Piketty’s Lecture on Inequality in South Africa

Thomas Piketty, the “rock star economist”, was in Soweto, South Africa recently to deliver the 13th annual Nelson Mandela lecture. He spoke about inequality, drawing on his recent best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty First Century but also from his country, France’s experiences in inclusion and welfare reforms since the French Revolution in the 18th century.

It is a very interesting submission, for many reasons. I particularly liked his historical and comparative approach, and his caution in making reference to often-unreliable data on tax returns, wealth and of course inequality.

The talk is topical, and couldn’t have been delivered at a more appropriate time. South Africa, which has the most developed, diversified economy in Africa, is currently the world’s most unequal country in income distribution according to the World Bank’s Gini Index. Read More »

The Good and the Ugly: 14 Years of Democracy in Nigeria

Photo Credit: Civicgraphics.blogspot.co.uk

Today marks exactly 14 years since the transition to democracy in Nigeria. Many Nigerians have mixed feelings about the progress and quality of our democratic process which seems to lumber ahead, mostly staggering, but sometimes with steady steps. Despite the few snags here and there, there is still cause to celebrate. To that effect, I am highlighting some good, some bad and a few ugly things about the process and the dividends. The list is by no means exhaustive.

 

GSM Mobile Telephony

Since the advent of GSM in 2001, the information and communications landscape has been radically revolutionised.

 

Nigerian Railways: Back to Life?

After more than 10years, the railway linking Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, to Kano, the country’s second largest city, reopened. Note that this was courtesy Chinese loans and investment. Here’s a video by a Financial Times reporter who took the train:

 

Score Card for the Present Administration

This is a yearly tradition. This year is particularly important as it is a mid-term score-card (the mid point in a term of four years of the elections cycle).

A self-assessment report by the Federal Government (FG) of its performance was launched earlier today. Some of the achievements claimed by the FG include: reducing Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil as its major export, to “only” 70% of it’s exports, stable exchange rates and improvement in transport infrastructure (roads and rail).

An interesting assessment  of the Federal Government’s performance was published by Vanguard Newspaper HERE. The key areas the government is rated on are infrastructure (mixed), power (weak), the economy (mixed), energy and gas (weak), security (weak), education (weak) and agriculture (favourable).

An assessment of performance at the sub-national level, by state governments was published by Thisday Newspaper HERE. Key performers according to the report include:

Lagos State: “The Babatunde Fashola administration in Lagos State, the path to a better Lagos is through PATH, an acronym for power, agriculture, transportation and housing… (has) largely focused on executing various projects in these sectors that would unleash the potential of … the state as a megacity in addition to speeding up socio-economic activities that would promote the well-being of its residents.”

Rivers State: “Mr. Chibuike Amaechi… has expended so much resources in areas of security, revamping the education sector through the building of schools and equipping same with modern facilities… In addition, Rivers has made the monorail project a top priority to ease transportation pangs in the oil-rich state.

Other governors such as Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State and Chief Theodore Orji of Abia State have through their programmes in the areas of economic empowerment of the people, provision of infrastructure, healthcare programmes and revamping the agriculture sector, tried to improve on the legacy inherited from their predecessors… (and) in enhancing the wellbeing of the people.”

The report also classifies some states as the “super rich states” such as Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa, and some as “scrounging ones” such as Zamfara, Osun, Ebonyi and Ekiti, where money is scarce.

