The Pains Are Everywhere.
ON a motorbike last week, I heard a harrowing tale. Around the Imalefalafia area of Ibadan a woman had hopped on an okada, only to tell the rider a few minutes later that her claimed destination was actually a hoax. Long and short: the rider should give her N200 and exact fleshly reward. She was hungry-very desperately so-and was in no mood for jokes. Not justifying crime, but such is the misery in the land. Another woman (let's call her Mrs B) arrested by a neighbour got police reprieve in my area recently. The neighbour's just-prepared eba had disappeared and, full of wrath, she had kicked open Mrs B's room in the face-me-I-face-you enclave, only to find Mrs B and her three children eating the eba with water garnished with salt. The 'thieves' had not eaten anything for three days.
'This is not a police case. This woman is simply famished and poor. Only a poor and desperately hungry woman could have stolen eba. When you found her and her children eating eba with water and salt, you should have realised that it was hunger that drove them to that point of desperation,' a lady Inspector counselled, mandating her colleagues to donate money for the hapless, crying widow's comfort. Mrs B could not hold back her tears. The complainant went home, pacified and head-bowed. But the pains are everywhere, not just Ibadan.
Many have been reduced to a piece of bread, yet the privileged proclaim their place as Pontifex Maximus of everything right. The 'women battling centuries of maleficent slavery' (see Niyi Osundare's The Eye of the Earth) are still trapped in the tragedy of lack. It is the lot of a blind land. In fact, there's something about N200, as I'm told that the easy ladies in some areas can now go for as low as that sum. Time was, though, when they were prideful, deploring cluelessness. Now they are in a next level of inanition. Wives can no longer be wives and husbands can no longer be husbands. Children are being crushed by hunger as we speak and homes are in pain and despair. Their voices do not count: the devil rules the airwaves. The country's hostels signify poverty: beans and gari are a treasure, and only the significantly privileged and well-off can afford soft drinks.
Over in the power base, though, it is a tale of laughter. Let those who bribe a few to ruin multitudes continue their game. Let those who think they own today, those for whom the rustle of dollars notes is routine, continue riding the waves of megalomania. Let them tread the earth, full of wine brewed in the temple of self-worship. Let them oppress the needy and scoff at the lowly. Let them crush every dissent. I no longer counsel the power-drunk to remember the power-drowned.