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POVERTY IN NIGERIA ...We Are All In It Together


Chimaroke Nnamani
Governor of Enugu State


Poverty survives, in part, because it provides a baseline
of failure which tends to reassure the non-poor of
their worth; something akin to a reliable and relatively
permanent measuring rod for status comparison ...

a few are rich because so many others are poor.

- Herbert J. Gans

Annual Lecture, Investiture and Dinner of the International
Association of Lions Club, District 404 B, Nigeria;
Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Nigeria

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Shall this be regarded a privilege that a lion is asked to join a Nigerian edition of international club of lions? And does it deflate the required recognition for the hares, mice and squirrels, which might be sucked into the projects of the headiest of animal creations?

For me, it is indeed a privilege, in that many lions already farming an international federation can have their dinner without the recourse to an extra member who may appear, as it were, to have had various meals elsewhere.

More so, the investiture and dinner of the International Association of Lions' Clubs, District 404 B, suggest a close-knit enterprise of which only those admitted by membership or included on special initiation as myself can venture close to the venue.

Considering the entire dimensions of it, I give my salute, believing that this special privilege would provide an opportunity of elite podium to advert our minds, once again, to matters relating to our avowed commitment to reorganizing this society for the deserving stability that would put everyone at ease.

I noticed in your well-timed invitation that you appear to be committed to the very major issue in Nigeria, nay the Third World. To be very frank with you, I am very impressed and humbled that you expressed the kind of sentiment you showered on me while suggesting your topic.

And while I tried to figure what conclusion we can draw from your suggestion, I had also taken a deep look at the revelation of your corporate prayer - The lion club Prayers. As stimulating as your prayer is, it was also amusing, particularly when placed alongside what we can, today, regard as the ultimate challenge of any conscious mind in the realm of affecting the lives of others.

Indeed, to avoid just hearing myself re-echo this prayer of yours, I had invited one of my staff to read it out while I listened. In a growling voice suggesting that he wished he were in the club while the multi-course meals were serviced, he read thus:

When I attend my Lions Club and break bread at
the table, I give million thanks to God, to know
that I am able to meet there with my fellow man,
relax and play and sing, to hear the speakers of
the day, the fine thoughts that they bring...

Of course, he stopped midway and did not tell me that a part of this prayer suggested a commitment to alleviating the situation of the poor; I realize that I have a part to play inn caring for the blind, also the underprivileged, lets keep them all in mind, now as we do our daily task, pray God we do them greatly.

Barring the chuckle that at least these elite, who have the money and the wherewithal to be included in such elitist club admit the humility of man to acknowledge God’s mercies in providing every man, both paupers and potentates, with meals, I was moved by the entire principle of putting the underprivileged inn the prayers of well heeled men and women.

So, while your Committee’s Secretary, Nkechi Ibeneme, continued harassing my staff to get my commitment to this occasion, I long reflected on the scenario of our exploding poverty situation and the attending instability suggestive of widespread social stagnation. I had therefore considered the entire dimensions of your suggested topic, sustaining humanitarian services in an economy undergoing reforms, and concluded that much as it serves to explain the purposes for which your worthy contributions to mankind are made, it would rob me of the chances of bringing to the doorsteps of the established few the extent of social degradation prevailing currently in our society.

I had therefore modified the topic to take in the matters of inter-class perceptions informing attitudes, which I will shortly show, contribute to general incomprehension of the dilemma of poverty and its corrosive nature.

It is true that I have so far given over five major talks on poverty; I still believe that indeed, the subject, in its full manifestations, has hardly been touched. I get convinced to this effect after each attempt at appreciating the dimensions, albeit the emerging studies, alongside well established and fully analyzed body of knowledge so associated.

It was, therefore, another challenge to look at the issue, if only to state my agreement with the view that whichever way it goes, it rides in our terrain and it affects us. That was how I settled with the title: Poverty in Nigeria…we are all in it together.

Of course, I am not ignoring the fact that this is dinner, of which so much mind tasking intellectual enterprise may not be opportune to figure in earnest.

