Life ought to be fair. Sadly, unfairness is the hallmark of life. This is a huge human problem. Thieves strike gold and live in the laps of wealth and uncommon luxury but the honest man strikes dross and lives in penury. If life were fair, the thief would be struck down either by thunder or amadioha.
Why does evil pay? Why does the evil man thrive but the good man combs the rubbish heaps of life in search of the crumbs of sustenance? These questions have taxed the best brains that ever walked on God’s turf here on earth. We need not search far for the answer. It is found in this three-word sentence: Life is unfair.
Jehovah gave his favourite tribe, the Hebrews, ten commandments they must keep for their own good and the good of their society. Thou shalt not steal is one of them. But among the successor tribe called the Jews, stealing goes on in defiance of the divine injunction. Just as it goes on among other tribes in the rest of the world. There are more people serving prison sentences for stealing than for any other crime. Must be evidence that stealing has such a strong pull-on men and women because it pays when the thief gambles and makes a success of his enterprise.
We have variants of stealing. The best-known variant in our country is this long word, corruption, also known as cankerworm and graft. In khaki or agbada, we have done and continue to do battle with this cankerworm with a bad attitude towards us and our nation. We set up a commission called EFCC to drive the anti-corruption war. Still, corruption thrives and has laid some of the commanders and the foot soldiers of the war by the heels. Corruption is forged on the anvils of greed. Because of corruption, the rest of the world looks down on Nigerians and sees the fingers of every Nigerian dripping with palm oil. The green passport is a red card at international ports of entry.
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Corruption is not just evil; it is also very unfair in that the corrupt enriches himself at our collective expense. Corruption propagates the doctrine of greed, one of the major weaknesses of the human race. Under that doctrine, those who empty our common purse tend to eat alone. They build private mansions in which they live alone; they drive state of the art motor vehicles alone.
Yet, all around them, there is unspeakable poverty, hunger, and deprivation. They live in mansions, but their own people live in bacha and hovels. They drive state of the art vehicles, but their own people wear out their cheap slippers along footpaths overgrown with elephant grass. If life were fair, the corrupt would shake body for their own people in a fair doctrine of I-chop-my-people-also-chop. After all, our public officers hold public offices as representatives of their people. You would expect them to render accounts to their own people as their servants/masters. Perhaps, in waging the war against corruption we are waging a wrong battle. Thou shalt not be corrupt does not feature in the Decalogue. Still, God said go ye into the world and multiply; not go into the world and be unfair.
Since God drove Adam and his wife Eve, from the Garden of Ede, an unfair and angry reaction to the mere eating of fruit, by the way, mankind has been buffeted and battered by the strong storm of unfairness. Daily, we struggle to make it; and daily our efforts are thwarted by unfairness. We put up laws against unfairness, as in federal character and the quota system or what the Americans call affirmative action. But laws fail because unfairness is embedded in the doctrine of us versus them. And it is protective of tribal, racial, and religious interests.
My pet theory is that there are no victims of life’s unfairness. It is true that a fair life would birth a fair world. We would be the keepers of our brothers and sisters. If life were fair, those we entrust with guarding our common purse would not empty it and laugh in our faces as people condemned to suffer because we are not smart.
Life is everywhere and everywhere you look life is unfair. Our colonial masters determined that from the welter of tongues, they established there are 250 tribes in our country; or to be politically correct, ethnic groups. Of this number, they also determined that three tribes are in the majority and in the mathematics of political demography, 247 tribes are in the minority.
Number has since then become the rule, the deciding factor in our politics, the economy, and the sharing of the national cake. Certainly, not unnaturally, the majority tribes see themselves as the lords of our manor and the minority tribes as the drawers of water and gatherers of wood.
We use number to determine which tribe shall produce our presidents and state governors and legislators. We use number to determine the size of each tribe’s share of the national cake. We use number for economic and social opportunities. As it is at the centre, so it is in the constituent units of the federation. Every time the generals created new states, they also created new majority and new minority tribes. Thus, minority tribe today, majority tribe tomorrow; minority tribe today, minor minority tribe tomorrow. Life is unfair when more is less and less is more.
The number rules. We even use number to assign the political and the economic perking orders to the deities to which we profess adherence. I have a sneaking feeling that on the last day when the trumpets are called up yonder, Nigerians will gather at the pearly gates and insist that admittance should be based on the number of each tribe. Life is patently unfair when numbers rule.
Life is unfair when some people refuse to work but live on the sweat of their fellow men and women. These people come by various names, each of which sends cold sweat down our collective spines: bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, murderers, hired killers, and, of course, the men and women who use their pens or the computer keyboard to change their fortunes in the time it takes to say word processor.
But come to think of it. Unfairness is bad because it fences in those privileged by their fecundity in the labour ward and fences out the tribes that perform comparatively poorly. It seems to me, however, that we owe much of our progress as human beings to the driving force of unfairness. Life would be boring if we were all fair to one another.
The unfair life is not a negative life. It is the life that challenges the have-not to strive to have and shove the have off the perch; it is the life that challenges the poor to rise from his low station in life; it is what creates the people’s champions, as in politicians seeking the people’s votes promising to re-arrange the world by eliminating unfairness in the distribution of economic, political and social goodies.
That is what makes us accept the wisdom of the Onitsha lorry owner, to wit, no condition is permanent. History has no record of men who ruled for ever. It certainly has no record of wealthy men who did not share the common six feet with the poor wretch. Life is unfair but, in its unfairness, we find the reason to live; the reason to strive to rise and achieve; the reason to trust the wind of change.
Think about it.