Dear Nigerians – we are all poor

It was the Buhari administration that accelerated the impoverishment of Nigerians, a trend initiated by the dim-witted Jonathan.

However, Asiwaju Tinubu has completed the process with a systematic outflow of ill-conceived policies, mixed with cryptic nepotism and a huge sense of monarchical entitlement.

Today, we now have three classes of Nigerians: the ultra-rich, the poor, and the peasants. The middle class has been annihilated, pushing a whole generation of Nigerians into the largest grouping of mass poverty since the civil war.

Taxed to the hilt, buffeted by hyperinflation, galloping unemployment, inefficient policy initiatives, and execution, the middle class, created by the Obasanjo administration, has been pushed into the ‘poor’ category, devoid of any possibility of return in this lifetime.

The original poor are now peasants. They are what I want to call urban peasants, who have returned to the earth for survival. They depend on handouts, have no access to healthcare, and even scavenge from dustbins, leading lives far worse than the cavemen who first roamed the earth.

The ultra-rich benefit from the rent structure put in place by the entrenched prebendalism of our politics and existence. They either profit directly from loopholes in the system and corruption that pervades governance or indirectly plug into this structure either through emotional relationships or by providing the capacity needed, thus milking the system dry.

This fueling of the economy’s hyper-decimation influences policy, redirecting it from the common good toward selfish purposes. It drives inflation as demand for luxury goods and lifestyle remains high, pushing demand for forex beyond systemic capacity to deliver.

The kind of democracy we run rewards these ‘boys’ and worsens when a system with a huge credibility issue leads to the need to shore it up by fronting benefits. This has pushed the middle class to not being able to afford a lifestyle they could easily afford just 10 years ago.

The government must start looking at how to reflate the middle class, as they form the bedrock of SMEs that hold down the economy. The obliteration of the middle class has led to an increase in mortality in the SME space.

The government must begin with a serious cabinet shake-up to bring in real square heads and push long-term reliefs to the space, like tax breaks, grants, and support to attack the unemployment issue with a bid to reflate purchasing power.

It must engage corruption as an economic weapon, not as a punitive measure. Corruption forgiveness could be given to past offenders, but sanctions like no more public appointments must be imposed.

In all, Nigeria today has created one of the largest pools of urban poor in the world. With clear-eyed leadership, we can upturn this in less than four years, but the question in the air is – will they allow our true leaders to emerge?

Thank you.

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