And my people shall not be slaves in their land
Does Nigeria have any reason being poor?
It is the consensus that she is blessed with what many other nations lack- talented people, a burgeoning population, an advantageous demographic, clement climate, abundant natural resources and cultural diversity. She has access to the sea and a thriving diaspora.
Yet her people are amongst the world’s destitute, enslaved by their elite and their foreign allies, they are a mass of laboring people too poor to live healthily and happily on their wages.
Malnutrition is prevalent, begging is becoming a culture, stealing has become the way of life and violence is common place.
How did we get here? How have such a thriving people with a rich history become reduced to such destitution? How is it that they have become the stepped on stones of the earth? While previously the green passport granted our people respect, today it’s the instrument through which other nations deride and shabbily deal with us.
112.519 million Nigerians out of an estimated 163 million population live in relative poverty conditions.
National Bureau of Statistics 2012
A people whose forbears were working intricate works of art with brass when Europe was savage have become so devoid of innovation that even the palm oil they once exported to the world, they now import.
It is often said that Nigeria has no business being poor, but doesn’t she?
If her people have a culture that adores consumption and waste rather than saving and frugality how can they throw away the yoke of poverty?
If parents will prefer to spend money on ‘ Aso Ebi’ rather than save for a good education for their children, if they will expect the government to take up their responsibilities to their children while they fritter away what little monies their hard labor has earned them, how can they provide a better future for the next generation?
If instead of promoting a culture of hard work and merit, parents hire ‘mercenaries’ to write exams for their kids, what gives them the moral right to point out bad actions by government to their children and expect these kids not to do same when they become adults?
If her people will ‘hate on’ those who prosper by hard work and explain away their success while hailing thieving politicians and issuing out contracts to foreigners without ensuring that the stolen wealth is retained in the country, why then should Nigeria not be poor?
If her people will not discipline themselves to plan their families but will become so given away to pleasure that they multiply their households while all the while lacking the means to take care of them, why should they not be poor?
If her people will leave the life of honesty and hard work in the villages for a life of crime and duplicity in the cities, why should their society be ordered, why should food be plentiful and why should they prosper?
If rather than accept responsibility for their lives, and realize that as adults no one is coming to the rescue, they would prefer to blame all personal woes on their government, why should such lack of personal responsibility not be rewarded with destitution?
If Nigerians would elect a government on the basis of tribalism and religion rather than on merit, why should they expect that such government will execute programs that will better their lives?
If whole communities will do away with traditional occupations in order to forcibly obtain money from corporations and businesses operating in their localities, why should capitalists bring in funds and create jobs?
If being ‘sharp’ is esteemed and those who play by the rules are condemned to mockery, why should order prevail and why should the society not be plagued by criminality?
If the rights of the minority are not respected, if they will be punished worse than convicted criminals on the basis of their having different beliefs and orientations, why should the elite not oppress the people and cart away billions in the face of widespread starvation?
If her people will prefer to feast on the easy money of crude oil, instead of committing mental, physical and communal efforts on other more valuable but complex resources like agriculture, mining and science, why should there be jobs and why would they not be underemployed?
If her people will select their friends on the basis of ethnicity, physical appearance, religion and other trivialities rather then on the basis of character, why would the world not deride them as a vain, lousy and decadent people?
If the Nigerian government will contribute troops to bring peace to trouble spots in the world without first assessing and ensuring the long term benefits of this to the nation’s economic and strategic interests, how can the nation achieve a positive trade balance, keep up her foreign reserves and increase national wealth?
If Nigerians will prefer to obtain miracles from their religious houses through various diabolical and often ridiculous rituals, rather than exert their minds and work out solutions to personal and national problems, why should their so-called men of God not wield undue influence over them and accumulate wealth from their poverty?
If Nigerian teenagers will prefer television to the book and music listening to study, how can they learn the core skills that will help them tackle the myriad problems that will be handed them and transform a bleak future into a happy one?
If her youths will prefer to complain rather than create and execute positive solutions, if they will prefer to party rather than engage their political leaders to effect positive change, why should they inherit a more prosperous and just nation?
Should Nigeria not be poor?
