Thursday 30 September 2010

Nigeria: Our Marie Antoinette says, "Let Them Eat Rice"

It’s a rice race

On the eve of Nigeria’s Independence Golden Jubilee, I find myself writing what I in my heart of hearts would never wanted to talk about, but then the whole purpose of my writing is to address things that are too concerning to ignore.

A picture [1] they say speaks louder than a thousand words but at this time I will try to describe a picture in a thousand words.

I came across this news item on the news website [1], one man in uniform with a big sack on his head apparently of rice and another one with a shoe in his hands being jostled, maybe nothing much to read into it but another good look reveals a very disturbing situation.

Rats to the cheese

In a quest for cheap, populist and derisible publicity the 1st Lady of Nigeria, a designation that should be consigned to ignominy decided to do the charitable work of distributing 2 million bags of premium Brazilian rice to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory.

One can only wonder how the news or rumours spread but as the news reports it there was a fracas, probably a stampede, people were hurt and the security personnel found it impossible to control the crowd.

There are too many issues conflated in this incident and one was to deal with them in their minutiae.

Foreign luxuries for local bellies

Journey with me for a while and consider another head of state on a visit to Nigeria being presented with traditional Nigeria crafts like an Ife bronze statue but only for the recipient to look at the base and see the hallmark – Made in China – sacrilege would not begin to explain ones disdain, disappointment and disgrace.

Nigeria, with all its arable land and large agrarian economy was done a great disservice when nothing was done to promote Nigerian products but 2 million bags imported from Brazil of the best kind thrown like food parcels to victims of a natural disaster whose eyes are popping out with malnutrition and hunger.

This by the 1st Lady of giving foreign good credence over Nigerian, though there might well be the case that we do not produce enough for ourselves and have to import rice.

Securing his bag of rice

For whatever reason, there is no doubt that this could have been better organised such that those lead by their bellies for the lack they suffer as citizens of Nigeria did not have to come to any harm and still get of this largesse paid for by the taxpayers or resources of the people.

Tis would have been where the security forces would have been able to introduce a sense of orderliness but they are just as hungry and as impoverished as the people they were supposed to control, so they also joined in the scramble and chaos no doubt ensured.

We can safely assume the honourable officer of the law in the picture got out his truncheon and whack a few people on his way to claim the golden bag of rice and having acquired one with his colleagues decided to make away with the loot.

Meanwhile his other colleague might just have accidentally found himself in the thicket of a marauding crowd, a stamp there and a kick there and suddenly he has to feel for his shoe on the ground and because he was thronged he had to hold his shoe until he got of out the press of the crowd.

Machiavellian it is

What does this say of Nigeria @ 50, an opportunist grab of the publicity of philanthropy whose main purpose is to hold vulnerable people in gratitude in order to exact payback in the not too distant future?

As one of the lucky bag-catchers volunteered, the 1st Lady was commended for her kindness with other people’s money and property and taking the accolades under the guise of Food Outreach Programme of the First Lady.

If the rice had come from China, it would have been apt for a Chinese proverb which states by inference, “Give a man some rice you feed him a day, teach him how to farm and you feed him for his life.”

However that would be belabouring the point that our leadership have no ideas but shortcuts and gimmicks for instant gratification.

Abrogate African 1st Ladies

As for the matter of 1st Lady, it does make me wonder why political office is allowed this excess, like for instance, do I as a Systems Consultant at work sometimes have the opportunity to call in my girlfriend or boyfriend as 1st Lady or 1st Gentleman in my place to do my job, stand by me and represent me.

Indeed, to have a partner and confidant is good, but to accord the partner office, status and the opportunity to abuse to the point of lavish aggrandisement that could rival the 1st Shopper of Zimbabwe is just plain bad conduct.

Dare I say, Nigeria’s Marie Antoinette has declared, “Let them eat rice.” As for the primitive populist ploy of gaining votes through the bellies of the hungry, I have seen no dame as despicable; I cannot even mention her name.

Let us not be blindsided by the obvious philanthropy masking some more sinister ploy because what happens when the bag of rice is exhausted, it is definitely not seed for planting.

Shame on you for bringing such disgrace on Nigeria at this auspicious time. Shame!


[1] | Commotion at Independence rice distribution venue

[2] The Nation - Scramble for First Lady’s rice


ooj said...

Some measure of redemption - no matter how ironical - would have been obtained if it were Nigerian grown rice being shared. Alas - it was Brazilian!


I agree with ThirtyPlus.

Oh how I wish there was a modicum of decency, that Nigerians would be treated with respect by those charged to serve them.

Ah, this is taking me down from the high I was trying to develop in anticipation of Nigerian independence...

CodLiverOil said...

One can not get annoyed when foreigners deride Nigeria and Nigerians. The lack of co-ordination, orderliness and sound planning is truly sickening. We are well and truly not advancing in any respect.

There are better ways of distributing aid. What has happened to agriculture? To distribute common foodstuffs, food items must be imported, why? This doesn’t say much about planning, or even what the ministry of agriculture is doing.

Police etc, should be paid enough and disciplined enough so that they don’t contribute to disorder. Nigerians should better desist from calling themselves the “giant of Africa”, they are more like “obese idiot of Africa”, overweight, weak and ailing. They are doing themselves and Africa a big disservice.

This outreach program, is it helping the victims of floods in Jigawa state, or the victims of cholera throughout the country? Are the people of the FCT the poorest in Nigeria? What clouds the minds of those in Aso rock?

One has to ask is this is how aid in Nigeria is distributed? What would happen if a truly large disaster occurred? If the foreigner doesn’t come to rescue us from ourselves, then we are finished.

The Brazilians have a saying in their coat of arms “order and progress” – there is merit to those brief words, our leaders and society to should take it to heart.

Questions need to be asked and action needs to be taken.

Akin Akintayo said...

My friends,

I cannot add much more to your comments, my anger and derision at the whole episode still leaves me livid with rage.



ThirtyPlusGeek said...

Some measure of redemption - no matter how ironical - would have been obtained if it were Nigerian grown rice being shared. Alas - it was Brazilian!

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