 

Freedom of Expression

Democracy has brought with it, relative freedom of information and expression compared to the dark days of the military, which has revitalised Nigeria’s historically vibrant media sector. Newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio stations of all shades and hues have proliferated and are still increasing. The passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in 2011 after 12 years of foot-dragging is a democratic feat. With the ICT revolution and Web 2.0 tools,  online news and blogs are now a dime a dozen, conveying information ranging from the deathly accurate, to the wildly speculative to the downright absurd. Nevertheless, state intimidation of journalists is still rampant. The Press Freedom Index 2013 ranks Nigeria 115 out of 179 countries, an improvement from its position last year at 126, yet below countries like Ghana, Central African Republic, Qatar and DRC. An interesting development is the proliferation of tell-all books or autobiographies by former top public servants. Books such as Olusegun Adeniyi’s Power, Politics and Death, chronicling the watershed events during the Yar’adua administration; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria; Professor Dora Akunyili’s War Against Counterfeit Medicine, Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s The Accidental Public Servant have been informative, entertaining, revealing and controversial. Expect many more of such books soon…

 

Thriving Entertainment Sector

I am not sure if there’s a direct link between this and democracy. However, Nigeria’s movie industry which includes Nollywood and to a lesser extent, Kannywood, the Hausa movie industry up north, has grown exponentially in the last decade. Nollywood is now the 3rd largest movie industry in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood. Similarly, Nigerian artistes like D’Banj, P-Square, Wizkid, Banky W, Tiwa Savage have been making waves all across the  world, clinching international music awards, collaborating with US artistes such as Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, featuring in global charts and recording many other impressive feats.

 

Nigeria, an “N-11” and African “Lion”

Recording an average of 7.4% economic growth over the past decade, according to the IMF, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies in not just Sub-Saharan Africa but in the world. Reports state Nigeria is set to overtake South Africa as the largest economy by 2025. Some have their reservations about this projection though. The country is now one of the “frontier-markets”, one of the “Next 11” countries and one of the African “Lions”. It seems investment banks and consultancies are falling over themselves to coin these acronyms. Yet, unemployment persists, 61% of Nigerians live below the poverty line and infant mortality is still one of the highest in the world.

 

African Cup of Nations Victory

After 17 years of suffering humiliating defeats and since our last victory at a football tournament, Nigeria clinched the 2013 African Cup of Nations.

Photo courtesy: Al-Ahram

 

Security Challenges

Sadly, the incidence of violent crime has been on the increase in Nigeria since the transition to democracy. Ethno-communal and religious violence, kidnapping-for-ransom, highway robberies, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, rise of violent militias and the Boko Haram insurgency have dominated the headlines and claimed innocent lives. Our security agencies, especially the Nigerian Army, despite their numerous deficiencies have worked tirelessly in maintaining law and order. They deserve our support and encouragement for risking their lives in protecting us, even if they have also been sometimes guilty of human rights abuses in the course of duty. So, kudos to our armed forces!!

Photo courtesy: Voice of Nigeria

 

Elections

Sadly, not much has improved in the way of elections in  Nigeria. Since independence, elections are typically preceded, characterised and trailed by fiery political rhetoric,  violent competition and brazen fraud. Two videos below capture electoral fraud i.e. multiple vote casting, during the 2011 elections and confusion during the recent election of the Chairman for the Nigerian Governors Forum. In the case of the latter, the video shows a clear winner, different from what was reported in the media which begs the question: if elections involving 36 individuals only could not be conducted in a hitch-free manner, then…?

 

Sacrifices for Democracy

Importantly, we need to remember that democracy came at a costly price for some Nigerians — some paid dearly with their lives for some of the freedom we take for granted today. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar reminded us of this reality with a series of tweets last night, which have been compiled via Storify HERE. Here is a screen shot of some of the tweets.

Screen Shot of a Storify Page with some tweets from former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar
Screen Shot of a Storify Page with some tweets from former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar

 

Despite the hits and misses in Nigeria’s democratic record and its dividends, its important to remember democracy itself is a process, and a journey, towards a better society for all, and not an end in itself. Happy Democracy Day!

Nigeria’s Dual Economy

Back in secondary school, I distinctly remember being taught in Social Studies class that Nigeria operates a mixed economy – an admixture of socialism and capitalism. It made little sense to me then, just as I am still struggling to understand what this mixed economy means now. More recently, I’ve had cause to believe that Nigeria does have a mixed or rather, a dual economy – not the capitalist-socialist variant my secondary school teacher mentioned – where parallel economies exist side by side within the national economy.

