No Reason To Be Poor

by Opeyemi Ajayi

On top of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. If there is a continent where poverty and hunger is thriving, it is Africa. The rate and the level of poverty in Africa cannot be described to whoever has never visited the poor areas of Africa. The people are so poor, some wake up in the morning not having an imagination of what to eat, quite a number go to bed regularly on empty stomach. 450 million Africans live below the level of subsistence. They do not have a place they call home, they sleep anywhere night catches them.

Realistically however, Africans are poor in the midst of wealth. They are dying of hunger and starvation while seating on top of billions of US Dollars. Unfortunately, Africans only see the wealth in Europe.10million skilled Africans have fled Africa in the last 30 years in search of greener pasture, the are economic refugees in Europe and Asian nations. They use their intellectual wealth to develop other nations. If skilled are 10million, imagine the number of unskilled Africans outside Africa? No developed country will ever allow her best brains to work in another country because they appreciate the power of intellectual wealth. The population of Africans in diaspora is more than the population of some countries like: Yemen, Angola, Malawi etc.

“My people suffer for lack of knowledge” is a quotation from the oldest surviving book in the world.

We are not poor in Africa because we have to be poor; we are poor because of what we do. We are not in lack because we are black; we are in lack because we lack information and knowledge. “Wisdom” they say “is profitable to direct.”

An average African lacks basic information, he refuses to see the opportunities around him, all he sees are the limitations and difficulties beside him.

Africans invest in liabilities rather than assets; we invest in today rather than the future.

The educational structure of most African countries makes me sick. Teachers are not happy doing the job because they are not well paid, facilities for learning are not available, classrooms are over crowded, we have refused to see that human capital is the greatest asset we can invest in.

In Nigeria that is regarded as the giant of Africa, a military General earns more than twenty (20) primary school teachers earn put together. Government budgets more combating crime than providing facilities for learning. The money earmarked for fuelling cars on the Presidents convoy can pay the salary and allowances of forty secondary school principals put together. The monthly security vote of one state Governor can pay the salary of twenty vice chancellors put together.

Nigerians live amidst wealth yet remain very poor. Despite the rate of corruption, money still flows around. Recoverable Abacha loot is over N300billion. Imagine what the past Governors are now coughing out to EFCC? Still we are very rich!

Nigeria is a very rich country. I see gold paved on every Nigerian street; we don’t have to steal to be rich if and only if we can see the window of opportunities around us. Despite the wealth in Nigeria, 78million people live below USD1per day.

In some parts of Lagos a plot of land cost N250million, no structure on it and few kilometers away from there are houses, I mean a whole building you can’t price for N100, 000 and people reside in it.

An advert on wall street journal reads “Ideas are capital: Rest is money”

What we need to turn Nigeria around is intellectual development. We have to open windows of opportunities for people, educated or not, every Nigerian must be able to provide the basic human needs, food, clothing and shelter. We must create opportunities for all Nigerian whether educated or not.

Think about it, nine out of ten musicians that entered limelight in the last couple of years in Nigeria are from Mushin and not Ikoyi. There are talents in that area, unexplored goldmine but they lack opportunity to showcase their talent.

It cost only N50,000 to produce a demo in Lagos. Instead of giving them money, well meaning people from across the globe can erect a studio in Mushin for those guys to record demo albums free. After producing the demo, they distribute the demo to marketers and radio channels, you have made them. They need studio’s not money. If they have a studio, Mushin will produce a millionaire weekly without stealing government money.

Anytime I have the opportunity to visit Ajegunle, I pray to God for more blessings because the more he does, the more ill invest in people. Every evening at the school playing ground, guys from that area play football. If you see them you will know that Nigeria is not sincere killing the gift deposited by God in these people. They play soccer with passion. All they need is an opportunity to meet with foot clubs that can appreciate their passion with financial backing.

One person can organize clubs in the area together for a major sponsored tournament, publicize it and showcase them to the world. They will never forget you.

What pains me most is that there are Nigerians who spend so much on burial ceremonies and birthday parties. Lagosians rather buy exotic cars and drive on roads filled with potholes than developing the nation by developing people. That is why we will remain poor, our poverty is not because there is no money, it’s because the majority live on less than a dollar per day.

There are 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria and the poorest of them pay N2000 to the students from their area in higher institutions yearly, some pay N10,000, some N25,000 depending on how buoyant they are. The money is meant to complement the education of the students but its being misused. Nigerian students spend it on frivolities. Some sincerely need the money but the majority purchase liabilities with it.

