Palliative Warehouses : Why The Looter May Be No Better Than The Politician By Vitus Ozoke - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Monday, October 26, 2020

Palliative Warehouses : Why The Looter May Be No Better Than The Politician By Vitus Ozoke

One major addiction that I suffer is theory. I'm addicted to theories. You can call me a theory junkie. I have an obsessive fascination for theory construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. I love it when social theories hold true, but I love it even more when they fail. So, I always watch out for new social behaviors to see what implications they have for existing theories. Do they confirm or disconfirm them? I'm thrilled when they disconfirm them, because that creates room for new thinking and new theories.

Since the outbreak of the END SARS protests in Nigeria, several theories have competed for the explanatory space. Hundreds of social movement theories have dominated that space. Oppression theories, relative deprivation theories, power theories, intergenerational theories, class theories, ethnic theories, Darwinism, and the many collective families of economic and political theories have all been on parade. Trust Nigerians, they have generously reached for these theories as explanatory tools for the unfolding social anomie.

But there is a particular theory that has almost gained the status of consensus among Nigerians. It has become so popular that it has been fast tracked through the crucibles of critical intellectual investigation. It is an excusatory theory that seeks to justify, and hold blameless, anomalous behaviors. Because different writers and social commentators have been rather descriptive, not definitively definitional, about it, I have chosen to put all of them in one basket and tag them reclaimant theory. You may also call it recovery or self-restitution theory. 

Reclaimant theory tries to explain the behavior of an oppressed and deprived social group in a revolutionary collective action. When the endurance and the tolerance of a systemically dispossessed and oppressed people reach a breaking  tipping point, they trigger some form of revolutionary reaction. It may not be an all-out institutional revolution. It may just be a reclaiming of some acres of the common social space. However, to fit the construct of a social revolution, the reclaimed social space must serve as a common lounge. This is where reclaimant theory fails to explain the Nigerian madness

Now, this is what is going on in Nigeria. The Nigerian federal government acquired and distributed to all 36 states and Abuja the so-called COVID-19 relief package, popularly called "palliatives" in Nigeria. Obviously the government used common taxpayer resources to fund the initiative. But, riding the coattails of the anti-police brutality protests, popularly tagged END SARS, which broke out in major southern states about three weeks ago, some Nigerians, numbering less than 0.001 percent of Nigeria's 200 million population, have been snooping out, breaking into, and looting warehouses where the covid relief materials are stored by state governments.

We all cringe at the sight of massive secret warehouses housing tons of food items meant to assist Nigerians, all Nigerians, get through the vicissitudes of the ongoing pandemic. From state to state, these warehouses are being discovered. Upon discovery, the warehouses are breached and looted from floor to ceiling. Personally, I have no sympathy for government for that mishap. My sympathy resides with the oppressed and dispossessed masses. But who are the masses? The masses are the Nigerian people whose commonwealth was used to acquire the palliatives, and for whom they are meant.

Yes, the 0.001 percent who looted the warehouses are part of the masses, but just a statistically insignificant few. To the extent that palliatives meant for all Nigerians have been recovered and reclaimed by only 0.001 percent of Nigerians, for their sole consumption, reclaimant theory, as a theory of social revolution, fails. The only difference between state governments that hoarded the palliatives and the 0.001 percent that discovered and looted them is that one is government and the other is not. Beyond that, there's no difference. They have both stolen from the 99.99 percent of Nigerians whose commonwealth was used to acquire the palliatives and for whom they were intended. There's not much room for moral calibration.

Greed is also a fitting theory here. It explains the thinking, as criminal as it is, of the politicians who have kept the palliatives from the intended starving public, waiting to rebag and repackage the relief items as campaign promotional gifts in the coming elections. That's at best, or to sell them to the same masses, at worst. The same greed can apply to the 0.001 percent who were strong and fit enough to cart away more than enough materials to eat and sell before they expire.

So, let's call the looting what it is: looting! The looters of common palliatives for their sole consumption are no better than the politicians who locked them up. I have been waiting for that singular example of one person who succeeded in pushing their way into the warehouse, came out with a bag of rice or box of noodles, opened them, and shared them with the less strong and fit, who couldn't. I haven't seen that exemplary video yet. Recovering our collective patrimony from a rogue government, but expropriating it, makes you even worse than the government, because you have simply added an extra layer of trauma for an already traumatized society. If the palliatives were equitably shared, the warehouse looters would not get nearly as much as they are hauling home. Therefore, if you have taken more than would have been due to you ordinarily, you have stolen the excess - from the rest of Nigerians. So, reclaimant theory fails.

- Vitus Ozoke

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