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Economic inequality and social tension

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The intrinsic link between the glaring and widening economic inequality in Nigeria and the rise in social tension has been well noted. Indeed the issue is now very much on the front burner as a myriad of centrifugal forces continue to tug at the heels of the nation’s fragile unity.

Recently, for example, two-time Presidential aspirant in the United States of America, Reverend Jesse Jackson also identified the lack of economic justice as the most potent factor causing social tension in Nigeria. With all due respect to the American civil rights crusader this is really just a restatement of the obvious.

The civil rights activist said widespread economic inequality occasions violence, greed and jealousy which are slowing down the socio-economic and political development of the country.

His observations were contained in a lecture, ‘Oil and Peace Compatibility for Sustainable Growth in Nigeria’, which he delivered in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at the colloquium of the 2013 Isaac Adaka Boro Anniversary organized by the Bayelsa State Government.

Jackson argued that there would be continuous agitations and unrest in Nigeria until the country’s system was able to guarantee economic justice and equality to the people, stressing that poverty in the midst of plenty is unfathomable.

This is a damning but realistic portrayal of a country which The Economist’s Economic Intelligence unit (EIU) devastatingly portrayed as the worst place for a baby to be born into. The ‘Nigeria paradox’ is of course well noted. Its foundation being the ill-thought out devaluation of 1986.This continues to wreak tremendous havoc on social cohesion.

For this reason Nigeria is a massive study in socio-economic dysfunction. Here we have a record, indeed superlative inflow of largely unearned petro-dollars sitting side-by-side with inexplicable poverty. Or put in another way, the society gets poorer as national income grows. Inevitably of course, the chickens will come home to roost. And come home to roost they already have; and with a vengeance! This is why an excursion into the North-East of the country as well as traversing the creeks of the horribly deflowered Niger-Delta region is not for the faint-hearted.

For the umpteenth time, we in this paper will emphasise that the fault does not lie in our stars. That for example, only about 8% of National Youth Service Corps members are guaranteed employment tells its own damming story. What it portrays is an indictment of our social malaise. The economic consequences of a lack of foresight, productive investment as well as the absence of a coordinated plan for social engineering stares us in the face.

Merrily dependent on oil and gas, the nation’s political establishment cannot see beyond their noses. Unable to defer gratification to invest in production they have unleashed a ‘dangerous class’. This problematic social stratum has now come to haunt the nation and will continue to do so. Perhaps, alarmingly, we haven’t even seen anything yet. Nevertheless, we should be prepared for a very undesirable, socially turbulent future.

The political establishment of course knows that which has to be done. Frankly out of self-preservation they should get on with it. With kidnappings of members of the elite going on all over the place, it should be a time to ponder. All of the electric barbed wire in the world is now proving ineffectual against the ever increasing reach of the dangerous class.

All of this indicates just how myopic the nation’s political establishment is. In periods such as this, self-preservation ought to be the propelling factor. In 1962 for example, during the First Republic, the political establishment cutting across political parties, ethnicity and prebandal differences, came together to save themselves. In order to finance the national development plan and arrest the deteriorating balance of payments situation, draconian cuts in waste and duplication was carried out. The 1962 ‘austerity measures’ was precisely that.

The measures conveyed unambiguously the message that the political establishment was determined to save the Republic. Their heirs and successors must do the same thing now. This is the time for a fundamental and irreversible correction. There must be a wholesale redirection of capital from consumption to the social and physical infrastructure.There is frankly no alternative now than to build up the productive base of society.

This is because the country’s demographic time bomb has been well noted. If not arrested now, the country faces a nightmarish future. And when that future comes no one will be safe. Self-preservation and not just the national interest should be key here. For in the words of the Reggae star Bob Marley, ‘when the rainfalls, it won’t fall on one man’s house’. A word we hope should be sufficient!

Article Credit: The Nation Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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