Governor of Enugu State
"Without education … what is man but a splendid slave,
a reasoning savage vacillating between the dignity
of an intelligence derived from God and the degradation
of passion participated with brutes…"
…Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC.
The fifth edition of pre- convocation Dignity of Man Lecture series of the University of Nigeria Alumni Association (UNAA) Princess Alexandria Hall, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Monday 6, October 2003
There is this fact of our environment that the much it appears that the nation is expanding in the fortunes of natural resources, a certain regression of values threatens to swallow the people's confidence in themselves. And when people are faced with the failure of self-esteem, the downward journey of the creativity and productivity of the greater number is predictable.
In a way, it appears confirmed that this regression rides the crest of subversion of the people's values and indeed, upturns the reality of the challenges to propel Nigeria in the upward global human development index.
Generally speaking, what looks like a failure of the national system or even a suggestion of the negation of development trends, aside the prognosis of confirmed global economic side talks, only gives vent to the further claim of resignation for the yet uncharted economic environment.
Predictably, the Nigerian economic environment, when perfected in the upper political decision realm, ought to first ride the float of human resources and second, explore the natural features of which much of the national promises were hinged and periodically blown.
I have no doubt that most of you who were not involved in the discussions with staff and myself would wonder how the topic of today's (this year's) Dignity of Man lecture: Poverty in Nigeria - Eroding the dignity of man assumed the social stigma, which depicts poverty and reduces human prestige.
In reality, I had offered to alter your earlier pattern consequent upon the objectivity of the condition attending the social status of current generation of Nigerians. And when I say Nigerians, I mean every citizen finding it hard to fulfill a life, including the streaming graduates of this great University of Nigeria of ours who, by the sheer perversity of the economic environment, have been limited in abilities and potentials by the fierce hand of poverty.
But before I go into the concept of poverty as it is perceived in our environment, I wish to advert your mind to the reality of the conceptual philosophy of the great institution, UNN, which today stands out as the first indigenous university and leader in so many areas of global undertaking.
When the great Nnamdi
Azikiwe, founder and motivator, assumed the heady challenge of founding a base
for nurturing the local African to match the emerging quality of modern men and
women in the globe, he was living his earlier injunction that the presence of
Western values was irreversible. Indeed way back in 1937, the great Zik had
lamented that "throughout the continent of Africa, there is not an indigenous
university sustained through African initiative … Had African universities been
maintained at their expense, they could have had their curricular filled with
important divisions of knowledge which could have hastened their intellectual
The Great Zik did not limit his fair understanding and prodding of fellow compatriots to move West (United States or England) to acquire vast learning "to be new Africans," but extended on the viability of New Nigeria emerging on the creative force of proud citizens capable of
exhibiting some national pride.
It was indeed incumbent on the pioneer that he was to erect such social institution, which must assume the duty of building the necessary human and material environment capable of sustaining the local people, predictably long after the colonial order was gone.
Nnamdi Azikiwe was a massive intellectual success and the motto he chose, as the driving force of the new community in place, was as apt as it was phenomenal: "To restore the dignity of man." Zik believed as was also embodied in the alma mata creed of UNN, that the ennobling essence of an indigenous university should above all be crested on:
To seek the truth
To teach the truth
To preserve the truth and thereby
To restore the dignity of man
But for some predictable reasons, we may revisit the background of the terse but voluble proclamation of the founding fathers of this institution. Our knowledge of modern Nigerian history equips us with the fact of our society, having been severely and inhumanly assaulted as in the despicable human slavery and trans-Atlantic slave trade. This was to be followed by a socio-political revolution, which upturned our political configuration and altered permanently the value system and the other social pillars of the emerging modern environment. The total dislocation and eventual seizure of the society only left the people brutalised, dehumanised, devalued and debased, leaving in its wake, a people devoid of dignity and robbed of other elements of self worth.
Of course, we cannot continue to live in the now confirmed historical fallacy of lack of education in the pre-colonial Africa. This is more so when it is now confirmed that what we had served stronger points in breeding character and leadership; relating as it were, with the immediate and smooth values upon which foundations of centuries of men and peoples were founded.
respect, it becomes compelling to accept the fact of the previous life and
socio-political pattern of the people so entrenched but brutally plucked without
respect that the only way out was to seek a restoration of order.
According to Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in: "To restore the dignity of man …the role of the university", "to restore means to repair, to make good 'again', to bring back to the supposed normal or former state." These, being a confirmation of the severe damage, disruption, dislocation, disorientation, degradation, defacement, depopulation and even depletion of worth, which were the lot of the people in rediscovery or rehabilitation.
