POVERTY IN SURPLUS
...Water, Water, Everywhere; Little Ever To Drink
Governor of Enugu State
it be wisdom or smartness of man that there exists
quantum surplus and obscene opulence for a few, side-by-side with
total lack or unspeakable poverty for the majority, who strike, claw
and bicker at one another for the pleasure of that few
( ...in Africa is Sinking)
of Justice Chike Idigbe Memorial Lecture
Justice Chambers, Faculty of Law,
Obafemi Awolowo University Ife, Ile-Ife
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife,
Friday, July 29, 2005
is, indeed, too burdensome to me, that my appearance in Ife, today, could not
avert the long wait of which an earlier plan was to curtail if I had responded
as earlier invited by this honoured University and Faculty. And by way of
confession, I must declare that I have, for once in my appreciation of Nigeria
and her peoples, failed to respond so early and timely to one part of Nigeria,
which is sounded out as the ultimate source for a great people who have
continued to lead in our advancement into modernity and finer cultures.
It is my prayers that you would graciously accept my apologies for not
responding immediately the call was made, bearing in mind that I have always had
an overpowering urge to be here, to felicitate and interact with my countrymen,
where it matters so strongly.
Ile-Ife the land/homestead of love, is one no person can afford to ignore in the
search for the solution. Of course, prior to your series of invitations and urge
to appear on this very important podium, I had long been propelled to seek a
reasoned appearance in the place called the Source.
It has always been a long-standing desire to have to appreciate the point of the
beginning, especially as is the case now, in which we understand that what
course a people take and the eventual outcome of their various historic dreams,
have their roots dug deep in the native sources and the challenges at the
beginning of it all.
while I hold my emotional views about sources, including, this time, our own
Holy Cities of Nri, Aguleri, Isuama and the others, I make no attempt at
altering the cognizance already conferred on some cradles of military
adventurisms as eventual political supremacies, which altered views and
In the case of lie Ife, today, we consider, with nostalgia, the sacredness of
the various propitiations, on which stead the ancestors and deities were
appeased and for which the onward advancement of the race had been anchored.
This is more particular with the throng of love, Ife, attached to the land.
And while I do not wish to join in the controversies, I am inclined to join in
the view that if it is accepted that the basic founding principle of love, Ife,
found so much room to be expressed and indeed adored, in a land, then, that
yielding ambience of a serene environment must have propelled the sage, Chief
Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, to seek to found a remarkable Centre of Learning, for
fuller conceptualization of the enterprises of the race, duly challenged to
state its mission as to contribute to the vocal lead for the repeated
reconfiguration of the modern Nigerian national conscience.
I do not think that it is the wish of this forum to seek to establish that,
starting in time as Ile-Ife, it is one sacred city, which has seen it all, borne
it all, and, in spite of politicization, had its own difficulties, but always
swung back to resume the stride.
Elsewhere, I had cause to review the inspirations, which caused our founding
fathers to take the decisions they took. And in reviewing my own Alma Mater,
once, I had ventured an appreciation of such urge, hunger and decisiveness which
brought about such towering institutions on which national comprehension and
further initiatives have since been anchored.
Prior to my preparation for this lecture, I did have the cause to review the
particular thirst for elevation of fellow hapless Africans as the late Sage,
Chief Awolowo, undertook as a personal mission. It dawned on me that while the
great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took the lead, in 1932, to invite fellow Africans to
seek to apply resources and mind to claim their inclusion in the emerging
colonial and post-colonial environments, Awolowo saw it, and pursued to logical
conclusion, the argument that consequent upon the economic degradation and
usurpation arising from colonial practices, the education of the African must be
deeper than western learning but including mind and cultural development of
which the nation state had to discharge the bills.
As early as 1947, he defined education as the systematic course of
instruction, giving intellectual and moral training to persons, bringing up of
the young, helping the young to develop, to lead out the best in him, and evolve
an integral personality.
According to Owan A. Enoh of the Faculty of Education, University of Jos, in
Main Currents in Nigerian Education Thought, 1996, the manifestation of the
Awolowo thesis on education was emphasized in the sage IS principal cannons of
human development; viz, head or mental development, heart or spiritual self
realization and health and physical well-being.
Of course, it was not unexpected that a leader who argued as Awolowo did that
education is the foundation for progress... cornerstone of rapid social,
economic and political development, would seek to seize such chances of
political initiative and ultimate control to create a magnificent theatre of
learning that led to the evolution of the University of Ife, now named after his
And revered as we seek to extend to him today, he indeed, in 1949, admonished
that if there was a Yoruba medical doctor, Nathaniel Thomas King, who
graduated in 1876; a Yoruba graduate lawyer, Sapara Williams, 1880; and other
pre-colonial university graduates, Isaac Oluwole and Obadiah Johnson, 1878,
the blessings of good minds illustrated in learning and application of values to
upturn challenges which hitherto baffled minds, should be made available to
those who would continue the race of life, eventually.
Against that backdrop, it could not have been surprising that the form, texture
and presentation of the University of Ife, when it took off in earnest, was to
signal a purposeful design to create the environment for a real business of
setting the society on the soundest footing.
Founded in 1962 as the University of Ife but rechristened by the Federal
Military Government as the Obafemi Awolowo University, May 12, 1987, in honour
and lasting memory of one of its most distinguished founding fathers and an.
eminent nationalist, politician, statesman and former chancellor; OAU, we must
always acknowledge, remains the most magnificent in its edifices of
architectural beauty. It is also appreciated as the most consciously designed
landscape of scenic beauty, building in its profile as providing for the best in
defogging the mind and physical frame for the enterprises for which it was
Possibly, Awolowo and the other founders of this university, drawn in their
design of the scene, by the blissful description of the general geography by the
then Captain Hugh Clapperton, who, in his Travels and Discoveries in
Northern and Central Africa, penned a general environment of the Yoruba as
an extensive province containing rivers, forests, sands and mountains, as
also a great many wonderful and extraordinary things...including...the talking
green bird called babaga (parrot).
