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BEGGARS STRIKE

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They had the crumbs given to them by slay kings instead of the crunch. A morsel was presented to them in lieu of rea to keep them hungry while abundance smiles away into the pockets of the bourgeois to keep them fat and satisfy their soul. They savour with relish the caste system they willfully created that is replete with deceit and lies against the masses.
This cow of Bashan has negated the social contract between them and the commoners consequently, eat up the grasses and trample underfoot, the remnant with utmost disregard. The food of the lot is looted by a few.
The above aptly describes the Nigerian State which has turned the majors into minors, the majority into a few. They rode to power on the ladder of the masses, bolted away with the vault and from their exalted positions, stealthily legislate to pass laws that feed their desires, fattening their entitlements and keep them enthroned in the helm of affairs at the detriment of the masses. And smartly keeping the masses away from their God-given common wealth, they have steadily turned them into beggars. A choice-less one for that matter, which is an aftermath of their corrupt actions.
To further their cause, they exploited nepotism and tribalism which helped usher in a big divide culturally and economically without regard to the structure of the country, promoting in its wake, mediocrity and incompetence, all which have contributed to the sorry state of affairs in the country, a jumble of greed, waste and unimaginable corruption in an economy sucked dry.
A failed system produces a load of y-products and for Nigeria, a retinue of beggars and its deadly consequences it is. Everywhere you turn today, there is a huge mass of unemployed youths waiting to be engaged and with the failure of government to provide needed opportunities, they become readily available tools for societal destruction. Failure to educate and engage youths in the North East made them easy recruits for Boko Haram insurgency. All the Boko Haram leader offered to draw a multitude to him for the cankerworm that has ravaged the North East for years were wheel barrows, something to put food on their table and for as little as N5000 with promise of enjoying virgins when they die, the helpless youths whose leaders jolly in designer cars and private jets, offer to commit suicide in the name of jihads.
In like manner, unemployed and tired of watching others drink from the oil in their backyards while hunger and diseases threaten to exterminate them, Niger Delta youths took to militancy. With kidnaps and lasting of oil installations, they managed to get the fattened cows in government to recognize that they too belong to Nigeria. Now cattle herdsmen carrying AK47 are terrorizing communities, highways and farms all over the country, killing, raping, kidnapping and demanding unimaginable sums as ransom.
This wave of restiveness which our government is unfortunately finding hard to control, is a by-product of corruption and glaring deceit by our leaders whose development plans are always in the pipeline and has snowballed into a ricocheted action known as ‘Beggars Strike’. While the weaker set opt to stretch out their hands to beg food off the fattened cows, the more boisterous have taken to the power of the metal to take their want. The unfortunate and underprivileged who before were fed the crumbs from the table of decision makers, the public officers serving selves rather than the people, in disgust and anger, have decided to turn the table and are now fighting with arsenals within their reach-drugs, guns, machetes, etc.- to maim, rape, kill, steal, destroy causing widespread violence and hitherto unheard of atrocities.
Unfortunately for women and girls, the most vulnerable segment of society, the weight of this anger is resting upon them as they are targets for assault, rape, forced prostitution, kidnap and the widowed or care-givers if their spouses are lucky to escape unhurt. Married women are being raped on the highways and on their farm lands with dire consequences for their health and marriage.
A set of school girls were abducted in Chibok 16 years ago, some killed in transit, some forced into unholy marriage while Leah Shaibuis still in captivity for refusing to convert from Christianity to Islam. Every country is obliged to protect its citizens but this is becoming almost unattainable in Nigeria. Fear is now the lot of women and girls. Just this week news broke of a day-time abduction and violation of a 13 year school girl in Ahaoda, Rivers State. Many such cases abound and are mostly unreported. Yet Nigeria has a law, Child Right Act to protect children; Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, as well as being a signatory to the UNSCR 1325.
The UNSCR 1325 specifically seeks to protect and rehabilitate victims of violence moreso from armed conflict but happenings in the country do not point to the application of these organs. Girls are forced to marry cultists in the communities and cities, out of fear of molestation and attack on their families. There have been cases of families losing members from bullets released angry cultist boyfriends of runaway partners. Teenage pregnancy is on the increase with more girls dropping out of school as the economy becomes tougher and more families move into camps for internally displaced persons as a result of rising cases of communal conflict. Poor education means increased poverty and Nigeria is already the world capital for the extremely poor with a staggering 93, 769, 233 (47.7per cent) of the population in that category according to the World Poverty Index Clock. Also, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world with her record of 132million children, most of the girls according to the United Nations Children Fund whereas one of the Sustainable Development Goal target for education is, “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”.
The rights of the girl-child have thus been vehemently attacked by circumstances that a saner society could have checked. The law enforcement agencies including the judiciary have not done the needful to save this endangered species. Only recently an old man who raped a five-year old was set free by the court. The shame rather than go to the violator, becomes the burden of the parents of that girl and a warning to others in similar predicament to keep silent. This is unsafe for our today and tomorrow as the culture of impunity is growing in the area of corruption which continues to deny the masses development and the atrocities being unleashed from the angry violent masses in reaction to continued poverty, unemployment.
The justice system should be structured to stand up for women and children as demanded by UNSCR 1325 and it should be devoid of bottlenecks while the police should be enlightened on all existing laws, resolutions, conventions and policies on women and girls protection.
Protection of women and girls from all forms of abuses should be granted priority by community based organizations, non-governmental organizations, the ministry of Women Affairs, and human right organizations.
Security agencies should also step up efforts while government at all levels should pay priority attention to ways and means of wiping out atrocities in society by promoting good governance, providing opportunities for youth employment, providing basic infrastructure like power, water and education to improve living among the masses. The commonwealth should be spent on making life meaningful for the generality of the people not stuffed in individual pockets of public officers. And to restore sanity in governance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and ICPC should dispassionately bring to book anyone found working against collective interest in this regard.

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Ken Meju is a Port Harcourt based journalist

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