By this same stroke of logic, it is now argued that dignity, as prayed for and pursued with such vigour, which saw to the fruition of the dream for the UNN, rode the crest of new hope, belief in personal strength and courage in confronting the then threatening environment.
We cannot forget that although the age of slavery was just over and the rising generation had managed to secure a lease of new values attendant upon newer suzerainty, the bitterness or fear of the immediate past reinforced the belief for deeper conscientisation and institutionalisation of the philosophy on which the new order would home in on.
Indeed, like in the old Rome of Nero, it was like the Appian Way - that seasonal road to Rome, upon which disaster befell nations and peoples. In our case, it was the Aro route of disastrous memory, leading every captive to Igwenga, and finally into the high sea enroute plantation sites in the West. Its pervasion and the non-sparing dimension of it brought about the worst of tragedies in modern times as villages; kindreds, clans and even federations of clans were wiped out and dragged off to slavery. It was just a pernicious economic activity which brought a whole scale flight of values and eroded that which reinforced the people's estimation of themselves and their neighbours. It was a truncation, which was almost headier than attempted obliteration, as it effectively subdued cultures, causing a flight of values that eroded, in finality, the dignity of human kind in Africa then.
Now, with this as the case, why not re-dignify? In other words, he who was robbed of his dignity should have it back. In other words, the people should, once again, achieve excellence, perfect the elevation of character and mind and fit properly in the emerging social order without fear of being treated with disdain and dishonour.
Tomorrow, the 7th day of October 2003, it will be 43 years since this formed the motto of a higher institution of human development. Where it is not a point for compulsive understanding; and where one, on passing interest, does not grasp the historical forces, which induced the conceptual philosophy of this university, it looked like any other unique selling point of a brand of a product.
To a great extent, it may be slightly difficult to ignore the reality of modern pressures and social developments, which alter social relations and indeed erode the dignity of man. The mind blowing wickedness of the frightening trans-Atlantic slave trade could not have been blurred so soon in the minds of the leading nationalists who, rightly, saw in colonialism another attempt at furthering the degradation of the African in an age of self-assertiveness.
But the promises of indigenous administration on the hopes of pursuing political and economic policies capable of lifting the African beyond the point at which he was halted, appeared threatened with repeated failure of leadership and followers alike to re-establish the thread and journey of life anew.
Indeed, the political economy of the African and other Third World States has been such that its being hinged on the track of modern global economy only came as an imperfect supplier of raw materials and consumer of finished products, without any roles in-between. Consequently, the development of the economy, which ought to ride abreast of the projected human development, turned up as a jigsaw, baffling the growing number of economic theorists and other pundits.
I guess that you would not quite take in the idea of getting so deep into the various pontifications attending the repeated failure and recently, sluggish advancement of our economy at this forum. To me, it is a topic of separate discussion, which should be tackled very soon. For the purposes of exploring the challenges of defining the dignity of man and ascertaining the likelihood of eroding same of the man who thirsts for self-esteem, we shall limit this talk to the direct incidences of indignity as portrayed in our current economic environment.
Stutton Cheffied cleared out on such incidences which lead to indignity and concluded that much of these related to lack of self-esteem, which on its own takes flight of the mind of the man who has lost out in craved initiatives or even enterprises.
Simply put, the young man (and of course woman) who aspires to attain a university degree and fails to get it loses out in esteem, first to himself and subsequently to his friends, associates, family and the larger community. Indeed, for the man in a typical Igbo setting, the journey of life explained in the trinity of Igbo character: akpa uche (cot of reason), aka ikenga (endeavour) and ukwu n'ije (sojourn) is assumed to lead to ntozu (accomplishment) and subsequently odenigbo (fame). Many a life of Onye Igbo did run the full track with vast success but countless numbers have had this blown on the way, ending it all in recrimination, rage and depreciation of self-esteem.
Relatedly, the head of a
family who fails to provide for the family 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
Beyond these basic challenges, vis-à-vis the unpronounced affirmation that man must perform, good weather or not, there are now so much complexity of the socio-political environment that man may have faced 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.
Under the broad category of poverty, there has always been this temptation to view the poor as just those who lack and who may never have in abundance as to chop and remain or even chop and thro-way. 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 (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 (ndi kpatara ego bu ndi chi ha goziri). Yet, strong studies already carried out on poverty go far beyond the sentiment expressed for material possession and such social pressures compelling certain conducts toward material acquisition.
