Global goals 2
Passing Over Opportunities Repeatedly (POOR)
The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, once said, “If you’re born poor, it’s not your mistake. But if you die poor, it is your mistake”. Poverty is Passing Over Opportunities Repeatedly! When a man is poor, it is a reflection of the countless opportunities that he has missed and likewise when a man is rich, it is a reflection of the opportunities that he has seized. The reason why Africa is languishing in poverty today is simply because of the cumulative effect of opportunities that had eluded us over time.
The oil boom in Nigeria was actually a decoy to shift our focus from seeing the opportunities that abound in Nigeria. Life is full of amazing stories of people who identified and seized the opportunities in common life situations to impact the world. Many years ago, two young men went to India; they both saw the Indians walking barefooted, some did it out of tradition and others, out of poverty.
The two friends pondered deeply on the prevailing situation and eventually, they made their choice. One said, “Business will be bad here, let’s change location”. Then the other gave it a thought and said, “No, let’s change the situation.” The more optimistic young man started producing cheap plastic shoes that the Indians could buy. This young positive man, Thomas Jacob Hilfiger, became a multimillionaire in dollars and the owner of lifestyle brand, Tommy Hilfiger Corporation. What defines us in times of crisis is what we are able to see. Great minds see opportunities where others see problems.
The central and the most important goal in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) listed by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030 is the eradication of poverty in all forms. The former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, once said: “Poverty is a denial of human rights. For the first time in history, in this age of unprecedented wealth and technical prowess, we have the power to save humanity from this shameful scourge. Let us summon the will to do it”.
For UN, the eradication of poverty is a cornerstone in the fight for human rights and human dignity. It has been technically proven that when poverty is eradicated, all other goals will automatically and ultimately be accomplished; more than 700 million people in the world still live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. The UN has ascertained that poverty has many dimensions, but its causes include unemployment, social exclusion, and high vulnerability of certain population to disasters, diseases and other phenomena, which prevent them from being productive.
It is very obvious that poverty cannot be tackled effectively without the synergy from the involvement of government and the private sector. Governments can help create an enabling environment to generate productive employment and job opportunities for the poor and the marginalized. We also need the active participation of the private sector in promoting economic opportunities for the poor.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence”-Mahatma Gandhi
It is pathetic to know that we are so much blessed with natural and mineral resources in Nigeria and Africa but it has been a poignant story of poverty even in the midst of abundance. So many states in Nigeria have the potential to become a tourist hub for the world but these opportunities have been abandoned for a mad pursuit and dependency on the Nigerian oil. Our indigenous textile industry has the potential of becoming a global brand but so many investors have shabbily handled this, coupled with stringent and over-bearing government policies.
I was so much excited to hear that Lagos State has created a novel and peculiar ministry called “Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment”, the major reason why poverty in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has vehemently refused palliative, methodological and orthodox approaches is simply because our approach has never addressed the underlying reasons for poverty. Poverty is not a material phenomenon, it is a mental ideology. When a governor goes around sharing bags of rice to address poverty, it is either he is poor himself or that he has deliberately designed this method to increase his own political interference in the life of his ignorant victims. You cannot eat your way out of poverty!
Material solutions to poverty will not only perpetuate it on the long run but also kill initiatives. I am not saying that people should not be materially catered for but rather that this process should not be taken as an ‘elixir’ to poverty. Poverty is not the state of your pocket but rather the state of your mind!
I am reaching out to every governor and local government chairman to design a special programme and policy that will integrate UN’s approach to ending poverty and hunger before 2030. We must look at industrious and institutional ways of dealing with poverty; we must design strategies that will not only address material but mental poverty. We must look inward at the Federal, state and local government levels to see how we can maximize our latent potentials to generate more revenue. Each state of the federation must invest heavily on areas where they have comparative advantage.
There are some states that are good for cocoa plantations, some for palm oil, some for rubber; some are naturally blessed with tourist features. Every state must be mandated at the federal level to produce goods and services that can sell as global products. I want to advice every state of the federation to emulate the example pioneered by Lagos State in creating a ministry that will develop policies and institutions that will tackle the menace of poverty, create wealth and also help in discerning the opportunities that abound but look seemingly elusive to the citizens in their environment.
“There is no man that is poor; every man is rich in something. The ‘rich’ are rich in ideas while the ‘poor’ are rich in ignorance!”-Gbenga Adebambo
Malaysia and Nigeria gained independence virtually around the same time but while Malaysia has evolved over time to become a robust nation by diversifying their economy. Nigeria has consistently struggled with the load of corruption and consequences of a mono-product economy that depends solely on crude oil. Malaysia, a country Nigeria gave palm oil seedlings and expertise, has overtaken Nigeria in the production of palm oil! Nigeria has lost its place among agricultural exporters; her might in agriculture has sunk into fading oblivion. Let us redesign and diversify the economy towards maximizing our potentials in agriculture and other sectors.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recently issued a warning that Nigeria might soon be experiencing food shortage, if urgent interventions were not put in place to enhance food production. We must be proactive enough to avoid this impending disaster. I want to appeal to the Nigerian government to map out a strategy to achieve the zero hunger target by 2030.
We must encourage agriculture among the Nigerian youths; we must also make it more attractive to the youths by bringing in technology and innovations. I was fascinated when the news came in that the federal government has established an e-agricultural portal that will help the country attain self-sufficiency in food production. The Agency that came up with the novel idea, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has also been saddled with the responsibility of managing it effectively. The portal is www.eagriculture.com.ng.
At this juncture, I want offer a professional advice. I have realized that most of our tertiary institutions have fallow and uncultivated lands that are not being put to proper use. Nigeria has up to 200 tertiary institutions (Universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education); the Federal government, state government and private owners should mandate their institutions to design a policy and strategy to use their uncultivated lands for the purpose of agriculture. We have enough expertise and intellectuals that can develop a blueprint to make this work in all our tertiary institutions.
*To learn more on how you can get involved in these global goals, you can go to www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment.