By Abdullateef Ishowo

The title isn’t mine. It’s the title of a book written by Charles Dickens, which centres on a group of people who lived in an industrial town named Coketown during the mid-19th century. Throughout the story, the characters’ different choices influenced what happened to them; those who did bad deeds died while those who did good deeds lived fairly peacefully… That was in the 19th Century.

If you do bad and reap same, it’s understandable, but it can be sickening to be positive and still suffer a curse you didn’t cause. This is the situation in Nigeria today.

In 1991, I followed my late dad to buy ram for the year’s Ileya Sallah. It was few days to Sallah and the atmosphere was frenzy. I selected a fairly bulcky ram with hairy neck like a lion. Till today, I still like rams with plenty hairs around their neck. They fight well. On the day of ‘d-las’, the ram took third position among the ones that fought at Zuban Primary School Compound, Abata. I was so joyous as boda Saka Ishowo (now a police officer) dragged the ram back home with pride. This was the year when such notorious rams as Shikambabu, One-tausan, Kuru-oko, Aberimoni, etc were present faa. Though, I saw two other ram owners claiming third too; the stage wasn’t uniform anyway. Today, I can’t allow my children take my ram for fighting competition o. May Allah forgive us.

Fast forward, I was at Mandate Market, Ilorin, this morning (Saturday 15th June 2024) and I was surprised to see a replica of the ram my father bought 33 years ago; about same size and composure. Could this be answer to my curiosity and perception on living wraith? Se ooto nipe akudaya wa ni? Well, that’s by the way.

The most interesting part is that, the price is the same even 33 years later! Except for the additional three zeros behind the latest price. While my father bought his at the rate of N250, the one I saw today was sold for N250,000. So, you could see that the three zeros were inconsequential after all.

More interestingly, national minimum wage for workers in 1991 was N250. Same price used to purchase the ram in same year. Today, the current minmum wage, N30,000, can’t even by a torkey. What an irony. Labour is currently demanding for N250,000 as minimum wage (same price I intended to by the ram I saw earlier today), the FG proposed an embarrassingly N62,000 per month before eventually concluding that it’ll send whatever it can afford to NASS for legislation; not what we all unanimously agree on. Many Nigerians (who are on the side of the government) equally feel labour is demanding for too much.

The claim in some quarters is that, a humongous amount as minimum wage may lead to inflation. Yet, the overhead cost of public office holders isn’t known to Nigerians. However, each of the 109 senators was given a N200m official car. His counterpart at the lower house went home with N160m worth official car. If you think the senators and honourable members are living large with only God knows millions of naira allowances, one minister can buy 10 senators ( if slave trade was still permissible) without blinking an eye.

On the 5th of June 2024, the PUNCH newspaper revealed how 30 state governors spent almost a trillion ( N968.64bn) on refreshments within the first quarter of 2024. In fact, as poor as my state, Kwara is, the governor, the self-aclaimed Alanu mekunu spent more than N24bn on refreshments between January and March 2024. All these won’t lead to inflation, but workers salaries.

Aristotle portrayed an ideal man as someone who takes joy in doing favours for others; but he feels ashamed to have others do favours for him. For it is a mark of superiority to confer a kindness; but it is a mark of inferiority to receive it. Today, the unflinching hardtimes in Nigeria has everporated anything called shame. It’s sadning to see people, who hitherto took pride in financial independence, now beg around to feed. It’s sad! Shame has taken flight from Nigeria! The reason isn’t farfetched, it’s hard times in Nigeria; even the Sicanians would’ve trooped to the streets in protest.

Between May 29, 2023 when subsidy was removed from PMS, life has become very difficult for Nigerians, as prices of commodities in the market have multiplied by four. More than a year after subsidy removal, government officials, from president, governors, ministers, senators, honourables, to Chairmen or Sole Administrators at the LGAs live large on the largesse of the proceeds from subsidy removal, while workers and the general public who buy fuel daily continues to suffer.

Wonderfully, many Nigerians still exonerate the leadership, claiming that it’s the followers who’re bad. This isn’t surprising, the almighty Ishola Williams asserted same; adding that it’s from the followers leaders are selected, therefore if the followers are good, they will select good leaders. Unfortunately, I doubt followers have that privilege in Nigeria. It’s the leaders who select leaders. Anyway, I align myself with Chinua Achebe’s position. It’s the leaders who should lead the way, that’s why they’re leaders in the first place. No society develops without having good leaders leading the way by showing positive examples. It’s never the other way round.

To me, it takes a resolute leader to fix a country like Nigeria. A leader who’s prepared to sacrifice his comfort zone is all Nigeria requires. The followers will have no choice than to queue behind his ideological stand.

May the right leaders happen to Nigeria like Lee Kuan Yuu to Singapore, Mahatma Gandhi and Narendra Mo to India, Deng Xiaoping to China, etc.

Eid Mubarak to us all.

Abdullateef ishowo, an author and development analyst writes from Ilorin.

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