But all the same, as we casually say, I will start on the subject matter, with a view of the development studies on poverty. According to the New, poverty is the social situation personal to the individual or group in which he cannot undertake the funding of essential services to self or group and in which participation in social development is lowered if not aborted for the lack of the major currency denial applicable within the environment.

Another version of it, which elaborated on the exclusion impact of poverty on a good number of citizens, outlines the issue as concomitant with virtual exclusion where inclusion is based on capital affordability…

Webster Dictionary of English Language considers poverty in two major dimensions: unproductiveness/deficiency or inadequate supply… (that is lack in the face of need). It also gives the format of the ideas section of poverty, which is defined as the monastic renunciation of the right to own… (that is possibly having access or being close to source but rejecting acquisition).

For the international conglomerate of civil societies, 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.

Besides the basic definitional stipulation of poverty in its general form, Indian sociologist, Avra B. Bushan, suggests that poverty, when not subdivided between material haves and gave-nots, could be regional as it could be dichotomized between the rural and urban dweller.

In reviewing the broad category of poverty, he affirmed that there has always been this temptation to view the poor as just those who lack and who may never have inn abundance as to acquire or cater for their needs with the desired satisfaction. Among the lowest of the material cadre, he identified a trend of shifting situation in which people were shunted from one category to the other, due mainly to political currents, which upturned economic fortunes. Such category, he reasoned, were usually vested with certain economic indices, such as skill, knowledge and contacts, to retain certain levels of social clout to seek inclusion either on account of what they represented inn the past or what positive turn their fortune could take in future.

These he called the social hopefuls; as against those he termed the socially hopeless. Besides these are those clearly identified as running a permanent, or so it seemed, resignation to poverty, who are located inn the region of the unemployable, the sickly, infirm and old, also located in this social region are those urban poor, who, due to such facilities as adequate land, corps and implements would never hope to engage in economic endeavours beyond a mere scraping efforts to subsist.

But while Polish-German scholar, Jan Gorling, figures in his work, National Pride, that Bushan’s attempt at classification represented segments not given to such ventures which could politically deprive an erstwhile well-to-do, for reasons of political belief. In his departure from the former, he argued that what ought to be presented was a situation of potentially, materially rich against the targeted materially poor or deprived. These, he classified as those who would eventually have in abundance as against those who do not and who would not have at all.

Of course, Gorling’s argument reasonably resembles such situation, which in our parlance, present the two divides against the typical scenario of chop and remain (eat to satisfaction and have some left for other days) or even chop and thro-way (that is those who have enough to even disregard periodic losses); each standing snobbishly against those who have nothing to eat at all, let alone discarding such substances (ogbenye onu ntu among the Igbos), akuse among the Yoruba and talaka among Hausas.

It is possible that such political persecution leading to sudden impoverishment could be considered to be one of the factors reinforcing poverty and its corrosive impact, yet I simply consider such individuals so negated in political schemes as representing a class of the elite, who would have their turn to battle the opposing class in the fullness of their time.

But while I argue thus, I must state that I recognize such incidences, especially in political liberation struggles, when crippling the economic base of the assumed attackers was the ruthless weapon to preserve the regime in question.

These may actually be the issue for states other than third world countries. Matters of this nature have certainly gone the higher pedestal for the First and Second worlds, where such basics of life as potable water, electricity, gainful employment and the likes, are not far fetched. But for the Third World, it all comes down to the basics, food – akpu, eba, tuwo; shelter and clothing.

For purposes of getting universally admitted to have recognized the proper indices on which the wider world would acknowledge the comprehension of poverty, we are always inclined to applying the descriptive economic/material incidences and hinted by Elizabeth Wilkins. 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, which, 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 capita income.

For sometime now, authorities, bodies and individuals have accepted this as the measuring rod for the incidence of poverty, yet our type in Nigeria has had to contend with other ascriptions, especially deriving from social typecasting and resolute attitude.

This, we have since discovered, has presented a scenario of fixation of thought, in which, 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..