To end poverty in Nigeria, the people and their government have to do the following:
A) Cultural reorientation
China has a national culture of saving. The Chinese save as much as 30% of their earnings and are known for their frugality. Nigerians can learn this.
A culture that adores consumption without production that prefers spending to saving and investing cannot grow rich. Such a culture cannot accumulate enough wealth that can be diverted to innovation, international trade, business and job creation
By lacking the wherewithal to maintain himself till the next harvest, the worker is bound to produce a profit for his master’s stock advance
Wealth of Nations
Such a culture will bind the people to the need for jobs. This is because they will never have enough to create well capitalized businesses that can turnover enough profit to sustain their standard of life.
As a result the Nigerian people are enslaving themselves to work in low paying jobs for Asians who have a culture of frugality. With barely enough to survive till the next pay day, they have to work to the immense profit of these new colonists.
B) Constructive engagement
Nigerians especially young people have to learn to constructively engage their leaders in order to effect positive change.
Complains never brought change.
Criticisms are good but when they alienate leaders and fail to guide them towards effecting positive change, they become a waste.
All criticism should seek to point out areas for improvement to leaders and should not be an avenue to trade insults.
Criticisms should seek to engage not to alienate. And when protest rallies have to be resorted to in order to fight a just cause they should not be swapped for public parades and party-like rallies.
They should be conducted with a sense of purpose and with the resolute determination to die in the pursuit of the cause. No bad leadership can long withstand a well organized and resolute mass of people fighting peacefully in the face of death in order to push for positive change and policies that will better their lives.
The Nigerian people should learn that the government in the long run needs them as much as they need the government and that during periods of civil disobedience, though the brunt is not immediately felt by the government, with proper coordination they cannot long survive the people’s onslaught but must yield to the people’s demands.
The Nigerian people should learn not to capitulate too early when seeking their good.
C) Family Planning
Children are a gift from God but are a boon only for a country whose national wealth is increasing.
For a nation whose national wealth is stagnant or declining, these children and their mothers face immense suffering.
Poverty does not prevent births but is unfavorable to the rearing of children
Wealth of Nations
Is it not ironic that rich nations like Japan and the Scandinavian countries have low birth rates while poor nations likeNigeriahave high birth rates?
Many rich nations are concerned about their low rates of generation and worry about their future.
Should Nigeria not be more concerned as to how to it will create enough wealth for its burgeoning population? At its current birth rate, Nigeria’s population will double in 30 years. At the present time we can hardly get by as a nation and at our current rate of development can we in 30 years be creating enough wealth and a more organized society that will be able to sustain twice the current population?
As of the 18th century, Adam Smith observed that ‘luxury seems to weaken and frequently to destroy altogether the powers of generation’ and this may perhaps explain why the elite just like rich nations have fewer children.
While a poor Nigerian woman may have a s many as seven children or more, many rich women have one or two kids. This may suggest higher rates of barrenness in the upper class but in truth this is not so.
Low birth rates amongst elite women is due to better education that has enabled them to assert their independence and reproductive rights better than poor women who often are dependent on their husbands and have no say. Rich women do not have less sex than poor women; they only know better how not to get pregnant.
Maternal mortality is low amongst rich women because better family planning reduces complications and ensures they are in better health when they have a subsequent pregnancy.
It is therefore important that the Nigerian government empowers the Nigerian female through education.
It is also important to realize that high infant mortality among the poor due to inadequate health facilities is responsible also for their high birth rates.
Therefore the government must take it as a priority to build, equip and properly staff maternal and child care centres in all local government areas in the country to address this.
D) Development of rural areas
Nigeria’s approach has been to pursue industrial development in the cities with the hope that the increased wealth and raw materials demand will trickle to the rural areas.
Indonesia has pursued to good effect a different approach by developing the rural areas- providing basic amenities e.g. electricity, water and promoting the establishment of agro-based industries in rural areas.
As a result that nation has been able to stem rural-urban migration, curtail crime and spread wealth more equitably amongst its people.
Most of the Nigerian poor are in rural areas and neglecting them is what is responsible forNigeria’s poor rating in several national well-being indices e.g. maternal and infant mortality, access to ICT, access to pipe borne water etc.