The university, we must state the records, covers a land area of about 5.679
hectares, making it one of the largest campuses in the world. Oral tradition in
Ife affirms that Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba, established its first
settlement somewhere in what is now the campus.
must have been one remarkable point to reestablishing tradition and a
reconfirmation of the source that the spot was chosen, accounting, as it were,
for the spiraling of the various segments of the Yoruba race the Owus, from
Olowu; the Ketus, from Alaketu; the Sabes, from Onisabe; and the Popos, from
Olupopo. Arising supreme from the same source had been Oraniyan, the progenitor
of the Oyos, easily touted as the Yoruba proper against the emergence of two
other princes, Eweka and Orangun, said to have emerged to supercede and reign in
Benin and Ila, respectively. Of course, we must note that in the case of Benin,
some writers and historians, who insist that the ultimate dispersal and nation
making commenced the other way round, reverse the tradition.
Understandably, we have no need to burrow into that now, much as it serves the
need to be reminded that from this source emerged significant empire builders,
military adventurers, expansionists, entrepreneurs and statesmen of which the
modern versions are remarkably represented in the likes of Awolowo himself, our
present day Olusegun Obasanjo, M.K.O Abiola, Ladoke Akintola, among the others,
who were, and still remain, unequaled pioneers and pathfinders. Their respective
impacts, on modern Nigeria, we can attest to, made the differences, as it was
then, and of course, the moment.
The university, which now boasts of a student population of over 30,000,
commenced academic activities with 244 students in its temporary site in Ibadan,
the spot where, The Polytechnic Ibadan is currently located but moved to its
permanent campus in Ife, in 1967.
Riding a challenging motto, for learning and culture, the ideal to
which the university was committed on inception is to demonstrate the
pricelessness of education, the freedom in thought, the love of learning, the
enchantment of cultural heritage, the life of sharing and fellow feeling and the
challenges of leadership.
That ideal formed the core of Awolowo's philosophy that education is the central
pillar of any nation and must compete reasonably with the most advanced
countries of the world among the comity of nations.
It, then, could not have been surprising, again, that this remarkable university
has always pioneered new thrusts of learning and recognition of insightful
gestures as were reported of the late Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Chike Idigbe whom we all gather here to honour, one more time, today.
In my understanding, the suggestion of this great Centre of Learning in
repeatedly honouring Chike Idigbe, JSC, is one other stalwart position held in
celebration of knowledge, courage and service to fatherland. As we know, the
legal landscape is replete with such outstanding plays of Idigbe, who against
all firm positions, about 1982, completely altered the course of tradition and
opinions in the highest echelon of national judiciary. This was when he
courageously overruled several high and appellate court judgments in Bucknor
Madean vs Inlaks, deciding finally that the form (legal technicalities) should
not override or deflate the substances (evidence of intension). This put to paid
such smart rigmaroles of lawyers who exploited loopholes in stereotype jigsaws
of legal documents to confound litigants.
Actually, Idigbe happened to be in the Supreme Court with our own Augustine
Nnamani, JSC (late), for which some hints of the forays of the luminary we are
honouring today are not completely strange to me. And although both Idigbe and
Nnamani are gone, they are remembered for their brilliance, courage and
impartiality, and the respective families have not lost touch.
Today, on the podium of one of the best universities to be established in
Africa, and retracing steps in the memory of one of the brightest justices of
our court system; we address the challenge posed by the clearest threat poverty
to our own civilization. Of course, it is no news here that I have had so many
treats of the study of the subject since it became clear that if Nigeria had to
join in the globalisation initiative, its citizenry must be elevated to hook up
to the correct trends upon which they can compete.
And having made such elaborate attempts at understanding the subject, what with
its multi-faceted nature, it gains greater space in my various searches for the
comprehension of the incidences of distortion and absence of impact, despite
repeated genuine efforts at pushing the national frame ahead.
Understandably, many of our citizens view the subject matter poverty as fully
defined and clearly stated, such that solutions lie in making everybody self
sufficient and well fed. This was certainly the mindset of Mr. Ige Asemudara,
Lord Advocate of Justice Chambers of our host Faculty of Law, when he
confronted my staff with the retort that, the governor gave a lecture on
poverty somewhere, does he have to repeat it here? In the scene, which
ensued, he certainly wished a fresh topic of discourse, if only his dear
Justice Chambers could not stand as sounding a forum for the rehash of an
old idea especially one discussed elsewhere.
But, to face the matters of poverty squarely, it has always been my strong view
that the entire dimensions must be established. It is also my belief that our
various trips in political framework building, the various tinkering with
economic policies, the entire shutting off, resulting in system-stagnation or
paralysis, which plays out in virtually every institution of national life
suffered terrible fates because poverty had not been fully articulated and
At the re-inception of democracy in 1999, we had appreciated the degradation of
social and economic infrastructure, and sought as we did, in our State,
revitalization. But at the conclusion of ambitious ventures in building or
rebuilding of over 509 kilometres of roads; over 178-unit housing estates; a
brand new campus of the Nigeria Law School system; hundreds of primary and post
primary institutions; kilometers of pipe-borne water reticulation; hundreds of
kilometers of rural and urban electrification; among others, it dawned on us
that what used to be assumed as poverty a few decades previously, had indeed
taken a new dimension.
This stark reality informed my establishing the first ever Ministry of Poverty
and Human Development, which I quickly embarked on as an expression of a
personal understanding of the phenomenon.
Of course, we are all aware of age-old conceptualization of poverty. The New
Webster Dictionary of English Language defines poverty very traditionally as
unproductiveness/deficiency or inadequate supply... (that is lack in the
face of need) while a secular concept evolves an ideas section of the
subject, as the monastic renunciation of the right to own...material
possessions (that is possibly having access to or being close to source but
In one of the topics under which I have made forays in this field, I tried to
evaluate the thesis of some scholars who have since been noted as having pushed
up the topic to its high gear.