Elsewhere, at a public talk, I had identified this, alongside the social pattern of poverty, as configured and analyzed by Adeline Caenonis whose Trends and Patterns of Poverty gave insight into, not just the division according to regional setting s (urban and rural), but showed the devastation wrought on the mind of the poor by that wrong perception fueled by superstition.

In other words, while some perceived their material lack, especially the prolonged presence of the various manifestations of poverty, as attendant upon some kind of economic indisposition placed on them by the system, others consider theirs in the realm of an assumed attitude of a deity or God.

Indeed, as I argued in my talk at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, sometime last year, such mindset considering 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. Even among the Igbo, such attendant statuses confer on the people the ascription of those blessing by the Gods, ndi chi ha goziri and among the Yorubas as eni ti ori bukun. Among the Hausas, it is clearly accepted that Alla ina nah – God almighty brings.

Of course, nobody discountenances the fact that wealth comes from God. Nobody can successfully repudiate the fact of God’s hand in the entire computation of man’s material well being. But I dare say that I agree with Marius N’yoryego’s thesis in his Africa is Sinking, that if it is the burden of God to apportion wealth to some of us, those who have and are likely to be favoured in further distribution of fortune should not leave it to God to bring about a better condition for people displaced by wrong economic policies or outright mismanagement amounting to collective deprivation.

Matter of fact, I do not join him in dismissing the whole attitude, especially in attributing material success to God as sentiment. I will rather consider worthwhile his other view that governments ought to accept that the greater job of eradicating or reducing poverty would have been accomplished if a greater number of the people are helped out of their pool of ignorance, such that would terminate superstitions which hindered man’s creative and industrious energy.

Actually, other notable studies on poverty go far beyond the sentiment-situation expressed for material possession and such social pressures, compelling certain conducts toward material acquisition. Indeed, Agnes Chineke stated in her article on deprivation and social worth that many of such established that beyond the fancies of ascribing material elevation or downturn to any deity, some social practices enforce some form of deprivation n of persons that it never mattered if they were materially endowed or not. Relating a scene featuring some urban actors against some rural folks, she revealed that even though a character or person may have attained a stable urban economic life, other determinants of social relevance or inclusion could still whittle down his/her roles and recognition, forcing him/her into the realm of those who do not have enough to achieve full interaction or inclusion. That is, if for any reason, he gets suddenly transported to the rural areas.

In other words, if urban prosperity is measured in terms of possession of such definite property as household electronic equipment, motor cars, magnificent buildings, etc, it may not entirely qualify as reason for full access to the social stabilizing institutions such as roles in decision making bodies and specially elevated title societies, in the rural setting.

Identified as segmentations evolving from the overlap of social classifications, it presented a challenge to the claim that poverty can be exclusively measured in terms of either the material or social conditions of persons in the urban and rural environments.

It was against that backdrop that I strongly concluded in one of my lectures on the subject that it is given in non-industrialized economies, that possessors of such material endowments in then urban areas – forced to the rural areas – may have to contend with some clearly subjective attitudes depicting lower social rank and influence, of sort.

In a straight form, it is being said that poverty can be geographically determined while wealth has social meanings, which will never be the same everywhere we go.

The persistence of such inhibitive prejudices, notwithstanding, the globally accepted scenario of poverty is far more objectively represented in the clearly stated United Nations declaration on the subject in the year 2000. Here, everything comes in, irrespective of subjective social rank; presence of hunger, disease, want of the basics of life, absence of job opportunities, presence of gender discrimination, racial discrimination, prejudices, etc.

It was against the background of the enumeration that globally standing criteria were set and poverty properly evaluated, even in Nigeria. And at the last count, measured poverty index reveals a grim picture of an unchallenged downward slide suggesting danger signals of which we will be acquainted with shortly.

As at 1996, a report on poverty situation classified 654 per cent or 67.1 million Nigerians as poor. It also gave insight into the road we have traveled since it is common knowledge that what obtained up till then, was not an all-season condition of Nigeria.

