Through out Kaduna State, Governor Ahmed Nasiru El-rufai through his iconic onslaught of mass demolitions, is killing the Hausa shàgo culture of Northern Nigeria.
The logic is for city beautification and perhaps most importantly, Internal Revenue Generation. So as you go around town, spaces where mini, small and even large privately owned and privately operated shops once sat are now opened up after what came mainly as an unceremonious deployment of bulldozers and catapillers.
These entraprenuers now stranded and aching from the predicament of their new realities are expected, if still interested in eking out a living, to go find and rent shops at exorbitant rates from plaza-like buildings and shopping centers. Buildings that appear to have been briskly erected by salient but shrewd bourgeois. Bourgeoises who hitherto have always cozied with the advantages and privileges of means and information on the impending draconian socio-economic policy of government.
It may be difficult to argue against a logic that seeks to harness sundry economic activities in a state for a boost in tax inflow, and as in this particular case through rents and royalties. But to ignore the overwhelming number of those shàgo owners and practitioners who must now return to unproductivenes, unemployment, despondency and moribundness is to be insensitive to the plight of a critically disadvantaged class of the society.
From where will these peasants start off if they are to ever continue fending for themselves and their families? How can they possibly source the capital required to rent out a shop from these ostensible shopping malls much less stock up on the wares to sell. Many of these people especially in this COVID dispensation have definitely been thrown under a racing bus if not literarily under a moving Catapiller. All these coming just when they thought they could still manage to clutch onto an age-long, yet enduring, practice of the shàgo as a lifeline to out-live this pelting economy.
People of Northern Nigeria, their young men from the bottom social strata especially, have over the decades been able to wrestle their share of livelihood and maintain some semblance of independence and responsibility through the practice of owning and running a small shop somewhere around in the neighborhood or right outside their various houses. These shops popularly called shàgo in the local Hausa dialect are the principal supply units for simple but critical consumer items. Big corporations like Dangote, Honeywell, Cadbury etc., have these shàgos to thank for being the last link in the downstream sector for the distribution of their products to the final retailer and consumer in the biggest cities and in the remotest extremities of the Nigerian landscape. Aside serving a life-dependent network of critical supply to those low income earners who only subsist on a hand-to-mouth basis due to the uncharitable economics unleashed upon them by government, these shàgos serve as the economic mitochondria upon which a poor society depends for an otherwise impossible redistribution and circulation of wealth among the poor and less privileged in our economy. On account of a neighborhood shàgo, those who legitimately earn or unabashedly fetch from our common patrimony could still handover some crumbs to the shàgo operator through the purchase of groceries, sanitaries, veggies, etc. By extension, those at the lower ebbs of an unforgiving socio-economic construct may earn just enough to go through another night-man, wife and children. But when even this oportunity is arrogantly taken away on the grounds of environmental beautification and tax scavenging, one can only wonder how those at the receiving end would fare in the immediate and medium term- not to mention anytime thereafter.
Now, talking about the aristo-centric economic gains that may possibly accrue from these developmental adventures. Who says this is the better way to go? By this approach, wealth will once again be made to perculate at the hands and corridors of those already rich and privilege ones. They will go on to own all the departmental stores and shopping centers while those that are purported to be running those shops and businesses will actually be slaving both for their principals through rents, and for the government through taxes. Mind you, there is a worse case scenario where large retail chain stores could simply snuff out the life from their smaller competitors through an unfair competition as already being staged by this demolition policy. And again, even if the present govenor may want to boast of his good intentions and judiciousness with the generated revenue, what are his guarantees for future administrations and for those men, women and their children whom he has violently taken out of circulation by severing their critical shàgo lifeline?
As a people, we have to be very weary of blanket imitation of Western liberal democracies just as we should be cautious in applying textbook examples of developmental models. One would have thought that government and her handsomely paid policy makers would be more charitable, pragmatic and sensitive in a Northern Nigeria that is this plagued with insurgency and widespread insecurity, drug addition, and out-of-school children. Yet we are greeted with a demolition orgy that luxurate in bringing down the lives and businesses of the poor only for a propping up of those already rich and privilege shopping plaza and retail corporation owners.
The way to go at this critical juncture of our national life isn’t to place environmental beautification above human survival and sustainability. And regarding socio-economics, we got here in the first place owing to massive rural-urban drift as brought about by lack of armenities, infrastructure and social welfare in the hither lands. This migration still continues and there are little or no insensitives to stay back in those remote communities hence the bourgeoning population and accompanying petty economic activities as ever sprawling in the main cities of our country. It is therefore better to apply a voluntary pull strategy rather than a high-handed and unsustainable push approach as we see here. Through a pull strategy, people are nudged away from the urban centres for a return to the rural areas by making those far-flung townships and villages to be adequately viable living enclaves. People should again see reasons to pack up their belongings and head back to their local communities on humane terms and for real productive reasons rather than on account of the desperation brought about by hunger or the frustration and bitterness occasioned by government demolition campaigns.
An attempt not to yield to these candid, sincere, professional and humane options of going about an all-inclusive development would send many people into destructive alienation and many more away as recruites and foot soldiers for the very insurgency we purport to endlessly fight with the same hard-earned tax money we are gluttonously scavenging for. Let them hear, those that have ears.
God bless Kaduna State, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Saliu Momodu is the Producer and Host of the Scholastic-Ng Podcast and can be reached via [email protected]