Elizabeth Wilkins is one. According to her, poverty is termed the income of
a community which in subdivision among families and kindred, is less than 40 per
cent of the norm (living below one US Dollar, a day) ...and such
manifests more in poor infrastructure, poor health, poor nutrition, poor self
esteem, low hygienic standards, low intellectual development and lack of
capacity to articulate social, economic and political environment and low per
And as we say it in every part of this great nation, poverty is seen as not
having enough to eat, to use and cater for our dependants. In a related
form, and directly linked with political participation and aspiration, it
signposts parents/guardians' inability to muster enough resources to pay
school fees of children/wards, and so to obscure the inalienable right of the
citizen, as gainfully argued by our own Sage, Awolowo, to be a better citizen
and a more productive player in the evolving economy.
Of course, in one of those attempts, I did examine the various trends defining
our present state, and in the main, have had cause to marvel at the steady
degeneracy configuring Nigeria as pitiably sitting in the bowels of poverty in
which it so disappointedly earned the 154th of 172 countries in the world
poverty marginal index.
As already determined upon the ensuing figures and analysis, this scenario goes
to mean that, of the countries where citizens are merely subsistent and which
have the biggest task of developing the people and their resources, Nigeria is
sluggishly riding ahead of only 18 countries.
In other words, the horrifying picture of down-ward slide in the economic well
being of the citizenry as depicting a whole 87 per cent of the population or
about 93 million of the estimated 120 million people living in poverty as at
1996. But strangely, this development has come of an avoidable slide which
started much earlier in the life of the independent State in the 1960s. In 1964,
over 84 per cent of the population was living above poverty line. But poverty
level jumped from 28.1 per cent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1995. In 1996, it had
got to 65.5 per cent or 67.1 million of the population.
These - each in the final manifestation get proper definition in the reduction
of the person to the margin below the so-called poverty line, which, on
its own, is defined as the marginal income line at which an adequate living
standard is (not) possible.
Back in history, poverty as a subject matter, had been well argued and solutions
sought elsewhere. In Africa, our respective oral traditions suggest contentions,
some of which defined poverty in the various manifestations and proffered ways
and means of tackling them. Dating from pristine times to our current age, for
instance, ill being (poverty) as against well-being (wealth) among the Igbos of
the South East, South South and East Niger Delta, is simply typecast as
painfulness or social degradation, ogbenye uwa afufu
as against the rich called ogaranya or odi
na mma, literally meaning the possession of property such as house
or home, food, potable water, wife (for man), children. Such is the lack of the
requisite abilities in caring for family, providing education (various levels)
and accessing factors of leadership in the immediate environment, which also
means good neighbourhood feeling and promises J of eventual relevance in the
social rating of that environment.
This goes to reveal that such situation or feeling, as in lacking in sufficient
comparison with the acclaimed good style of life, simply and directly
translates, in Igbo land, into ogbenye or
uwa afufu or ajo onodu - bad condition.
Comparatively, it will include lack of all those material possessions which,
today, are identified in a materialpossession sense as giving vent to
According to a study conducted by Michael Ikegwuonu, as represented in his work,
Failed Dreams, the phenomenon manifests in the bitter feeling of those who see
themselves as needlessly getting into excessive activities to eke a living (ike
kete orie from hand to mouth, for the Igbo, akuse for the Yoruba).
It may surprise a nonIgbo to hear the recriminations accompanying one's
resignation of self as falling under the endlessly/fruitlessly, shiftless
sub-class ike kete orie, when, indeed, the Igbo philosophy of work is
anchored on the position that endeavour and accomplishment are just inseparable
and the one (hard work) will certainly lead to the other (success).
Yet, as I argued in a previous lecture, the context in which one describes
himself as ike kete orie/akuse/talaka(talakawa) actually originates
from a near permanent situation of uncertainty and blight such that it is not
even given that the effort made will bring about any lasting 'improvement in the
person's well being.
The difference between that scenario of poverty is that whereas the ike kete
orie (akuse/talaka for Yoruba and Hausa) may appreciate that whatever
efforts he made were thwarted by wrong headed actions, if not decreed by God,
our brothers in the North West as in Gusau and Ikara the talakas -
lived on a pre-colonial, politically-reinforced mindset of being severely
narrowed in the permissible chances of crossing over to the other life-border -
kwanciyar hankali (security) or rufin ashiri (independence and
self sufficiency), whether industrious or a laggard. But despite the lack
occasioned by pronounced poverty, such did not rub off a reinforced belief in
integrity of the man, who may still be considered a life of well-being
In the old and largely prevailing South West, among the Yoruba, that wrong side
of the coin of life ill being, as in Odogun, is seen as igbe aye ti ko derun
(he who will not have) whose life will eventually culminate in igbe aye ti
ko dara (a life that lacks. good qualities). In contradistinction,
well-being, depicted in reasonable social wholesomeness as in possession of
property and in abilities to take care of immediate needs, as in Ayekale Odogun,
is termed igbe aye to derun (a life that has or that will have) and who
will certainly lead an igbe aye to dara (who lives well or who will
Largely, in our current political economy situations, the contexts of ill-being
as against well-being evolve in the insurmountable challenges of which man's
failure to wrestle his immediate needs suggest a despicable failure of self and
immediate family. Take for instance, the head of a family who fails to provide
for household faces not just the risk of losing self-esteem but the threat of
family dislocation and disorientation, which in turn erodes loyalty, community
influence and equal access to institutions of social expression.
Against that background, there remains the volubly acted affirmation that man
must perform, good weather or not, which in turn forces so much pressure in
contending with the complexity of the socio-political environment such that man
may have to live his life under the severest of pressures, not necessarily for
his failure of response or intervention but because of the reality of the polity
and the activities of other factors of modern life.
