By Casmir Igbokwe
Jackpot winners wallow in cash. But they may not feel as fulfilled as Chinedu Okoli. This Computer Science student of the Niger Delta University, Yenagoa, is swimming in happiness currently. He just won a tricycle (Keke) in Port Harcourt. And he intends to use it for business. Through it, he also hopes to help his mum to pay his school fees and those of his siblings.
In my intervention on August 5 this year, I did indicate that I would, from time to time, write about something positive amid the chaos called life in Nigeria. In the piece entitled, ‘Efi Igbo, SMEs and the Heritage example’, I had noted the excitement in the South-East about breeding of Igbo cow occasioned by the menace of Fulani herdsmen and the efforts of Heritage bank to help entrepreneurs in the region achieve their dream.
Today, the efforts of the national telecommunications operator, Globacom, in tackling poverty in Nigeria are worth looking at. The company had put smiles on the faces of many citizens through different empowerment schemes. Last Wednesday, scores of Nigerians in Rivers State and other neighbouring states benefited from an empowerment scheme the company calls ‘My Own Don Beta’. Excited subscribers, together with their friends and family members, gathered at Mile One Market in Port Harcourt to receive prizes such as tricycles, industrial sewing machines, grinding mills and generators. Chinedu Okoli happens to be one of them.
The Port Harcourt event was the third to be held by Globacom having held a similar presentation in Ojuelegba, Lagos, and Wuse Market in Abuja. The company said Ibadan, Kano, Onitsha, Jos, Enugu and Benin would subsequently follow. To qualify to participate in the promo, one only needs to recharge a total of N200 in a day either in one recharge or cumulative recharges.
Many wealthy individuals, who can afford the luxuries of life, may not understand how an average Nigerian feels about some of these empowerment schemes. The testimonies of the winners in Port Harcourt say it all. “I am grateful and happy,” says Joshua Agwu who resides in Aba and works with Abia State Environmental Protection Agency. “It was a surprise package because I did not expect it. One of my daughters is a tailor, and she had been asking me to buy a sewing machine for her. Fortunately, Glo just did it for me,” Agwu, who won an industrial sewing machine, enthused.
Omang Anthony Oyong, who won a grinding machine said, “I will give the grinding machine to my mother who has a shop and it will help to boost her business.” Oyong is a farmer from Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State. For Dabere Chukwu, God has given him an opportunity to learn fashion designing. A student of Business Administration at Abia Polytechnic, Dabere won industrial sewing machine and he was full of praises for Glo. There were many other lucky winners.
One unique thing about this particular promo is that rather than give out cash, like most promos do, it is particularly tailored to empower Nigerians to create wealth. As the company’s Retail and Consumer Sales Chief, David Maji, put it, “Glo strongly believes in rewarding and empowering its numerous customers across Nigeria. Our objective is to transform thousands of lives through these empowerment packages to enable them to become self-employed and ultimately affect the lives of those around them.” He said rather than dishing out money to winners, Glo had chosen to give them trade-establishment tools that would help them set up their own businesses and have direct impact on their lives.
No doubt, poverty and unemployment are endemic in Nigeria. World Data Lab’s Poverty Clock estimates that about 90 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Currently, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. And every minute, about six people fall into the poverty pit in the country. What engenders this penury is lack of access to basic necessities of life such as food, health care and education. In serious countries, a proactive government initiates some measures to rescue her citizens from the problem. Unfortunately, various measures both previous and present government initiated have done little or nothing to ameliorate the situation.
Frustrated by the vicissitudes of life, many Nigerians now believe in miraculous riches as they throng churches and prayer ministries chanting, “I believe it, I claim it, I receive it!”
The Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election, Mr. Peter Obi, decried this attitude. Obi, a former Governor of Anambra State and wealth creator himself, said God was not a magician. Speaking in Awka during the summit on education organised by the Catholic Diocese of Awka last Thursday, Obi called on leaders at all levels of government to address key needs of Nigerians such as employment and support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). He regretted that Nigeria was sliding into a religious economy instead of a knowledge economy as many other countries were doing.
Achieving this knowledge economy does not come easy. Investing in education is one major criterion. But how has our government fared in the education sector? In the North where the rate of poverty is very high, millions of children are out of school. Boko Haram insurgency has worsened the situation. In many states and at the centre, budget for education is very low. Advanced nations don’t joke with education. Even some countries in Africa fare better than Nigeria. The budget of South Africa on education for a year, as Peter Obi put it, is bigger than the budget of Nigeria on education for 10 years.
Like education, the state of our health facilities is abhorrent. The rich Nigerians fly abroad for any little ailment. But the majority of others end up taking local concoctions that worsen their illnesses and cause untimely deaths. A healthy population is a wealthy one. It is only when you are healthy that you will have the energy to engage in productive ventures that can generate wealth. To eradicate poverty, both government and corporate bodies should invest in the well-being of the citizens.
Part of this well-being is creating job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths. A number of Nigerian companies are doing their best in this regard. For instance, Heritage bank, in partnership with Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, empowered about 35 entrepreneurs with N50million in what it called YESGrant. It also guided the entrepreneurs to ensure the grants provided were judiciously used.
In a season of BB Naija reality show where some funny housemates fool around for weeks and go home with millions of Naira as prizes, Heritage Bank concerned itself with entrepreneurial TV reality show tagged “Next Titan”. This gives young aspiring entrepreneurs a new opportunity to showcase their business ideas and compete for a prize of N5 million and a brand new car to start their business.
Some other banks are doing their best to support SMEs. Last week, Fidelity Bank, for instance, pledged continued support to the long term expansion of the businesses of its customers. Speaking at the bank’s special day at the 2019 Lagos International Trade Fair, Managing Director/CEO of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, said their efforts were aimed at aiding diversification of the country’s monolithic economy.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation is also doing a noble job as far as wealth creation in Africa is concerned. Over 7,000 entrepreneurs have benefited from the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme. In July this year, African Presidents and global leaders converged at the 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum in Abuja to discuss job creation and youth empowerment. More than 5,000 participants and 60 speakers interacted at the forum.
Ending poverty is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is gladdening that some Nigerian companies like Glo are helping the government to achieve this goal. Government should reciprocate by giving them incentives and providing them with the enabling environment. The fight against poverty is a collective one.
Re: Sanwo-Olu, Lagos is degenerating
Casmir, despite what APC might say, six months of this administration cannot be said to be fair. Even the capital, Ikeja, Oba Akran, Ogba Road etc bring pains especially when there is a heavy rain. The Okota as you said is such a disappointment. Drainage should be improved to prevent large volume of water around AP/Community Road junction. Another area is waste disposal. The contractors should see a way to partner with those using trucks to dispose waste instead of mounting pressures on street associations to ban them. Government should bring back ban on movement of ‘Okada’ in Lagos.
- Pharm Okwy Njike, +2348038854922
Truth is bitter. Governor of Lagos state is not living up to expectation as regards the masses well-being. All the roads are death traps and nothing is done about them. Let him not fail Lagosians and godfathers that made him governor. Former governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, did well in his four years and he should follow suit to develop Lagos State.
- Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
My bro, if this occurred in Lagos, imagine the plight of the rural dwellers. You can’t beat a child and ask him not to cry. Really, if we must not protest, government should fix our roads and secure our lives/properties.
- Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, 11 November 2019