Indeed, it strongly suggests an identifiable trend of down-ward slide in the economic well being of the citizenry as depicting an avoidable socio-economic crack started much earlier in the life of the independent state in the 1960s. So, whereas 84 per cent of the population was reportedly living above poverty line in 1964, a sudden reversal of fortune caused the low level to jump to 28.1 per cent in 1980.

This inexplicable development was to further degenerate so much that in 1995, it had climbed up to 46.3 percent. And as if the doubly igniting scenario was not threatening enough, it did a swift quadruple in 1996, revealing the whole 65.5 per cent or 67.1 million of the population as gripped to live without adequate water supply, medical care, balanced diet, good housing, among others.

Examined in immediate distribution pattern, it was further 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 the other poor citizens.

A split sex count of this is equally devastating. Female-headed families present a better picture at 58.5 per cent as against the male-headed families put at 66.5 per cent. That is to say that the criteria for assessment, taking into account quality food in-take or dietary combination, family stability, possibilities of entry into higher social ladder, health care, motivational attitude and the rest social possibilities present better chances in the female-headed families. The immediate reasons for this are not given beyond the supposition that the female folk, in Nigeria, nay Africa, appear to offer better care and promised of household stability, for younger ones, than their male counterparts.

But remember, while you mule over this disclosure, you must consider the various factors and time zone evolving the kind of society under reviews. In the one hundred or so years before colonialism, various parts of Nigeria had faced challenges of building stable societies, of which the accompanying rancour left much to be settled, prior to the arrival of British colonial overlords. Then, the larger part of Northern Nigeria had been headed into an enterprise in empire making to such extent that most of the peoples and environments had not settled down to any kind of stable economy before European imperialism.

In the South West, the Ijaiye wars had raged and populations had to move and move again, if only to secure avoidance of the tumults of repeated wars fueled by men greedy for territories and men to exploit or cart into slavery as plantations hands in the West.

For the old Eastern region of Nigeria, an ascendant Aro Slaving oligarchy had been unleashed on the entire environment, causing great and painful movements, of which at the time Sir Ralph Moor and Major Leonard arrived sweep in village after village for the imperial interest of Britain, little was left of the organic peoples, cultures, economy and social configuration.

In the analysis of national historian, including Adiele Afigbo, Anorue Igbokidi and Sam Chukwukadibia, among others, the untellable consequences of these were that at the time the order of colonial regime and economy took off in earnest, nothing of profound organic meaning was available to the peoples. In effect, what presented itself was like every man picking the values of thae4 new order, not certain of what was on offer and how it could be blended into the already devastated system.

And as pointed out by political scientist, Okwudiba Nnoli, a predictable conflict of economy and the merging statuses was to be opened, with erstwhile mechanical and rural peoples gathered in their multifarious backgrounds to form emergency cosmopolitan settings, without previous pattern or order of relations to build on. The rising situation of blight and squalor had to feast on the fact that what urban economy the colonial administrators put on offer was hardly enough, even when they made it difficult for any other form of economic activities, other than ones they sanctioned, to function in competition with theirs.

To this effect, again, the rural economy, suggestive of enterprises pre-dating the new regimes, were shunted aside, the people hacked into inferiority against their fellow countrymen located in the emerging townships. Such social standing provided for urban dwellers was to evolve into what we describe today as rural, - urban migration. And expectedly, the immediate consequences were the uncontrolled pressure mounted on social facilities, social delinquencies such as alcoholism, gambling, vandalism, prostitution, destitution and other crimes, all, arising from the fact of inadequacy of the kind of employment sought.

In a way, the resultant depopulation enacted in rural areas was added with practices in neglect, leading to the virtual halting of economic activates. It was the stagnating effect, Nnoli said, which, in riding the conservative habit of rural areas, created the kind of stagnant responses to the ensuing blight.

You can now see that in finishing what greedy empire and territorial conquistadors sought in the pre-colonial settings, the European order advertently or inadvertently created two separate, if not antagonistic, economic universes. Put the other way, the rural locality elite and their poor stand in confinement to their separate worlds, all apparently entrenched in contradiction to the urban rich and urban poor.