Do not forget that under the broad category of poverty, there has always been
this temptation, in our environment, to consider the poor as not merely those
who lack and who may never have in abundance as to chop and remain or even chop
and thro-way but also those who are on the wrong side on the creation day. On
the strength of such fixation of thought, we sometimes try to reduce poverty to
our interpretation of one's direct relationship with his God. Said the other
way, we see our sudden or even gradual rise beyond the subsistence to opulence
as reward by God or good relationship with the creator. Among the Igbo, these
are those their God heard their prayers (ndi chi ha nuru ekpere ha).
Indeed, seeing material elevation as one fetching, in one stretch, happiness and
recognition, we may not be mistaken in seeing our material accumulation as
depicting God's blessings and reward. Of course, nobody in this hallowed Oduduwa
Hall needs to be tutored on how good life style is registered here.
However, for states in the Western World, the configuration of poverty and the
attendant tackle given it marked out clear visions of which it was largely
appreciated as moving their world forward, in earnest. This included state
injunctions and refrains of social forces depicting poverty as creations of man
in unbridled search for higher material elevation and supremacy. Even in the
Eastern civilization of the old Babylon, Hammurabi the Wise was the first ever
to decree against poverty in his imperious stele issued over 6000 years ago.
Then, rising in his imperial pomp and majesty, he had decreed that justice
can only be done if the poor is no longer allowed to be poor, because, the poor
and weak are poor and defenseless because the rich and strong have refused
justice to the orphan and widow.
Predicting his stature as a deity, he had counseled his poor people who has
(have) a cause, to come into the presence of my statue as King of Justice,
and have the inscription and my stele read out, arid hear my precious words,
that my stele may make the case clear to him, may he understand his cause, and
may his heart be set at ease.
From that injunction through times, including the early teachings of Christian
philosophy, poverty was accepted as an abnormal condition of which it was
generally accepted that remedies existed with the abilities of man and the
attentions the deities were prepared to pay on the various supplications.
Even a mere 190 years ago, Anglo-Irish writer, Jonathan Swift, had in his
sweeping political satire Modest Proposal admonished the world in his
shocking suggestion that since there appeared no interest among the rich and
powerful to seek a solution to the high percentage of the country women and
children thronging the squares as beggars, a policy should be made for Irish
children born to poor families... (to) be put to good use as meat and leather to
be sold to the wealthy (referring to political events and elites), who
snubbed the downtrodden and moved on with their bounteous life.
Of course, we have come a long way, since these days, especially in our world
where issues joined since Magna Carta have produced state and
group attention to at least understanding poverty. So whereas we contend with
appreciating the real matters upon which we can set our poverty eradication
agenda, States in the Western World can conveniently classify the subject into
absolute poverty in the Third World as against relative poverty,
which largely obtains in the advanced, industrial countries. The one is simply,
but hideously referred to as destitution, which has virtually disappeared in
many of the super-rich countries, while the other is seen as fewer
resources/possession or less income among others within a society or
compared to world average.
Indeed, for the Western world, the highly developed material or acquisitionist
sense found its stronger stability in the enlargement of the principles founded
around Magna Carta and was propelled to seek to abolish what Edward Harrington
in his work, The other America called a culture of poverty, manifested
in persistent lack of food, housing, education, medical care, job
opportunities or hope of eventual good life.
To this effect, a current analysis of the 1996 American Bureau of Census report
suggests that of the 15 per cent or about 34 million of the citizens who, by
waves of immigration, were understandably poor, it would be preposterous to put
them side by side with the over 65 per cent or 67. 1 million below-baseline poor
Nigerians, recorded within the same time zone.
And further to that, neither the 10 15 per cent poor in Australia, Canada,
Ireland and the United Kingdom, could be equaled to our own middle-to-middle
class, nor the 5 8 per cent poor in Belgium, Germany, France, the Scandinavian
countries and Italy, be represented as our upstart working but sufficient class.
I did mention here that a report on poverty scenario classified 65 per cent or
67. 1 millions of Nigerians as poor. It may be necessary to peep into the road
we have traveled since it is common knowledge that what obtained up till 1996
when that report was made could not have been an all-season situation for
That well-publicized data on the general poverty situation in Nigeria gave this
horrifying picture of down ward slide in the economic well being of the
citizenry as depicting an avoidable slide which started much earlier in the life
of the independent State in the 19608.' For example, in 1964, over 84 per cent
of the population was reportedly living above poverty line. But poverty level
jumped from 28.1 per cent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1995.
It was in 1996, that it got to 65.5 per cent or 67.1 million of the population.
And in the consequent distribution, it is revealed that of the national
population, 58.2 per cent of its urban elements is poor while our rural areas
harbour as high as 69 .8 per cent of our poor citizens.
Again, when it is put together, the female-headed families present a better
picture at 58 .5 per cent as against the male-headed families put at 66 .5
percent. That is to say that the elements of check, taking into account
quality food in-take or dietary combination, family stability, possibilities of
entry into higher social ladder and the rest social possibilities present
better chances in the female-headed families.
did state elsewhere and I still hold the point that much as it is true that the
immediate result of the analysis presents an uglier rural poor situation,
however, the picture of impoverishment in the urban areas leaves a gasp in the
breathe of the right thinking political leadership.
fully grasp the implications of the unfolding scenario, we may revisit, in
another form, the clearer meaning of the phenomenon. In the words of Hulton
Deutsch, such economic condition in which people lack sufficient income to
obtain minimal levels of health services, housing, food, clothing... but above
all, hope... forms the foundation for rejection of the social system,
driving the man up the wall that he may have to confront the environment.
