Republic of the wretched/Zombies

Emmanuel Onwubiko

 By Emmanuel Onwubiko

“There’s not a drug on earth that can make life meaningful”,- Sarah Kane.

I must confess from the onset that in high school, I was not really a fan of mathematics, may be because I didn’t like the teaching methodology of that particular teacher then. You know the late Afro-beat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti had released a song in which he admonished those who mentor people thus: “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense.”

But a branch of mathematics tickled my fancy as I grew older.  That branch is called statistics. This is a science that reduces every social or economic issues into numbers and figures and percentages. 

Two days ago  two statistical data emerged in Nigeria from official quarters that immediately set up an alarm bell in me signalling  that Nigeria is effectively a republic of the wretched and Zombies. Those statistics were as pathetic as they were frightening and appear like Nigerians have reached the last bus stop of gloom and doom. 

But before dwelling on those two Nigeria’s official statistical releases, let me remind us of Frantz Fanon’s award winning book titled “the wretched of the Earth.”

A deep review of that book was scripted by Halford H. Fairchild and i recently downloaded a part thereof from Googlescholars.

The reviewer wrote thus: “The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1968) is a lasting testimony to the genius of Frantz Fanon. Hailed as “The Handbook for the Black Revolution,” The Wretched of the Earth is a probing examination of colonization, a compelling description of the process of decolonization, and a prophetic analysis of independence movements around the world.”

The reviewer went on thus: “The Wretched of the Earth provides a glimpse of Fanon’s grand vision of international and intercultural affairs, and Fanon gives specific prescriptions for individuals and collectivities that continue to seek cultural and national liberation. Fanon’s conclusion underscores the importance of this work for African and African American liberation, to be sure; but, more importantly, it challenges Africans throughout the diaspora to assume a leadership position in bringing about a new, more humane world order. The Wretched of the Earth is a series of four far-ranging and connected essays. Fanon, a psychiatrist by training, also presents a “series of case studies” of psychiatric disorders that are tied to struggles for liberation.

From the above accounts documented in that revolutionary blueprint, one can deduce that the condition of life in Nigeria has gotten to the level that can be aptly described as assuming the title as citizens who are the wretched of Nigeria. This is so because from the year 2015 to this day, that is approximately seven and half years, the General condition of living in Nigeria has plummeted to an All time low (Costs of living are excruciatingly  and painfully high) largely and mainly to crass mismanagement of the National resources of Nigeria by the sets of political office holders wielding powers at different levers of political official powers and more importantly, from the office of the President of Nigeria.

Nigeria is run as a gangsters fiefdom with little or no consideration for the wellbeing or welfare of the Hoi polloi. Crimes are even committed by government officials and no effort is spared to cover up these heists of public funds by officials connected to the powers that be. 

The government at the centre has in seven years led us from top to bottom in terms of economic prosperity just as insecurity has assumed frightening scales with terrorists wielding overwhelming powers and posing formidable challenge to state’s controlled forces or organised and lawful cohesion. 

People get killed like Christmas goats by all kinds of armed non state actors. Armed State actors that are statutorily set up to provide security to lives of Nigerians and safeguard their legitimately earned assets or property,  have all but failed in this primary lawful duty. Even the National strategic security assets have come under bombardments constantly by well armed non State actors. At a point it was rumoured that eve  terrorists have their moles planted with the armed forces of Nigeria.  This is how so low the standard of law enforcement has deteriorated in Nigeria of the year 2022 under President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Crimes of sophisticated nature such as mass killings and kidnappings of citizens have assumed gigantic and tragic dimensions. Travelling by roads is now a sure drive to the pit of hell.  Economically, poverty has become widespread. Unemployment is high and inflation is about the highest globally at over 21.09% according to the National Bureau of statistics.  

However, where the Nigerian situation is worrisome and burdensome is that the more wretched millions of Nigerians become, the more they become tolerant of their oppressors who give them peanuts as bribes whilst these thieving politicians rob Nigeria blind.  Few weeks back in the Ekiti governorship election,  voters were bribed with soup money of five thousand Naira for their votes and the man who could pay emerged. 

To cap it up then, the bulk of the youths who should galvanise a revolution similar to the prophetic words of Frantz Fanon in his locus classicus aforementioned,  have chosen to embrace addiction to hard drugs and are increasingly becoming Zombies meaning that rather than contribute to national growth, development and advancement as youths, these youths embracing addictions to hard drugs and chemical substances are increasingly turning themselves into ZOMBIES. Long time ago, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang that the bulk of recruits into the Nigerian Army are ZOMBIES. 

This is not how our collective suffering should end particularly with general election fast approaching in which the electorate should use it as a revolution to change their status quo by electing only persons of good character as political leaders. 

By choosing a charismatic and incorruptible President in the first quarter of next year  certainly, Nigerians would have achieved a revolutionary milestone as prophetically stated by Frantz Fanon’s award winning book titled the wretched of the Earth.  

Now, here are the two frightening statistics I spoke about earlier just recently released by government.  

One is on the high number of absolutely impoverished Nigerians and the second is on the increasing number of drug addicts amongst young Nigerians.  On 17th November 2022, the media reported that the National Bureau of Statistics had disclosed that 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor.

In its latest National Multidimensional Poverty Index Report launched on Thursday, the NBS said that 63 per cent of Nigerians are poor due to a lack of access to health, education, and living standards, alongside unemployment and shocks.

The MPI offers a multivariate form of poverty assessment, identifying deprivations across health, education, living standards, work and shocks.

