Undoubtedly, the story of the attendant significance of the average Nigerian - the man in the street popularly known as the “Common Man” has largely been underreported while that of his poverty has largely been exaggerated. Like the proverbial monk walking in the rain with a leaking, or even no umbrella at all, the common man in Nigeria is the symbol of the enduring failure of the Nigerian Dream. Yet, the common man has survived, all the same. Since, in any society, labourers, artisans, peasants, low income earners, etcetera, constitute the majority and also produce the wealth of the nation, there is a sense in which these people are seen as the true heroes and heroines whose needs or interests must occupy the pride of place on the scale of preference of society. But it is a measure of the ineptitude, incompetence, greed, and sheer lack of the capacity for decorum of the Nigerian governing elite that this fundamental contradiction has to be brought before them. I don’t know about you, for you are entitled to your own opinion. As for this column, the Common Man is the Man Of The Year 2016. He is worthy of our celebration.
Nigeria as a nation entered into the year 2016 on January 1 on the cusp of uncertainties and anxiety in the wake of the worst economic recession so far experienced in the annals of the nation. If truly the Nigerian poor now speak with one voice, it is certainly the evidence of hunger and poverty in their lives and daily existence. In the Second Quarter of the year, the recession graduated into a depression. From June 2016, hunger became the greatest teacher in the land. Many Nigerians severely beaten by the prevailing realities, now started chaining their gallons of fuel, the minute and miserable type of generating sets known in local parlance as ‘I better pass my neighbour’, their pots of soup and other essential commodities in the house to their legs to guard against theft while sleeping. This is because these items are now targets by those who can no longer afford them in their homes. The stealing of pots of soup is now a common experience in most Nigerian neighborhoods due to the prevalence of austerity or recession.
Indeed, the common man has been at the receiving end of all the blunders and the executive delinquencies going on in this country. It is incredible but true that certain categories of Nigerians have had to sell some of their children into slavery and the proceeds used to feed the rest at home. The common man has gone through an indefinite period of self denial just for the privileged few in positions of authority to feed fat at his own expense. This is the true meaning of recession. Despite this, Government is still very comfortable with its shameless policy of poor baiting. The news trending all over the country has it that a company owned by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Lawal claimed that it spent over N200million to clear grasses at the various Internally Displaced Persons camps in the North East. This is more so as hundreds of trailer loads of relief materials for these unfortunate Nigerians are being diverted by those we all know are driving the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is an evil day! Corruption is no longer corruption; it is correction by the saints hacking around the president’s court. And like a mediaeval bear, the common man is tied to a stake and subjected to all kinds of insults and indignities by those who who should know better.
In spite of the fact that the idle, gluttonous governing elite have stolen and are still stealing the national patrimony into their private pockets, the common man still buys from the same market with them. As social parasites, the rich and privileged, without shame or remorse, are emigrating in droves to the most unlikely places, in search of easy money and leisure. On the other hand, the poor have no other home except the shanty, slum settlements, the urban blight and ghettos scattered all over the urban centres across the country. These poor Nigerians still make use of bucket latrines or still defecate openly in bushes around their settlements and drink from well and mud water in the overcrowded ‘face-me-I-face-you homes without electricity. But the rich are indeed, completely different animals. They are a socially unique species, who evolve strong strategies for ensuring dominance and submission. You need to observe carefully their flourishes of display behavior , the intricate dynamics of their pecking order, as well as their unorthodox mating practices.
At a critical period in our national life when there is glaring scarcity of men and women of honour and high moral standing, it is therefore imperative that we note the untiring sacrifice of the man in the street whose love for the country is beyond easy question in the face of all odds. When the true story of the year of our Lord 2016 will be told; when the story is told of how the Nigerian poor became the ideal heroes of the Nigerian condition, in one of the most trying years in the history of the country, the common man will surely be remembered with immense retrospective gratitude. We are even short of words to describe the nobility of the common man. Daily pensioners who had served this nation meritoriously are shabbily treated even by a government that rode to power on the altar of a Change mantra, with some dying in queues, while waiting to collect just a bit of the huge arrears of their very meagre pensions. Is it not surprising therefore that the common man still survives the holocaust of this engulfing recession? He is this column’s ultimate hero and Man of the Year 2016.