The Nigerian economy has evolved considerably since my secondary school days in the late 1990s to early 2000s. One such change is the wave of liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation that swept across significant parts of the public sector from the early 2000s under the Obasanjo regime. These include the privatisation of the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), liberalisation of the telecoms sector which led to the introduction of GSM mobile telephony, the re-capitalisation of the banking sector from 2005, the (on-going) process of deregulating the downstream sector of the oil industry which culminated in the contentious partial removal of subsidies and so on. All these should leave no one in doubt that Nigeria is on a steady path towards fully-fledged capitalism.

These liberalisation policies along with the boom in global commodity prices, mainly oil, which Nigeria heavily relies on as a primary source of foreign exchange (90%) and government revenues (85%) along with the booming banking and telecoms sector, have led to massive inflow of revenue and steady economic growth, averaging 6 to 7 per cent per annum. Nigeria is one of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. According to global investment bank Goldman Sachs, Nigeria is one of the Next Eleven or N-11 emerging countries driving the global economy, after the BRICS countries. With the upcoming revision of GDP figures, Nigeria, like Ghana in 2010, could overnight be upgraded to an upper middle income country.

Lagos Nigeria. Photo credit: Nairaland.com
Lagos Nigeria. Photo credit: Nairaland.com
A Section of the Abuja Central Business District. Photo credit: Nairaland.com
A Section of the Abuja Central Business District. Photo credit: Nairaland.com

Without being overly pessimistic, it is easy to be confounded (I certainly am) by these figures and projections, especially when one considers the stark reality on ground that sometimes contradicts the figures. Looking at Abuja or Lagos, one could easily conclude that Nigeria is an emerging country and the next big driver of the global economy. The new shopping malls, the exclusive hotels, the “happening” joints, the brightly painted duplexes and the endless stream of air conditioned SUVs on the wide roads can give the impression that Nigeria is catching-up with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and we do hope it is. However our fervent optimism should be tampered with pragmatism over our real pace of development.

There is the general perception that Abuja, the capital city and Lagos, the commercial nerve-centre are anomalies – they are the exception rather than the norm – and are far removed from the realities of the other 35 states in Nigeria. It is not uncommon to hear people in other parts of Nigeria speak of Abuja and Lagos with such awe and fascination, as they would, of a North-American or Western-European capital. This could also explain the high rate of not just rural-urban migration, but also urban to urban migration, particularly to these two cities. Many of my friends and classmates from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria are now domiciled in Abuja and Lagos because this is where the “opportunities” and “infrastructure” are. If I were living in Nigeria, I would most likely be living and working in either of these two cities.

The fact is that there is just so much more to Nigeria than Abuja and Lagos both of which account for less than 20% of its over 170 million people. Sometimes, it’s tempting to assume that some consultancies and development organizations go to Abuja and Lagos, interview a few bankers, high-ranking civil servants and successful “business owners” and then conclude that Nigeria is “emerging” and rubbing shoulders with Malaysia and Indonesia. A huge bulk of the population is engaged in the informal sector which data and projections do not sufficiently capture.

A part of Suleja, just several kilometers away from Abuja.
A part of Suleja, just several kilometers away from Abuja.

In many parts of Nigeria, a traditional and informal economy exists side by side with the trappings of modernity; and by implication, grinding poverty and stupendous wealth paradoxically coexist. In the north-western city of Birnin-Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi state, it is not uncommon to see peasant farmers use donkeys, camels and other beasts of burden as a mode of transportation while big Japanese and German SUVs carrying public officials, politicians and business men zoom past. In Kano, spacious, and exquisitely-designed elegant mansions abound in tree-lined GRA areas, while bright yellow tricycles, reminiscent of New Delhi in India, popularly referred to as KEKE-NAPEP (named after a poverty alleviation program that introduced it) dot the busy streets.

