From time to time, rather than reinventing the wheel, I simply yield this column as I partially did last week, to other people when I see how germane their thoughts are to contemporary discourse. So today again, I am yielding space to another person. Adenugba David is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at the Federal University of Agriculture, Akure. His write up addresses a core need of the moment in today’s Nigeria. I have significantly edited it for editorial appropriateness and contemporary relevance. Enjoy!
“Defined in the dictionary as lack of food, shortage of food, desire, appetite, need or wish, hunger, especially in its context of a shortage or lack of food with which this write up is concerned, is a terrible though intangible element that is experienced by all men all over the world. Hunger is no respecter of persons as both old and young get hungry even if the rate varies to certain degrees. A day old baby, just like an old person, gets hungry. Thus, hunger is not a function of age and so does not respect it.
Hunger is not gender sensitive. It is an experience shared by both men and women. It does not respect colour, race, or language. Every human being eats and is vulnerable to hunger.
The rumbling stomach may not be a sign of stomach ache, but that of hunger. Frequent yawning may not be a sign of tiredness, but of serious hunger. According to a Yoruba proverb, a hungry person has no ear for good music or nice sermons. Another well-worn aphorism says “A hungry man is an angry man”. These statements hold true all over the world. Hunger respects no social status. It does not exempt director or his subordinates. Neither does it esteem military or paramilitary personnel, as well as students. As a matter of fact, it is said that an army marches on its belly! The fact that you are jobless does not in any way insulate you from its pangs. In fact, you are likely to feel it more! If hunger was sensitive to your resources and your status, top executives or wealthy people who have more resources to deal with the scourge should be visited more by it! But sadly, hunger is no respecter of position.
He who finds himself constantly hungry without resources or food to assuage his hunger is courting trouble. Hunger without corresponding capacity to provide food can bring reproach and shame. Although there are exceptions to the rule, more often than not, this kind of hunger is common to those who refuse to be diligent in the production of value. Hunger without resources is the albatross of a lazy person; a sure partner of the indolent. According to the scriptures in Proverbs 19:15, “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger”
Hunger has no friend, else it will not visit civil servants on strike, a babe who has just arrived on the earth, an invalid or aged person. But these too do get hungry. No single scientist can think rationally or undertake meaningful research with a rumbling, hunger-stricken stomach. A hungry teacher is not likely to impart quality knowledge to his students. A policeman who has vowed not to take bribe, will shamelessly stretch out his hand to receive same from both the lawful and lawless when pummelled by hunger. A hungry pastor will spend more time lambasting his congregation with words of condemnation and guilt while emotionally blackmailing them for money.
Hunger can become a collective experience when it affects a significant number of people in the collective as a result of adverse economic conditions as we are currently experiencing in Nigeria. In such a situation, survival is the primary thing on most people’s minds. Consequently, desperate and absurd measures are not unusual occurrences. Oppression indeed makes a wise man mad!
We see examples of this from the Bible. In Samaria, there was an enemy siege that provoked a great famine so severe that it turned ordinary citizens who otherwise were neighbours into cannibals cutting a deal to eat their own sons! The pervasive hunger turned mothers into monsters driven by survival than maternal affection. Hunger could bring one before a foe to beg for food as the four lepers resolved to do during the famine.
According to Lamentations 4:9, “Those slain by the sword are better off than those who die of hunger; for these pine away, stricken for lack of the fruits of the field” A hungry man is not fasting, he is suffering from lack of food. A hungry man can hardly pray coherently because his focus is food.
However, no matter the ferocity of hunger’s propensity, it has none to oppress among those who can produce their own food. Prudent folks tame hunger by tilling the ground. Hunger has no servant among those who have a proper relationship with their land through cultivation. Hunger can be shamed by nursing the land with seeds. In the midst of the current challenges that Nigeria is passing through, if only families and individuals as well as governments at all levels, will embrace what God in His superior wisdom gave to man at the inception of the world and which has come to be known as man’s oldest profession, agriculture, we will forestall an impending food crisis. When a nation can produce enough food to feed its citizens, it has laid a solid foundation for its prosperity.
For now, we must move away from the deceptive media propaganda driven agriculture that seems to be the order of the day. Enough of agriculture seminars and sensitization programmes in 5-star hotels and international conference centers, largely addressed by suit-wearing ‘technocrats’ who are at best, classroom farmers. We must be prepared to go where the rubber meets the road and cut to the chase when it comes to the subject of dealing with the hunger that pervades our land. It is time to get off the theories that only seem to flourish in the media and actually start empowering people to farm. Employed, unemployed, executives, gateman, we must get involved in the pragmatic tilling of the land. If we have a significant number of the population going back to land and getting involved at various stages of the value chain, food will flood the markets and consequently the homes.
When that happens, development has a platform to grow on. In the wisdom of the Yoruba, they opine that once hunger is eliminated from the poverty chain, what remains to be dealt with is infinitesimal!”
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!