Temple Chima UbochiSunday, May 4, 2014
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Bonn, Germany




Who is a hero OR Nigeria benefactor since 1960 to 2013 October??

Continued from Part 24

Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit (Eli Khamarov)

Some people think that poor people are lazy. Actually, it takes a lot of work to survive when you are dirt-poor (Muhammad Yunus)

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of (Confucius)

Poverty is not something people impose on themselves for want of effort and community organisation. It is constructed by divisive and discriminatory laws, inflexible organisations, acquisitive ideologies of wealth, a deeply rooted class system and policies which serve privilege in the short term and destroy society in the long term (Peter Townshend)

he Farm Settlement Scheme of the then regional governments had its shortcomings and challenges, no doubt, but, Nigeria should have faced them squarely, and by now, they (the shortcomings and challenges) would have been surmounted. But rather, successive governments, after the regional system of government was discarded, also discarded the Farm settlement Scheme. This column has emphasized inconsistency as one of the bane of Nigeria’s development, and the abandonment of the Farm Settlement Scheme was a classic example. In a Paper, published by the Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization, titled “Lessons from Agricultural Policies and Programmes in Nigeria”, Iwuchukwu J .C. and Igbokwe E.M. of the Department of Agricultural Extension, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, wrote that “Farm Settlement Scheme (FSS) was initiated by some regional governments in Nigeria and was a critical element of Western Nigeria Policy of Agricultural and Natural Resources of 1959. The main objective of this scheme was to settle young school leavers in a specified area of land, making farming their career thereby preventing them from moving to the urban areas in search of white collar jobs. These settled farmers were also to serve as models in good farming systems for farmers residing in nearby villages to emulate. Unfortunately, the dream of this scheme was not materialized because some of the settlers were too young and inexperienced in farming thus causing a high percentage of dropouts among the settlers (Amalu, 1998). Secondly lack of understanding of the meaning and implication of the scheme by some settlers who assumed that through their participation in the scheme they would eventually get paid job. They were discouraged and some withdrew as soon as the allowances were not given any more. Thirdly, the cost of establishing a viable farm settlement was too high in terms of cash and staff (Amalu, 1998). Finally, expenses made on the scheme were incurred mainly on installation of infrastructure like construction of houses, schools, markets, roads etc for the settlers which did not directly bring about increase in agricultural output by the participants as targeted”.

Agriculture should be Nigeria’s “saviour”, if the government can put things in the sector in order, because, it can take so many people off the streets; solve the problem of hunger in the nation, while providing the needed revenue through the sale and export of food and cash crops. But unfortunately, the government relegated this important sector to the back burner while concentrating only on oil and its revenue. In Nigeria, millions tilling the land are trapped in an inescapable cycle of extreme poverty, illiteracy, and oppression. For Nigeria to have food security, self-sufficiency and make huge revenue from agriculture, the government should encourage and empower more people to work on the land with modern techniques for improved harvests. President Jonathan, few days ago, said that his government was moving agriculture from just a rural development programme to wealth creation and major business programme, adding that government had taken pro-active steps and policies to stabilise power “so that small and medium-scale enterprises will thrive”. For the president: “The key commitment of government is to make sure that so many Nigerians have access to finance so that they will be able to create wealth for themselves’. This column hopes that actions would transcend the president’s words immediately.

