BY DOMINIC KIDZU
“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
For many years after I began working, some friends, family and community members regularly came to me for financial assistance and I obliged the ones I could, gladly, while appealing for more time to those whose requests I couldn’t handle immediately. In the end I was always able to touch elbows with most without necessarily undermining my own affairs.There was no money transfer by telephone then, so my personal assistant maintained a notebook of account details of many, many people. He was for a long time a regular visitor at many banks as a result of that.
Today, whenever someone sends me their account details requesting for assistance, I find myself promptly irritated and even sad, because I am also looking for someone to send my account details to in the hope of getting a lifeline. And I know that I am not alone, because my colleagues, peer group and friends are going through the same pangs of want and social relegation to a lower, shameful class. Mid-level civil servants, assistants/advisers in state and local governments, lecturers, senior teachers, accomplished journalists and entrepreneurs were all members of the middle class who could take care of their immediate families and a few others besides.
But the middle class has at last been wiped away by brainless politicians, unbridled corruption and the wrong headed advice from Breton woods institutions, the apostles of globalization whose eternal diagnosis, year in year out, is the devaluation of currency, removal of subsidies and slavish acceptance of foreign loans. The living conditions of Nigeria have plummeted in such a way that it has become a grim task for members of the deceased middle class to buy fuel for their second-hand cars and electric generators or feed their families adequately without requesting for help from the few big men and sending them their account details.
In Nigeria today, there are two socio-economic classes – the very rich, who number about 1℅ and the very poor, about 99℅ and the two classes of people are mutually irreconcilable. They do not live on the same streets. Don’t drive the same type of vehicles. Don’t eat at the same restaurants. Don’t go to the same hospitals. Don’t share the same drinks. Ironically, most of the super rich have neither conscience, character, morality, nor principles or humanity. Mahatma Gandhi might indeed have been postulating about these ones, because they lack industry or high education and are quite simply pests on the nation’s life spring.
In every state you have the minister, the governor, some members of the National Assembly, one or two federal appointees, a judge or two in courts of appellate jurisdiction and one or two “connected” portfolio businessmen. They are the nouveau riche, the new authors and givers of life itself, feasting on the patrimony of the people, government provides them free houses and cars, the Central Bank gives them differential foreign currency rates. Their children study overseas and they themselves treat their malaria overseas as well. Lazy, unintelligent, bereft of conscience and foresight, beholden only unto the god of money and power. They represent only themselves and their families and look at the miling 99℅ with disdain and scorn, while scoffing at the studious and brilliant who ‘waste’ so much time in school studying how to be poor and beggarly men.
It’s a new world, a strange country, where intelligent people are silenced so that the stupid ones won’t be offended. Where those who attempted GCE without “winning” are presidents, governors and ministers while professors beg for their meagre earned income. And people who were in the middle class are only too happy to run errands for the stuffed turkeys with large torsos and little heads, and violent gang members who have ‘transformed’ into political leaders, driving the nation safely down to its knees. The bank executives rebuff creative ideas and innovations and the preachers cross the social Rubicon with their families in tow. Here is George Orwell all over again as ” the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, and already, it was impossible to say which was which. ”
The middle class, that great engine of production and growth has been replaced by “our party” and it’s jaded flock is perhaps too smitten even to say a word in protest. That is why I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. That vital buffer between the people and the wealthy has been demolished and one day, just one day, they will meet and the grapes of wrath may be unleashed.