Beyond grains, garb and grandstanding

In Nigeria, piety and religiosity revolve around seasons and reasons like pivots. Whenever those seasons give rise to sufficient reasons, those who subscribe to them are usually careful to adhere to the letter, lest they incur wrath, or the burden of a heavy conscience. Sometimes, it is just so that those who watch their every step can see that there have been no missteps afterall and affirm that the are doing well.

This adherence takes a number of easily recognizable forms: longer prayers, fasting, alms giving, abstinence and other forms of piety devoted to marking special seasons of religious calendars.

Christians observe Lent which precedes Easter, while Muslims  have  Ramadan  which is marked by a month-long fast.

There is no doubt that Nigeria stands in acute need of prayers as many parts of the country are convulsed by crises. But is the North that is the worst hit with the combined forces of bandits and Boko Haram reducing many communities to dust.

In the face of such defiant threats to its sovereignty and security, the response of the Giant of Africa has veered between tepidity and trenchancy even as many young security personnel continue to pay the ultimate sacrifice all over the country.

The different periods which Nigeria`s major religions observe are usually marked by increased emphasis on helping the poor among Nigerians and assisting the less privileged.

Christians and Muslims are admonished alike to share what they have with the less privileged. Monies, food items and clothing are contributed, and for what counts as but a few days, the poor are made to feel like they have a place in Nigeria after all.

But beyond the grains and garbs gifted during these periods, the question of poverty and what must be done to eradicate it remain pressing in Nigeria, endangering the delicate equation of nationhood by the day.

Nigerias population stands at over 200 million which makes the country Africas most populous country and the largest Black country in the world by some distance. Size sometimes sires scandals and it can only be scandalous that at least 91 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty which fact has earned the country the scandalously dubious distinction of being one of the poverty capitals of the world.

What this means is that it by the labour of poverty that the Giant of Africa brings   many of its children into the world and nurtures them. This fact immediately poses many questions for the Nigerian government, religious organizations in the country, humanitarian organizations and the civil society as well. The most pressing of these questions bother on what is to be done about the sea of poor people around.

Poverty fuels hunger. In turn, hunger feeds a haze of hollowness which harasses everything, impairing the vision and judgement of its hostages. The Giant of Africa is by no means an equality giant. This uncontestable truth comes from a place of deep witness to the eve widening gulf between the rich and the poor. The nightmarish insecurity now served like vinegar to many Nigerians has made life almost unbearable

It is precisely because people are poor that they remain vulnerable to all manner of uncertainties and insecurities. What is to be done? There can be no doubt about the fact that the structures of inequality which lend space to grinding poverty in Nigeria must be dismantled shaft by shaft. It is not enough to reach out to the poor as a religious obligation every now or then, or to coddle poverty by declaring it some sort of virtue. Those who lead religious congregations must turn every stone to ensure that no one is left poor among those they minister to.One way to do this is by relentlessly prodding those who hold government offices to account for their actions or inactions as the case may be.

It is scandalous that in a country blessed with the variety of Nigeria`s resources, children still go to bed hungry, and entire families still have to depend on handouts to go through every day. It is deeply embarrassing that in Nigeria, people continue to experience poverty in its most ruthless forms.

The emphasis should be on empowering people; on lifting people out of poverty; on achieving the equal distribution of wealth. It should on giving people the opportunities they need to snap out of intergenerational cycles of poverty. Seasonally giving out grains and garbs does not just cut it.

Everyone in the Giant of Africa should be given opportunities and means to live with dignity. No one should be reduced to a publicity tool by public officers who having failed to discharge the duties of their office employ instead gross grandstanding and grotesque grandiloquence at every given opportunity to mock those whom they have helped trap in poverty.

Someday, Nigerians will be able to give a toast to a country where no one is poor.

Kene Obiezu,

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