Instead of giving them money, L.G.As should create opportunities for students. There should be functional and well equipped libraries in all L.G. headquarters in Nigeria. Nothing wrong if government provides laptop for the students at subsidized rates. It’s not too much if all L.G. headquarters have internet accessibility for students in all L.G headquarters.

Imagine the number of information that goes around on the internet which has been regarded as the 8th continent in the world on daily basis. Very few Nigerian students are IT compliant. Instead of giving our students money, give them what will create everlasting wealth for them, that’s the way to build the nation.

If we are to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, Nigerian’s don’t need money, as it were, they need information as and when due.

Exploration activity goes on in the Niger Delta part of Nigeria on daily basis. The exploration companies go deep down in search of crude. Barite is a mineral resource that is used to cement oil rigs. It is stronger than the normal cement.

Exploration companies use barites regularly to cement oil rigs. Fortunately for us in Nigeria barite is abundantly available as a natural resource in most northern states unfortunately, no Nigerian company explores for barites. All the oil companies buy from abroad because no Nigerian company ever approached them for supply.

What stops Nigerian graduates searching around for jobs to get a mining license from the Solid Minerals Ministry, explore for barite and sell to the oil companies? There is a ready made market, yet we are blind!

Indians and Chinese have been regarded as the 4th and 5th largest ethnic group in Nigeria after Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. You need to see how those guys flock into Nigeria on daily basis to explore the windows of opportunities that abound in Nigeria. They now dominate quite a number of sectors in Nigeria; our businessmen cannot survive without them. It pains me to the bone marrow when I see my brothers and sisters queuing up for visa at the foreign embassies when foreigners are trooping into Nigeria to make money.

Could you imagine the number of perfumes, body spray and roll on that Nigerians use daily? No Nigerian company is into its production, they are all imported.

Sometime last year Osun State Indigenes Organization, USA Chapter gave a scholarship award of N50,000 each to selected undergraduates. Very good idea. That some people in far away USA still think about their people at home despite the challenges here but if I had the opportunity, ill advice the group not to give them the money but instead provide opportunities for these people, things like internet accessibility or a Youth Centre to develop their minds.

Every Nigerian community has the power to create wealth for her people. The Ijebu’s can produce varieties of gari which if well processed and packaged can be a source of income for the people. Ikire people produce dodo Ikire that you cannot get in any other part of the world, a world class manufacturing plant can be built to assist the people. If government officials cannot think, tell our traditional rulers to think!

Money is not the problem of Nigerians but lack of knowledge, lack of information. Ability to see what is available.

The way we think and live is questionable. We should know by now that the greatest investment is in the people and not structures. A Nigerian will save for one year and spend his savings on the burial ceremony of his parent. My people will buy Mercedes Benz when their streets are not tarred and their neighbors cannot afford to send their children to school. Nigerians in diaspora will prefer to send money home to build gigantic houses, come home to throw big parties when the people they left behind are suffering.

Let’s get things right and stop blaming government. You and I can empower some people, change their lives and they will never forget us.

Nigeria shall be the world’s most powerful country.

God bless you!

God bless Nigeria!

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bonjeh March 10, 2008 - 3:59 pm

Very good article. Time to change our thinking, leaving abroad with all our degrees has not change the condition of our people. These foreign countries are doing a good job marketing their countries as the best in everything, and we follow and believe them like mumu, this start with our religious beliefs, maybe if we believe in our self, we will be able to do for our self. Good Start.

A.A.Nuhu March 7, 2008 - 3:10 pm

Kudos to you. You have succinctly driven home your points and they can not be ignored by any discerning mind. We need a break from our present condition. Let’s give ourselves that break by thinking well and doing the right thing, at all times.

Patricia March 7, 2008 - 2:54 pm

They flock eveywhere and abound. One thing I like about their culture is that they work “together” as a family until each one of those family members are comfortable or well off. Typically in the past, our culture (African American) is so busy trying to get ahead individually that we want “our pie in the sky” before we consider helping others (which includes family).

I forsee Hispanics climbing high in the US, for several families will live together and work together financially to accomplish goals.

segun March 7, 2008 - 1:33 pm

This is another well researched piece on how to move Africa nay Nigeria forward.The big question is how do we translate these beautiful ideas into concrete realities?How do we make people who should move these ideas around to reason like Ope?Honestly, Nigeria and Africa have never lacked good and brlliant policies.The problem has been how to implement the ideas with honesty, intergrity and selflessness.Until such a time when we can put a workable formular in place, I am afraid that things will continue to gyrate from bad to worse. That is the unpalatable truth.

obiora March 6, 2008 - 11:11 pm



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