We need visionaries, can-do leaders with strategies, programmes and projects, local and foreign investor funding plans, clear execution timelines, milestones and targets. That is what we need now. And urgently too. So let’s get cracking and let the issues debates begin.


I will here attempt a modest kickstart of a seven point agenda that I hope will drive public debates from the selfish peccadilloes of politicians to issues critical to our prosperity and progress. I will dwell, today, on the first agenda: poverty. Here it goes:

We the people love to gape at and to engage in bitter altercations over shenanigans for self empowerment by our politicians.

It is an addiction. We are so trapped by the political soap operas and taken in by their selfish greed that we are virtually indifferent to the huge catastrophes that obstruct our progress and welfare as a people.

It is a few months to general elections, next February, yet we are hardly discussing front burner issues or setting up agenda to drive debates on the huge socioeconomic and political challenges we face.

Poverty, indeed extreme poverty, is perhaps the biggest screamer of the many daunting challenges of our country. But it is sadly ignored and at best papered over with inept policies and cosmetic projects.

The Brooklyn Institution reports that Nigeria (total population: 200 million) is the world capital of poverty, with 87 million extremely poor people, the highest in the world, pushing India (total population: 1.3 billion) to second place.

This means that almost half of the total population of Nigerian citizens, our brothers and sisters, live in extreme poverty. Let’s put the 87 million figure in sharp technicolor.

foraminifera

The question is: Why are Nigerians not making this terrifying poverty issue a front burner or hot debate agenda only a few months to the general elections? Should Nigeria not declare a state of emergency on extreme poverty?


The 87 million figure is more than the combined total population of 11 countries: Sweden, Portugal, Israel, Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, Denmark, Norway, Croatia, Ireland and Zimbabwe. Israel’s total population is 8.32 million, with a labour force of 4.2 million, GDP of $373.75 billion, GDP per capita of $42,120, and an unemployment rate of 3.1 per cent. A population of less than 8.4 million produces almost same GDP of Nigeria with a population of 200 million.

But let’s pair Nigeria with Norway, the only oil producing nation of the 11 listed countries. Norway’s total population is only 5.31 million, while Nigeria’s is 200 million. Its labour force is 2.8 million to Nigeria’s 74 million.

Yet Norway’s GDP of $400 billion matches Nigeria’s of $410 billion. Its GDP per capita of $73,450, dwarfs Nigeria’s lean one of $2,192. Its unemployment rate is a negligible 4 per cent to Nigeria’s 18.8 per cent or some 16 million citizens or four times the total population of Norway. Put Norway’s total population against Nigeria’s population of 87 million in extreme poverty.

Today Norway has oil savings in a sovereign wealth fund in excess of a trillion dollars, whereas Nigeria, by law, does not save and boasts of some thin $30-40 billion in foreign reserves. The country shares all of its oil wealth to rogue leaders and elites at the expense of its poor.

The GDP of the 11 nations together is in trillions of dollars. This reflects the huge economic potential of our wasting 87 million extreme poor if empowered. But our leaders’s focus is in treasury looting, with no visionary capacity to empower and unleash the huge economic potentials of our poor. Nigeria is the poorer for it.

Nigeria has launched many poverty alleviation programmes from the 1980s. From the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure; the Better Life Programme; National Directorate of Employment; Family Support Programme; Family Economic Advancement Programme to the N-Power job scheme; School Feeding and Cash Transfer to Most Vulnerable programmes of today, etc. But all of these efforts have failed monumentally. Why?

The programmes have been more political platforms for elite looting than serious attempts to lift the poor. Thus citizens who live below poverty line mushroomed from 40 per cent of the population in 1980s to 66 per cent in 1990s. It is worse today.

We have little time to hear out those who seek political office. We need to analyse and question minutiae of their agenda, so we can vote wisely for our prosperity. Let us not get lost in the awada-kerikeri show of politicians who carpet cross, climb trees, do impeachment escapades and engage in personality cult worship, for they will not help us…


The question is: Why are Nigerians not making this terrifying poverty issue a front burner or hot debate agenda only a few months to the general elections? Should Nigeria not declare a state of emergency on extreme poverty?

Which of our politicians talk of this poverty trap with 87 million people in it. The trap of a battle for survival and the next meal that may not come. With little or no income, the poor stagnate, so too does the economy. Go to the rural areas to villages, even many urban centres and see poverty; people with no income, no water, no electricity, no food, no healthcare.

See millions that live in broken mud huts and decrepit hovels, who die of avoidable illnesses or simple infections like malaria; millions of folks unable to raise as little as N500 for medicine or meet hospital treatment. Ask doctors.

We need leaders of critical thinking to do comprehensive differential diagnosis of poverty in the nation, why it is prevalent and how the poor can be lifted off ground zero, to be self sufficient and productive. What are their agendas, and what programmes do they envision? What are their Marshall Plans for the extreme poor. What are the details of their legislative budgetary and financial agendas to alleviate poverty?

We need to know how they intend to cut the huge gulf between the rich and poor. Would they provide social safety nets and build human capital, site factories, good schools, provide cottage hospitals, potable water and electricity in villages to boost trade and agricultural productivity? Would they organise trade and farmer associations to cut the risk of lending and provide SME loans?

We have little time to hear out those who seek political office. We need to analyse and question minutiae of their agenda, so we can vote wisely for our prosperity. Let us not get lost in the awada-kerikeri show of politicians who carpet cross, climb trees, do impeachment escapades and engage in personality cult worship, for they will not help us or lift the large numbers of our brothers and sisters from the misery of the poverty trap. We need visionaries, can-do leaders with strategies, programmes and projects, local and foreign investor funding plans, clear execution timelines, milestones and targets. That is what we need now. And urgently too. So let’s get cracking and let the issues debates begin.

Watch for the second 2019 Agenda.

Ken Tadaferua is a media and marketing communications consultant. Twitter: @ktadaferua