"I have come to understand that fear does not solve any problem and that we must face each challenge if we hope to overcome"
- Gabriel Oyediji
father spent the morning queuing to buy petrol, so he could visit his daughter in boarding school. He was especially worried about security in the girls' only school and wanted to assure himself that his daughter was safe. After four hours, he procured enough gas to get him to the school but would arrive with barely thirty minutes of visitation time left. He made haste carefully. At a dangerous bend in the road five miles from the school, he was run off the road by a trailer. He never got to see his daughter. Instead, he became the latest casualty of Nigeria's thieves.
Like Jesus between two thieves, Nigeria's middle class is stuck between a predatory ruling elite and a carnivorous underclass. Deprived of basic amenities of a consumer society - pipe-borne water, electricity, petrol, good roads, affordable healthcare, etc - they struggle to make a living. They put in honest labor in schools, corporations, and industries. Aging prematurely, they struggle to rise through the ranks of corporations or to build their own businesses. They sink a borehole to supply water, install a generator for electricity, import equipment for production, erect high fences and hire private guards for security, educate personnel to staff their businesses, and believe in the Nigerian dream. They do all without venture capital, enticements, or government collaboration.
When they eventually start to make money, their rise exposes them to 'the other thief' - common criminals, ransom kidnappers, domestic and corporate petty thieves, armed robbers, and myriad opportunists who thrive in an insecure socioeconomic environment. Every day, they are vulnerable to the crisis-fraught living orchestrated by the two thieves.
Like all analogies, this breaks down. Far from being sinless, the Nigerian middle class is complicit in their own misery. Whether it is their pervasive attitude of suffering and smiling, the "a beta pass my neighbor' airs, or their refusal to challenge abusive officials, they participate in their own oppression. And the persecution persists.
So, how do we turn things around?
- Vote the right people into office: Thankfully, many previously silent grassroot leaders are calling on all those eligible, to vote. In addition, don't vote your stomach, vote your life. Don't allow fraudulent thugs to buy your vote with a bag of rice that would not save you from the consequences of a decrepit healthcare system.
- Hold officials accountable: Everyone who holds a public office is answerable to the public and should be called to give account. Whether or not you voted them into office, their decisions impact your life therefore, you must ensure they make the right choices for you. Attend open days at the House or Senate. Ask questions when in attendance. Follow the actions of candidates in your district so you'll discern their character. Don't vote for anyone who sprays money like s/he own a mint. Nobody who works hard for their money will fritter it away carelessly.
- Participate in politics: There are many offices who could use a few good people. If you're brave enough, bold enough, and have a solid support group, run for office. First, build a support base, then grow your following around a solid platform, and run as ethical a race as you can manage.
- Form or join civic organizations: Beyond voting or running for office, start or be a part of civic organizations. These organizations uphold the rights of citizens to justice, labor, security, etc. Even if they are regional in focus, they tend to advocate for the rights of the people. In these organizations though, you must also call leaders to accountability.
How will this impact the other thief? If oga thief does what is right, opportunists would be reduced, reclaimed, or removed.