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The Langtang ‘Mafia’ and Nigeria’s collective reverse Robin-Hoodism

It’s not what you think. The era of the Domkat Balis, Joshua Dogonyaros and Jerry Usenis seem to be over for now. This time I…

It’s not what you think. The era of the Domkat Balis, Joshua Dogonyaros and Jerry Usenis seem to be over for now. This time I am writing about the Langtang Women Mafia. You want to know where to find them? They are in Abuja. Precisely on the Sani Abacha Expressway in front of Ministry of Works, and on the other side, at the junction leading to Zankli Hospital. Sometimes they criss-cross the road, their wares daintily balanced on their heads.  There they hold court, and they hold sway. How did I know they were a branch of the Langtang Mafia? I asked them. Always fascinated with languages, I innocently stopped to buy boiled corn the other day and had to ask what that exotic language they spoke was. I thought it was Gwari, but was informed it was Langtang. I’m sure even Langtang has many variants; Nigeria being a cornucopia of cultures. Anyway, every seller of boiled corn there was a Langtang woman.

 Now, this Langtang Mafia has its game well figured out. It used to be that you would buy corn in season, for around N20. Max N30. But this Mafia insists on N100 per cob these days.  I say they are a Mafia because of the way they communicate and are organized around their trade, enforcing their own standards and all that. There may be unwritten rules as to entry and exit. For now, this Mafia operates by a set of signals. They never quarrel. They cooperate so that every member sells out on a daily basis. More importantly, these ladies have mounted a successful war against the bourgeoisie who are used to buying corn for cheap. I’m sure that elsewhere in Nigeria that is still the case but these Mafia must have said to themselves; “Abuja people are rich, we must resist their attempt to price our wares for cheap. We must get our own from them”. And so they sell a corncob for N100 or three for N200. We corn-lovers have no choice but to buy. It’s a capitalist world out here. Isn’t that what the government said? Market forces?

 And I say why not? The operation of this Langtang Mafia, and the reality of a N100 corncob however got me thinking. 

1. These peasants may not have attended universities, but they understand the need to mark up their prices over time and most importantly, to struggle for their own in a city of wanton and decadent opulence (the headquarters of waste and corruption). They too need some cars, some mansions and possibly some good private education for their children. And they are ready to try or die trying.  

2.   Economics as practiced in Nigeria makes no provision for the vulnerable – except they are ready and able to defend themselves. We talk inflation and other highfalutin terminologies but nobody spares a moment to ask how those people at the base of the food chain are able to cope, whether they understand economic jargon or what becomes their fate in the medium to long run. We spend a great amount of time impressing ourselves at our many seminars but our elocution excludes 80% of our population. And so do our plans and projections. However, I’m glad that this Langtang Mafia – as much as its painful I have to buy corn at N100 – are standing up for themselves.

 There was a video circulating on social media which emphasized something we take for granted. Someone walks into a posh restaurant and spends N10,000 on a single meal. The same quantity of food is put together – perhaps tastier – by a ‘mamaput’ and we price her down even at N100. The ‘mamaput’ and the posh restaurant bought from the same market.  All over Nigeria are ‘luxury’ this and thats. Luxury houses, luxury restaurants, bars, clothing lines and so on, where our people never get tired of ‘showing class’. Nigerian boys with no visible means of livelihood spend billions in the club every night. Some steal from their parents or are gifted by their corrupt fathers.  It is not a big deal for a single ‘big boy’ to spend in excess of N1,000,000 in a night of binge-drinking with friends in many of Lagos, Port Harcourt or Abuja’s nightclubs.  

This phenomenon is why the rich is getting far far richer, faster in Nigeria and the poor, far far poorer, and faster too. Nigeria is thus the global headquarters of income inequality with a faster decay rate than most other countries of the world. According to the World Economic Forum, the singularly most important issue in the world of Economics for as far as the eye can see, is INCOME INEQUALITY. I have not heard that word on any economic agenda in this country.  With billions of dollars popping out of odd places, we can see that Nigeria is truly a prosperous country only that there is a deliberate effort to ensure the prosperity never circulates.  

 While the poor is fighting the poor and dragging each other down at that level, and increasing in population, the rich are moving on supersonically into the billions and trillions, but getting fewer. Yet we will have to live in the same country. This is certainly not how to build an economy at our stage of development. It is however a difficult subject which only the deftest level of intelligence can navigate.  If the big banks, Telcos and multinationals can employ the best of brains and technology, and even buy government policies that favour them by deploying corrupt funds in this porous country of ours, in order to sell their goods and services to the majority of Nigerians, we need to be reminded that the majority of Nigerians are not improving financially, because they feel helpless, scared, and are at their wit’s end how to make ends meet. Sometimes they sell whatever it is they have just to get some cash flow; any cash flow… That is why they often pack up in a few weeks or months of trying. Their work is usually backbreaking, unlike those who wear suits and make billions, or their counterparts who wear Babbariga and steal billions.  

 There is great value in having an eagle eye view of our economy. Elsewhere, like in Europe, they have evolved a situation where plumbers, masons and electricians are paid commensurately with white collar workers. Their type of work is even more important to society; maintenance, building etc. Perhaps more important. In Nigeria however, we price our artisans like rubbish and complain about how their work is bad. How will their work be good when they are paid like monkeys? Therefore unlike Europe, we have bankers and software engineers but no handymen (which we have to import from Senegal – and no they don’t do better Jollof rice), while smart Alecs are ripping off the country at the very top.

 For now, kudos to the Langtang Women Mafia for getting their own back from the Nigerian society. They are better off than the guy from whom I bought 30 classic CDs of Sunny, Obey and Orlando Owoh in one filling station at Ibadan for N150 each. He was so elated, but I don’t see him going far in that business. What is a cob of corn compared to a well-mastered CD of classic songs that will command at least twenty times the price in any European country? We certainly don’t know the value of our own. I felt like going back to ‘dash’ the man some more money, and swore to never price down the vulnerable in my country. 

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