“My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” – 1 kings 12:11
The above Biblical quotation defines the unending rivalry between the rich and the poor. There is no way the rich would ever allow the poor to defeat or beat them – both subsist in a world apart.
A man who “allegedly” attempted to steal from former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s house on Friday April 1, 2022, 33-year old, Seun Sowemimo, was speedily sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on Thursday, April 7, without the option of fine. Just less than a week. Hmm!
But when politicians or powerful elites stole the nation blind their case is adjourned sine dine for want of undisguised yet elusive evidence. For instance, a captain of a vessel arrested for oil theft since March 9 last year was also sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on the same date i.e. April 7, 2022. While that could be said to be fair, when will importers of adulterated fuel be brought to book? Who will prosecute already identified bandits, insurgents, ritualists and their sponsors, including politicians with forged certificates?
It isn’t funny that “executive” criminals like terrorists, bandits, ritualists and kleptomaniac politicians are never accorded such accelerated verdict in court. They, in fact, enjoy some robust (un)constitutional privileges.
In Sowemimo’s case, one would have expected that people of good conscience intercede on his behalf by probing into the motivation for daring to steal in an “exclusive zone”. If anyone is blessed with a commanding tone or a respectable voice, he should care to use it for something good, important and enduring. My argument pays the greatest attention to what could have moved the young man close to such a suicide mission – job loss, hunger, poverty or covetousness?
If we are all agreed that life is about living, growing and dying, then we should be able to emancipate a dejected and captive fellow citizen who may have been consigned to the disadvantaged side of life in a complicated and suffocating economic system. Note: This is not absolving the criminal of his undesirable act.
The political characters of the past and present must accept blame for the current (unenviable) state of our nation. The future of Nigeria’s democracy is dim but not irremediable. It is gratifying that former President Obasanjo has variously described himself as an incurable optimist of a greater Nigeria, assuring us that a prosperous nation is visible; yet alerting us of the danger inherent in not doing things rightly. His optimism is in tandem with Chinua Achebe’s dream that social miracles can still happen in Nigeria. In his “The The Trouble With Nigeria”, the late literary giant alluded to the exemplary character of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed which clearly portends that it takes resolute leadership to “… establish that quantum change in a people’s social behavior”
There is no doubt that this is a crucial moment for Nigeria and Nigerians as a people and we must all take responsibility for the fragile future of our dear country. There is the urgent need to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. The former should embrace magnanimity in our collective quest for a just, peaceful and equitable society while the latter should be comforted with the Quranic injunction that striving is part of living since “after hardship comes ease”. Courage and perseverance will strengthen us in stormiest troubling moments, even when those who should ordinarily care about us elected to look in the other direction. Every circumstance in a man’s life is a product of destiny.
Now that the endless capacity of the forgotten masses to endure pain has been overstretched, who will take us through the nearest exit out of the conundrum? Time has, indeed, come to look beyond our nose…