The story of Esau and Jacob is well known by many and it is instructive in analyzing Nigeria and her people. Isaac and Rebecca gave birth to identical twins, Jacob and Esau. The Bible says that there was a struggle between them while they were still inside of Rebecca, a preamble to their unfriendly relationship after birth. Esau became the legal heir to the family birthright since he was born first, a birthright that included, among other things, being the heir to the Covenant between God and Abraham – their grandfather. His mother’s favorite, Jacob was described as a plain man who lived in tents (Genesis 25:27), in contrast to Esau who was a skilled hunter and his father’s favorite.
Esau returned from the field one day and was weak from hunger. Coincidentally, Jacob had just made pottage, so Esau asked Jacob to feed him from the pottage because he was weak (Genesis 25:29-30). In response, Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today” (25:31). One of the definitions of “plain”, in describing a person, is “simple/honest in character”, one that is arguably of good moral. Isn’t it ironic that a “plain” person would demand something in exchange for giving his own brother food? Strangely, Esau accepted, stating, “I’m close to dying; what good would this birthright do me?” (25:32-34). Esau showed how worthless he thought the birthright was and relinquished it for just one meal. He would later regret that hasty decision.
When their father Isaac was on the verge of death, it was time for him to bless Esau, his favourite. Esau was instructed by Isaac to go hunting for a special meal before Isaac gave the blessing. Rebecca heard the conversation and while Esau was gone hunting, she assisted Jacob in impersonating Esau so that he could bring Isaac the meal and receive the blessing. Due to his bad sight, Issac was misled into delivering the blessing to Jacob. Discovering what had happened on his return, Esau was enraged, and Jacob fled to avoid the potential effect of his brother’s wrath. Esau’s decision to sell his birthright serves as an example, to anyone who cares, about how one could lose valuable/enduring things because of little/temporary pleasures. Esau cautions us to stick to what is genuinely valuable, even if it means denying oneself of the desires of the flesh.
Nigeria is like Isaac and Rebecca, and Nigerians (the ruling class and the ordinary citizens) are the unfriendly twins, Esau and Jacob. Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the ruling class (both civilian and military) – through actions and inactions – has consistently shown its disdain for the country’s ordinary citizens. Recognizing this unhealthy relationship between the rulers and the ruled, Dele Farotimi, the Labour Party’s 2023 presidential campaign spokesperson, in one of his comments, said Nigerians have been denied citizenship in their own country. “It is the urgent duty of all Nigerians, victims; denied citizenship of this wicked and unjust state, to ensure that Buhari is the last president to ruin/rule Nigeria on the strength of the fraudulent 1999 constitution and its evil governance systems”, Farotimi said in a tweet on January 1, 2021.
Unfortunately, and as usual, Nigerians are not yielding to Farotimi’s advice. In the race to the 2023 general elections, these Esaus (victims) have picked their favourite swindlers (Jacobs). In January 2012, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published its “Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010” study, which included information from the previous 30 years. According to the statistics, 17.1 million Nigerians lived in poverty in 1980, followed by 34.7 million in 1985, 39.2 million in 1996, 67.7 million in 2004, and 112 million in 2010. On November 17, 2022, the same NBS released the findings of its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) study. 132.9 million poor people were listed as existing in Nigeria. That number corresponds to 63% of Nigeria’s population. This data shows that whether civilian or military, the Nigerian ruling class has deliberately and consistently made life miserable for their fellow countrymen.
In contrast to the ordinary citizen’s misery, members of the ruling class continue to appropriate the resources of the country to themselves and their cronies, living luxuriously in the midst of widespread misery. To perpetuate their country-destroying reign, the Nigerian ruling class deliberately weaponize poverty, rendering the people vulnerable, hungry, and deprived of dignity. Nigeria’s rulers carefully designed and continue to execute a plan to subjugate the people and their offsprings. This they do with their inhumane policies that deprive the people of opportunities, education, infrastructure, and now, security of life and property. Nigerians have endured decades of misrule, but under an acclaimed military general, president Muhammadu Buhari, they have not only given up expectations of good governance, but they have also now been so abused that they’re now thankful for remaining alive, especially after making trips across the country’s towns, cities, and states.
In the midst of ravaging insecurity that has made traveling from place to place a serious endeavor to be carefully considered and embarked upon, only if it is really important and can’t be avoided, Nigeria’s (in)security agencies have put up an attitude of helplessness while criminals daily shed Nigerian blood. But the security agencies are not helpless, their attitude is a deliberate one that ensures that those benefiting – both state and non-state actors – from the insecurity crisis continue to benefit from it. The culpability of the security agencies was confirmed recently when they, as usual, submitted themselves to be used by politicians to oppress and abuse the citizens. Aminu Mohammed, a final year student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa state, was the victim in the latest episode of the abuse of power by the Nigerian lords, and the abuser this time was the First Lady, Aisha Buhari. According to reports, Aminu was punished for a tweet he made six months ago, in June 2022.