Relatively then, they react separately in response to social stimuli, including their interpretations of their economic and social conditions.

So, whereas the rural poor - mostly shiftless peasants - may characteristically resign their social conditions to fate, there is the scary tendency of the urban to rise against the authorities arid the system. Of Course, following the makeshift pattern into which the urban poor are conditioned, the picture of their impoverishment leaves a gasp in the breathe of any conscionable enquirer. Drawing from above, as Osborne Caine urges in his volume Industrial Urban Dwellers, the respective indices and the manifestation pf poverty may not actually mean the same or induce the same attitude to self and others.

If fate is for one, such social vices as robbery, prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, vandalism, thuggery and other anti-social activities, most of which bring about social tension and instability, are reported strongly against the urban poor.

It is pertinent here to point out that far from the undeveloped taste or thirst for good modern acquisition, the rural poor can, and indeed, are spared of the hopeless condition which severe material deprivation and powerlessness force on the urban dwellers. The early hints of this, on arrival into the township, are lack of good food, potable water, steady supply of electricity, and recently, inability to send children to schools as well as the inability to pay for good health care.

For the rural-to-urban victim, the problem begins with joblessness or failure of the system to sustain such activities, which ensure the continued profitability of enterprise or skill or craft. For instance, and as I related in one of my talks, an otherwise profitable and well-to-do technician (electrician in this case) can suddenly become impoverished due to a long power outage which would rob him of businesses and chances of sustaining his regular personal income. And with government still acting as the most potent entrepreneur inn our system, suspension in the building industry can throw off the bricklayer, electrician, plumber, painter, etc, out of job and what follows is immediate seeping poverty for the affected families.

On the broad national scale, the indices reveal that such factors occasioning poverty had attained sweeping powers that Nigeria is represented as pitiably sitting in the bowels of poverty as the 154th of 172 countries in the world poverty marginal index.

In simple terms, this means that, of the countries where citizens are merely subsistent and which have the biggest task of developing the people and their resources, Nigeria is merely ahead of 18 countries.

The entire computation, on aggregate, shows that the margin below the so-called poverty line, for most of your countrymen, came under what is, this day, defined as the marginal income line at which an adequate living standard is (not) possible.

You must remember that our current efforts at situating poverty or the manifestations have some roots in our traditions. Back then, for instance, poverty, seen as ill-being as against sufficiency or wealth or adequacy, seen as well-being among the Igbos of the South Eastern Nigeria, South and East Niger Delta, is squarely assumed as painfulness or social degradation, ogbenye or uwa afufu as against the rich called ogaranya or odi na mma, literally meaning the possession of sound property such as house or home, food, potable water, wife (for man), children. One lacks while the other has 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 of eventual relevance in the social rating of that environment.

Michael Ikegwuonu, who studied the phenomenon for a group of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) stated in his work, Failed Dreams, that the phenomenon manifests a branch of the poor who live in bitter feelings as needlessly getting into excessive activities to eke al living (ike kete orie living from hand to mouth, among the Igbo, akuse for the Yoruba and talaka, for the Hausa). It may surprise a non-Igbo that such recriminations and resignation to an endless/fruitless/shiftless sub-class – ike kete orie, has any kind of root in Igbo land. That is such torpedoing the Igbo philosophy of industry and accomplishment, arguably, always, leading to fortune.

As I pointed out yesterday in the Halls of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, the scenario in which one describes himself as ike kete orie/aduse/talaka(talakawa), whether in Igboland or elsewhere, actually anchors on 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 may appreciate that whatever efforts he made were thwarted by wrong headed actions, emergency hope proponents and merchants of passage to the Higher Being inundate people with the tales of God’s decree inn time that they would never leave their current entrapment except they made their supplications through the various preachments of their evangelism.

Prior to that, our brothers in the North West like Gusau and Ikara, see the talakawas from the 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. Yet, theirs, prior to political deployment of the poor class, affirms, that such must ride a reinforced belief in integrity of the man who may still be considered as living a life of well-being – wadata.