I will start with a view
of the dictionary on poverty. According to the New Webster Dictionary of English
Language, poverty comes in two main dominant dimensions:
unproductiveness/deficiency or inadequate supply…(that is lack in the
face of need) and the ideas section of poverty,
which is defined as the monastic renunciation of the right to own…(that
is possibly having access or close to source but rejecting acquisition).
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.
In a way, I can say without fear of contradiction that the alumni of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) is not inviting me here to talk about the ideas side of the poverty question, pursuing, as would be the case, such motivations which got pious men to renounce earthly possession, not even in derision of those of us who wish to build castles on earth without as much a thought for the paradise here-after.
My commencement of this talk has already shown that I am - not just as a Lion of this great university - inclined to take on the deprivation angle of the poverty question, rather than the spiritually induced choice to stay all out of it, in the face of the pressure to accumulate.
To that effect, poverty, as it relates to deprivation and subjugation of man, attracts me more, not because I have the all-season solution to the endemic malaise, but because I have, even on my own, elected to study the topic for present and future roles in resource definition and, possibly, allocation. For poverty does not necessarily exist because there are rich and poor people. It is rather that a few are rich because so many others are poor. Poverty according to Herbert J. Gans, 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". Any contrary impression has the potential to deflect attention from the larger socio-economic structure on which poverty is embedded.
Indeed, poverty as a subject has assumed such global dimension that it has suddenly become conditional for debtor nations to prepare and of course foster what is now called Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) to earn any form of attention from the world financial institutions. And increasingly, such global attitude at conceptualizing the whole possible dimensions of poverty has yielded so much angles of it, beating down in its wake such views founded in passion, ignorance and even superstition.
Consequently, poverty, not just as an incident but as a process in social relation forms, has been extended in reach and impact and so giving hint of a far more devastating effect on the environment than it down-graded the individual life of the immediate victim. In other words, the very bold angles of poverty, as now established, have opened new world knowledge of it as sources of far more diffuse impact than the despair of it on the one man who has failed to provide for his family.
To appreciate this development in its fuller form, it will be gainful to consider the views of Adeline Caenonis on the trends and patterns of poverty as they manifested, differently, in rural and urban areas.
An overview presentation represents the segmentations as the overlap of social classifications, which bursts down the relatively well to do in the rural areas as presenting a true description of the definitively poor in the urban areas.
Conversely, the active player in the urban area who may have attained a stable urban economic life but gets suddenly transported to the rural area, will be reduced to the deprived and poor status, if prosperity is measured in terms of both possession of such definite property as land and access to the social stabilizing institutions as roles in decision making bodies and specialized societies.
In other words, he who may have attained some stability in the urban area - marked out by certain possessions - but who cannot even transfer such acquisitions to the rural areas - that is if such would make any meaning there - may have to be forced to accept severe social downgrading if he finds himself back in the native land. 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.
But riding a global overview, particularly on the crest of sociological researches driven by Elizabeth Wilkins, poverty is termed the income of a community which in subdivision among families and kindred, is less than 40 per cent of the norm 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.
Very revealing also are the results of field investigations, which discovered attitudinal reflections and counter social trends as incidences of poverty. In many cases, such severe limiting social trends as castes in the South East, race in the North West/North East and group (ethnic) in the West, all indicate that as in other parts of the world, the degradation of man may not just arise from failure to acquire vast material possession but a class imposition of worth which can hardly ever be escaped.
Besides, the various terms of well-being or ill-being reflect social factors and relations in the various areas where it was studied. For instance, well being which, in the South East (Igbo) is called ogaranya or odi na mma, literally meaning the possession of sound property such as house or home, food, pipe borne water, wife (for man), children, abilities to care for family,
education (various levels) and access to factors of leadership in the immediate environment, also means good neighbourhood feeling and promises of eventual relevance in the social rating of the environment.
This means that such fellow who has such good feeling may not possess the above elements of wealth but retains such level of confidence and hope of eventual influence in the society.
This goes to reveal that such feeling must have come in comparison with another life which even if it is with noticeable material possession, may still not directly translate in well being. So, when we say, as in Igbo land, that poverty (ogbenye or uwa afufu) is ill being (ajo onodu), it will include lack of all those material possessions which we identify as giving vent to well being but certainly not excluding, if not limited to, the possibility of such other social rating that undermine a man's worth in his community.
Closely related to this is the self-rating which manifests in the bitter feeling of those who see themselves as needlessly getting into excessive activities to earn a living (ike kete orie). It may surprise a non-Igbo to hear the recrimination accompanying one's resignation of self as falling under the poor class - ike kete orie when the Igbo philosophy of life is fastened on the position that endeavour and accomplishment are just inseparable and the one (hard work) will certainly lead to the other (success).
Yet, the context in which one describes himself as ike kete orie 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 improvement in the person's well being.
It may not entirely be the case in the North West as in Gusau and Ikara where well being is termed wadata (wealth), kwanciyar hankali (security) and rufin ashiri (independence and self sufficiency) while ill being is called talaka. The pre-colonial political environment however severely narrowed the chances of someone crossing from the talaka-border to the other life-border, which is associated with a reinforced integrity of man.
In the South West, the terminologies for well-being depict reasonable social wholesomeness as in possession of property and in abilities to take of immediate needs. In Ayekale Odogun, well-being (igbe aye to derun) is associated with good quality of life (igbe aye to dara). These are believed among the people to be expressed in wealth, good health, having successful children and belief in God. The other coin of life - ill being - in Odogun is igbe aye ti ko derun which eventually culminates in igbe aye ti ko dara (ill quality of life).
So, the incidences of poverty, as already identified 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 global dimensions that it is now about the only such subject with diffuse meaning and impact on the other very important areas of life as it affects global advancement.
In Nigeria today, so many profound works have been done on poverty but the most attractive now is the one articulating the segmented incidences, some of which came on the float of social forces and policy directions. Generally, Nigeria is fully identified as sitting uncomfortably 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.
Much earlier than now, a study of the poverty situation in Nigeria gave this 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 on the eve of democracy in 1999. 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.
I am not quite sure if the magnitude of this development has driven enough notes to those concerned with field implementation of poverty reduction programmes but one strong point I have noted is the strong advancement in the areas of study and analyses of the dimensions of incidences of poverty in our country today.
If then we bring up this argument on the trend of poverty in the rural areas, the picture of impoverishment in the urban areas leaves a gasp in the breathe of the right thinking man. But as indicated above, the indices of poverty and the manifestation may not actually mean
the same or induce the same attitude to self and others. Usually, the tendency to resign to fate in the rural areas is not the case in the urban areas where severe impoverishment induces such social vices as crime, prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, vandalism, thuggery and other anti-social activities, most of which bring about social tension and instability.
Of course, the first character of urban poverty is material deprivation and powerlessness. The early hints of this are lack of good food, potable water, steady supply of electricity, and recently inability to send children to good private schools and inability to pay for good health care. These, as we know, are never the lot of the gainfully employed and profitable business class.
For the 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, 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. Same is the case with the printer who has no personal electricity generating set; or even the hair dresser.
But in the case of the pensioner whose erstwhile stable earning got truncated in the various administrative or bureaucratic muddling which is incessant in our system, or the teacher whose salary is severely hampered for months by failure of data collection, the downward swing of fortune may, as in many cases, be so devastating and irretrievable that poverty will set its foot and make it a permanent place of domicile.
I do not know whether we all appreciate the vehemence of urban poverty when it seizes the better part of the man. Much as the man can lash out at his God, the government, neighbours and even family, claiming in the main, that he was set up to be trapped in the cove of deadly squalor, the reality of the viciousness of it all further devastates and erodes whatever dignity he has. And even if it is for a split second, a confrontation with the cold hand of poverty such that compels the man to view a once-upon-a-life as gone to pieces and portending devastation, is the crudest reminder of the erosion of the dignity of man.
Against that backdrop then and attendant upon the fact of perversity of poverty in our system, can we rightfully argue that for the over 87 per cent or 93 million of Nigerians who live below poverty line, dignity has been permanently brutalized, eroded and in many cases, never to be recovered? If the answer is predictably "yes" for the prevalence of poverty, it cannot be the case for the possibility of its reduction or even alleviation.
You may wonder why I am so confident of the position of possibility of reduction and alleviation. Frankly speaking, I have had causes to doubt the possibility of reviving the erstwhile self-sustaining system upon which our various economies achieved phenomenal growth and status, which baffled the world in the 1960s.
It looked even impossible
in the erstwhile assumption that where an agrarian economy as those of the old
regions managed a simple break through, yet giving way to a petro-dollar mega
earning regime, such hope of reviving the orderliness of the past and the
cohesion of the community economies which serviced the bigger regional economies
was wishful thinking.
In that regard, it was easily assumed that whatever could be retrieved of the old economies would only serve as relics and never elixirs in the current state of intercontinental and global power economy which wipes every state of its erstwhile exclusivity and peculiarity.
Indeed, I soon found out that I was wrong as it became more compelling to accept that no matter the powers of the intercontinental economic players and even the perversion of a nearby national government, local knowledge and local sensibility are the very cords of basic economies. It was actually in line with this that the phenomenal leaps of the economies of the old regions came in recognition of the social cohesion and economic relevance of each social and political entity.
This was the basis of our reactivating the Community County Council (CCC). In a way, this simply meant giving some political teeth to every recognized community in Enugu State, the purpose of which is to encourage the formation of basic governments at the lowest levels of our State. In doing that, we tried, now with success, to play out the variety card of the State and urged each entity to be developmentally assertive if a semblance of initiative could be identified.
Remember, our interest was in halting poverty encroachment and see to the restoration of the dignity of man in this political entity. Of course, it cannot be ignored that various programmes of government actually sought to tackle poverty, even with such vast cash volume but our own peculiar searches revealed that most of the planning and implementation lacked in local knowledge, content and viability.
And where it could be said that these great projects worked, they did not survive the ambivalence of the people who considered the location and pattern of their foundation and operations as alien and avoidable.
A reference to previous, particularly regional, practices, which carried the locality people along, revealed the viability of projects initiated by the communities themselves and in line with their own prioritization. Such was the case in the old Eastern region where the multiplicity of communities would have proven impossible to co-ordinate if the regional government did not open up the various segments of the societies to go for its priorities and by its peculiar strategies.
The CCC which is run by the Community County Development Council (CCDC) in each case has the necessary state law to carry out certain programmes of development such that culverts, bridges, community halls, local markets, village pathways, health centers, local libraries and such other enterprises which can stimulate the local economy would no longer wait indefinitely for the state or "a far away" federal government if the developments could easily be brought about by the local people.
It may not be too apparent that this marks a departure point in the reduction of poverty but a closer inspection shows that one significant reason for the heightening of poverty in our land is total disorientation which is the lot of those countrymen who cannot even appreciate the complexity of this deafening petro-dollar economy. More so, the activation of the local populace into building a semblance of government at the community level actually infuses some sense of worth and revitalization of the dignity once harassed by poverty and ignorance.
At the last count, the CCC
programme has brought about erection or renovation of cottage hospitals,
schools, boreholes, bridges, roads, libraries and other vital infrastructure
which hitherto would have been left to decay and to cause deprivation and want
among the local people.
Indeed, we have taken another giant step to confront poverty and restore the dignity of man in Enugu State. We have created a full-fledged:
Poverty Reduction and
(MPR & HD).
Here in Enugu, we cannot pretend that we are not impelled in many ways by the fear of poverty and the risk of social instability as ridden by the high prevalence of ill being. We cannot even pretend that we are not aware that whereas it could be tolerated that the past systems failed or crumbled due mainly to over centralization of administration as in every military culture, the fact of democracy compels an attention and result-oriented programmes such that the impact of each action ought to be felt sooner than later.
We could not have ignored the necessity to seek ways of expanding the functional segments of our social environment in such ways that will augment gainful enterprises within the state. It is, therefore, compelling to even consider a proper framework on which this new ministry would take off.
Again, the promises of openness as ensured and indeed lived in a democracy reinforce the argument in favour of discussing poverty and other malaises such that the whole dimensions would be ascertained and remedies unreservedly proffered.
To that effect, the Enugu Poverty Reduction Strategy (EPRS), which will give its fuller meaning in the activities of the new ministry, will pursue, first and foremost, brand new local information order which will increase our people's awareness in such vital areas of life as agriculture, healthcare, childcare, justice, rural development, commerce and industry, governance, minimal expenditure management and child and adult literacy, among others.
Already, this is
articulated in the broad outline of our framework, which now rides such various
sub-themes as employment generation, poverty reduction and wealth
creation. Of course, it is true that in our kind of economy, you cannot
even begin to talk about creating wealth when it is going to be exclusively for
a select few. Consequent upon this, we have to develop this three-pronged
strategy to pursue poverty reduction and creation of wealth.
Employment generation as a step to achieving poverty reduction, we also hope, will advance to wealth creation, which in our calculation, would ride smoothly the crest of our successful attempts at expanding the infrastructure base of the state.