Referring to the obviously improved looks of the First Lady (in comparison to 2015 when she and her husband got to power), Aminu’s tweet – in Hausa language – said the First Lady had become fat from feeding on poor people’s money (Su mama Anchi Kudin Talakawa an koshi). For six months, Nigeria’s security agencies tracked this recalcitrant citizen, captured him, and took him to Abuja, where he was given doses of the medicine that would cure his ailment of not respecting unelected authority. As expected, there was uproar and criticism from Nigerians who condemned the abuse of power. Perhaps due to the widespread criticism, and likely because there was no real crime committed, the lord First Lady finally ordered Aminu’s release. The First Lady is not alone though. For accusing the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, of diverting N500 million belonging to the state, the publisher of Cross-River Watch, Agba Jalingo, was arrested in August 2019. He was subsequently charged with terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime, and was incarcerated for about 179 days. The charges were finally dismissed by a Federal High Court in Calabar in March 2022.
What Nigeria’s ruling class has been doing to ordinary citizens, like the examples of Aminu Mohammed and Agba Jalingo, is to force the citizens into submission if they wouldn’t submit voluntarily. But lately, as evident in the ongoing 2023 presidential election season, the ruling class has had little need for force, as Nigerians voluntarily carry their swindlers on their heads, despite repeated warnings from observers on the potential consequences of naive electoral choices in 2023. A significant contributor to the ruins that Nigeria currently endures, especially with the events before and after the 2015 general elections, the ruling APC’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, has repeatedly shown his disregard for Nigerians, even while asking them to vote for him in 2023. By his actions since becoming the party’s candidate, Tinubu has demonstrated clearly that Nigerians do not matter to him, and that he is not answerable to them. Some of his supporters have actually said that irrespective of how Nigerians vote, the Lagos landlord will be president in 2023.
Unlike Isaac, Nigeria has enough blessings to go around all her citizens, but dishonest and unpatriotic Jacobs, with significant help from various state agencies, sit on these blessings. In the case of Esau and Jacob, Esau was enraged that his own brother betrayed him, with the help of their mother. But unlike Esau, a significant number of Nigeria’s victims are not angry, they even celebrate the ones who deny them of their right to decent living. This strange behavior of Nigerians is not new, but the 2023 presidential election has shown how degrading and dehumanizing weaponized poverty can be on a victim’s mind. In countries where governance is defined by service to the country and people, where society has been engineered to ensure that talent largely guarantees access to decent living, actors are known to have access to more than just decent living. But Nigeria is no such country, and even actors have not been exempted from the impact of this citizen-sabotaging State.
The Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood, has seen its own share of sabotage in the Nigerian space, especially in the area of piracy, which for decades denied actors the rewards of their labour. Nigerians have gotten used to stories of the misery of Nollywood actors, who have on many occasions resorted to begging online for financial support, often when they fall ill to critical health issues. The homes many of them live in are literally eyesores, and you wonder how their years of labour could not make their reality better. Sadly, these victims seem unable to see the link between their misery and the actions/inactions of rogue politicians. How else does one explain the manner in which some of these actors have pitched their tents in the race to the 2023 elections? Widely loved and respected Joke Silva lost some of the admiration she enjoyed from her fans when she was seen in the company of Tinubu’s wife, Remi. In explaining her support for Tinubu, some said it could be connected to the recent health challenge of Joke’s husband, equally loved and respected Olu Jacobs.
The Tinubus are said to have helped, significantly, during those trying times of Joke and her husband, a supposed justification for the couple’s support of the APC candidate ahead of 2023. Another Nollywood actor who has chosen the same path as Joke Silva is Ebun Oloyede, widely known as Olaiya. Like Olu Jacobs, Olaiya suffered and, thankfully, survived a critical health challenge. When Nigerians expressed disappointment over his choice of Tinubu, Olaiya made it clear that his political choice was motivated by the assistance he received from the Tinubus at the most critical point of his life. It is good to be grateful for help and favour received, but it is degrading to make oneself a nuisance in the name of showing gratitude. A video went viral on social media recently in which Olaiya was seen naked at a beach, praying for Tinubu’s victory at the 2023 polls. Of course, it attracted condemnation from Nigerians, especially the ones who refuse to be modern-day Esau.
These celebrities, like everyone else, have a right to their political choice, and should not be condemned, really, for showing support for their preferred candidates in any election. However, the problem critics have with the choices being made by these actors, at this critical time in the country’s existence, is that 2023 is an opportunity, perhaps the last such opportunity, to salvage the country’s sinking ship, and a man who has shown complete disregard for Nigerians is not one they want to entrust the next 4 or 8 years of their lives to. It is not the objective of this piece to de-market Tinubu and his party, but after the disastrous 8 years of locust under their watch, and Tinubu’s many obvious shortcomings, it is unacceptable to risk the next 4 or 8 years of this country’s life just because he supported the Olaiyas when they fell ill. In fact, that these actors – and any Nigerian – have to resort to seeking charity to try to survive a health challenge is enough reason to not give the likes of Tinubu a chance at being tenants in Aso Rock, Nigeria’s presidential seat. But what can a people do, when there are numerous Esaus among them who voluntarily give up valuable and enduring things in exchange for crumbs?