The Curse of Poverty
Your money, your phone, your handbag…. or I’ll stab you…” growled the gruff voice that had jerked open the taxi door. Yes, I was the unfortunate victim who after waiting for many hours for a public bus had to get into a taxi. Destination: home, after a long day at work. My fate: I was dispossessed of all my belongings. The perpetrators: poor and angry young Nigerian men who decided to vent their anger out on the wrong person. That’s right, I had just witnessed firsthand one of the many consequences of poverty.
Poverty indeed is a relative term. Poverty becomes even more glaring when it occurs in the midst of plenty. In Nigeria where I come from, the rich are very rich and the poor are dirt poor. The contrast between poverty and riches hits you very hard in the face. This is a country where people live on less than a dollar a day, while others (mostly corrupt government officials) can afford to lavish a mistress with a $1000 Chanel handbag. Similarly, many people live in sub-human conditions and still others in the same country own estates all over the world. Poverty in my country can indeed be likened to a rotting tooth begging to be pulled out. With poverty comes anger and with anger, the tendency to lash out at the perceived rich. No! I am not the government and I am not rich, but I can afford to take a taxi and so the poor angry robber on the street does not think twice about robbing me.
Crime is not the only consequence of poverty. Another major consequence is the inability to get an education. Cases abound of children having to drop out of primary schools as their parents simply cannot afford to pay school fees and attendant costs. Oh yes, even a bus ride to school is not cheap. Try entering a commercial bus in the mornings and what you see will definitely touch you. School children in uniform will have to carry (‘lap’ in local parlance) themselves in order to save bus fees. It is also a common sight to see uniformed children from public schools roaming the streets because their teachers have failed to show up. Apparently, these teachers have more important business to attend to as their salaries are nothing to write home about. I can imagine that some of these children may have to go to school on an empty stomach; this does not augur well for learning.
With poverty comes a decline in morals. We now live in a society without morals, the “get-rich-quick’ syndrome has taken over. Young girls will date men old enough to be their grandfathers to get basic necessities of life. Young Nigerian men have taken to dubious practices as well e.g. the popular ‘yahoo-yahoo’ (internet fraud), real estate fraud, dating older women, all to get out of the confines of poverty. Aspirations to positions of authority are for the sole purpose of self-enrichment. People will not think twice about emptying public coffers as the excuse is always summed thus “I must eat my own share of the national cake”.
Like a spider, poverty steadily spins a web that eats into every sphere of society. Poor people lack opportunities business wise. Subsistence farmers in the villages will never grow beyond a point because they lack education and funding. Small business owners in the city do not grow because profits are not ploughed back into the business, but used to survive. Youth will remain illiterate, because they have to drop out from school and hawk wares in the markets or on the streets to make ends meet.
Poverty is indeed a disease. It kills creativity and breeds hydra headed monsters and needs to be curbed, else dire consequences will be faced. In my opinion, the way to end poverty in Africa and especially Nigeria is to make public officials accountable. A situation where public funds for projects are misappropriated should never arise. Until the public starts to demand from public office holders, their inactions will remain and poverty will reside with us. Indeed, the time has come to get up and say NO to the curse of poverty. As always, please share your thoughts on this issue....