Rich and powerful people are privileged people. Having privilege simply means that you have special rights and advantages not available to everyone. Now before we make mouth about how people are equal in better societies let us remember that courts almost all over the world hand down something called Option of Fine. A rich and powerful man will simply pay the fine and walk while a poor man who knows nobody goes to jail. Let’s not pretend privileges don’t exist, let’s just manage them well.
From the issues we have to manage is the irresponsibility that usually comes with being privileged. When people are irresponsible they do not deny that someone should be blamed, they just strongly believe it should not be them. When people are irresponsible they do not say the work should not be done, they just strongly believe that it should be done by someone else. When such people take charge of a nation in terms of leadership they are either diplomatic enough so that they don’t say they blame the poor for poverty or they say it stylishly like attributing poverty and people’s inability to feed to people not farming. Sadly, agriculture has come to mean “poor people, go and feed yourself and get food for the rich”. How else does one explain a system that says it is solely my duty to plant and harvest yam, but if I was to find crude oil on the same land, it is government’s property that I must not touch. Common sense will suggest that a government who has sole right to excavate and administer my resources should provide me food and not make excuses for my hunger by complaining that I do not farm. Agriculture is no longer even about food alone, we now hear how if people (read poor people) farmed more they will be able to raise money for shelter and education of their children. The same way we are now told that except we produce everything internally, unlike any country in the world, it is our fault whenever the Naira loses value and of cause when naira loses value it is an excuse for every other thing the nation’s privileged leadership is failing to provide. But I digress.
We are made to believe that food is scarce and this is because we have refuse to farm. Truth is food is not scarce, food is expensive because of near zero policies, bad roads, insecurity, among other problems the government collects tax over and over again for, promising to rectify but fails to. The Federal Bureau of Statistics, in its Labour Force Statistics of 2010, says that Agriculture provided employment for 30% of Nigerians in 2010. Why is our not farming still being repeatedly handed to us as excuse for everything from the dropping of the value of the naira to poverty and climate change? Even worse, when you contrast this figure to that of the United States of America where just 2% of the population are employed in the Agricultural sector as against 50% in 1870, you find that it is not progress to call for more farmers, it is progress to use minimal farmers to produce more food. Let us be done with this lame excuse of non-participation in agriculture already!
We have not said there are no 1.2 million Nigerians starving. We have only said it is not because we are not all farmers. It is because harvesting food has been left in the hands of the average and suffering Nigerian while drilling oil has been the exclusive preserve of a government of the privileged. We also do not think that every single person or politician who says people should go and farm is a privileged oppressor, we have only said that the idea is from privileged oppression; how a specific person came across it and why he believes it is his business. This position is also not to say the people cannot farm to feed themselves, it is to say firstly, the people have not been doing badly, its government that has been standing on the way. Secondly if natural resources belongs to the government which insists on a multiple taxation regime, it is not out of place to ask the same government to provide food or at least not use the result of our effort as excuse for its failures in other sectors. If power used to be provided by government, why not food? Which is more essential?
Let us have a government with policies that we can relate with, a government that discusses what its citizens will eat like something they actually owe. We give politicians all kinds of allowances, let us farm food for the common man, its less expensive, even less expensive than providing power. If he wants to farm his food himself then let the government encourage him with his resources in their care because the thing about food being made available is that it will allow for personal development and specialization that will drive the nation to greatness and the logic is simple; one of the major challenge we face in Nigeria is lack of specialization. The graphic designer is the printer and the publisher and the writer. How can we compete with someone in a country where a graphic designer designs his whole life and has only gone to school to learn graphic design? Nigerians are not dull neither are Nigerians mediocre but why do other people specialize and we don’t? The answer is simply that Nigerians do not have enough time to concentrate on a field of study or a field of practice because we struggle too hard for the most basic of things like food. If food was not dependent on money the average Nigerian will pay more attention to a job and excel.
With the unfortunate way our government is structured to take from the people, the people are either like the children or they are like the slaves. The amount of care and basic needs you provide them will be what will determine if they are exploited slaves whose resources you gather and share among the ruling class while they are left to pick up small particulars from the table, or if they are children whose future you worry about and on whose account and wellbeing resources are being managed and expended. The latter is only said to be true when the government provides the most basic things. Not providing food and accusing the average Nigerian of not farming while frustrating those who do with alarming incompetence is criminal to say the least.
Eseoghene Al-Faruq Ohwojeheri
Official Website: www.essayoghene.com
Twitter Handle: @Faruqish