and basic items skyrocketing and income still remaining the same, N5,000 will continue to be a big problem for millions in Nigeria. Poverty is very expensive and so, since many Nigerians live in abject poverty, they cannot even afford basic amenities for themselves and their families, this means, living in Nigeria is expensive. When you have to fuel your generator, struggle to afford a plate of food which in most cases is for energy and not so concerned about nutrients, your car is experiencing constant wear and tear daily, many Nigerians cannot boast of a standard working environment, putting in long hours for very little income, the hustle and bustle overhand to mouth living…. that is poverty. In Nigeria, the way people experience poverty goes beyond living on less than $1 a day. Poverty here is not only the lack of means to make ends meet or pay bills for basic amenities, but it is also multi-dimensional. Millions of Nigerians are left behind in Health, Education and living standards. Nigerians pray to their “God” to come down from heaven and fix what the leaders should be doing with taxpayers’ money. The docile nature of many Nigerians as a result of deprivation and poverty means the Government will not be held accountable and yes! There will not be any demand for the Government to make the country work. Nigerians are not ready for the storms to end instead they build a small boat to keep those in their immediate cycle safe and pretend there isn’t any storm, as long as they themselves are no longer sinking…. That is the average Nigerian mindset. People do not bother as long as it does not affect them. It is a way of life that has been mastered. Nigerians will behave when they travel abroad but as soon as the plane lands in Nigeria, they auto-reset and behave like typical Nigeria. Same with when they are going back, they drop their Nigerian “anyhowness” because they know these countries where they are heading are going to have working systems. The level of poverty and hunger in Nigeria cannot even be described in words. Sometimes, it feels exaggerated but you need to visit a city like Lagos, to see what deprivation and poverty look like in human forms. People just package themselves like everything is alright, and carry themselves along with a lot of muted anger and desperation into the streets of Lagos…. But when you look beyond the surface all you can see is poverty in human form. A lot is hidden from plain sight but in reality, poverty is very real on every street in Nigeria. Nigerians are proud and loud human beings, their misplaced resilience just makes people save face. A picture from a Lagos slum that I visited as seen below allows us to pause and see the condition, in which millions of Nigerians still live.
The Government needs to do more. The idea of a country so blessed with resources is regressing and more people sliding into poverty every day. Stomach infrastructure is king because people are so hungry. Everything is about food on the table and trying to stay afloat. The Government needs to go to the grassroots and address problems from the root. The issue of Governors owing people's salaries while they spend lavishly and citizens fainting from lack of food needs to stop. I have my doubts about Nigeria and I wonder if in my lifetime if Nigeria can truly ever be great again but I try to do my best in my little corner, that is how it starts. We must call people out when they behave in a way that is not beneficial to the good of others around us. Hold people around you accountable for the slightest things because these little behaviors become something big when people like that hold public offices and are faced with making policies that affect a large number of people. As a Nigerian, resist mediocrity and the urge to take bribes. Don’t use your office and power as a tool to oppress others just because you can.
We need to stop normalizing suffer head and taking bribes. People need to understand the essence of getting their job done without looking for kickbacks. As individuals, we must do better and stop celebrating mediocrity. How digging bore-hole water becomes headline news is sad because as a leader, basic amenities should come first. It should be seen as a right of the citizens. Glorifying subsistence, living from hand to mouth needs to stop. People must understand that they deserve better and yes, the things we bear in Nigeria and then blame foreigners for treating us like animals need to stop. You must respect your citizens and others for it to be reciprocated. The Federal Government must embrace the practical aspects of Sustainable Development Goals with practical solutions and far-reaching policies, not paperwork and activities. Traveling to conferences all over the world in entourage but cannot truly replicate it in the lives of ordinary Nigerians. We must focus on the result, not the activity and talk. Like success, like the rest of us. Nigeria must become better otherwise we may go extinct and then it would be said…there was a country.