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Vicissitude of the Nigerian life          

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Recently, a survey carried out by the health ministry revealed that more than 70 million Nigerians are hypertensive and from that figure, only a little above 20 million people have access to medical care. Though the revelation is as shocking as it is frightening, it is doubtful if the quoted figures is a true representation of what actually obtains. Because if Nigeria’s population is said to be about two hundred million (though not backed by any demographic affirmation), considering the rigours and stress Nigerians go through on a daily basis in their quest to survive in a very harsh and uncertain economic environment, it is most likely that the quoted figure is far less than the actual number of those affected.

Living in an environment of acute unemployment or under employment can be very frustrating. Most times when people make allusions to what they term Plan B, they fail to  realize that most people do not even have a consistently stable Plan A to start with. The pains and panic Nigerians live with rather than reduce is exacerbated daily and for this, the various tiers of government are culpable and on them a guilty verdict must be passed. Failure to provide adequate employment opportunities for a larger percentage of the masses is the first proof of government’s irresponsibility. To add insult to injury, the same government still embarks most times on destroying whatever the people are able to put together on their own as survival strategies. Sending bulldozers to destroy people’s business centers under whatever guise speaks volumes of government’s insensitivity to the citizens’ plight. Sometimes, the excuse given for demolishing people’s shops is that of encroachment, and people are displaced every time from their means of livelihood.

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Another axe governments at all levels use to drive young entrepreneurs beyond the precinct of comfort is excessive taxation. Nigeria’s government, it seems, is never ready to help any business to grow into maturity before very strict tax demands are made. Governments exist for the common good and the well-being of the citizens ought to be seen as very paramount. That Nigerians are forced to live like slaves in their own country is something the government at all levels must address. Of all those faced with the worse form of predicaments are commercial vehicles operators who for years have remained pawns in the hands of traffic officers and lawless touts. Most commercial vehicles in Nigeria today are completely rickety not because the operators are rough or nonchalant but largely due to excessive extortion by a combination of traffic officers and ill-mannered touts which leaves drivers with very little just to keep body and soul together. Even though these pitiable drivers, with no one to fight on their behalf have accepted their fate, there is every tendency that if taken for medical examination, most of them will no doubt have symptoms of hypertension. Where government exists for the people, most of the rickety vehicles in the metropolis should have been phased out by the state and the owners assisted  by the state with modern ones in an arrangement that will be pleasing to the parties concerned. Because the truth is that the continued existence of those utterly poor vehicles on the roads is an embarrassment not only to the drivers but to both the passengers who patronize them and the government who allows such eyesore in a place like Lagos dubbed a mega city for instance.

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Apart from commercial vehicles operators who never feel any impact of any government, those in the civil service do not fare better. As we speak, some governors are already threatening fire and brimstone about downsizing their workforce or reverting to old salaries. The question to ask such governors is why the helpless poor should always be the ones to bear the burden of utter mismanagement of resources by past and present government? Most executives and their members of the state assemblies are notorious for extreme opulence and confounding profligacy. State resources are squandered purely on daily jamboree and politicians act as if tomorrow does not exist.

However, whenever state resources begin to dwindle, the first casualty will always be those whose entire existence depends largely on their monthly pittance. Sad still, most of those who retire from civil service either die or become destitute before their entitlements come through in the same land where leaders amass so much wealth to themselves and display extreme flamboyance and opulence. The daily harassment faced by people who engage in legitimate activities is beyond what anyone can imagine while those who cut corners or engage in all sorts of illicit activities remain untouchable.

Yet, the most agonizing reality is that people who are hooked on criminality readily outshine law-abiding citizens in terms of visible achievements and assets. And in a highly materialistic society like Nigeria, all that matters to almost everyone is large wealth irrespective of the source, criminals have upper hand. Even worship centers and religious houses where moral rectitude ought to be held as sacrosanct openly celebrate ill-gotten wealth. Under the prevailing situations Nigerians have found themselves, where the impact of good governance is either non-existent or not well spread and almost everyone has to run from pillar to post in the quest to survive, it should never be surprising that the number of people living with health related problems such as hypertension continue to rise, more so since there is no adequate health facilities for people to run to.

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It is very important therefore that in order to assuage the sufferings of the masses, the government should urgently come up with some masterplan. Creating massive gainful employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths is the first step. Unemployment causes untold hardship and leads to depression and frustration.

Creating jobs should not prove too difficult if the government can consider ways to resuscitate all the dead industries that were once the pride of the nation. Again, providing loans for young entrepreneurs as being done by the current regime should be intensified. Building affordable low cost shops for traders will also go a long way to assist the downtrodden and businesses should be allowed to grow before the issue of taxation is involved.

Indeed, if and when any government is alert to its responsibility to the citizens, the latter too will reciprocate by paying their taxes as at when due. With such mutual cooperation existing between the state and the citizens, things will gradually begin to move in the right direction and a lot of people will be rescued from the scourge of avoidable illnesses such as hypertension.

Oyewusi lives in Lagos.

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