Home CELEB COLUMNISTS Opinion (15/11/19): Otedola’s Heart Of Gold And Nigeria’s Preventable Poverty, By Ayo...

Opinion (15/11/19): Otedola’s Heart Of Gold And Nigeria’s Preventable Poverty, By Ayo Oyoze Baje

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Ayo Oyoze Baje

“Let’s create wealth through the diligent, pioneering and innovative spirit of entrepreneurs, and share this wealth through the generous, selfless and dedicated spirit of philanthropists. Let’s make philanthropy a value, a faith, a commitment and a lifestyle.”

A note from the Giving Pledge

When on November 7, 2003 the Daily Times edition published my opinion essay with the title: “Appeal to the richest Nigerians” to assist the poor, it was informed by a piece of disturbing news item. Precisely, it came as a screaming headline on the front page of the Midweek Scoop tabloid of November 4, some three days before, with the long list of the rotten rich Nigerians who had allegedly stashed N241.6 trillion in foreign bank accounts!It paraded mostly those who had served our country as one political appointee or the other, including of course, well- known top military brass, some of who were still in service with others retired.

One had argued back then that while it was no crime to acquire stupendous wealth in a country as richly endowed as Nigeria, it calls to moral questions the way and manner such fortune was acquired. Besides, it gets more worrisome when such wealth acquisition is at the expense of the mass of hapless, hounded and hungry Nigerians, who are swallowing their spittle at the bank of the vast Atlantic Ocean! That was some sixteen years ago.

One can therefore, imagine the immense thrill and delight yours truly recently felt at the heart-warming news item of astute business guru, Femi Otedola donating a whopping sum of five billion Naira(N5bn) to the foundation of one of his daughters, the beautiful, brilliant and talented Miss Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola, popularly known as DJ Cuppy. The billionaire’s daughter held a gala, as part of her 27th birthday to raise funds for her Cuppy Foundation. The noble aim is  to help less privileged children across the country. In a post on Instagram, DJ Cuppy noted that the gala was a success and gushed about it being the best birthday present.

Interestingly, the grandiose event which drew the crème de la crème of the society such as Linda Ikeji, Dele Momodu had Africa’s richest man and iconic entrepreneur,  Aliko Dangote doling out N100 million Naira. This noble gesture is both instructive and inspiring. Otedola the father has a Foundation that helps entrepreneurs to succeed with their startup ventures by giving them the means to focus all of their energies into their new business.

Take note that so far, donations have come mainly from fellow Nigerians who have made their wealth through the deployment of their business acumen and creative ingenuity, rather from the national till.

It reminds one too, of a similar initiative, especially in the United States. For instance, the Giving Pledge which started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gatesworth $88.5 billion, and Warren Buffettworth $74.2 billion, is a commitment by wealthy individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth to poverty-alleviating causes. These include refugee aid, disaster relief, global health, education, women and girls’ empowerment. Other aspects are focused on medical research, arts and culture, criminal justice reform and environmental sustainability.

Signatories of the Giving Pledge must be billionaires, if not for the money they are giving away. The goal of making a public pledge is to encourage others to consider philanthropy, too, even if they aren’t billionaires.

As at May, 2017 fourteen billionaires announced they had signed the Giving Pledge, formally joining the 154 other billionaires who have promised to give away at least half of their vast wealth to philanthropic causes.

One is therefore, urging other richly endowed Nigerians to key into the vision of giving out to the needy because the poverty situation in the country has reached a truly alarming and disturbing dimension.Nigeria, with its vast natural resources (oil, gas, solid minerals, agriculture and tourism potentials) should have no business with poverty. The scourge has been aptly described as lack of sustainable livelihood and an absence of resources, when the individual has no access to adequate income, nourishment, land and economic facilities.

Poverty also means the fear or uncertainty about where the next meal will come from and is therefore easily identified with food insecurity. Unfortunately, it has become an ever looming shadow that haunts majority of us daily.According to the World Bank, a person can be said to be living in extreme poverty if they live below the poverty line of $1.90 which translates to N693.5 per day.

Indeed, the startling statistical figures paint a dark picture of a nation whose poverty level stood at 54.4 per cent in 2004 but escalated to 69 per cent in 2010,with those caught in the terrifying trap of extreme poverty  standing at 38.7 per cent. But that is not all. “Using the relative, absolute and dollar-per-day poverty measures, National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) estimates that poverty may have further risen slightly to 71.5 per cent,61.9 per cent and 62.8 per cent respectively in 2011”.As at February, 2012, the NBS said that relative poverty was most apparent in the north of the country, with Sokoto state’s poverty rate the highest at 86.4%.

The World Poverty Clock had revealed that 91,885,874 people in Nigeria now live in extreme poverty. The new numbers came on June 5, 2019, making up 46.5 percent of Nigeria’s population which is approximated at 197,686,877, sometimes rounded up to 200, 000,000.This means that more than half of Nigeria’s population live on less than a dollar (N360) a day.

It would be recalled that in June 2018, the World Poverty Clock had named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world with statistics showing 87 million people live in poverty.The latest numbers indicate that since June 2018, four million Nigerians have joined the poverty club occasioned by factors such as unemployment, insecurity, among others.Yet, as at political independence in 1960 the poverty rate was  a mere 15 per cent of the population!

Giving is a Biblical injunction, which states that the poor will always be amongst us, therefore we should stretch our hands and give(Deut. 15 verse 7). Those who give to the needy are protected from their enemies(Psalm 41 verses 1-2). And “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done (Proverbs 19 verse 17).

Kudos to DJ Cuppy and others with the heart of gold.

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