We Must First Invest In Our Children, Then Our Cows – By ‘Tope Fasua


I know many Westerners who will die for their dogs and cats, but who don’t care if the neighbour next door starved to death. When I went for a Master’s Degree in London in 2005, my would-be neighbour at 4, Crossfield Avenue, Swiss Cottage, David Cooke, came to me on my first day at that apartment and said, “Hey, Tope (pronounced Top), if you don’t see me for three weeks, don’t bother knocking on my door, ok”. What David, a poet, didn’t reckon with, was that I was more a hermit than himself. It was he who came knocking, at some point, when for four weeks we hadn’t seen. Of course, I was busy with studies and all that. He too had felt I was a lowlife just because I was black, and later confessed that I was the best flatmate he ever lived with in his 30 years at that property as a sit-in tenant. He felt that the landlord, Ronnie Chitiyat, a Cypriot, had brought me there to finally drive him out.

Anyway, there are too many examples around the world where humans would rather save an animal than a fellow human. Why? Let us explore. It could be because animals cannot speak and are considered more vulnerable than humans. It could also be because animals can be sold and bought for monetary value – at least much more easily than you would human beings (yes, many modern slaves are being sold around the world till tomorrow). We know that Nigerian men are being sold for $400 in Libya till tomorrow. Nigerian girls are being sold for around $300 anywhere between Cote D’Ivoire and Mali. Many dogs cost more than this. Ditto many cows. I think the correct psychoanalysis is that many human beings see other humans as competition, and would rather show love to animals they like and see as friends. I googled this issue and came up with shocking facts about how little human beings value human lives and what they can do for dogs especially.

Perhaps one day, we may look around and find that it is easier and better to be animals than be humans. I read in Joseph Stiglitz’s Making Globalization Work a comment that it was better to be a cow in Europe than to be a human being in Africa. Why? Each European cow gets a subsidy of about $3.00 per day to see to its wellbeing. Yes, they are eventually slaughtered but aren’t human beings slaughtered everywhere in different unnecessary wars, unmourned and unsung, and sometimes in their millions? The modern world will have to come to terms with the growing worthlessness of human beings, especially those trapped in underdeveloped, backward, failed and failing states. Unfortunately my country, Nigeria, is one of those kinds of countries, and perhaps the king of them all. I have to pinch myself sometimes to ask God just why he created me a Nigerian and what he wants me to do with this problem. If we only live once, it will be a huge waste to be born into a country like Nigeria, to live and die and leave this space the way we met it, or worse. The essence of creation has to be about a positive impact in my reckoning.

The World Poverty Clock says we have 93 million people in extreme poverty and that poverty is growing every second. Some people think that just because they have sorted themselves out or are lucky to be sitting pretty, then all is well with everyone. No, its not. Extreme poverty. Hunger. Malnutrition. Hopelessness. Joblessness. Cashless-ness. These are the realities of majority of Nigerians. Millions of Nigerians live beggarly lives. This is more in some cultures than others, but it takes on different styles, from society to society. Apart from the ones we see on the streets, there are also ‘fine baras’, who dress well and move from office to office, or haunt bus stops. Then there are those who depend so heavily on their family members who may have jobs or businesses. The upshot of this is that more than half of us are unproductive or underproductive. Perhaps that is why it is emerging that even in Nigeria, animals – cows, dogs, cats – are now being valued higher than humans.

It will be great to see this government and those who will come after it worry about the wellbeing of every Nigerian. It will be great to see them bother about who has had food to eat, which children are unable to attend school, whether there are medicines at our hospitals.

Look, here we are with a myriad of issues yet unsolved, and hardly being considered. We have problems of poverty and hunger as noted earlier. Malnutrition affects millions of poor Nigerian children. Bill Gates told us so. What about our collapsed infrastructure? Or our non-education of millions of our children. Buhari backed down so fast on the Almajirai ban issue. Rescuing those children just had to wait while we fix political and other issues. Our economy is not growing at a pace and rate that covers for our population increase. Our currency is decelerating yearly at a double digit rate; after all, inflation is also devaluation. They have the same effect. We have a laundry list of issues that should demand an immediate emergence approach; issues that will have immediate positive value on the lives of our human beings. What do we do with our health sector? How do we tool up our young ones to be solution providers to the problems that affect us as a people? How do we begin to catch up with the rest of the world? Aren’t we scared at just how vulnerable we are?

These are the questions that should occupy us. These and more. Imagine then that our greatest argument today in this nation is centered around cattle-herding! What must be brought to the fore is that the commercial nature of the cattle venture apart, and the clashes between herders and farmers apart, we are in essence discussing how to make life better for our precious cows. They need places to graze. They need places to walk. Even if we go for the ranches, we are talking of building some shelter for our cows – which may be as many as 30 million or more – so that they may be comfortable.

What about the humans? I wrote here weeks ago about what government needs to do to house people. But when it comes to human beings, we wheel out profit-maximising private sector players and throw the people under the bus. Nobody cares. We show selfishness to each other. We say ‘every man for himself’, even as the ‘lucky’ ones among us corner the commonwealth. We remain in that station where our wealth is best measured by how many of our fellow men we can oppress.

It will be great to see this government and those who will come after it worry about the wellbeing of every Nigerian. It will be great to see them bother about who has had food to eat, which children are unable to attend school, whether there are medicines at our hospitals. It will be great for us to organise our streets like those ones we visit often. It will be fantastic to see our public schools fixed. It will be generally fantastic to see our governments fret about our children the way they fret about cows.

Who is thinking so caringly about our children, their hygiene, and quality? Who cares about the quality of our children’s feeding and access to healthcare?

Listen to part of the statement by our government on this Ruga matter: “The Federal Government is planning this in order to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders… ‘(increased) quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, (and) increased quality of feeding and access to animal care…”

Who is thinking so caringly about our children, their hygiene, and quality? Who cares about the quality of our children’s feeding and access to healthcare?

Like the Chinese saying goes: ‘If your vision is one year, cultivate flowers. If your vision is ten years, cultivate trees. But if your vision is eternity, cultivate people’. If right now we had a zero tolerance on child illiteracy, and united ourselves by creating opportunities for all by tooling everyone to be productive, we will not have issues with farmer-herders clash as a national feature. Now, what sort of presidential vision cultivates cows and neglects children? How can we go back to banning Almajirai practice? There is trouble ahead.

‘Tope Fasua, an economist, author, blogger, entrepreneur, and recent presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), can be reached through topsyfash@yahoo.com.


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