The Rich Man and the Poor Man

The Rich Man and the Poor Man

Every day, in a certain town, the Poor Man goes to the house of the Rich Man.

He joins the crowd at the gate, made up mostly of other men like him and young boys and a few women and children. They sit there patiently until the hour comes for the Rich Man to feed them. The gates are thrown open and coolers of rice, beef, rams, goats, millet meals and sauces are shared to the crowd. The Poor Man and his friends eat enough and even have some to take home to their family.

This is what the kind Rich Man does every day. After they’ve eaten, the Poor Man and the other beneficiaries pray for the Rich Man.

May his pockets never run dry and may his enemies never find him. May he never lack and may God bless him so he can keep feeding them. If he ever needs their help, they’ll be there to offer it. The kind Rich Man also listens to their problems and gives them money.

The Poor Man says, “My fourth wife has trouble birthing her eighth child.”

In his magnanimity, the Rich Man gives him money for the hospital fees. He pays for Poor Man’s friend to marry his third wife. The son of Poor Man’s cousin needs a keke napep and the kind Rich Man gives him the money to buy one. A woman needs money to buy food and clothes for her children and he gives her some money. There are several pictures and videos to capture just how generous he is to his people.

The Rich Man is smart. He tells the Poor Man there’s no need for his children to go to school. He shuts down the schools that someone else built for the Poor Man’s children. 

“That sort of education is for white people,” he says. “I and my children have gone to the white man’s school. We will tell you all you need to know. Allow us to lead you.”

The Poor Man agrees. This is how things have always been, from the time of their grandfathers. Rich Man’s grandfather fed the Poor Man’s grandfather, his father, him and now his son. The Poor Man now has no desire for more.

When the children of the Rich Man, go out to town dressed in fine clothes, driving flashy cars, the children of the Poor Man pay homage. There is a line and they are content to stay on either side.

The Rich Man says to the Poor Man, “This is forbidden.”

But his children travel in private jets, fly first class to other countries and do these forbidden things. The rules do not apply to them. One day, a Rich Man from another town visits.

He says to the Rich Man, “I know that you’re a kind man and you do many good things for the Poor Man and his children. But you have far too many poor people in your land. I do not think that you should only feed them.

Use that money to send them to schools, help them learn skills, start businesses and be independent. I see so many young girls are married and with children. Get them an education instead? Or do you want them to remain in poverty?”

The Rich Man scoffs at his counterpart.

“You do not understand. Things have always been like this and will remain this way. We lead, they follow. We prefer things to remain this way.” 

After the Other Rich Man has left town, the Rich Man’s children tell their father that the Other Rich man is stupid. How dare he come and challenge their way of life?

“How dare he? Poverty, illiteracy, poor infrastructure and child marriages are our culture, damn it!”

They go online, post pictures of exotic cars, houses, phones and vacations. They say to the Other Rich Man and his children, “You think we’re poor? No, dears. You and your father are the poor ones. We’re the richest people ever and will be richer than you till the day we die.”

Offended, the Other Rich Man and his children retaliate, citing the names of many other Rich Men in their towns and other surrounding towns.

Meanwhile, in the Rich Man’s town, one of the Poor Man’s young sons goes to his father. He sits down cross-legged on the mat woven from fabric and asks him, “Baba, what are we to the Rich Man?”

The father takes a bite out of the lobe of kola nut in his hand, chews for a few seconds, clears his throat and says,

“We’re loyal, my son. We will always be loyal.” 

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