Loots and Palliative: The Weaponization of Poverty against the Populace
Man has often been described as insatiable and that is because a man may not always have enough resources to cater for himself. Not that he is greedy or has always refused to be satisfied but in truth, resources are often limited and so cannot serve the populace. Man is a social animal and tends to derive from the society what it can offer; however, in a continent like Africa where the institutions are weak and political structures unbalanced, the populace tends to suffer the ills of the society the more.
Simply because a few people that can be described as political elite loot the wealth of their nations at the detriment of the larger populace. Politicians all over Africa are self-serving, greedy, and corrupt, or perhaps if there is a worse word than corrupt it can be used to describe them. Politicians in Africa are high and mighty and they tend to weaponize poverty on the masses at every given time.
And that is partly because they control the resource and so can assign what they deem fit as enough to the populace.
Definition of Poverty
Poverty all over the world means the same thing even though there may not be an agreed definition of poverty.Poverty has often been described simply as not having enough, but in our context, I will describe it as not having enough in the mixt of abundance. Due to total negligence, our leaders in Africa have failed to harness our resources, and where they have, out of greed they have also kept all to themselves neglecting the masses who brought them to power with their votes. There is a standard of living that everyone should be able to afford if a country is a working country and if the political class has the masses at heart. However, this is not the case in Africa as the political elite will rather keep everything to themselves and give little to the masses just to keep them poor.
How Do the Political Elite Weaponize Poverty
The weaponization of poverty was most glaring during the Endsars protest that bedeviled Nigeria last year. Enders was a move initiated with a hashtag on social media where young Nigerians took to the streets with total unity for the first time in protests demanding the disbandment of the alleged rogue SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force.
This was the first time since the 1996 general election that Nigerians spoke in one voice, all over the world, the voices of the Nigerian youths were heard and the protest even occurred in some foreign countries despite the lockdown experienced around that time due to the Covid-19 virus. But sooner than expected the protest was high jacked by hoodlums who were allegedly paid by the government to disrupt the protest.
However, despite the threat and danger posed by the hoodlums who were allegedly paid by the authorities to disrupt the protest, Nigerians refused to be deterred and went ahead with the protest even when bullets were raining down like cat and dog from the gun of security personnel who should protect them. This resilience was unseen before now and the political elite got threatened and just like every other in the past they found a way to distract the youths.
And what did they find? Poverty, they know that the majority of Nigerians are poor and hungry they also knew that these poor masses have been locked up in their various houses for months because of the fear of Covid-19 and there was no better way to distract them than to give them a few of the stolen palliatives. They gave out info to a few persons who informed the masses about the storehouses where the palliatives were hidden and with this, the masses neglected their fight for a better government in pursuit of palliative.
Causes of Poverty
In the civilized world, poverty can be caused by laziness or the unwillingness of an individual to find a paid job. Interestingly, this is not usually the case in Africa; however, that is not to say that there are not Africans that are lazy and unwilling to work. But the majority of Africans are hard-working as have been proven by their exploits in foreign countries when they find a way to elope the continent.
Poverty in Africa is often caused by the cluelessness, greed, inefficiency, of the political elite, and their will to institutionalize poverty across the continent. And one means they have used to institutionalize poverty is illiteracy. Politicians in Africa are like oligarchs who don’t ever want to hand over power to any other person other than their children. If you visit the Northern part of Nigeria illiteracy of the masses becomes more glaring.
This way, leaders from that part of Nigeria have cemented that their places in the society. They deprive the masses of education because they fear that if they (the masses) are educated they will have better chances of being rich and that will break their (the political elite) grips over them.
African Political Dictators
Democracy is meant to be a government decided by the people and this unilaterally implies that the masses who govern them and such persons end up as servant leaders. Good governance is the beauty of democracy but in Africa, democracy is ugly as leaders often turn to a dictator as soon as they are elected and sworn in and live off the masses.
Stalin allegedly once plucked off the feathers of a live chicken to demonstrate to his ilk the power of poverty. It was said that after plucking the feather he threw the live chicken and the chicken was said to have scampered for safety; however, soon Stalin threw some cobs of corn close to himself and the chicken left his safe abode to eat from Stalin corn.
This is equally evident in Africa as the politicians now treat the masses like Stalin’s live chicken and out of the fear of hunger the masses have remained loyal and continue to follow the political elite for food. This also glaring during elections as we all see politicians spend their way to power and this style of politics is often describe in Nigeria as “stomach infrastructure”.
Conclusively, politicians have discovered the weak point of many Africans. They know that the weak point of the poor man is his stomach. They also know that give a poor man food and he can dance naked in the market square. However, solving the issue of the weaponization of poverty by the political elite will no doubt be a herculean task but we all can take joy in the fact that if Nigerian youths could pull off the Endsars protest then when they are ready they will find a way to stop this weapon that has deprived them of the good life.
Written by Simeon Samuel for CoolAfricanMerch