Nigeria is too poor a country for the amount of ‘poverty shaming’ that goes unchecked

If anybody knows the human behind the famous meme showing a person lying face down on a bare mattress with his feet up and deeply absorbed in whatever activity they are engaged in on their mobile phone, they have yet to come forward to say anything about it. Why should they?

One key element of that meme is the darkened soles of whoever the person is. It is the empty room, save for the mattress they lie on. The perfect meme to convey the stark poverty that is the reality of millions of Nigerians. It’s also the perfect meme to poverty shame people in online exchanges, as it happens a lot on Twitter.

This resurfaced today following a viral tweet by former Big Brother Naija housemate, Kiddwaya firing back at trolling followers with unabashed brag. The tweet, which has made the round of Twitter NG and Nigerian blogs is a simple statement about the high flying circles Kiddwaya mingled with in the past week, followed by a reminder that he is not in the same league as, ‘your fav.’ The fav in question could be anyone from Kidd’s BBN class, but the consensus is that it is the winner of the show.

Kiddwaya is son to billionaire investor, Terry Waya. Fans of the show have pointed out that he has never been shy about his privilege, nor did his easy airs about the social class he belongs begin today. Both realities are perfectly fine if only Nigerians can have a conversation about privilege and money without resorting to poverty shaming.

Poverty shaming defines the poor solely on what they lack – money and the access to comfort that it gives. That it targets the more than 2.5 billion people living below the poverty line of a dollar a day in the world is baffling. But more baffling is that this should be endemic in the poverty capital of the world.

Twitter user @Ulxma put it succinctly when she tweeted over a year ago that, “Nigerians are too classist and elitist for people who are incredibly poor.”

The tweets comparing people who have been on Kidd’s case to that meme of the harmless person just making do with what they have in the best way they can, are a reflection of a deeper problem. From the South-South to the North West one of the few connecting threads in Nigeria’s multicultural society is a deep classism that works to deepen the shame that research already established is the bane of the poor on any given day.

It will certainly better serve us as a people if the conversations we have are about entrenching equality and making life better for the poor and in so doing; making it easier for everyone (rich and poor alike). When we shame the poor for lack we are saying that because they happen to be the victim of a system that deprives you, you are not human enough for us to interact with warmth and kindness. What could be worse than further dehumanising people who are already going through it?

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