Iwuchukwu and Igbokwe, quoted above, put things into perspective when they wrote that “it is generally accepted that Nigerian agriculture has suffered as a result of the resource curse effect of oil and inappropriate policies and institutions. This, coupled with heavy handed and unpredictable government intervention programmes which have led to short term investment decisions and rent seeking behaviour by programmers have created dysfunctional and disconnected benefit to the poor masses. Clearly, the persisted failures of agricultural programmes in Nigeria have revealed the basic weakness of agricultural policies in Nigeria and the inability of the several administrations in Nigeria to solve the basic and fundamental problems of agricultural development (Amalu, 1998). A cream of authors (Amalu 1998, Ayoola 2001 and Madukwe 2008) has also laid the failure on the doorsteps of governments for the absence of or weak agricultural policies. In Nigeria, agricultural policies and programmes have undergone changes especially in the postcolonial era. These changes have been a mere reflection of changes in government or administration (Amalu, 1998). This is because these policies and programmes vary only in nomenclature and organizational network. They emphasize almost same objectives like: to provide food for the inhabitants of the nation (food security and sufficiency) and export excess to other countries and to provide rural dwellers and farmers with extension services, agricultural support and rural development services etc. Despite all the policies and laudable programmes, Nigeria is yet to achieve food security. Agriculture also continues to suffer from inertia associated with these policies and programme reformation that pervade Nigeria. To be successful, Nigeria’s reform and agricultural programmes in particular need to be backed up or initiated through a policy or policies coupled with increased and better co-ordinated technical and financial assistance. It should also be a programme selected based on a rational, national and institutional structure that come from a national consensus on how best to achieve sustainable and equitable rural/ agricultural development.

Talking about leadership failure in Nigeria as it relates to the creation of unemployment, Charles Darwin was right that “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin”. Obasanjo may be right when he said, last year, that “Nigeria is jinxed, cursed”. In a report by Premium Times, Obasanjo, while reviewing Nigeria’s history since independence, said “the country may have been cursed with poor and irresponsible leaders. Mr. Obasanjo, who gave the keynote address at the 4th Annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit organised by Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Ibadan, in collaboration with African Sustainable Development Network, said if Nigerians were yet to commend a leader after 53 years of independence, then we are jinxed and cursed; we should all go to hell. He also condemned the younger generation of leaders in the country, saying they lack integrity and probity and have failed their people woefully. Hear him: The whole thing is not just about leadership. If we talk about good leadership you should also talk about good followers. If you talk about human right you should also talk about human duties and obligations. It is sad that after 53 years of independence we have no leader that we can commend. The problem in Africa is that when one person takes over he would not see any good thing that his predecessor did”.

Nigerian political leaders have failed the nation by what they have done and what they have failed to do, and according to mpca, it is these kinds of behaviour which breed mistrust among the population in general and cause the general public to become resentful and angry towards the political leadership. But this kind of behaviour is to be expected of the political leadership, because the most important thing for many political leaders is the attainment and retention of power. They are permanently intoxicated by the feel and smell of power. Many can never be retired. For these political leaders, the trappings that come with political leadership is the oxygen of life. They cannot live with the knowledge of being “a nobody” after having been the center of public attention and genuflection for decades. These political leaders are convinced that they are permanently entitled to the immunities that go with their political office. And that is why they do not and cannot hear the ticking of the political time clock. And they must often be reminded that Political Leadership is about vision and not about who came first or who served the longest. The Nigerian political leadership is unable to understand the concept of public life and public property, as they just cannot separate their private income from public funds. Nigerian political leaders do not only embezzle public funds with impunity but waste public funds and engage in all kinds of fraudulent behaviour. And one of the major problems of the political leadership today, is that the political leaders have somehow taken the historical tactics of sabotage, deception and hostility similar to the ones used in fighting for independence, or to fight against their colonial masters and now employ them against their own people who are brave enough to criticize their coarse and scandalous behaviour in office. Political leaders are notorious for saying the most unkind things about one another and then, attracted by the lure of political office and political power, kiss and make up.

Almost all Nigerian political leaders today are unable to see that leadership is a call to service. They see themselves as the only and the supreme leaders of a country. They are not prepared for the task of nation-building nor do they understand that they are not alone in the management of the country. But leadership is about vision. It is a vision that includes the contribution, the acknowledgement, the hopes and aspiration, the fears and sorrows of every Nigerian, every resident, every visitor, and every friend of the country. It is not about the amount of money in a bank account or how the money was obtained. Political leadership is about statesmanship. It is about character. It is about integrity. It is about confidence.