Whereas Victorian Britain would erect tightly run institutions as the Workhouses
meant for the poor, infirm and aged, the recently concluded Communist Russia
would herd them into the penal houses. But about the same time, Lyndon Johnson
of the United States declared an all-out war against human poverty and
The great Andrew Carnegie, millionaire steel baron, who devoted his late life
and great deal of his fortune to ameliorating poverty in the world, maintained
that it did not matter if one was born poor, rather, he posited, what account to
be rendered, was what one did to spring from the clutches of poverty. It is not
for us here to seek to appreciate the' scenes of American battle for the
elevation of the citizenry as more of the characteristics of poverty in Nigeria
pose severer challenges to mind and policies.
However, it will serve purposes to seek to appreciate the challenges of
sectional/regional poverty situations elsewhere to properly evaluate our dilemma
at the moment. In penetrating early studies of poverty in Europe Poverty, a
study of town life; Poverty and the welfare state and Poverty and progress,
Benjamin Seebohn Rowntree, 1871 1956 shocked the established world in his
conceptualization of urban instability and social upheavals, especially in the
cases of the urban poor rising against their kind in a dog eat dog affair
(what is popularly called the pedagogy of the oppressed), which was
snowballing into larger social confusion. Aptly, he had situated tending ethnic
violence, class lynching and emerging citizen-heartlessness as clear
manifestations of poverty. These, in our cases, today, are represented in
new hope evangelism, money doubling businesses, swindling, ritual killing, and
the likes, employed by crooks to further oppress the poor, ignorant and unwary.
It was in that frame of mind that, between 1912 and 1918, he sought so
desperately to influence the then British Premier, David Lloyd George, to alter
such social situations, which entrapped the then urban poor.
In his own survey and analysis London Labour and London Poor (1849),
Henry Mayhew, insists that poverty, deprivation and squalor were flame charges
placed on the throne of London's well to do, who, according to him,'. were
hardly paying any attention to the downtrodden.
And again, whereas Russian Yuri Kochetkov lamented, in his Alcoholism and
the Russian Poor (1973) that theirs was the height of human indignity, way
back in the communist era, the Great Andrew Carnegie, ruled virtuously in favour
of poverty. For him, the presence, if not prevalence of poverty, was not
actually a hindrance from the advancement of the individual and his world. Hear
him, it is not by the sweat of the brows from the sons of millionaires that
the world receives its teachers, its martyrs, its inventors, its statesmen, its
poets, even its men of affairs...it is from the cottage of the poor that all
these spring ...
great steel baron and inventor even added that the richest heritage a young
man (or woman) can be born to is poverty...not the fashion of today to be born
with a silver spoon.
course, Carnegie could stand erect to so claim, having conquered the phenomenon
in his time, by sheer dint of hard work and inventiveness. Perhaps, it could
even be in reference to himself that he further stated that we can scarcely read
one among the few "immortal names that were not born to die" or who has
rendered exceptional services to (human) race, who had not the advantage of
being cradled, nursed and reared in the stimulating school of poverty.
But although these can be generally related to our immediate environment, the
incidences of poverty in our case have hints of heady repercussions for the
reason of wrong perception and wrong side drive.
Of course, we are conversant with the tendency of our rural poor who resign to
fate and conservatively await a solution from where it may not come.
Side-by-side with that is our known cases of severe urban poor whose
insurmountable impoverishment induces either their own version of supplication
and appeal to the deities or such social vices as crime, prostitution, gambling,
alcoholism, vandalism, thuggery, hooliganism and other delinquencies, most of
which bring about disruptive social tendencies.
had this same privilege of reviewing poverty and the various responses by our
people. Then, I discovered that one curious trend in the society is that there
appears to be a gulf between the rural and urban patterns of responses. Rural
blight, standing side-by-side with urban squalor, harbours some social factors
which condition the people to respond the various ways they do, not one in
negation of the other but each in finding value and locality sensibility to the
emerging trend. The words are fate and defiance for the rural and urban areas,
Sam Akpe characterizes urbanisation in the third world as come-one-come-all.
This, he argues represents a migratory phenomenon, leading to the sprouting of
cluster towns and shanties across economic/mining sites. Usually, these
eruptions called towns or urban areas develop without plans and without
provisions of pipe-borne water, electricity, schools, recreational facilities
and the others, which, if available, should sustain proper living. The regime of
lack and eventual loss of self-esteem, which may have been available in the
abandoned rural background of the urban dweller, leaves room for mere
"hope against hope."
Against that background, what rides in the rural areas, are dependent on the
mechanical social settings, which derive their vent from age-long institutions
for the development of the individual. In contradistinction,- this runs against
the sudden disorientation arising from fleeing to the urban areas as strangers,
undefended migrants, dependent social stragglers and possible object of
destitution, suspicion and crime.
situation is usually compounded by the urban, if not cosmopolitan, nature of the
new towns, which leaves The migrant individual a dependent and pursuer of newer
values. The pursuit of new values, as sociologist Harold Lasswell argues, is the
major source of disorientation and the inability to clinch the fine elements of
such newer values, forms the basis for "disruption of the person and
The usual recourse, for the rural downtrodden is to invite God's supremacy,
particularly in anticipation of accomplishment.
He is a miracle working God,
He is a miracle-working God,
He's the Alpha,
and Omega, .
He's a miracle-working God.
This response in equanimity reveals the rural folk or predominantly mechanical
societies as electing to leave it all for God.
The flavour of complete reliance as exhibited by the rural folk cannot be said
to negate the tendency to reveal a hint of rebellion and deviance among the
urban folk. Of course, the city people would not contend that He is not a
miracle working God. But they will insist that much as the powers-that-be would
not terminate the ever-present poverty and degradation, they have the Almighty
on the side of their army.
In fact, in many instances, they benignly flip humble eyelids to the elite who
in pretension claim nearness to God, and whiz,
If Jesus says yes, nobody can say no!
When Jesus says yes nobody can say no!
for the urban poor, it is a different ball game altogether. They make no
pretences at representing the forceful gestures of tension, which, to their
heartsí content, suggest social and political instability.
Simply piling the entire blames of their state on the elite, they snarl, as in
Ka anyi jee zigara ha ozi,
Kanyi je gwa ha na chi anyi ka nma!
Ka anyi jee zigara ha ozi,
Kanyi je gwa ha na chi anyi ka nma!
(We must go and make it clear to them that our God is better than theirs).
What confirms the mindset and tendency of the urban folk to boldly state their
cases to God for total reliance or a said accord or agreement to rescue them
from poverty) is like in the rendition;
Chineke nke igwe,
I naputawo m,
Mgbe mmuo m no na nsogbu; A gam enyi gi ekele,
Ekele oma ka m ga enye gi;
Otito oma ka m ga enye gi,
Abu ndi nso ka m ga abu
I ji gosi na I bu chim
Gbaghara mmehie m Chineke,
Ka m kete oke n 'iru gi,
0 kwa gi,
0 kwa gi si na I ga e buru m ibua?
0 kwa gi si na I ga a bu nke muo,
A no m n'iru gi,
Ka m kete oke n'iru gi (amended by supplicants who would not risk the long wait
for the benevolence of God, as) Chi mu, gbata oso bia nyere m aka.
(The Almighty God, the redeemer of my soul; I will sing your praise,
because you have made the promise to rescue me. Now, stand before you to claim
your glory for me)
a way, across the board, both the urban and rural poor sometimes miss the point
that both the rich and mighty are equally desirous of the blessing of the Lord
and would hope that in their imperious stead, their own enemies and other
threats should come to grief while they triumph. This accounts for such
renditions for supplication, which are vehemently urged and defended
by all. One is:
Jesus na you be Oga,
Jesus na you be Oga;
Every other god na so so wayo,
Jesus na you be Oga!
While yet another is:
God na helele,
God na waya o,
God na helele,
God na waya o;
Nobody be like am,
Nobody be like am o,
Ewo o, nwanne m, God na helele!
Besides these appeals to God, the urban poor are recorded to have advanced other
conducts which draw the rage of the authorities as they also alter national
image, integrity and stability needed for national and regional negotiations and
apt suggestion of the harms placed in the way is the attitude of a world class
brand promotion conglomerate, Krugger et al, whose chief executive, Krugger,
dismissed Africa, in the Branding Journal, as one area of the world
where the staking of business resources or capital could be equated with
outright madness. His judgment, he clearly revealed was that the authorities had
hardly conceptualized poverty and could not have made efforts at getting its
teeming youth to seek expression, and economic freedom in themselves rather than
reclining to the currently wearing method of waiting for public service or
Somehow, Krugger suggests that he was trading on the argument of Carnegie who
prophesied in his Youth and Poor that man should be born poor. Do not
forget that Carnegie, quoting tersely from the Bible, admonished the world that
as man should be born poor, it then followed that for every man, who
must feed and change his environment, thou shall earn thy bread.
we consider these arguments from the float of socio-political scenario,
realistically relating same with every citizen, the economic environment, as may
have been perfected in the upper echelon of the political realm, ought to first
ride the float of development of human resources. This is at the point I seem to
agree with Carnegie and where I seek to elaborate on my reasons for altering the
earlier suggested title to what I have so far discussed.
I cannot pretend that as I chose the topic poverty in surplus, I am not
likely to be expectantly considered as coming with the catalogue of various
national resources indicating that our poverty is amidst plenty.
You are not likely to falter if you drive your argument in that direction.
However, my position is that it sounds like the trite political lampooning upon
which we live, expecting to be spoon-fed, from a so-called national kitchen.
Indeed, I have no problems with the pleasurable feeling of wanting the State to
fund the life of all, if at any moment such citizens lack what it could take to
climb out of the despicable pit of poverty.
This challenges the fact that the incidences of poverty, as already evidenced in
the researches of the various agencies and scholars, reveal a world so unstable
and threatened that what might be described as isolated cases of deprivations
have assumed such national dimensions that it is now about the only such subject
with diffuse meaning and import on the other very important areas of life as it
affects our chances in hooking on to the globalisation trend hinted by Krugger.
Specifically, Nigeria is stated, though regrettably, to be sitting in the bowels
of poverty and so earned the 154th of 172 countries in the world marginal index.
This goes to mean that, of the countries where citizens are merely subsistent
and which have the biggest task of developing the people and their resources,
Nigeria is even so low on the scale that it is sluggishly riding ahead of only
18 countries. Twin baffling baselines are the embarrassingly low nutrition for
Nigerian children and the reported low knowledge and use of computers, a core
determinant of the globally driven information technology, which, along
with free enterprise (privatization) and participatory
(stake-holder-driven) governance, the component elements of the cannons
of globalislation are complete. Indeed, in both cases computer and nutrition -
Nigeria is viewed as coming only ahead of four countries Sudan, Afghanistan,
Eritrea and Haiti - in each case.
By the way, when we talk about globalisation, and the possibility of linking up
as desired, we are invariably drawn to the fixed list of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG), of which recent studies suggest that we have not fared
well in conceptualization and handling of issues of poverty, race,
ethnicity, gender equality, class and sexuality.
Rising from its deep deliberations, the United Nations made the Millennium
Declarations, giving birth to Millennium Development Goals targeting the
following: halve, by 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less
than $1 a day; halve, by 2015, people who suffer from hunger; achieve universal
primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; and reduce child
mortality. Others are improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and
other, diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and develop a, global
partnership for development, which shall be aimed at the special needs of least
developed countries, land-locked countries, debt problems of developing
countries, develop/implement strategies for decent and productive work for
youth, provide access to affordable ,essential drugs in_ developing countries
and in partnership with the private sectors, make available the benefits of new
technologies, especially information and communication technologies.
Certainly, Nigeria, as a signatory to this programme has since commenced on the
track, led in the main by the commitment and political will of Mr. President,
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. And although ours will certainly register on our
ability to first articulate our seeming data on national figures, the definite
policies as firmly held by the president clearly show, as he put it, that
things cannot continue as they used to be.
