By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
I woke up the other day to the news that certain youths from the northern side of the country are allegedly blocking food trucks from ferrying goods down south. It juxtaposed well with all the other strange happenstances taking place in the country, immediately serving as mnemonic to the story about the ‘nigger’ Jim and Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
When the latter regaled the former of the story of King Solomon’s reputable wisdom, he was nonplussed to say the least. Surmising that he “warn’t no wise man nuther’, he went ahead to give his reasons for his dissent.
According to the runaway slave, he didn’t think it any wise for the multi-concubined man to offer half a child to the women contesting the ownership of a baby. So convoluted did Jim’s position appear to Finn that all he could arrive was that “you can’t learn a nigger to argue”!
Be that as may, all one can say is that the two stories are as apart as fact is from fiction. Taken from the Old Testament, King Solomon’s story cannot be doubted. Mark Twain’s, however, remains the fictive imagination of a man. But like has been argued elsewhere, it’s often from fiction that sense can be made of facts.
Brought nearest home, there is the case of African history and how we were craftily excluded from contribution to our own story. And this via the wrong assumption that history is only reconstructible from ‘written’ documents.
To make this possible, a certain K. B. C. Onwubiko paraphrased J. S. Trimingham’s A History of Islam in West Africa to fill the supposedly yawning gap. Well, now the breeze has blown exposing the rut of the hen.
As it concerns the blockage of food convoys, there cannot be much to unsay. After all, like we learnt in O’Level economics back then, trade is controlled by demand and supply. Taken down to its brass tacks, farmers only toil in the field because they know there are hungry mouths out there. Likewise traders: they only stock goods they know their customers are in dire need of.
From the above scenarios it can be surmised that any break in the link blows neither side no good. Thus the need to iterate that the farmers as well as traders above are not doing their respective customers a favour.
A trader who stocks goods must of needs pray that buyers do come along to buy them up asap. That way he’ll be assured of a quick turnaround so that he can restock and make more profit. The most so given the high cost of capital in this day and age.
This is even direr when the object of trade is perishable like foodstuff. Food convoys, depending on the item, run on borrowed time. For some, any slight delay immediately translates to the items perishing, translating to incalculable loss.
Even assuming the goods must have been paid for by southerners, where will they make the money for future orders? And what if payments are made on the spot as the goods arrive?
What this means is that those behind these diversions and blockages are only erring on the side of reason. They must indeed be those idle and lazy youth of whom our amiable president once had reason to castigate upon some time past.
The goods being ferried apart, have they thought of the value chain involved in the transit? What of the drivers of the vehicles? Are they all from the south? Where will they find employment opportunities when the cast die stabilizes and there are no goods to transit?
What of the transport workers and owners? Will they have any alternative means of livelihood at the ready? Save, of course, they’ll join those already in the bush. I wonder.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are the mechanics working on the vehicles. And the roadside hawkers of wares and passion ever at the service of these road warriors.
Need we talk of the umpteen security agents as well as touts surviving on the endless rodgers collectible from the vehicles as they ply the road?
In the long run it must be opined that there must be a limit to this madness. I don’t want to talk about the outcome of a possible reciprocity by southern youths. That would amount to fanning the embers of a fire that has the capacity to burn the nation down.
The time has thus come for concerned patriots on either side of the divide to leave their fences. Like the singer and songwriter Sting sang in one his compositions, ideology apart, there is biology and only through symbiosis can we make ends meet. More so in a multi-blessed nation like Nigeria.
*Uzoatu, the author of the novel Vision Impossible is the editor of the personal finance webzine Nairaweb.ng