Jogging down the memory lane, I remembered a satirical illustration that recently rocked Nigeria’s number one social media—WhatsApp. It goes thus:
“In U.S.A, a 17year old is a celebrity
In Japan, a 17year old is an engineer
In India, a 17year old is an entrepreneur
In China, a 17year old has a serial of invented automobiles
In Nigeria—the giant of Africa—, a 35year old is only but a WhatsApp group admin!”
Although sarcastic, this captures the true state of quite a number of people in our country today, most of whom are suffering from imaginations and ideas they can use to alleviate poverty by making positive impacts in the society. I strongly believe poverty is much more than not just having enough money. It is a fear for the future and a call to action -for the poor and the rich -to change the world, so that many people would have a voice in their communities. This essay therefore examines an empirical investigation into the root effects of poverty on our social life and further addresses the way forward in ameliorating poverty in the society.
Root Causes of Poverty in our Society
Many people would say that poverty is hunger or the inability to meet basic needs such as shelter and clothing. I may as well offer this rejoinder that there are countries in the world today with significantly high population of people who can provide for their shelter, clothing and even what to eat on their tables, yet have never been esteemed with the word greatness or any such similar word.
Other people would say that rather than meeting basic needs, poverty is not having access to education or not knowing how to read and write. However, I may cynically dismiss this illusion due to the fact that there are a couple of great men and women in the country today, who found a shorter way to success and even dropped out of college to pursue their dreams. Examples include Oluwaseun Osewa of Nairaland, Genevieve Nnaji in the Nollywood industry, Folorunso Alakija a Nigeria billionaire, who did not even have a university degree and several others in the world today.
What then is the major cause of poverty?
I quite agree with Ijeoma Ndukwe, the CEO of Bubez Food Ltd, who with just #200 (less than a dollar) in 2006, started selling pap in the comfort of her home and was able to raise the business into a multi-million-naira food processing and packaging industry today, by creatively thinking of how to process and hygienically package pap to other nations of the world. When asked how she was able to alleviate poverty. She said that “a poor man is not one that lacks money; but a man that lacks ideas.”
Indeed, poverty is a choice. Nobody wants to merely subsist. We all want to thrive, to have access to financial and social capital. To truly forge a path to a better opportunity for those of us living in poverty, it is imperative to use our initiative and think much more broadly and dynamically. I am a firm believer that idea – “initiative” is the father of intervention. Using our initiative and developing viable ideas, has to do with looking at what everybody looks at, but seeing what no one else sees. It is the ability to recognise opportunities in every poor situation. Day by Day, our generation is closing the door against mediocrity, indeed the reason why most people are still living in extreme poverty in the country today is because they lack workable ideas, they can use to make impacts in the society.
Impact of Poverty on our Social Life
Cyber Crime in Nigeria
One major factor for the rise in various crimes in Nigeria, most especially cybercrime is poverty which is a result of the unemployment situation in the country today. Most of the unemployed youths have easy access to the internet to perpetuate cybercrime activities. Even if they do not have access to internet at home, cyber-cafes are readily available throughout the country at relatively low rates for easy internet access. All these factors combine to create a new generation of cyber-criminals and local hackers otherwise known as “yahoo yahoo”. In addition to this, some of the more desperate unemployed people have had to resort to spiritual means to enhance their cyber-crimes. This is often referred to as “Yahoo Plus”. Most of these people now indulge in occultic ritual practices to enhance their potentials to defraud people. I believe all these are majorly the negative impacts of poverty on our unemployed youths in the society.
Poverty and Health
I believe health is a crucially important economic asset. But unfortunately, the poor suffer bad health challenges and premature deaths. They have higher than average child and maternal mortality, higher levels of disease such as tuberculosis, malaria etc., limited access to health care and gender inequality disadvantages. Poor women and girls are worse off, in relation to assets and entitlements, within the household and in the society. Most even experience deeper disadvantages in access to resources for health including cash and financial schemes. In fact, some categories of women and children are especially vulnerable – for example elderly widows and street children. Also, malnutrition in diets is both a major cause and effect, and a key indicator of poverty in the country today.
Poverty and Human Trafficking
It is important to understand that there are many factors that facilitate human trafficking but the major one has been poverty. It is a fact that poverty makes people across a variety of countries vulnerable to the modern-day sex slave trade. For example, in some African countries, young women are enticed with seemingly promising offers of employment as nannies or in restaurants and are trafficked to Greece or Italy to be sold into domestic servitude, farm labour or prostitution. In fact, a recent survey submitted by Adepelumi (2015), it was recorded that about 8 million Nigerian children are engaged in exploitative child labour and 40% of Nigerian street children and hawkers are trafficked children due to poverty. This shows how poverty has crippled the status of many of our citizens in the country today.
Poverty and Social Vices among the Youths
The truth is that there has been an increase in the occurrence of acts of violence and lawlessness including hostage taking of prominent citizens, cultism, drug trafficking, kidnapping, arms insurgence, oil bunkering and several others criminal activities among our youths today due to acute poverty in the country. Nearly everywhere and around Nigeria cities, the atmosphere is inflicted with criminal menace being wrecked on law-abiding members of the Nigeria citizens by criminals. The highway has become a theatre for cars snatching and robbery, while homes of the rich and the poor are targets of daily murderous campaigns by hoodlums. You will agree with me that youth involvement in criminal activities in Nigeria is not a recent phenomenon. However, what is new, is the youth restiveness and political thuggery which have been inextricably linked to the effects of poverty among these promising youths in the society today. If only they had been given the right atmosphere to stimulate ideas and creativity, I believe they would have made positive impacts and edifices in our society today.
Creative Solutions by Building from Nothing
I believe it is time for Nigeria to create a new path to the future of economic prosperity that her citizens desire. This future cannot be attained by following the same economic template that has chained the nation to acute poverty. To achieve this, it is important for Nigeria to not only create employment opportunities today, but to put in place a flexible system that has the capacity to continuously make opportunities available to the people. This can be achieved by putting in place the measures below diversification and industrialization of the economy, poverty eradication programs, entrepreneurship development etc.
A Collective Responsibility
I believe that while the government should faithfully play its part, genuine transformation requires the commitment of the people. We must no longer live as though it is the duty of other people to change the country, while our own duty is merely to live in the country after it is changed. Every Nigerian must develop a personal intervention plan for the country. Nigeria is our country, and not the government’s country We can no longer afford to plan for our future as individuals without planning for the future of the country in which we will spend our future.
The Way Forward
If Nigeria is to achieve her developmental aspirations, the onus is on the citizens to participate actively in nation building by eradicating all forms of poverty. They must all pursue the common vision –a little here, a little there; one bit today, one bit the next day –in bringing many landmark achievements and edifices. The best time to take actions was yesterday. Another best time is now!
Oyinlola Abosede, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Obafemi
Awolowo University is an intellectual fighter for emancipation.
and an advocate on social issues. He wrote in via email@example.com