According to the Statistician-General at the NBS, Semiu Adeniran, it is the first time they will conduct a standard multidimensional poverty survey in Nigeria.

“The survey was implemented in 2021 to 2022 and it is the largest survey with a sample size of over 56,610 people in 109 senatorial districts in the 36 stated of Nigeria,” he said.

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, who revealed the findings from the report said 63 per cent of Nigerians are multidimensionally poor meaning that they are being derived in more than one dimension of the four measured.

He said, “Multidimensional poverty is more pronounced in rural areas where 72 per cent of people are poor compared to urban areas where we have 42 per cent.

“Gender disparity continues to affect the population with one in seven poor people living in a household in which a man has completed high school but the woman has not.”

Then, on the second leg of the frightening statistics, we learnt that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had charged parents and other stakeholders to ensure that hard drugs are kept away from young Nigerians.

NDLEA Chairman and chief executive officer who has won widespread acclamation for his charismatic leadership style Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa made the call at the Realnews Magazine 10th anniversary lecture on Thursday in Lagos.

“The truth is instead of a boom, they (Nigerian youths) could become a burden because of abuse of illicit substances,” warned Mr Marwa.

In a statement by the NDLEA spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, Mr Marwa warned that complacency could compromise the bright future ahead of the youth population.

“Let me leave us with a thought-provoking submission about the danger of complacency in tackling drug abuse among youths. By 2030, demographic factors project the number of people using drugs to rise by 11 per cent around the world, and as much as 40 per cent in Africa alone,” explained the NDLEA chief. “This is an early warning that we should all take seriously and ensure that we keep our young people away from dangerous substances that compromise the bright future ahead of them.”

Mr Marwa stressed that instead of benefitting from the advantages of the huge youth population in Nigeria, the reverse might be the case. This, he said, would be if relevant stakeholders failed to stand up and join ongoing efforts against the drug scourge.

“It is globally recognised that one of Africa’s comparative advantages is its huge youth population. This country, Nigeria, for instance, has no less than 151 million young people, accounting for 70 per cent of our estimated 217 million population,” added the NDLEA boss. 

He pointed out that “most of us don’t know what that means,” emphasising that youth “means creativity, strength, resourcefulness and productivity.” 

“But how do we rake in these benefits when a significant number of this population is involved in the abuse of illicit substances?” said Mr Marwa and revealed that the NDLEA had initiated some youth-focused measures to safeguard them against the pressures and temptations of going into drugs, including War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign.

“Other measures include an open-door treatment at 26 NDLEA treatment facilities across the country,” he said.

On July 19, 2022, one of Nigeria’s most beloved Business newspapers BusibessDay wrote as follows: “Nigeria has maintained the infamous title of ‘World Poverty Capital’ according to the World Bank since 2016. The World Bank data had shown that four in every ten Nigerians live below the poverty line of $1.9 per day.”

The business newspaper in that brief but factually loaded essay stated further: “In the words of Irene Khan, former secretary general of Amnesty International, “poverty is not only about income poverty, but it is also about the deprivation of economic and social rights, insecurity, discrimination, exclusion, and powerlessness. That is why human rights must not be ignored but given even greater prominence in times of economic crisis.” Moreover, rising poverty is directly related to a surge in insecurity. Unfortunately, efforts by the present administration to address the rising challenges of poverty through the National Social Investment Programme meant to improve the standard of living of the average Nigerian has yielded no result for a project that gulps N500 billion annually.”

In conclusion, the essay argued that addressing the challenges of poverty as quickly as possible must be the first step in addressing the overwhelming insecurity issues. Nelson Mandela states, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” With nearly half of Nigerians below the poverty line, youth unemployment at 42.5 percent, a high inflation rate, ASUU strike, disinvestment in the economy, and other surmountable challenges, the security of Nigeria would remain wishful thinking and a mirage, (Alikor Victor is a development economist & policy analyst at The Nextier group).

Lastly, this scenario of winds of absolute poverty blowing across Nigeria should teach us to act like the characters in Frantz Fanon’s book and be determined to refuse to be bribed by drug barons and fraudsters to elect them into offices. We must deploy our permanent voters cards as our revolutionary weapons to elect only credible Nigerians into offices and not persons with past hard drugs related court case anywhere in the World. This is because ‘once a drug barons, always a drug Lord’. 

A friend just sitting by me as i type this poece on my phone shouted “God forbid that Nigeria should be handed over to a convicted drug barons”. 

But the truth as u told him is that the  power to make sure this does not happen is in our hands because God has bestowed on us the WILLPOWER TO RESIST THE DEVIL AND OPT FOR THE GOOD. God won’t exercise right to vote in a President for Nigeria but we the creation of God. 

Nigerians must reject any Presidential candidate who has a baggage of allegations relating to involvement in hard drugs trafficking and fraud. Certificate forgers and age cheats are not good for us. 

Nigerians need to vote in only Men and Women of good reputational character that is unimpeachable.  

We must demand a transparent, free, fair and peaceful general election so our votes will count. 

We are mostly the WRETCHED OF NIGERIA. LET US NOT VOTE FOR A DRUG BARON OR A FRAUDSTER AS PRESIDENT,  GOVERNOR, SENATOR,  LEGISLATORS at all levels. 

Nigerians, are we to continue to SUFFER AND KEEP SMILING LIKE SIMPLETONS or ZOMBIES? 

For me the answer is a big NO. 

***EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

A.I