Desperation, Oil, and the Face of Survival
The image of survival in Nigeria is not the unpredictable naira, but exported barrels of crude oil that imports wealth for an increasingly small minority of Nigerians. Living in opulence, driving nice cars, throwing lavish parties, and traveling abroad consume the wealthy elite, while simple survival is the focus of many Nigerian families. Considering this “survival of the fittest” outlook most of the poor have on life, it isn’t hard to believe what happened a few days ago in the Nigeria Delta. In the middle of the day men, women, boys and girls ran to a crashed oil tanker to scoop the escaping crude oil. Moments later the fuel caught fire, killing 95 men, women, and children.
It breaks my heart to imagine the desperation that drove them that day. Especially sad is the reality that, while the value of crude oil is high, the amount any one individual could collect would not, if resold, make much money. What we learn about Nigeria’s poor from this and many other events is that the myth surrounding oil in Nigeria, the idea that it, like gold, can change people’s lives, has a strong and deadly hold on common people.