New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

The revolution in hunger

President Bola Tinubu must get cracking immediately after his private visit to France which further exposed many to the lessons rooted in history. Hunger is as dangerous as chemical weapons – it is enough of a trigger to create a revolution. With demonstrations taking place around Nigeria, the president should disregard the usual propaganda machine from his handlers. This hunger is real. The people are starving and have reached the wall, waiting to explode. It is a critical situation From Kano in the Northwest to Niger in the Northcentral, protests are gaining momentum. Citizens are tired of the usual Aso Rock reactionary grammar that does not smell danger even if there is a bomb explosion next door. This has little to do with the Russian invasion of Kuwait or COVID-19 disruptions. The problem is huge and was created by the economic policies of this administration that has seen the naira contracting both leprosy and epilepsy, at the same time.

While we note that clashes between pastoralists and farmers have not helped the situation, it is certain that in the last eight months, the downward slide has more to do with those in power and those in high places who have refused to plan for the benefit of all. In the North-east, the Federal Government has been unable to conquer Boko Haram and other terrorist groups who have advanced to the level of seizing fertile Nigerian territory. While the war goes on, it is not enough to envelope the entire country with hunger. Mr. President should know that people are selling their children to make money just to feed. It is that bad. Prices no more sky rocket according to festive seasons, upward mobility is a daily routine and families are crumbling. In May 2023, a sizeable loaf of bread for a family of six was affordable. It may not have been enough to keep everyone going for two days but there was the possibility that something would be left for tomorrow. Today, it is a different story. Bread is no longer affordable. This should keep Tinubu thinking. One of the factors that led the French Revolution in the 19th century was the high cost of bread. Paris and other districts moved from one crisis to the other. There was the Flour War of 1776 which came as the Economic Team, tagged ‘Physiocrats’, churned out deceit upon lies. On October 21, 1789, Denis Francis, a baker, faced allegations of hoarding bread. Although further trials found him not guilty, the crowd wanted his blood. He was dragged to Place de Greve, executed by hanging as the crowd dragged his pregnant wife to the gory sight and asked her to kiss the bloodied lips of her mutilated husband. A bigger casualty was Marie Antoinette, the queen and wife of King Louis XVI. Her famous quote of ‘Let them eat cake’ infuriated the French. Like her husband, she was also beheaded. Tinubu must restore order. Government should do away with palliatives in the form of distributing food items. Some politicians have enriched themselves with the so called palliatives while the poor continue to get poorer. The Federal Government must as a matter of national emergency make a volte face. The removal of subsidy on petroleum products created doomsday. Something must be done to reduce the pump price of fuel – that is the genesis of the present economic crisis. It is improper to put the cart before the horse which is what we have seen so far. Decisions are taken before deliberations begin. The economic health of a nation depends on those driving the plan. We need the right people to bring the country back.

American Senator, Pat Roberts said: “Show me a nation that cannot feed itself and I’ll show you a nation in chaos”. That is where Nigeria is now. The confusion from the Upper Benue to Lower Niger is dangerous. A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. Farmers in the country need to be protected. They must be encouraged through security and the necessary infrastructure to produce. It is a shame that Boko Haram fighters are buying support with food and loans, which ordinarily, the government should provide. In 1962, the Soviet town of Novocherkassk, lost 26 workers who rose against increase in the prices of dairy and meat products. In 2024, meat might not be no longer affordable in homes. The Minister of Agriculture should wake up.

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