By Dr Oludayo Tade
Unless we understand the sociology of interconnected livelihoods, we cannot understand the turn of event as the worst hit class react to the strains of COVID-19 through violent criminality and deviance to the lawful orders.
As the undisputed heavyweight poverty capital of the World, Nigeria(ns) cannot afford not to embark on everyday Diaspora struggles for a functional living. As the breadwinner leaves home daily, the growing population of dependants, both within his/her immediate household and in extended network of relations pray for a fruitful return.
It is in this everyday struggle that the survival of the commercial Danfo drivers and conductors rely on the workers, market people and commuters who board their vehicles. The filling stations earn their daily livelihoods from economically active and migrant vehicles.
The fuel attendants will only earn wages if they open for business. The extortion-economy of street urchins, also known as ‘area boys’ and the bad eggs in police are tied to a functionally active roads occupied by different road users from which they draw their victims every day.
What about the ‘one-chance’ robbery gang? They are out of job since those who would have fallen victims of their antics have been instructed to stay at home.
Let us not forget the child breadwinners who rely on their youthful strength to sell goods in traffic. Now that the roads are deserted, what will they eat along with their families who depend on their economic contributions?
By the road sides are ice-cream vendors, pure water merchants, truck pushers, luggage porters among others. They depend on people to be on the roads to earn a living. The burgeoning inter-state transport system across the country is feeling the heat of COVID-19 with the total lockdown imposed on the Lagos Megacity, Abuja and Ogun State.
The many strains that COVID-19 imposed on everyday survival of the poor is the sociology of interconnected livelihoods. This ultimately gives birth to Nigeria’s ‘enugbe economy’.
Enúgbe describes an unpalatable state of deepened hopelessness and uncertainty to nourish ones’ stomach infrastructure. Enugbe unpacks the complex state of scarcity and economic dryness which denies the mouth of moisturizing contents.
As it is playing out, staying at home with limited resources to cope with everyday needs is moving the vulnerable from lockdown to knockdown. While state governors will pay civil servants asked to stay at home, who will pay pastors and Imams, event managers, beggars and journalists that COVID-19 has knocked down their economies? Who will attend to the dependants of these people now that their breadwinners’ economy has entered lockdown?.
The political economy of the rich’s welfare system has shown interventions patterned towards sustaining entrenched political and economic interests.
Business tycoons with strong links to contract corridors donate to federal government while those deriving benefits from states donate to states. Politicians have turned sanitizers, bread, and rice distribution to constituency projects which privileges their party people.
Churches and mosques that ought to take care of the poor still want to be counted as donors to the state. As this unfolds, the federal government does not realise that the list of the vulnerable has expanded beyond the “secret list” of people their social intervention program from which they claim to be disbursing intervention funds.
This explains why the groaning of enugbe remains thunderous because the social intervention is yet to capture the real COVID-19 vulnerable populations.
When a man has food to eat, he is not a wretched but a man without food will die before COVID-19 will get to him. Now that the lockdown has been extended without paying due attention to alleviating the pains of the downtrodden, darker days are ahead.
Already, residents in poor neighbourhoods are shunning social distancing to defend their communities that have been under siege from COVID-19’s violent class. This is happening in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states. This is dangerous and counterproductive to halting the spread of the virus at community level.
We must understand that winning the war against COVID-19 will not be achieved in isolation centres alone. We must pay attention to the needs of those suffering outside the COVID-19 clinics. This is why we must retool and rethink our social intervention policies to capture the newly vulnerable groups.
When this is done, we will enable us to bring many in the enugbe economy out of their precarious conditions to faithfully observe the stay-at-home order. Tackling the enugbe economy in this crisis is how we get the poor to truly support the fight against COVID-19.
Dr Oludayo Tade, firstname.lastname@example.org