That Nigeria is gripped by unrelenting mass poverty, despair, and desperation is not in doubt. Yet, the most common claim made by Nigerians about their country is that it is “Sweet.” We look at what makes Nigeria so sweet despite the biting hardships.
When daily battles for survival, by any means possible, become a custom in a society, it is in deep trouble. A free-for-all culture emerges. Only societies experiencing hardships, a breakdown of law and order, and poor leadership have such customs. In Nigeria, such customs are evidence of democracy and the state not working. Daily public calls for reforms are not subject to consideration nor acted upon. Reversals are more likely than reform or progress. Who listens anyway? Policies only work to enrich the elites and take away whatever the weak can offer or ruled they can do without.
Acts of ‘human devour for survival’ are inhumane, but desperate human beings do them. Try warning a crocodile inches away from its prey of the reach of the International Court of Justice. Or telling a python, crushing a young child of mercy or stays of execution. Nigeria is a desperate society. Man Must Survive is a desperate slogan. Social devour carries a darkness along with it that keeps it safe from any light. Who will shine a light on it? Who will support that person?
The French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, said, When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich. The saying implies the excesses of the rich ends up fattening them up for eating by poverty-stricken masses who have nothing left to lose. Rousseau remains popular in today’s world with citizens clamouring for social contracts from their governments. In today’s Nigeria, Rousseau’s circumspect quote is witnessing a reversal. The rich eat the poor or the poor eat themselves in desperate times.
The devouring of citizens by their neighbours and overlords for survival is a fact most Nigerians ignore except the victims. Desperate contests to satisfy the needs of power, the stomach, security, or life are too common. All classes of people engage in acts of social devouring daily, but not in equal measures. Elites need the poor to give them more riches, power, and narcissistic supplies. Poor people need power, money, and attainments too. By default, the sweat and bodies of others have become the best resources for winning the survival game, and everyone is fair game.
Acts of advance fee fraud, human trafficking, [political] kleptomania, and religious extortion need no introduction since they are headline news staples. These acts though emerge from the dark of a devour culture. If a guy buys a bottle of Jack Daniels and it tastes of coke and goscolene [local gin], he will not throw it away or return it to the supermarket. The bottle has stayed long on the shop shelf will be his reasoning and continue drinking. If he complains, what authority will listen to him without extorting a bribe? Social devour gains its power from silence and darkness.
Trade in human body parts gotten from homicides is horrific, but happens in Nigeria. The poor are the invariable victims of human body parts dealers. Elites and peasants engage in the trade for different rewards and lawlessness is the main foundation of the opportunity. Daily, the police and security agents catch several people, often by chance, trafficking human parts. Cannibalism was, to my surprise, not implicated in arrests of body parts traffickers, not one. The traffickers undergo police or mob torture to confess and must tell everything they did. Two kinds of customer buy human body parts. The global body parts merchants and local practitioners of ghoulish ritual practices for money-making.
Sound proof of cannibalism happening in Nigeria must make for sensational and memorable news. The traffickers kill people, then butcher and preserve their parts to tight specifications. The goal is removing internal organs, genitals, and eyes. Merchants discard up to ninety-nine percent of the human flesh, including cuts, chops, steaks, shanks, and biscuit bone. If merchants can kill and butcher people out of desperation, small money, one may wonder, is the temptation to feed on the waste flesh easy to overcome? The good news is taboos against cannibalism are strong.
Revolutions occur in stable populations that stay put. To these citizens, home is home and flight is unthinkable. Populations suffering under a cruel tyrant have two inevitable choices; revolt or die. Are Nigerians ready to revolt against the oppression, crushing them anywhere? Flight is their sole choice of escaping devour and is acceptable in today’s world. But, the principals of rich nations are losing sleep over the growing inward migration of Africans. The interested may argue the elites of western nations devour their citizens by massive upward transfers of from the poor to the rich. Fact. Are citizens of western nations coming to Nigeria for a better life? I guess there is also inequality in wrongdoing of the same kind.
The worship of money gotten by any means thinkable is a chain that binds most Nigerians into darkness. Attaining wealth stands as the only light a Nigerian will ever see. Or so he or she supposes. Many opportunities exist for achieving wealth plus fame, honour, historical significance, and sex appeal. The juiciest choice is to steal public or corporate funds. Collecting money from others under false pretexts is another route to riches. It ranges from targeting hard currency millionaires to fleecing people who are near poverty. Everyone is fair game for the smooth operators.
Any kind of hard work or enterprise that yields a good income in Nigeria depends on the nation’s oil revenues. As oil money is now in sharp decline, the smart entrepreneurs are checking out of the country, overseas. Or they are turning to miracle workers and ritualists for magical money. We don’t blame the entrepreneurs; the economy is too weak for the smart enterprises promoted by the mainstream media and Internet.
Citizens celebrate public officials with joy after they rob public treasuries and make vulgar displays of wealth, only to moan every day of underdevelopment. Yet, those alleged, not proven, to have stolen objects worth under $1 or $2 flash mobs burn to death on the spot. The wealthy swindle upfront bribes from the poor for favours that never materialise. This too is advance fee fraud, but goes on unspoken, and few are exempt. Many similar practices devour poor people and their means in Nigeria because of the unruly condition of the society. But despite flagrant neglect of the poverty-stricken, two-thirds of Nigerians, their devourers tell them voting in elections will change their lives. No one waits for such promises but the devourers themselves and their clients.
Men have rendered the vagina a social security asset in Nigeria. Yet, Nigeria is decades or centuries away from having a social security scheme. A woman seeking school admissions, employment, credit, enterprise, or passports which the common law and merit entitle her to, rarely escape being chopping [sexual devour] by men in authority. Most times, women suffer chopping on unfulfilled promises or fail in their quests for refusing to consent. The trend takes a turn when women of authority seek the same from women. Men in authority violate the bums of a growing number of ambitious males with their consent. Though not gay, these men go on butt-devouring sprees to fuel their grandeur. When you see a young good-looking guy buying bottles of blood tonic and drinks the first one in the pharmacy, he is most likely minutes away from servicing an affluent older sensualist or nymphomaniac. The sexual degradation of men and women is also part of the devouring.
The Boy Boy, is a full-grown adult with or without means who offers himself for devour to gain favours from elites. Feasting on human dignity is an established elite pastime. It is a pleasure that Makes Nigeria Sweet, according to observers. Devouring others, any way you can, is heart-warming or mouth-watering? The Boy Boy who uses his shameless fawning to rise high in society from nothing becomes an icon. At the upper end, you have genuine meritocrats offering their services as SA (Special Assistants) to incompetent persons in power. You have Boy Boys who are serving ministers! The lower end throws up desperate people who do chores for peers or neighbours unasked to fawn money or favours from them. Nigeria is rich in fawners. The overriding belief is one can always restore their dignity if they become rich.
Men and women of principle, courage, self-respect, and reason in Nigerian society are naïve, masochists, or martyrs; their lights are no longer bright for now. The devouring of man by man continues. Who is going to stop it? It will take a renaissance of enlightenment and enlightened leadership to end the darkness and silence that secures the devour. There is hope. Boiss shall come one day.