If we run a checklist on the various bounties suggesting surpluses of resources
in Nigeria, we are likely to encounter such strong arguments in the areas we
lead in world supply and requisite earning, but that will readily bring us in
collision with the avoided refrain in apportioning authority-blames without a
consideration for our individual resources, which as stated by Carnegie,
propelled other societies.
As a students of a foremost university founded by one of the most frontline
statesmen of Carnegie's time, the stated principle was unmistaken.
Against this background, I may invite you back to the clear principles of the
founder. According to Enoh, he affirmed that the educated mind must have been
schooled to develop the power...and is capable of genuine initiative...
which can affect changes in the material world, including the boldness to
confront poverty with whatever personal resources at one's disposal.
And in his limitless preaching of limitless freedom, it was the position of Awo
that eternal dependence, either of fruitless hope for, or search for
non-existent employment amounted to shackles from which an educated mind must
wrestle his way to freedom. It was against this background that he posited that
the limitless talent of young men and women was the job of the State to develop,
while the fuller deployment, in any just form, depended on the individual,
though consciously propelled and guided by the State.
course, we are familiar with a whiff of Awo's socialist thinking and must, in
like manner, pander to his liberal urges in favour of broad development of man
as a prelude to the development of his environment. Virtually predicting the
negation, which Nigerians would suffer if they failed to develop to scale the
poverty hurdle, he urged that this issue of poverty is lack of capital,
disease, hunger and illiteracy, the prevalence of one he contended would
limit the chances of Nigerians in the more global arena. He pursued this in
three pronged arguments: underdevelopment of man caused by or leading to
ignorance, illiteracy and deficiency in technology know how; underdevelopment of
the body caused by or leading to insufficiency of feeding, illnesses, absence of
good water, housing and filthy environment and lastly, underdevelopment of
production techniques caused by or leading to low income, absence of industrial
growth and stagnation of the economic environment.
At this juncture, it must be clear to us all that the thrust of this discourse
is the foundation of education as the weapon to surmount ill-being or poverty,
if at the moment of development it is hooked to the global trend which offers
smooth economic leverage. It is important we emphasise this because the trend of
globalisation is suggestive of the fact that the criteria for which we will be
tested and selected for greater economic endeavours are likely set elsewhere.
I was privileged to participate in the last edition of the Nigeria Economic
Summit Group (NESG), in Abuja this year. There, a speaker on the ticket of one
of the big oil exploration firms shocked us with the declaration that young
Nigerian graduates are not measuring up to the basic intellectual, managerial
and behavioral skills, to stand good chances of employment in their well
paid organizations. Another representative of an international business ruled
that such issues of filling vital job vacancies in such organizations with
defined character and criteria for employment would not be altered for the mere
sentiment of recruiting Nigerians, to assignments they may never be able to
Banal as these comments seemed, the recent declaration of Krugger advertising
king - who would not be persuaded to establish business lines in Africa for
evidence of paucity of labour, confirmed that the globalisation trend had taken
off in earnest and we may not have been fully prepared for it.
At this stage, you may have gotten my drift over the abundance or surpluses of
human resources whose planned development has faltered and will definitely lead
to disorientation and eventual poverty if it cannot gain the right kind of
employment in a globalising world.
Of course, we must accept it as the tragedy of our present era that youth
delinquency, arising from social distortions, has invented violent disruptions
in the erstwhile serenity of university education in Nigeria. But we must also
admit that, as a passing phase, that had its roots in command and arbitrary
political practices of the past, should be heading for its terminal stage.
Prior to this, I feel a pang of worries to study the situation of exploding
inferiority of the personality of Nigerians, which is in exploring the fact that
among every four African, one is my countryman; a countryman likely hampered by
his lack of the requisite knowledge and preparation to hook into what obtains in
what is being represented as the global criteria for determining young managers
with desired intellectual, managerial and behavioral skills.
In a way, it looks to me like the drawing profile of our attempt at escaping
poverty has yet to cast off the age old perception which previously consigned
the poor to the condemnation of the deity. If we remain in that frame of mind,
leaving out the challenges offered by the various propositions for altering our
environment at will, though under certain rules, we will hardly grasp the
quantum of energy at our disposal. We are also likely to miss the chances
offered by existing pre-occupations, of which no easily paved path existed
beyond what we can make of what we already have.
In holding this view, I am reminded (as I wish you be reminded too) of the
exchanges between the Wise in old Babylon with the downtrodden. My friend,
at what craft workest thou... sir?, a characterized richest man in Babylon,
Arkad, enquired of a disgruntled bystander.
I, replied the man, am a scribe and carve records upon the clay tablets.
Even at such labour, said the richest man, did I myself earn my
first coppers. Therefore, thou hast the same opportunity to build a fortune.
With the next man staring, the richest man enquired, pray, tell also what
dost thou to earn thy bread...?
I am a meat butcher. I do buy the goats the farmers raise and kill them and
sell the meat to the housewives and the hides to the sandal makers, he
Because thou dost workest and earn, the rich counseled, thou has
every advantage to succeed that I did possess.
The subsequent counsel of Arkad in the Babylon of over 5500 years ago has much
value for our time. Fickle fate, he warned, is a vicious goddess
who brings no permanent good to anyone. On the contrary, she brings ruin to
almost every man upon whom she showers unearned gold. She makes wanton spenders,
who soon dissipate all they receive and are left beset by overwhelming appetites
and desires they have not the ability to gratify.
In the context we are reviewing poverty in surplus .., two dominant
perspectives rear their heads in the ensuing discourse. One is that it is
likely, as was counseled by the rich and wise, that besides the acclaimed
dignity of labour, there is the sacred duty of making a corresponding forward
thrust based on future projections and resource management. Secondly, the
prevailing globalisation principles may not have room for chasers of unearned
fortune, let alone giving them the chances to mismanage what they ought not
For the one, which also rides Biblical injunctions that, man shall work for
his bread, no gap was drawn between any kind of job at which one fleeing
from poverty or seeking fortune could start. The definite injunction is that
each provided the chance to advance and attain economic well being.