In fact, infrastructure expansion is an area we have so done well in the last four years; we have now to take up the challenge of expanding on the promises of revealed areas of gainful
economic enterprises. Besides the new possibilities of transportation occasioned by our new road network, mobility of produces and goods, we hope, will bring further economic balancing, equalisation and stabilization.
And since we have already resolved to reverse the image of civil-service-city as Enugu was previously described, it definitively became a part of our design to expand the private sector roles in the economy. This will also dovetail into promoting individual initiatives in small-scale entrepreneurship.
But as we do this, we are also conscious of the fact of rural-urban migration, which alters planning, and utilities allocation. Certainly, we cannot quarantine our budding youth in the village just as we cannot guarantee full services of our public utilities in the face of the pressure of sudden entries into the cities.
To achieve a gainful middle point with entrepreneurial initiatives on tow, we have now designated some important junction towns, which will serve as basic industrial zones and springboards of new cities. The first in this rating are Ninth Mile Corner and Ozalla while such newer clusters as Oji River and Obolloafor, now coming viably on the heels of the first ones, will follow suit.
Frankly speaking, we are not too keen on establishing more townships as we never believed the more townships we have mean better economic conditions. But we are currently driven into this in the hope of realizing a rapid development of the new industrial ventures that will eventually keep bases in Ninth Mile, Ozalla, Oji River and Obolloafor.
We hope to achieve this on the wings of a measure of enlightenment, which will also alter the unnecessary preconception of poverty as a fatally, if not supernaturally induced, incident, viewed in some customs as a curse, instead of the socio-economic malaise, it is. One key factor in realizing this will be basic community based organizations (CBO), which shall pursue the enterprise of enlightenment and education to achieve people's awareness. The Ministry will, of course, have to encourage the springing of these organizations to fill in the gap and bring up the people's level of knowledge and eventual interaction in the evolving order.
Besides this industry-based arrangement, the readiness of our people to grasp the emerging Nigerian economic pattern, will, as shown in the annexed strategies plot, mark a striding progression of economic opportunities in our environment. (Annexure: Road map of the Enugu State Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation Strategy, 2004 - 2009).
The challenge of this venture is not just in creating a ministry but also in the capacity of the same ministry to contextualise a proper definition of the subject, with particular reference to our peculiar environment, local understanding and application. This will form the second plank of the targets of the new ministry, as deep and multi-dimensional studies will be carried out to sustain the relevance of the evolving conceptualization and classification of poverty.
This, in a particular way, is very important to us because we have also discovered that in the past, what is termed poverty has hardly ever earned any universal meaning of which its reduction or eradication could not have been universally sustained.
For the universal thesis on poverty to make much impact in our own environment, we must work at hooking in on the scientific efforts at achieving an objective definition and characterization of poverty. Such will help us in situating our various manifestations of poverty to be relevant in our local parlance and to achieve such meaning, which will aide restoration of the dignity of man.
But while we do this, we have not stopped wondering, in our world, why, instead of receding to the backwaters, as has been the case in most of the western nations, poverty has turned an octopus in our own polity. Although I am not too inclined to following the thesis acquitting the African (nay Nigerian) polity on the condition of being so unfairly treated in the allocation of global resources, the unusually long journey to reinvent the people may have, in my estimation, fallen a victim of phantom chases in line with Western economic patterns. It is only too strange that we have not yet tried to explore, in the fullest form, the possibilities of local content and local sensibilities.
My position has nothing to
do with the truth of our history being replete with humiliation and degradation
of which it became necessary to restore the dignity of man, of the
African genre. It is more informed by the fact of our having assumed the reins
of authority over our environment and resources but lacking in the capacity to
approximate same for the benefit of all, certainly not for the greed of a few.
It is on this note that we consider this topic a challenge, not just to come and speak before a top-notch gathering of alumni but in paying further attention to the motivation of the
founder(s) of this great institution.
This great university was
founded on high ideals and supreme desire to reverse a trend. Such trend was the
devaluation of the African of the pre-colonial and colonial eras, which, by our
own University of Nigeria Nsukka's phenomenal growth and products, we say that
the stage to restore the dignity of man was properly set and
gainfully pursued here.
Ceaselessly working the strength of the truth that, as Nnamdi Azikiwe said in time, as it was due, it shall never be the same again, for which we now say, as usual in Enugu State:
To God Be The Glory.
1. Ayoola, GB, et al:
Nigeria: Voice of the poor; World Development Report (Consultation
with the poor), 2000/2001.
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