By Isaac Asabor
Afghanistanism as a term coined in the mid-20th century, has been against the tendency of news media to concentrate on happenings in far-flung parts of the world to the exclusion of covering problems closer to home. Put in another way, it is “the practice (by journalists) of concentrating on problems in distant parts of the world while ignoring controversial local issues”.
According to Mass Communicators, Afghanistan was chosen because not many people across the world knew where it was as at the time the concept was propounded and, in the course of world affairs, no one cared. However, Afghanistan no longer seems quite so far away, nor is it as obscure, isolated or forgotten as a result of the fast advancements in technology as evident in transport and communication which have brought the world to a point in history where no country, no matter how far away, could become completely irrelevant. What a difference a generation makes!
However, as you read this piece, the desert Islamic nation of Afghanistan has over the years been in the news, particularly some few days ago, for the wrong reason as a result of 40 years internecine war it has been engaged in. To contextually recall how it got herself enmeshed in the quagmire of a somewhat endless war, it is expedient to say that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979, after which Mujahedeen engaged the Soviets in a guerrilla war for almost 10 years until the Soviets ran away in February 14, 1989; just a few months before the Union of Soviets Socialist Republics (USSR) imploded.
Even after the soviets withdrew, there was internecine insurrection for control of power between Islamic theocrats and some liberal politicians with the Taliban being in control. That was the situation on ground when President George Washington Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 911 terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers that killed almost 3, 000 Americans. The Americans fought the Taliban for 20 years. After the death of 4, 500 American service men and $1 trillion of taxpayers’ money sunk into the war, the Americans ordered a withdrawal last month, being July 2021. Ostensibly leveraging on the fluke created by the withdrawal, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last Sunday, August 15, 2021, as i President Ashraf Ghan fled to neighboring Tajikistan.
Despite the drawbacks identified in Afghanistan by communication experts, as they continue to drum the message that the concept encourages Journalists to myopically focus their efforts in newsgathering in distant parts of the world while ignoring critical local issues. It can be argued that if the problems in distant lands were not reported and spotlighted on local media that no one could have known that despite the internecine war that Afghanistan has been embroiled in for 40 years that food is more affordable In War-torn Afghanistan than In Nigeria. You may have asked, “And so what?” Well, if not for the practice of Afghanistanism we could not have known how poor governance is in this part of the world so much that a war-torn country is doing better than our own country in terms of affordability of food. Not only can the fact be said to be paradoxical, it has exposed the height of poor governance Nigerians are witnessing, more than ever before, since the last few years.
As written by Mr. Jerry Uwah, on his weekly column, “Issues at Stake” in an article titled, “The Grim News on Food Affordability” in Daily Independent Newspaper, “Two weeks ago, the Institute of Development Studies in the United Kingdom of Great Britain added yet another feather to Nigeria’s growing list of deleterious firsts. The British think tank awarded Nigeria the second slot in the list of nations with the poorest food affordability. The research group based its ranking on global cost of living leveraged on the monthly minimum recommended global spending on food per adult and monthly average wage. It uses the World Health Organization (WHO) standard on the number of calories to be obtained from food that would sustain an adult in a day. WHO recommends 2, 100 calories as the minimum required to sustain an adult in a day. Leveraging on that indubitable global standard, the British think tank draws an analogy between a country’s monthly average wage and what is required to purchase the food that would give an adult the required 2, 100 calories in a day”.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, the columnist concluded that at the level of food inflation in Nigeria, and the average monthly wage at the moment, a worker would spend 101 percent of his average monthly wage to purchase the food that would give him 2, 100 calories per day, and said that means a Nigerian worker’s monthly pay is not enough for food alone if he has to be healthy. No one is talking about rent or school fees. War-torn Syria topped the list of the world’s poorest in food affordability as a worker would have to spend 177 percent of his average monthly wage to purchase the food that would give him the required 2, 100 calories per day.
He explained that besides Syria and Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Sri-Lanka, Ghana, Indonesia, Algeria, Iran and Uzbekistan that constitute the top 10 countries in the poorest in food affordability list, that the desert Islamic nation of Afghanistan which has been at war for 40 years now was clearly missing in the top 10 list, and reasoned that it could therefore be argued that food is more affordable in Afghanistan than in Nigeria, despite 40 years of war.
The question at this juncture, which invariably inspired the coinage of the title of this piece is, “If Not For Afghanistanism, Who Could Have Known That Food Is Cheaper In War-Torn Afghanistan Than In Nigeria?”