And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver. Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And he said, “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body. 2 Kings 6:25-30
When there is trouble in the land, all eyes are on the leader, the king, the president as the case may be, for solution, for direction, for a way out. The famine in Samaria was so bad that a donkey’s head or dove droppings became so expensive that only the rich could afford them. Wiseman says that dove droppings is better translated as carob beans, and that five shekels of silver was more than a month’s wages for a laborer. The famine was terrible mothers were so hungry that they ate their own children.
The situation in the country right now, well maybe not as terrible as it was in Samaria, but bad enough for a twenty eight year old nursing mother to sell her three month old baby for N300,000 in Yenagoa sometime in January. Also in January it was reported that a twenty-eight year old trader was arrested in Lagos for selling his five month old son for N400,000. The man and his wife decided to ‘dispose’ of the baby so they could meet their business needs, N250,000 for the man and N150,000 for his wife. But when he withheld her part of the money the woman left the house and reported her husband to the police and disappeared, so also the buyer and the baby. Also in January a mother of two was arrested alongside three other ladies, they were rescued by National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Person (NAPTIP) from a trafficker who tried to lure them to Libya. She said because the economy of the country is so bad, she needed to struggle and make money to assist her family. She told her husband she was travelling to Libya and they agreed she should leave the children behind. We hear stories of parents who have killed and buried their own children for ritual purposes, and some others have even staged the kidnap of their own children in order to extort money from relatives. Let’s not even talk about the desperate situation of mothers in IDP camps where basic amenities are in short supply or in some cases nonexistent. Are we far from the position of women who had to cook and eat their own children?
While we condemn in strong terms these horrendous acts, it is also important that we also look at the root cause. Several statements have been made and articles written by concerned Nigerians over the state of the nation. One of such articles is a feature published on the Saturday Telegraph of November 7, 2015 titled, “Broke economy: More Nigerians’ll commit suicide.” In the interview, Dr. Olusegun Peters Ogunnubi said the assessment of the nation’s economy is likely to lead to what he called ‘anomic’ suicide. It reads in part, “When someone is unable to pay for simple things like malaria treatment, what you think will happen? By mere thinking on how to get the high cost of treatment in hospitals that do not even have what it takes to treat such trivial ailments would on its own lead to death. I mean death induced by a state of hopelessness. This is what is going to happen if urgent steps are not taken to fix the economy back to shape.” Another is an article by Niyi Akinmaso in his back page column Thinking with You in Punch of January 5th titled “Bracing for a rough 2016” where he said no prophet is needed to tell us that 2016 may be a rough year, but let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse.
How bad can it get before something is done (maybe, urgently) to turn around the situation. In times like this women and children are the worst hit. And for a mother to consider selling her own baby to survive, that should make the king – the president, our leaders tear their regalia and put on sackcloth. Desperate times call for desperate measures; that turned around the situation in Samaria. We can well do same.
Feature image: newsreportersi.com