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By Abiodun Awolaja

A visit to a popular mall this week brought home the reality of the greedflation that has gripped the country in recent weeks. Bread which previously cost N1100 was sold for N1400, showing that shylock businessmen are prepared to fleece the masses to death. Water that I had not asked for was deliberately added to my bill, yet the bread tasted only slightly better than sawdust. The meat pie was colder than a dog’s nose, and it had no meat but a surfeit of Irish potato.

Actually, that is the picture you get everywhere you turn: the quality of food and other products is being deliberately shrunk while prices are shooting up to the high heavens to make the stupendous, murderous profit with which certain criminals are going to nurse grievous diseases.

As Nigerians, we are being laid bare, exposed to the elements, and degraded on a daily basis. The exchange rate has reduced, but there’s no government to protect the people. Instead, the government itself is the chief exploiter and tormentor of the populace. I have seen and felt deprivation, but never at this base, horrific level.

How do you explain the fact that N5,000 fish is hardly enough for soup when it’s not supposed to be the only ingredient? Try buying pasta, biscuits or noodles: you will weep for Nigeria. There’s currently no bread in Ibadan: what passes for bread is an aggravation.

In the face of the unprecedented privation in the land, the government has been busy charging sky-high prices for darkness. Amidst the dust raised by the new electricity tariff, power generation nosedived to 2,775 megawatts, MW, a 32.3 per cent decline from the 4,099.87MW recorded last week. That’s according to the Nigeria Electricity System Operator (NESO), a semi-autonomous unit of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). It’s no coincidence that after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) increased electricity tariff for Band A customers from N68 to N225 per kilowatt hour, the distribution companies (DisCos) have been finding it hard to sustain the so-called 20-24 hour supply to their customers on the band.

The DisCos have been offering profuse apologies, but they will explain till they drop dead because the power just isn’t available. As an IBEDC customer, I hardly get five hours of electricity in a month. For weeks, we do not have power; we are a generator republic. Here’s the kind of power we get: the one that goes off before you can plug in your phone. I laugh in Swahili when those human beings in Abuja talk of Band A, Band B, etc: I am certain that I belong to Band Z.

Actually, the way our government officials talk, it’s clear that we are on the road to desolation. Speaking on Channels Television this week, the Minister of Works, Senator Dave Umahi, said that the Federal Government would charge N3,000 on average per toll gate when the Lagos-Calabar coastal road is completed. Omo! The naira is going to the place of silence and the government is the chief undertaker!

In those days when “clueless” people held the reins, I used to dislike the idea of going to Abuja by road. These days, I’m not so sure I’d mind going there, if I do at all, by trailer! There’s no need to pretend: pressure ti wa!! Imagine needing just N6,500 to buy a bag of rice from your salary and now needing N80,000 to buy the same bag! Who’s the father of this baby called hardship? Tani baba baby? Our leaders wear extremely well made suits and babaringas, fly first class, drink choice wine and paint the country red.

They are like the Permanent Secretary and his colleagues who are jointly building the nation in the poem of that title by the Ugandan poet, Henry Barlow; people whose “menu reflected its importance”; who partake in “Cold Bell beer with small talk,/Then fried chicken with niceties,” and have “Wine to fill the hollowness of the laughs” and “Ice-cream to cover the stereotype jokes.” These days, salary is chicken feed, and those running affairs only inflict pain. You go to the market and your wages become a puff of air.

I wrote the following paragraph weeks ago but did not publish it: “I hate it when mad men drop tracks. But that’s what this lowlife has just done, divorcing song from drum. The Yoruba, validating the power of mutual respect, say that if a dog hails the leopard, the leopard also hails the dog. No one person is ever named “We have come.” It is the person who has faced no tribulation that calls himself a man. Gongosu, King of Edidare, has an affliction: he is just as foolish as he is wise. He thinks himself to be the centre of civilization, the only one whose lineage needs money, the prince of success, the ultimate determiner of the fate of men. Yet he is more foolish than the second wrapping of eko (pap meal) that stays put while its counterpart is being devoured. People think they dance to music but they actually dance to both song and drum. The bata drummer drops no track, it seems, but he livens up a community and shapes a generation. It is utter folly that causes any singer to scoff at a drummer. Music is art, but so is drumming. The singer is the leader, not the master, of the drummer. His leadership collapses in the absence of drum: clapping is a temporary distraction. The lone eater, Majewara Makuwara, King of Greed, can continue dropping his corrupt quotes.”

Since I wrote these lines, the king, in the manner of Ola Rotimi’s Our husband has gone mad again, has gone criminally haywire, but the point is that the same demons that run his empire rule the rulers of this Lugardian affliction. The suffering is beyond bearing!!

We southerners are the cause of our problem. A friend from Sudan once told me that people from Sudan secure better jobs in Nigeria than a southern Nigerian. Any South man who wants to be president of Nigeria must dance to their game, otherwise he cannot win. I so much love the ways of northerners because they think of their future children. They have what is classified as commonsense, just like the white men. The evidence is so clear, from the past to the present. The big people in NNPC, who are they? We southerners have already sold our birthright.

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