Hunger in the Land

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha


By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

There is hunger in the land. Real hunger. Hunger for food. Hunger for truth. Hunger for security. Hunger for reassurance that the Nigerian dream is not going off in a puff. Hunger for heroes, for real heroes. Hunger for true religion. Hunger for stability. Hunger for ethnic harmony. Hunger for the rise of true leaders. Hunger for true democracy. Hunger for a true federation. Hunger for a country in which though tribes and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand. But the hunger of millions of Nigerians for food, for the capacity to put food on the table and feed their families, is overwhelming. Inflation is flying like a supersonic jet. Wages have stood still like the sun in Mount Ajalon. Amid this dearth of food and peace of mind, some Cubana laggards and their cohorts have been spraying cash at funerals as if there was economic prosperity, competing outlandishly on a gaudy display of wealth, ill-gotten or whatever.

In all of this, government is missing. No word. No remission. No new policy thrusts. Even the military in their days introduced palliative measures. The CBN is doing acrobatics with monetary policy. The federal government is deep in debt, absent in the real psychology of presence. Indeed, in Nigeria, it would seem that ‘hell is empty because all the devils are here’ if I may borrow Shakespeare. This has created another type of hunger in form of a fundamental question: when will this odious and cavalier approach to governance come to an end?

When there is hunger in the land, government is obliged to respond to cries. Government is compelled, expected to introduce measures to curb inflation. Why do we have galloping inflation? Why has the power of the naira shrunk so low? It is worst in the ‘war-ravaged’ sections of the country. How do the kids in bandits’-terrorised area feed daily? What is their fate in life? What is their fate in future Nigeria? A truncated childhood is a truncated future. How do women feed? Are farmers able to go to their farms? Government is obliged to do something. The federal government. The state governments. The 774 local governments. To ameliorate suffering. To reduce desperation. The Nigerian child must not go to bed hungry. Nigerian families should not go to bed hungry. Have we read any statements from any governor about intervening to end hunger, to address inflation? Has the focus not been 2023 and how they must remain in power in 2023 and beyond?

How does the average civil servant fare? What about the petty trader? The average family of four or five? How are they coping with the scary and frightening rate of inflation? How much money is available to them to feed? These are not persons who are crying over restructuring the country. They are not worried about the big issues of the day. They just want to get on with the business of living daily. They do not hate, at least not on account of religion ethnicity or cultural difference. They just want to live and let others live. They are more in Nigeria than the ones who make the headlines. They do not dream big. They are found in Akwete. Found in Amawbia. Found in Kaura Namoda. Found in Mereje. In Ikere Ekiti. In Igbora. In Talata Mafara. In Bauchi. Nembe. Oloibiri. In Gboko. In Ilaje. In Igbotako. Everywhere in the country. The fight of the big men, among the big men, between the big men, about the big issues is making poor, ordinary folks desperate for food, for a living. This must not continue. This cannot continue.

Wives return from the market with a tale of woes. Family relations cry about inflation. The monthly take home cannot take anybody to the bus stop. Meat protein is getting leaner and leaner in the pot and plates of millions. It is real, this cry, this hunger. A basket of garri that was N350, which rose to N550, then N800, then N1100, N1700, now it sells for N2000 and above. A basket of rice is now. A basket of beans which sold at N2200 at the beginning of 2021 is now N3400. Indomie, noodles, the must-be meal for the young ones is now N4200. A cow which sold at N150-N250k at the beginning of January this year now sells for one million naira. For the poor Level 1 civil servant, this translates into something profound when he must eat at home. Or in the buka. An average goat now sells for N50k, from N30k. Yet, we have not heard a word of direct succour and intervention from governments across the land.

Hunger for food! Hunger for necessities of life! These have led to revolutions in the past. Hunger for bread and the Frech revolution of 1789. We are told that the ‘Frech revolution was obviously caused by a multitude if grievances more complicated than the price of bread, but bread shortages played a role in stoking anger toward the monarchy’. The Arab Spring started as a series of ‘protests against’ oppressive regimes and a ‘low standard of living’. True that Nigerians have gotten used to a low standard of living. True that protests have been brutally supressed. It is also true that the Nigerian government has not been able to brutally end the insurrection and banditry that have seized the land. What do these facts tell us?

Mr President. Mr. Governor. Mr. Minister. Mr. Senate President. Mr. Speaker. Mr. Legislator. Mr. LG Chairman. There is hunger in the land. Do you feel the pulse? Do you the fury? Do you feel the rumbling stomachs through requests and requests for assistance? There is hunger in the land. Furious hunger. This is no rhetoric. This is not politics. No one is certain about how much garri would cost tomorrow. The buyer is hungry. The seller is hungry. And angry. No one can plan effectively. There is a national nightmare dancing before our eyes like haloes. Dizzying. Scary. Food is a national nightmare. Inflation is a national nightmare. Nigerians abroad keep saying ‘when will things in that country change? It is no longer their country. It is that country! Poignant. Worrying. Not comforting.

If there is any empathy left, this is the time to intervene, the time to fight hunger as a policy. It is now time to combat inflation. This is the time to return to the drawing board. A time to heal. A time to think of the poor in the land. For a country endowed with so much food, we have no business keeping people hungry and angry.Poor people in the Northeast have been recruited into the anti-state warrior movements. And more are being recruited. Hunger is the cause. Religion is just a smokescreen. This is the truth. The poor in the north and the poor in the south feel the bite. It is a common denominator. That most persons from a region are on the seat of power at the federal level does not reduce, has not reduced hunger in any part of the country. Bob Marley once sang, ‘a hungry man is an angry man! My brothers and sisters, there is hunger in the land! Even the blind and deaf and see, hear and feel the loud bang of annihilating hunger!.