I have only just come across a short clip showing people in a warehouse filled with COVID-19 palliatives which were left un-shared even with biting lack and poverty turning many into internet beggars during the early to mid-term of national lockdown some months ago. I have to wonder, what sort of greed and wickedness could have driven our leaders to hoard much needed life-saving supplies at a time when people would have been overwhelmed with gratitude over just one bale of rice, beans or garri?
Why then are we now acting shocked that those palliatives which were secretly stocked are now being raided by the same people who should have freely received it in the first place? Are we truly surprised that poverty have made many to lose all sense of civility and restrain?
I am reminded of the biblical story of a rich man with 99 sheep who sought to take and kill a poor man’s only sheep to serve his guest. Having exerted the monopoly of opportunity and power to capture those goods, our leaders still took the poor man’s one sheep- the dignity of his existence, through avoidable lack and impoverishment, and now turn up their nose on this desperate men and women who have been reduced to petty pilferers.
At least the rich man in the bible owned the 99 sheep, but those goods seen in the raided warehouse which filled it from bottom to top and across a stretch, belong to the masses, and should have been distributed to the masses before, during or after the national lockdown to ease the difficulty occasioned by the pandemic’s impact on economic life.
A desperate man does not live off principles especially after uncovering deliberate wickedness by his or her leaders. Those goods were either bought with taxpayer’s money or gotten from public contribution and intended for distribution, but those who had the privilege to turn these provisions over to the people sat on it and took for themselves the abundance of the land.
I do not write this to condone the actions of those seen in the video carting away load after loads of goods, but I am as equally appalled, if not more enraged, by the terrible leaders entrusted with these items who failed their people and office by turning public goods into private acquisition.
Whoever was in charge of that particular warehouse should hide his or her head in shame. It is indeed a crying shame made even more sorrowful when one realises that but for the civil unrest in the country, we may never have known of those hoarded stocks. It then means that there could be many more COVID-19 palliatives ‘cornered’ by some mongrels we call leaders.
It is in this same country that we’ve found warehouses filled with rotten money of local to hard currencies, hidden away and forgotten. It is in this same country that NEMA officials have been accused of turning donations to IDP camps into personal merchandise to be sold for gains or largely hoarded for private use. It is also in this same country that snakes and monkeys have been accused of swallowing large sums of monies. It is therefore unsurprising that issues came to a head.
The #ENDSARS agitations clearly morphed from an outcry against police brutality to accommodate widespread disaffection with poor and evil leadership. This is why there was such a momentum, resilience and popularity with the protests.
There is clearly a leadership crisis in Nigeria, from those who hoard power to those who hoard food or money. The prognosis is the same: majority of our leaders are enamoured of affluence and opulence while insulated from the dire reality of the masses. If we do not address this leadership crisis, and quickly too, the next warehouse to be raided and completely emptied would be the pretensive nation called “Nigeria”.
Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq., is a Public Interest Law and Founding Partner at Law Corridor.