In the case of the other, what may confront a Nigeria is the formed attitude in
stalwarts hanging out on the State system, preaching national wealth, which
complexity of character has hardly been comprehended by the larger number. In
other words, our unchanging battle cry to be reckoned with, just because what
wealth exists in the land belongs to us, will certainly fall flat in the court
of the prime globalisation players who have set their standards but who are
definite not to spare any part of the world in coming into their prism.
This leaves us in a sea whose surplus salty water we cannot drink. We
have the abundant human resources but we have to develop such, reform the
attitude, and position ourselves to hook on to global trends, to be able to
grasp the abundant natural resources. Indeed, it was on this frame that Awo, in
his urge for higher education for Nigerians, insisted that human development
must come ahead of development of natural resources or even industrialization.
As I said elsewhere, it is not a given that mounting the rostrum as provided by
the Justice Chambers, Faculty of Law of the Obafemi Awolowo University
translates to an all-season solution to the myriad problems posed in these new
However, my first and foremost suggestion for tackling the surpluses of our
poverty may lie in actually comprehending the phenomenon, first of the
subject matter, and secondly the quantum that has recently dazed our policies.
At the moment, we are coming to terms with the various concepts of poverty. At
the same time, we are advancing in appreciating the dimensions, albeit the
characteristics, in respective cases. What is left is, in the case of students,
who constitute the bulk of future leadership and national progression, the
re-floating of such principles upon which our previous products of university
Earlier, I admitted that our institutions of higher learning had been savagely
weakened by such delinquencies suggesting total negation of youth responsibility
and healthy dreams. I also proffered that attendant upon the fact that the
command regime culture which created intolerance had been seen out since 1999,
the system has the challenge to revert to what used to be, especially in
conforming with what determines economic relevance or potency in the globalising
One step strongly recommended for this is such curriculum explaining that bodies
outside the influences of local acts would determine the eventual quality of the
global workforce. In other words, the higher, if not relevance, of our training
system, the greater chances we have in hooking on to the global economic power
plays. Or the more we recede from the global principles of developing the right
kind of employable citizens, the more we are screened out of the global
This brings me to my earlier commitment to quality and excellence as the sole
gateway to the heart of the world economy and politics. In fact, a mere
fortnight ago, I had contended very strongly in a lecture organized by civil
society groups in Kaduna that such practices as negating competence for the
unholy gains of geopolitical zones amounted to bringing our third eleven on the
same arena in which other nations appear strongly with their first eleven.
My conclusion was that, if such subjective principles were followed in
determining political leadership, it would surely permeate the system, such that
the erstwhile initiatives anchored on merit would soon come under the threat of
so-called zoning and spot representation.
Indeed, attendant upon the fact that our educated youth are beset with the
derisive ascription of lacking in the requisite managerial, intellectual and
behavioral skills to coast into the cozy employments of the strong
international economic players, it has to be assumed that we have been strongly
warned to beef up and revert to merit or lose our chances in the competitive
One other salient note to sound here is that while we insist that we are poor
and poverty is in surplus, that mindset does not in any way deflect or alter on
the definite principles of inclusion in the already confirmed criteria of the
globalising world. Put differently, the abundant, untrained, un-harnessed and
directionless productive population will turn out to be low-key players in the
globalising economy. If you consider the implication of being viewed as having
about the lowest exposure to information technology, which super highway
represents one of the strongest cannons of globalisation, you can appreciate the
limiting exercise in typecasting Nigeria and her citizens as struggling to play
the backroom roles in the emerging order.
The challenge, I dare say, lies not in making policies, which arise from earlier
command culture, but in the stakeholder driven initiatives upon which influences
of commensurate variety can be exerted on the process for the growth of State
It is on this that I anchor my argument on human development, alongside the
sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I let off my anchor, believing that we will sooner
than later comprehend the jigsaw of surging international involvement, based on
criteria, for inclusion set outside our immediate influences.
And as Hammurabi of old, and Carnegie of recent times, concluded, it is not
merely in understanding that poverty prevails, it is likely more gainful to seek
a level playing ground, a competitive field for the best to emerge; to terminate
the wailing of the likes of Marius N'yoyergo, in Africa is Sinking who
could not reconcile with such...wisdom or smartness of man that there exists
Quantum surplus and obscene opulence for a few, side-byside with total lack or
unspeakable poverty for the majority, who strike, claw and bicker at one another
for the pleasure of that few.
If we eventually appreciate that we are headed for an assessment based on
criteria set outside our immediate influence, and commence in earnest to operate
such values which shall assure of generous inclusion or participation, we lift
our hearts and hail, as in Enugu State,
To God be the Glory.
Booth, S. Newell (ed.): African Religion: Symposium; Nok Publishers,
2. Daleth, B. Avalon: The New Millennium: Christ and Mankind; School of
Universal law (SOUL), Christ Lighthouse, Aba, 1999.
3. Peschke, H. Karl: Christian Ethics (Moral Theology in the Light of
Vatican II); Theological Publications in India, Bangalore, 1994.
4. Querry, Emile (Monsignor): The Social Teaching of the Church; St.
Paul Publications, New York, 1961.
5. Ayoola, GB, et al: Nigeria: Voice of the Poor; World Development
Report (Consultation with the poor), 2000/2001.
6. Enugu State Ministry of Poverty Reduction and Human Development: Poverty
Alleviation and Wealth Creation Strategy; Enugu, September 2003.
7. DFID: Background Briefing; Poverty Reduction Strategies, London
8. McGee, Rosemary: Approaches to Policy Design, Implementation and
Monitoring; Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex;
9. IMF /World Bank: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers Optional Issues,
(discussion), December 1999.