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One could hide one’s wealth with a bit of thought but to conceal one’s poverty is almost impossible. The wealthy adopting to live a humble life is betrayed by his prompt decisions when faced with a sudden crisis. Like a serpent that bites without provocation he might say, “don’t cry we will buy another one”. The poor when faced with a crisis have no such reserves to fall back on. They cry and lament their state.
Many children are faced with poverty – the type that creeps in silently like the tide on the coast line and drowns its victims. The tide is an invading army that maintains a line of attack. So is poverty. Gregarious by nature, it lines up on either side with disease, violence, illiteracy, malnutrition, confusion, low expectation and a miscellaneous host of mesinaries too numerous to mention. It attacks like an occupying force with no plans of ever leaving. Once the victim is overcome in defeat, poverty sinks in.
It takes a whole village to impoverish a child – the global and local villages that is. Poverty is like an emperor that just sits and rules things. He needs all the help he can get. In a village setting, once the leaders divert resources to themselves and their cronies with nothing left for communal programmes, poverty wins. The leaders get used to their lifestyle and the commoners in penury get used to their fate.
Poverty makes people crazy. Drives them into frenzy and transforms their lives into a bomb site. No one is responsible for their actions in the vicinity of a bomb that has just been detonated. The air is filled with panic, anguish and smoke while escape is the one and only thing on the agenda, and that by any means possible. Stopping people fleeing from such explosions to ask for directions will not work. They will end your life via a stampede. Intelligence is lost and those in ultra-hasty escape can run into an oncoming train in the name of desperately seeking safety. But who can blame them when they have experienced the deafening destructive force of poverty? Those not killed instantly survive only to live in fear of its return. Poverty is an unforgiving relentless demon.
My middle class friends always tell me how rich Nigeria is. They fly from England and are picked up from the airport in air-conditioned cars. As soon as the plane touches down, they are switching sim cards and making calls. After disembarking they have only one thing on their minds, their luggage. They look not to the left or the right. In their cars, it is catch-up time as they chat away oblivious to the thousands they drive past trekking the streets and living on $4 a day. They soon find themselves at the gates of the house where they would be staying and use the small estate as some kind of economic indicator of the wealth of the nation. Of course the privileged live well but Nigeria is a poor country. A painful kind of poor for it makes an income but very few live a millionaire lifestyle.
I believe that everyone in a civilised society should live a millionaire lifestyle. Put simply, if you drive on roads that cost millions then you are a partaker of the millionaire lifestyle. If a multi-million pound health service is at your disposal, if your street has houses that run into millions, if your water supply, policing bill all run into millions, then you are living the lifestyle.
If hypothetically a town has one billion pounds and the chiefs embezzle the money and create five millionaires, the town remains poor. But should the money be invested in roads and schools, then everyone who uses the roads or schools, for the time they are on the roads or in school is experiencing a million pound amenity for themselves. Money actually goes a long way when many people enjoy what it buys.
Poverty robs people of the ability to think. Education is a way out of the ignorance that poverty brings but thinking is involved. How can a young lad with Plasmodium swimming in his blood stream and nothing in his stomach think? Homework will never get done if he has to go home and hawk his wares after school to make ends meet. Living in a ghetto where violence is ever present means the focus will have to be on self-survival and not inquisitiveness or academic excellence.
Every single person in Africa who faces poor roads, poor governance and poor security suffers despite their bank balance. They are also united in their belief that there is only one cause of poverty in a place where natural resources abound. That is bad government. One does not need to be told. Looking at the actions of Africans tells you they believe. Those with a spoon in the pie stay put to maintain their position at the table but everything else is done abroad. Health, education of kids, having babies, having a ‘small rest’ and safe keeping of money. Those on the other hand without a spoon in the pie want to leave the poverty explosion to countries where they think poverty does not explode and kill. That explains the lengths economic refugees take to escape such as boat pushed out into the Atlantic hoping to reach Europe (where the roads all cost millions of pounds), walking across the Sahara desert and hoping to cross the Mediterranean at night, the list is endless.
The government and its people have no trust in African institutions of health, education, security or social justice. So everyone flees. The top government officers and politicians flee with their cash to hide just in case the next government probes them and makes them poor, while the poor populace flee away from their poverty. Everybody is fleeing the explosion.
It is ironic that the stolen cash and the deprived populace always head in one direction!