Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nigeria,As A Metaphor For Poverty.

There are as many definitions of poverty,as there are economists. One can also add the myriad definitions by lay people who can think,and it is to the latter I belong.

There are two basic schools of thought,one defines poverty as the condition of being alienated from education,health,shelter, etc,the other reduces it to subsistence on a monetary value;they say if you are living on less than one dollar a day,you are poor.

I do not completely agree with the two schools of thought. I believe poverty,from my observation of people in the different countries I have visited,is an amalgam of the two,and much more.

The value of a dollar in Nigeria,is about one hundred and fifty naira. If we are to follow the World Bank's one dollar benchmark for poverty,if you can afford one hundred and fifty naira everyday,you are not poor.
The globalization of this simplistic definition,is a gross error! And it is so for one simple factor,inflation.The cost,and value,of goods,and services,are not uniform all over the world!

What a dollar can purchase in Ulan Bator in Mongolia,is not the same in Berne Switzerland! If all you have to survive on everyday in Switzerland is two dollars,you will not last for long!

Meanwhile,if you are in the United Kingdom,and you are a citizen,the society ensures that you will survive better on less than one dollar a day,than in any of the two aforementioned places!This is due to the social security net in place. To the Mongolian,you are a King!

On the other hand,there is the definition that presupposes that access,or lack of it, to social amenities,is a sure benchmark. What the proponents of this definition forget,is that states are not run as charitable institutions! America,as advanced as the country is,was polarized by Barack Obama's health reform.

And even where these social infrastructure seem to exist,they may not be performing their fundamental roles.

A  queer quirk can be observed when one looks at the Nigerian situation. In Nigeria,the figures do not just add up. Given variables elsewhere, are shifting,or non existent here. I'll explain. If all you have to survive in Nigeria is two dollars,you are worse than poor.

You could have access to all the social amenities,for example,  hospitals,where you have to carry out your laboratory tests in commercial facilities outside the hospital, and pay commercial rates, and drugs that you have to purchase from commercial pharmacies.

Need we talk about schools where children are told to bring chalk,or their own furniture.Or is it  electricity,where despite your being connected to the national grid,you are forced to generate your own electricity from generators,and still pay the power utility company for service not rendered at the end of the month!

In a nutshell,because of the uncertainties inherent in the system,a person who subsists on only one hundred dollars every month,which is fifteen thousand naira,is worse than poor! 
And this is what encourages graft,kidnappings,extortions by uniformed personnel,and all the concomitant evils that have become synonymous with Nigeria.

Nigeria is an anachronism,people are living in lack,in the midst of plenty! They are not doing so under colonial rule,nor because of some armed conflict,or natural disaster!It is happening in peace time! And that is why it is scary. If people are poor like this,when there is peace,what would conditions be like in times of conflict,or natural disasters.

General Santa Ana,the famous Mexican General,whose defeat,led to the ceding of California to the Americans,was a man famous for "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory";in Nigeria today,we have patented the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In adding to the definition of poverty,I would like to add that an inability to determine one's political will,and representation,a lack of transparency in the electoral process,is actually the ultimate sign of deep-rooted poverty.

For where an individual is denied transparent political representation,such a person is truly poorer than poor. 

And in that regard,almost every Nigerian is living below the poverty line!

As we all collectively come together to right this injustice,


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