In the 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 (a life fought with unease) whose life will eventually culminate in igbe aye ti ko dara (a life that lacks good qualities). Most likely, the stipulation of one as will not have may be anchored on the foreseeable life style and attitude to industry of such person.

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 ti derun (a life lived with ease) and which will certainly lead to an igbe aye ti dara (life lived well), may come under the observation a ruling that efforts and material disposition would amount to well being.

There have been arguments on the main contributors to rise in poverty. Military Governor of old Oyo State, Brigadier David Jemibewon, affirmed in his review of Problems of Development, that the main problems arose from failure of the system to raise the programme of human de elopement to enhance the capacity of each individual to realize his inherent potentialities and to effectively cope with the changing circumstances of life.

E.F. Schumacher, in the work, Small is Beautiful, confirms Jemibewon’s view and further states that the issue is not material but in education, organization and discipline.

What is not clear to me is whether these take into account the dislocation in material and values as occasioned by the two-time tumults that befell Africa, nay Nigeria, before modernizing influences registered.

Indeed, coming from that background of tumult, conquerors, Aro slavers and Fulani Jihadists, all subjecting the people without any reference to their opinion, the subsequent imposition of colonialism – what with difficult-to-grab values and state structures – left the people dazed, confused, helpless, but with hope in God.

It was not then unexpected that, coming form the turmoil of the eras, the perception and fixation of one’s direct relationship with his God could be a strong factor in the prevailing state of affairs. 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, l these are seen as those whose God heard their prayers (ndi chi ha nuru ekpere ha).

Now that various researches and studies by agencies and scholars reveal a world so unstable and threatened that what might be described as isolated cases of deprivations have assumed such global dimensions, it has been accepted that its diffuse meaning and impact could suggest multifarious ways for it to be tackled.

My fear is that while the world engages inn seminar-room pontifications, the ubiquitous modern evangelical pastorate, which, as currently unfolding in unusual dynamism, accentuated by our blossoming media, may take the stage further to sermonize that supplication or any kind of appeal rather than creative deployment of talents, stand in people’s way of attaining well being. This, we are aware, negates the A. K. Cairness thesis that rather than narrow the drive against poverty to community rooms and the pulpit, the course should evolve the best key to development which les in developing the mind to appreciate and confront objective conditions.

In my review of that scenario in a Synod of the Anglican Church in Umueke Ngor, Imo State, two years ago, I argued that it would be better that responses are coordinated on the specific objective conditions of the people – urban and rural.

But even as we stand here today, the various segments – rural and urban poor – have continued in their view of the likes of you Lions who eat your four-course meals and slap your backs, occasionally in broad smiles, suggesting contentment.

Dazed by the unfairness of the situation but with adequate trust in the eventual judgment of favour, the rural poor register and yell to you.

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 fate reveals the rural poor of predominantly mechanical societies as electing to leave it all for God.

In further resignation of fate and acceptance that their fortune – whatever it may be – is in the hands of God, the rural folk supplicate:

What shall I say today
Today o!
I will lift up my voice in praise;

For I know, you are always there for me,
Almighty God,
You’re my all in all,
No matter what they say,
When trouble comes my way,
I will praise your name;

You alone art worthy, oh Lord, to be praised and adored,
You’ve been faithful Lord,
From the ages past
that is why your name is forever more...

Sometimes, overwhelmed and confounded, without solution they go again:

I have a father that can never, never fail me,
I have a father that can never, never fail me,
Jesus is my father that can never, never fail me,
Rock of ages never, never fails.

Sometimes, an upward turn in their fortune invites praises and thankfulness to the Almighty.

Oh Lord, I am very, very happy,
For all you have done for me

Oh Lord I am very, very happy,
And I say thank you Jesus…!

However, that flavour of fate and complete reliance on God, as exhibited by the rural folk, cannot be said to negate the tendency to rebellion, deviance and defiance, 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 Igbo, they simply fail to mask their irritation at the failure of leadership to increase or realize their hopes by snarling:

Ka anyi gee 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).

