This is a historically trying period for mankind, a unique time warp that reminds us how very puny we are in the natural scheme of things. Our delusion that we are the masters of the universe has been badly exposed by an invisible, vicious virus. All over the world, people are scrambling for cover, confused and fearful of what tomorrow will bring.
Even for the well-to-do nations, the times are challenging economically. But they have the resources, the institutions and the will to enable them survive and bounce back from the wreckages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Take the United States of America for example, the most impacted country in number of infections and deaths. The Congress and the Federal Reserve have jointly put in place about $4 trillion in economic relief packages. And the House of Representatives has just passed another $3 trillion for the same purpose.
Even many smaller nations have done very well in trying to mitigate the severe economic impact of the pandemic. Far more than us, as our window for borrowing funds has narrowed and the government, already struggling for direction and purpose before the pandemic, is not up to the existential challenges the country is presently facing.
So, what will tomorrow bring to Nigeria? The answer is blowing dangerously in the wind. We can see it, and we can feel it. The omens are, indeed, terrifying. Judgement day is coming very soon.
But it’ll not be the Rapture when, according to pentecostal Christians’ belief, Jesus Christ will be sent back by His Father to separate the good from the bad among us. It will be the howling mobs of millions of deprived Nigerians baying for the heads of their oppressors and joy killers. And when their own rapture is unleashed, nobody will be safe. The good and innocent, the bad and ugly among us will get the same treatment.
Mob justice is always swift, brutal and non-discriminatory. Whoever is not with them and of them is the enemy. Once their collective anger and volcanic energy explode, all hell will break loose. The result will be carnage on a massive scale. Lives and property of all kinds, private and public, will be wasted.
The grand folly of building prison walls around our homes, creating a false sense of security, will be ridiculed by how easily our supposed fortresses are breached. The prison walls, no matter how high, thick and well fortified, won’t protect us. A hungry man is an angry man with nothing left to lose, except his life that, in his own estimation, is valueless. And millions of angry people become demented mobs propelled by a force as powerful as that of a tsunami.
Who and what can stop a tsunami once its catastrophically destructive power is unleashed? Same for a demented mob. Once it sets off, there is no stopping it until, like a tsunami, its energy is exhausted. But the depleted energy is reflected by the widespread wreckage of lives and property. The social order swallowed by chaos in an instant of seemingly infinite time and mass insanity.
This scenario is not a fantasy. It is already being played out by the daredevilry of Fulani bandits and killer herdsmen; the audacity of the One Million Boys gangs in Lagos and similar lawless cult groups all over the country; the huge spike in intensity and spread of criminality; and the failure of law-enforcement agencies to stem the tide. All these on top of the 11-year campaign of terrorism by Boko Haram. And the situation, as frightening as it is now, will inevitably get worse.
The reason for that is as clear as a tropical sun-lit day. It doesn’t need any form of divination to reveal it. The vast majority of our young population, particularly the segment of it that ranges between 18 and 35 years, is unemployed. And that dangerous bulge of energetic but idle hands keep growing exponentially.
Before the pandemic and its aftermath of economic meltdown, the combined figure of the unemployed and underemployed in Nigeria was estimated to be around 40 million. The figure will increase substantially when the next estimate is published. The hitherto stuttering economy, now wrecked by the pandemic, will guarantee that.
Aligned with the high unemployment is pervasive poverty. The recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics says over 40 percent of Nigerians, that’s 80 million plus, live in extreme poverty. Which is far less than the estimate of the World Poverty Index and other credible global organizations that put the figure at triple digit, or about 50 percent of the overall population. High unemployment, mass extreme poverty and absence of any clear, effective remedial actions by the government make for a lethal cocktail of a time bomb primed for explosion anytime. It’s like waiting anxiously for a very active volcano to erupt. You never know when the eruption will come. But you know it’ll and is unstoppable.
The question we all should be asking is this: How do we deal with the clear and present danger that’s poised to tip the country over the edge? Why do we all remain silent, especially those who can and need to speak out, in the face of this danger? For our silence, bordering on the criminal, enables the political scoundrels to tighten their grip on power and continue their mission of wrecking the country.
When Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters’ publisher and part-time politician, talked revolution last year, the government, lacking real legitimacy following the blatantly rigged general elections, got very nervous and over-reacted. The DSS captured Sowore and locked him away for a long time. One of the charges slammed on him was that he insulted President Muhammadu Buhari. Meaning that he was too unacceptably critical of him.
But to be clear, there is no law in Nigeria against insulting the president or any other top political office holder. Even if Sowore did so, it couldn’t have amounted to a criminal offence against the president. All our so-called leaders insult us every day by their luxurious lifestyle paid for with our resources, while we live in desperate want. And they make our lives miserable by their incompetence and failure to do right by us.
Right now, the country is leaderless and the people, not the effete, corrupt and badly compromised elite, are voiceless. But the more those who should speak out refuse to do so, the more the hungry, angry and nothing-to-lose millions of young Nigerians will be empowered to take matters into their own hands. They will not be talking revolution; they will be carrying out one. When that happens, how many of them would the DSS arrest and charge with ‘insulting the president’ who doesn’t care about them?
With the pandemic locking everyone – rich and poor, powerful and powerless- in and down, no one will escape the jungle justice that will ensue.