The rich and their poverty

rich, will of God

THE warped perception of the purpose of wealth among the rich of our land is quite revolting. Contrary to what obtains in many other countries where wealth is not deemed a weapon of oppression and the poor not treated as the scum of the earth to be trampled upon, the rich in Nigeria want to keep the poor down perpetually so that they would continually be worshipped by the poor.

The rich in Nigeria do not work towards bridging the gap between them and the poor. That is not in their interest because they believe the principal edge they have over the poor is their wealth. The rich’s day is made when they are able to flaunt their wealth provocatively before the poor. What gives the Nigerian rich man infinite kick is the number of the poor that line up early in the morning in front of his house waiting with their tales of woe, hoping he would lend them a hand to lift them out of the pit. After keeping them in the sun for hours, he struts out of the inner recesses of his mansion, looks contemptuously at the multitude, takes his seat on a high chair, beckons on them to come forward with their requests one after the other, dips his hand into his money bag after each story and doles out some money to the poor story teller.

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The same mentality rules our political space; the political office holder does not see himself as a servant of the people that he really is; rather his perception of himself is as the lord of all. Therefore, the state must defer to him. It does not matter what the people need, his greed has to be satisfied. He sees nothing wrong with building a new official residence with billions of naira even when millions have nowhere to lay their heads. He considers mingling with the people a crime. Hence, he surrounds himself with security operatives who alienate him from the people he is supposed to serve. He insists on using the siren as a symbol of oppression. It is beneath him to stop when the traffic light turns red. He expects everybody but him to respect the law. He expects loyalty from everybody but is not loyal to any. He expects love from all but he alone is the object of his own affection.

He dispenses political patronage as a reward for what he considers allegiance. Therefore, whichever community or group he perceives as disloyal to his regime is schemed out of the ‘largesse’ of his government; the health facilities in such communities would be run down and deprived of the required amenities, their bad roads would not be fixed and no new one, no matter how much necessary, would be opened up; its schools would not be supplied with teachers and its sons and daughters would not be appointed into political offices. He would almost snuff life out of such community until the leaders go to him cap in hand to beg for their lives. After giving them a lecture on loyalty, he will throw some placebo projects at the community to make them complaisant to him.

But that is not the essence of money or power. Wealth is supposed to be used to improve the lot of others for the simple reason that the needs of everyone are minimal. Once the basic needs of an individual are satisfied, the bulk of what is left is meant for others. Of what use is wealth surrounded by so much lack?

Ditto for political power. Power is held in trust by one for many. Power is not really for the benefit of the holder. The purpose of power is to ensure balance in any organisation or nation. Power is to be used to bring as many people as possible close to the point of equilibrium.

It is the failure of understanding of the purpose of wealth and power that is at the base of the problems currently crippling the nation. Terror attack, kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent vices are largely a response of the excluded poor to the insensitivity of the rich and powerful. According to a common saying, “When the poor have nothing to eat they will go for the rich.”

As observed by Mother Teresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The solution to every problem is buried in that problem. The solution to the problem of insecurity in our land is in a change of attitude by the wealthy and the powerful; they need to show more concern, they need to exhibit love. Insecurity in the land will continue to escalate until the rich and the powerful come to the understanding that we belong to one another.

The post The rich and their poverty appeared first on Tribune Online.

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