If national policies are not directed to helping the poor majority in rural areas, how then can the national averages in well-being indicators improve?
Science schools should be established in rural areas so that rural kids can develop local technologies to help improve the output from local occupations.
Technology should be adopted in conjunction with foreign experts, who will reside in the rural areas to ensure technology transfer.
Remove hunger from poverty and poverty is reduced
With the use of technology in local occupations especially in agriculture, output will increase, spoilage will reduce and prices of foodstuffs in the cities will drop and become more affordable to the urban poor.
Focus should also be on building good linkage roads between rural areas and the cities so as to ensure access to local and international markets for rural dwellers. This will improve their incomes and socioeconomic status.
Focusing development in rural areas will reduce rural-urban migration, reduce overpopulation in the cities, reduce poverty in the villages and cities, reduce crime because more people will return to the villages and since these communities are more closely knit and traditional, incentives to commit crime will be non-existent.
E) Foreign Trade
Europe especially England became very wealthy because of their imperialistic nature from the 17th to the mid 20th century.
The USA although proclaiming an appearance of peace is in fact very war like and imperialistic and it has not hesitated to find markets for its businesses through diplomatic, coercive and often violent means.
By aggressively and subtly selling its culture through the pop media, it has ensured that whole nations cannot do without American styled clothes, American branded cosmetics and food and American music. As a result their nation has prospered exceedingly.
Why then should Nigeria not pursue such a course?
Why is it that even after several soldiers died in Liberia and Sierra Leone that these nations have not been fully dominated in all areas of their economy by Nigerian businesses?
True that Dangote, Nollywood and the banks have done well for Nigeria in foreign markets but Nigeria needs to develop more markets for other sectors especially in Africa i.e. pharmaceuticals, commodities e.g. cement, food etc.
Take the coup in Mali for example, if Nigeria must commit troops to reunite that country, she must assess such a move in the following light vis to prevent Boko Haram from having a rear base, access to Mali’s mines for Nigeria’s businesses, use of Nigerian food as food aid paid for by humanitarian organizations in that country, a stage to test locally developed weaponry and a market to export gas and crude oil to the land locked country.
It should be enacted as law that Nigerian businesses operating overseas should run accounts only in Nigerian banks or their subsidiaries and that a percentage of profits made overseas should be repatriated to the country for commercial use by these companies.
Also political office holders and their families must have only accounts domiciled within Nigeria during their tenures.
As an extension, foreign investors should be wooed into the country but they should be made to employ the locals majorly in their management and lower cadre positions. Positions for expatriates should be limited and they must be made to keep a significant portion of their profits within the local economy.
F) Increase the minimum wage
Since the population is made up more of the laboring poor, would making them happy by improving their wages not bode well for the entire nation?
While employers may dislike this given their fears that increased wages may make the people lazy and reduce profit margins, these fears are unjustified.
In fact when workers are better paid and if the payment pattern is such that the rewards increase in proportion to expended labor, employers will discover that a well motivated staff work even harder and are more productive.
As to the reduction in profit margins, this also is unjustified fear. When wages are increased, the amounts available to the society for discretionary spending increases and as a result demand for goods and services increase.
Production capacities become fully utilized and total overall costs drop leading to marginal increase in profit margins.
Also because of the full utilization of capacity, costs of production drop and goods become even more affordable especially to the self-employed and non-working poor.
This ripple effect stimulates the economy, increases national happiness, and reduces crime by enabling the opening of more small business which will create jobs.
A full grown man will live only comfortably from this author’s estimation on N40,000 ( fourty thousand naira) monthly.
In concluding, this author accepts that it may sound preposterous as suggested by this article’s title that poverty can be ended in Nigeria, yet what is really sought as suggested in the aforementioned passages is a more equitable and just society.
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.
Wealth of Nations
When it is said that Nigeria has no business being poor, what is actually being implied is that the Nigerian people ought not to be destitute and want nothing of the good things of life; and that even those who may be poor in monetary terms should not lack access to good health facilities, basic amenities and livable lodges.
Yes Nigeria may be poor but with the reorientation of our national culture and the enthronement of good governance, even if poor Nigerians remain, these must never be destitute or enslaved in their own land.