Overall, there is certainly more to Nigeria which these reports and figures arguably fail to capture, and of course which leave many like me at best deeply confounded and confused, and at worst dismissive and cynical at such projections. While certain parts of the economy are “growing”, the same cannot be said of other sectors where the bulk of the population is engaged, leaving the impression that there are parallel economies within the national economy and conclusions drawn from the “booming” sectors are conflated to cover other sectors as well. Global consultancies would do well to factor in and capture these nuances and complexities.

Related:

Africa is Rising! At Least Its 1% Is

Africa is Rising! At Least Its 1% Is

Africa is Rising! At Least Its 1% Is” is a piece I wrote for Think Africa Press looking at the growing inequality in Africa despite recent economic success across the continent. Africa’s economy may be booming, but this will do little to help unemployment and poverty if growth is jobless and its spoils are limited to the few.

The article draws on Mo Ibrahim’s recent statements in which he admonished the much-celebrated recent economic ‘success’ of the African continent for largely failing to translate into better human rights and social development, and for essentially creating a few elitist winners at the top whilst the rest are left struggling at the very bottom.

Read it HERE.

Debenhams’ Adverts Signs in Hausa: Worth Celebrating or Shameful?

For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of being Hausa-Fulani or rather, at our behaviour. Usually I am one who is extremely proud of my identity: I love the Hausa language, how it flows easily and I relish the slightest opportunity to speak it in the midst of friends and acquaintances of other ethnicities and nationalities; I love the beautiful and colourful cultural attire; I am excessively proud of my richly historical lineage which I can trace back several generations amongst numerous other things, and with all these, I never hesitate to take on, word for word, those whose favourite past time it is to bash “my people”. However, recently, the picture, below had the singular function of nearly reversing this proud, nationalistic, fervour to the point of making me wonder whether some of our more belligerent brothers in other parts of the country who call “Northerners” and “Hausa-Fulanis” “lazy parasites” might actually have a point somewhere.

A staff hangs the foreign language signs at Debenhams. Photo courtesy: London Evening Standard

The picture is a huge sign by popular departmental store Debenhams, here in the United Kingdom (UK), during the annual popular summer sales season, in 2011. Such big, glaring colourful signs are very common of stores in these climes during such sale seasons. On the advert sign, right below the pinkish-fuchsia coloured inscription that says “up to 25% off”, there are inscriptions in three different languages: Mandarin (Chinese), Arabic and Hausa, pretty much saying the same thing. In Hausa, “Sayarwa mai bada ma’ana” loosely means “worth while sales”. Other sales adverts in Hausa have messages such as: “Maraba” which means “welcome”; “Rangwamen 25%” meaning “25% off”; “Farashi ya da daraja” or “great value prices” and “Na gode don sayayyarka a Debenhams” which means “Thank you for shopping at Debenhams“. At face value, it is tempting to think that this is not so bad, and the fact that Hausa appears alongside Chinese and Arabic is some great achievement.

Well, I think not, for reasons which I shall explain below.

First of all, there is something preposterously ironic about any Nigerian language, and Hausa in particular, being included in such adverts in an industrialized country, meant to attract consumer goods shoppers from a developing country grappling with widespread poverty — Walter Rodney must be turning in his grave. Debenhams is one of the most popular departmental stores in the UK, renowned for its high quality, luxury and designer goods: everything from children’s wear, adults’ wear, bags, shoes and other accessories, kitchen ware, bed linen, curtains etc are pricey, top-notch quality stuff. This is in the mould of other high end stores selling luxury goods such as Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer etc. The reason why, right after English, inscriptions of sales adverts in these stores are in Arabic, Mandarin and Hausa in a European country, and not in French, German, Dutch or Spanish, is because nationales of these countries are the biggest spenders in such stores.

In recent times with the economic downturn in Europe and the rise of emerging powers such as the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and increasingly South Africa – there is an influx of foreigners with lots of new money to spend, coming to Western capitals, especially the UK to shop. In fact if you go to such stores and malls, the foreigners – the Chinese especially, the Arabs (Qataris, Kuwaitis, Saudis, UAE nationales), Indians, Brazilians, Russians – shopping (not window shopping but actually spending cold hard cash and swiping their debit/credit cards)  far outnumber their English or Europeans counterparts, such that you might begin to wonder if you are actually in Europe and in the UK and not in some part of Asia or the Middle East. A report earlier this year, stated that Chinese tourists and shoppers with their huge spending prowess rescued the British retail industry during the Christmas sales season in 2011.

As at last year, Nigerian shoppers were increasingly rivalling and outspending their Chinese, Arab and Russian counterparts. According to a February 2012 report by the London Evening Standard, “in February last year, sales to Nigerians were up 50% in London shops… while overall in 2011, Selfridges says… that Nigerians have been among its top 10 overseas shoppers for the past five years”. The report continues: “on their (Nigerians’) shopping lists (are): suits and formalwear… jewellery, cosmetics and children’s wear; labels include Paul Smith, Gucci, Prada, Chanel and Rolex while Vertu phones (exclusive luxury mobile phones retailing from £1,750 to over £5,500) are a popular purchase.” What is more disturbing is that the average transaction per Nigerian shopper pegged at £1,648 (N420,000) is higher that of the Chinese at £1,310; the United Arab Emirates nationales’ £1,267 and the Brazilians and Russians, both at £988. Only the average spending power of the Saudis (£1,974) and Kuwaitis (£1,780) surpass that of Nigerians.

Now the absurd and utterly ridiculous contradiction here is that with the exception of Nigerians, all these big spenders come from emerging market countries which have some of the world’s fastest economic growth rates, which have lifted record numbers of their citizens out of poverty and which rank high in human development indices. Nigeria comparatively sticks out like a sore and sickly thumb in this elite league of shoppers, ranking low in almost all development indices while our shopping prowess surpasses even that of China – the world’s second largest economy,  a manufacturing and exporting colossus billed to surpass the US,  by as early as 2016, according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook. In terms of poverty reduction, according to the World Bank, China lifted about 400 million of people out of absolute poverty in the past few decades, its GDP per capita increased five times since 1981 and the number of extremely poor people fell from 64% to 17%. Brazil has similarly lifted over 40 million people out of poverty in a little over a decade with average household income since 2003 rising by 1.8% per annum and an estimated 33 million people since 2003 have risen to the ranks of the “new middle classes” or above, according to the Financial Times. Did I mention that according to Forbes, Brazil creates 19 new millionaires every day!? It is the same story with the other countries listed here with booming economies, growing middle classes, declining poverty rates and therefore, the huge spending of their citizens is probably justified and well-deserved.

Can we honestly say the same about Nigeria where poverty has on the contrary, according to a Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report, been on the increase from 54.4% (68.7 million people) in 2004 to 69% (112.47 million people) in 2010? According to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) based on indicators such as income, education/literacy and life expectancy, parts of China (Hong Kong no. 13) and the UAE (no. 30) rank in the Very High Human Development category; Saudi Arabia (56), Kuwait (63), Russia (66) and Brazil (84) are in the High Human Development category while Nigeria comparatively ranks a distant 156 in the Low Human Development category, below countries like Kenya and Cameroon, yet our spending prowess surpasses most of the emerging powers listed above.