As we found in one lecture in and urban setting, there is an extreme tendency of the poor to stoutly urge the supremacy of God and their total reliance on Him for the realization of their hope as in the rendition,

Jesus na you be Oga,
Jesus na you be Oga;
Every other god na so so wayo,
Jesus na you be Oga.

Somehow, what baffles me, in a way, is that both the urban and rural poor sometimes miss the point that both the rich and mighty – in urban and rural environments – are equally desirous of the blessing of the Lord and would hope that in their imperious stead, their won enemies and other threats should come to grief while they triumph.

As I said elsewhere also, that the blessing of God, foresight and the limitless dividends of life, which are today furthered by the democratic culture of more ideas from every subject, the rich and poor, in the urban and rural areas, now strengthen us as we hail, with our countrymen:

God na helele,
God na waya o,
God na helele,
God na waya o;
Nobody be like am,
Ewo o, nwannem, God na helele!

We further on our inclination as we hail

Abasi a ya ya o,
Ayaya o,

Abasi ayaya o,
Ayaya nana ndo!

Translated in the same rendition:

Our Lord is so good,
He’s so good,

Our Lord is so good,
He’s so excellent!

My question for the Lions Clubbers at dinner now is, how much of the dislocation can you tackle within the scenario of prevailing fatalism and subjective application of values? I pose this question because being familiar with your kind of venture invites my curiosity about impact and longevity.

Moreover, some of what I have identified as civil society gestures for accosting the plight of the downtrodden suggest that a gap of information, education and influence based on interaction and instructions, have emerged and can only be filled with inviting all and sundry into the knowledge areas.

Of course, I am not advocating an entire liberalization of your membership, but on the vent of the admonition of the editions of Microsoft Encarta editors, the impulse of philanthropy, as old as age, must continue to change and modify. You remember that from fiefdom, we got Magna Carta and through the religions – Christianity, Islam and Buddhism among others, represent gestures enterprise in alms giving.

But for our immediate environment, the challenge for the Lions Club is that the break up in kinship relations, especially ones associated with wholesale movements to join in the urban bliss or squalor, compel an attention and expansion of our current style of philanthropy to information and education.

Of course, if there cannot be an Andrew Carnegie here, let there be a Martin Luther King Jr. if there cannot be Ford, let there be a Carter, that the information about the entrapment is made not an issue induced by God but wrong applications or absence of skills and knowledge.

If we appreciate that the burden lies there for the high and mighty ensconced in the warm rooms of the elite club s, that the threat of HIV/AIDS can be half way solved with sponsored mass media campaigns targeted at building a welter of information and awareness for all, then we can come close to discharging our generation’s task for which I invite you to say and sing, as in Enugu State,

To God Be The Glory.

1. To God be the glory great things He hath done!
So loved He the world that he gave us His son;
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened that life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son;
And give him the glory great thing He hath done.

2. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

3. Great thing He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our rapture, when Jesus we see.


1. Ayoola, GB et al: Nigeria: Voice of the Poor; World Development Report (Consultation with the poor), 2000/2001.
2. McGee, Rosemary: Approaches to Policy Design, Implementation and Monitoring; Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Brighton, 2000.
3. IMF/World Bank: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers – Optional Issues, (discussion), December 1999.
4. Booth, S.Newell (ed.): African Religion: Symposium, Nok Publishers, Lagos, 1977.
5. Daleth, B. Avalon: The New Millennium: Christ and Mankind,School of Universal Law (SOUL), Christ Lighthouse, Aba, 1999.
6. Peschke, H. Karl: Christian Ethics (Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II; Theological Publications in India, Bangalore, 1994.
7. Robertson, Roland (ed.): Sociology of Religion; Pengium Books, New York, 1984.
8. Querry, Emile (Monsignor): The Social Teaching of the Church; St. Paul Publications, New Youk, 1961.
9. Jemibewon, David A (Brigadier); A Combatant in Government, Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria ) Ltd; Ibadan, 1979.
10. Johnson, Samuel, The Rev; The History of the Yorubas, CSS Limited; Lagos, (updated) 2001.




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