“I was in the East – end of London (a working class quarter) yesterday and I attended a meeting of non-employed. I listened to the wild speeches which were just a cry for “bread! Bread!! And on my way home, I pondered over the scene and became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism. …My cherished idea of a solution for the social problem, i.e. in order to save the 40, 000, 000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists”
The above quotation is by Cecil Rhodes, the personification of colonialism in the Southern part of Africa. But this story is not about Cecil Rhodes and imperialism. This is about putting in perspective the revealing pictures from the looting of palliatives in Jos yesterday. A few of the pictures (and the video below in particular) accessible on social media do take us to this statement of Cecil Rhodes as reproduced above. That is in the sense that his statement can be so edited as to fit very neatly into what we are witnessing.
Of course, imperialism through colonial capture is not an alternative for Nigeria but is good, democratic governance that puts people first also out of the question?
The great warning from Jos is that the choice is up to be made: If the elite think it is safe to ignore the majority, Jos yesterday would seem to have sent a message that cannot be ignored.
Why might the looting of palliatives in Jos be more symbolic than the looting of stock of palliatives that has also taken place in other state capitals aside from the burning of property of notables, especially in Lagos and Cross Rivers State?
The significance of Jos would lie in two points. The first is Governor Simon Lalong is the current Chairperson of the Northern Governors Forum, (NGF). The second is this: Jos is the city which has been enveloped in spasms of violence since September 1981. In other words, the city and large parts of the state itself has been a space of horrific violence for the past 40 years, mostly along the ethno-religious fault lines.
Yesterday, however, saw the fusion of people united across religion and ethnicity, invading the store place of the food items meant to cushion COVID-19 but which the government was obviously taking its time to dispense but which store place was known to those we love to call hoodlums. Well, they took over the place and, using their own formula, shared out the stuff, with the beneficiaries putting everything in their power to take home their prized possession. There may be the need to re-examine calling them hoodlums because something just doesn’t click in sticking to that for this category of actors. What they have done might have so critiqued the theory and practice of power of the established order that re-examining the language may be seen as endorsing the self-help approach but playing the Ostrich could be equally dangerous.
Call it looting or any of such language of law and order but the message of it all is not lost on anybody with any scrap of contextual reasoning which is that “The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists”. Edited to our own situation, the two sentences would read: “Nigeria, as everyone knows, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must provide bread and butter through good, democratic governance before you may think of other items”
The choice is ours