Secondly and most importantly, my main source of indignation here is that of all the over 250 Nigerian languages that could have been used by Debenhams, it is Hausa language that the store preferred, why? A report by Tom Harper in another issue of the London Evening Standard provides that answer thus: “foreign language signs mainly target rich, short-stay tourists from overseas.” The report quoting Marcus Appleton, a senior Store Manager at Oxford Street, one of the most popular shopping districts in the world says: “We’ve selected the most used signage terms in our stores and translated them accordingly”. Thus, it means the biggest Nigerian spenders are none other than the Hausas! Its gets more interesting and disturbing when you consider that there is a higher proportion of Yorubas (from southern Nigeria) in the UK than there are Hausas. I do not have statistics to work with here, but almost every other Nigerian you come across in the UK is Yoruba: either as a naturalized British citizen, an overseas resident, an asylum seeker, migrant worker, student etc. Of course there are Hausas, Igbos and many other ethnic groups of Nigerian origin in all of these categories, but Hausas are certainly NOT in the majority. In fact there’s a common perception (admittedly more fiction than fact) that in almost every Yoruba household in Nigeria, at least one person is obliged to leave for the UK in pursuit of better education, work or other opportunities, and of course the positive results in the Yoruba society are there for all to see.

Apparently, even with the large numbers of Yorubas in the UK, these high end stores did not use Yoruba instructions but instead opted for Hausa because according to the report cited above: “when deciding which language would appear (on the signs)… stores like Debenhams looked at the highest number of foreign shoppers who claimed their tax back with the store.” So while we have fewer Hausas who come here to study, live, work and engage in productive ventures relative to other Nigerians from other parts of the country, we however surpass everyone including the BRIC countries in extravagant spending on luxury consumer goods. This ordinarily shouldn’t be cause for alarm if we were in the same league with these BRIC countries or at the very least if the development indices in the northern part of Nigeria were the same with that of our southern brethren, but most of us are not showing-off hard-earned wealth.

Now this is precisely the source of my infuriation and grave concern. The northern parts of the country especially the North-West and North-East, where Hausa is predominantly spoken have the highest incidence of poverty compared to other parts of the country as this table shows:

Source: Nigeria Poverty Profile (PDF) National Bureau of Statistitics Page. 17

The state with the highest percentage of people living in absolute poverty is Sokoto at 81.2% and the top ranking states (all above 70%) in terms of absolute poverty are in the North East: Adamawa (74.2%), Bauchi (73%), Gombe (74.2%), Yobe (73.8%) and in the North West: Jigawa (74.1%), Katsina (74.5%), Kebbi (72.0%), and Zamfara (70.8%). Only one state in the North-Central Plateau (74.1%) and in the South-South Ebonyi (73.6%) fall within this unenviable exclusive league of poverty. This map below shows the regional distribution more graphically:

Source: Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010 (PDF) National Bureau of Statistics page 24.

We have low literacy rates, high infant and maternal mortality, collapsing healthcare facilities, an army of almajirai roaming the streets, decaying infrastructure in most parts of the north, yet our appetites for luxury goods only seem to expand in correlation with the swelling poverty, underdevelopment, and inequality. Like I stated earlier this year, such consumerist attitude is not backed by any economic prowess on our own part and gradually a needlessly competitive, consumerism culture is replacing the drive for creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship. We have a huge number of Hausa tourists with fat wallets and expensive tastes for the good life, which we buy in record numbers clutching Louis Vuitton bags, wearing Gucci shoes, strapping Rolex, DKNY or the ever popular Guess wristwatches, attired in the colourful Vlisco Hollandaise from Liverpool street, Babanrigas made of the shiniest and starchiest shaddas or suited up in Armani suits and Ralph Lauren polo shirts, with expensive accessories to match, heading back to our impoverished society where we skip the gutters, and the huge mounds of dirt that litter our pot-hole ridden roads into high walled compounds. We see nothing wrong in turning our noses at the beggars that are only but a “nuisance”, the hungry destitute children who roam the streets in their thousands, who go to bed hungry, and if they are lucky to survive the clutches of malaria, tuberculosis, the ritualists’ and traffickers’ den to reach their teens and twenties, the most they can get out of life is to become recharge card sellers, hawkers or maniacal ‘yan achabas (motorcycle drivers) drugged, disillusioned and filled with road rage.