President Goodluck Jonathan, few days ago, faulted the World Bank report which placed Nigeria among the five poorest countries in the world, saying “the nation is not poor’’. The President: noted that the challenge of the country is not poverty, but redistribution of wealth’’; claimed that the realities on ground did not portray the country as a poor nation, but a nation whose abundant wealth needed to be evenly redistributed; and added that his administration was working assiduously and putting policies in place to ensure that Nigerians had access to financial resources to create wealth for themselves. Hear him: “Nigeria is not a poor country. Nigerians are the most travelled people. There is no country you go that you will not see Nigerians. The GDP of Nigeria is over half a trillion dollars and the economy is growing at close to 7 percent. Aliko Dangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the World. I visited Kenya recently on a state visit and there was a programme for Nigerian and Kenyan business men to interact and the number of private jets that landed in Nairobi that day was a subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week. If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries. Some of you will experience that there is an amount of money you will give to a Nigerian who needs help and will not even regard it and thank you but if you travel to other countries and give such an amount, the person will celebrate. But the World Bank statistics shows that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries. Our problem is not poverty; our problem is redistribution of wealth. Probably wealth is concentrated in very few hands and a number of people do not have access to it and that is why my administration is committed in terms of financial inclusiveness and we are working very hard to achieve this. They looked at Nigeria and we gave explanations and they could not see any convincing reason but to downgrade our economy, they left us as BB minus. They said elections are coming, politicians are shouting at themselves, it may affect their economy, we will no longer give you stable outlook but give you negative outlook, which is same BB minus”.

This writer once advised the president that it will amount to an exercise in futility to join issues with the World Bank, just as he did before when he doubted the Bank’s Report that there are about 100 million destitute in Nigeria. When a Report claimed that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and the 26th in the world, nobody heard the president criticize the report. Why is it that the president critizes every negative but true report about Nigeria? The president belittles himself by this exercise. There’s nothing to fault about in the World Bank Report that Nigeria is one of the five poorest countries in the world. What the president should be doing is to silently work to alleviate the immense suffering in the land. Being a potentially rich country means nothing, if the leaders do nothing to turn those potentials into reality. Well travelled citizens or GDP are not necessarily true indexes of richness. Having only one Dangote, the 25th richest person in the world, in a country of about 170 million people, amounts to nothing when more than 100 million other Nigerians cannot afford a square meal a day. Having about 10 or more private jet owners in Nigeria is only symbolic when millions are in penury. Picking up a fight against the World Bank Report does no good to Nigeria, because, why would an investor bring his investment money into a struggling country in need of development like Nigeria when the political leadership is repeatedly and publicly unapologetic and are making statements that are tantamount to covering the reality of the situation in the country?

Dictionary.com defines poverty as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. The Synonyms are: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. So, when more than 100 million Nigerians are afflicted, then the World Bank Report makes sense. How many Nigerians have access to basic life necessities?

As an epilogue: this writer doesn't want to seem picayune by criticizing Nigerian leaders; he also wants to point it out that he does not in any way envy (‘cause they are evil doers) or wish Nigerian politicians any bad, but, only want them to steal less and do more for the Nigerian people, in tune with F.E. Trainer (1941) words that “We must live more simply so that the poor may simply live”. This writer is telling Nigerian politicians, in the words of Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.-A.D. 65), to "Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones." The Nigerian politicians should do all they can to put policies, programmes and plans in place, which would create jobs for the army of the unemployed. When unemployment has been dealt with, poverty will be reduced. The Nigerian politicians created the poverty ravaging the land, and as such should eliminate the problem, just as Anais Nin (1903 – 1977) wrote that “If all of us acted in unison as I act individually there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way”.

Finally, this writer in the words of George Washington (1732-1799), prays for the Nigerian leaders and the led, “ May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy."






Continued from Part 24