We seem to be blind, oblivious or just nauseatingly nonchalant to how unsustainable this absurd contradiction really is and how the likelihood of it imploding and collapsing on us is ever so imminent. Being mainly adherents of the Islamic faith, we claim to be pious Muslims but there is nothing inherently pious, Islamic or noble in this extravagant, consumerist and unproductive behaviour of wasting wealth while poverty lingers and literally grows in our backyards. By so doing, we are tainting the noble image of Islam which is perhaps compounding our problems because this is not what Allah (SWT) nor the Prophet Muhammad SAW ordained.

We have forgotten that in the first place, wealth bestowed upon the rich is a trust from Allah as this Qur’anic verse indicates:

Believe in Allah and His Messenger (SAW), and spend of that whereof He has made you (temporary) trustess” Qur’an 57: Al-Hadid verse 7

…and that Allah has enjoined us empower the poor, the needy and the vulnerable:

“They (the wealthy) ask you (O Muhammad (SAW)} what they should spend. Say: “Whatever you spend of good MUST be for parents and kindred and orphans and Al-Masakin (the needy) and the wayfarer, and whatever you do of good deeds, truly, Allah knows it well.” Qur’an 2: Al-Baqarah verse 215

...and Islam admonishes against unnecessary extravagance and wasteful spending:

And give to the kinsman his due, the miskin (needy) and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” Qur’an 17: Al-Isra’ verse 2

Verily, He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance)” Qur’an 6: Al-An’am verse 141

On the strength of Al-Mughirah bin Shu’bah(RA): the Prophet(saw) said: “Allah has hated for you: …..to waste the wealth (by extravagance with lack of wisdom and thinking)…”’ Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3/2408.

On a final note, I hope that upon reading this, if you are a Northerner, and you are Hausa-Fulani that you are sufficiently embarrassed, rightfully ashamed, absolutely disgusted and hopefully angry at what we are doing to ourselves. This is not a case of simply blaming bad leadership or blaming our politicians alone, it is our collective burden and responsibility. We are in dire need of massive attitudinal change from a society which has evolved, nay mutated, into a monstrous one, perverting a rich historical, cultural and religious heritage into one which has little regard for the most vulnerable in the society: the poor, the needy, the youth and women. We need to revive our noble values and ideals, the concept of being our brothers keepers, we need to set our priorities right, imbibe same in the youth and younger generation and ultimately salvage a society on the brink of moral, spiritual and socio-economic collapse. The first step is for you, for us all, to feel angry and ashamed, and then we can start discussing the way forward!

P.S.

I noticed some people seem to have misunderstood the whole idea or reason behind the “shame/embarrassment”. I feel ashamed of being Hausa Fulani as I stated, only because of this situation, where we have glaring and increasing poverty vis-a-vis spending prowess  that tops global charts. I have no “regrets” whatsoever of my identity, lineage, culture etc. Let me give an example, imagine you are somewhere with a bunch of foreigners and another Nigerian gets arrested for something despicable, what would you feel at that moment? Well that’s the feeling (if only briefly) I am referring to.

Secondly, this is not some self-righteous write-up by someone claiming to be on a higher moral pedestal. Notice the use of “we”, “us” as opposed to “they” and “them”, meaning that I do not at all exonerate myself here. Most people love spending money, shopping and the good things in life, this writer inclusive (and in my spare time, I love going to the mall), what is not normal is our record shopping tendencies vis-a-vis the overwhelming poverty, its just wrong.

Thirdly, so long as you’re not poor (struggling to find food to eat), then I hope you feel guilty (even if its a little pinch) because of the facts presented here. As I stated, it is OUR collective problem, burden and responsibility, unlike situations where we’d normally heap all the blame on “bad leadership” and “politicians” . And more than anything, we are in dire need of attitudinal change.