Conversations About Eradicating Poverty By Jude Feranmi
The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is quite an interesting theme that is already late enough to have as a discussion or as a focus area as far as sustainable development is concerned especially in sub Saharan Africa. Eradicating Poverty, using whatever tools is always a topic that should continually gain the attention of policy makers and political leaders who are genuinely concerned and interested in seeing the black continent achieve its potential.
A hungry continent cannot develop beyond a certain limit. If the people are always hungry and are lacking in basic amenities like shelter and clothing, and an environment friendly enough for habitation, they cannot think of solving the problems and overcoming the obstacles of the technological future that the 21st century is fast becoming.
However, no matter how much we discuss these problems in contemporary society and on days like the International Youth Day, we entirely miss the point and not just that, we end up missing an opportunity to put on the table of important issues the real essence of such days which to me is about making the topics chosen for the theme of such events/days the focus areas for the next one year and ensuring that there is an incremental progress as far as that focus area is concerned.
When it comes to the issue of eradicating Poverty especially as it applies to young people’s production and consumption capacities, there is a lack of rigorous engagement on what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.
One way or the other, the message that gets passed across is usually that of a misplaced understanding of exactly what the problems are which in turn then leads to offering the wrong solutions to tackle such problems. Arguments and Policies about Eradicating Poverty has always been very complicated and dicey seeing that there is no one fits all approach to reducing the level of poverty in the globe especially when it comes to Sub Saharan Africa.
In academic circles, it is as broad and finely divided a topic as the difference between socialism and capitalism, positions on how the poor can and ought to be lifted out of poverty are usually so and much more, so enduring. It is said that the scriptures records that the poor will always be amongst us and as if in the spirit of that verse, the United Nations creates another definition for absolute poverty.
What is usually the common ground however is the FACT that there exists absolute poverty and the urgency of the need to see that it is reduced. What is usually lacking in this part of the world which I must say is annoying seems to be the understanding of the level of poverty that needs to be eradicated in sub Saharan Africa and especially Nigeria.
More often than not, there is the explanation and definition of poverty as being a defect of the mind that needs to be overcome by wilful thinking and strong determination to get oneself rid of it. This is not only wrong and annoying, it is also a generational insult to the millions of Africans in poverty and penury from the middle and elitist class to the lower class and the masses.
The poverty of the mind is the reason unemployment rates are high, the poverty of the mind is the reason young people cannot produce exportable materials in exchange for forex, the poverty of the mind is the reason agriculture has whittled down and has become unattractive to this young generation, the poverty of the mind is also the reason solutions to technological problems that are globally useful cannot come from our Nazareth, the poverty of the mind is also the reason we have no mentors to provide mentorship to a generation that is obviously in dire need of it, the poverty of the mind is the reason those of us who don’t have education cannot perform miracles without the knowledge that they need to make that happen, and less I forget, the poverty of the mind is also the reason the ones who end up graduating become unemployable.
Can We Just STOP?
This narrative is faulty at best and is philosophically a petition precipi fallacy. If an individual and in deed a community is poor due to a poverty of the mind, then such a person or a community cannot, and for the purpose of emphasis, does not have the capability to rid itself of such poverty. Let us for the purpose of this argument agree that they are poor because they cannot think, It does not make any logical sense to ask them to think so that they can no longer become poor. The reason they are poor in the first instance is because they lack the capacity to think. As such, a poor individual in such poverty cannot bring himself/herself out of such poverty and is thus the responsibility of society to help lift these kinds of people out of poverty.
It seems as though we do not have any idea of what absolute poverty is, probably we cannot comprehend the scalia of such an experience and also that we do not have any idea that 110 million Nigerians belong to this category as quoted by the Vice President in his last outing at the African Union Convention. Our solution to eradicating this level of poverty is for those involved in it is to think out of such poverty? Really?
More often than not, those who are celebrated in sub Saharan Africa, especially youths are usually named as the examples of those who should be emulated by others in such societies. There is no greater example of elitist propaganda. In narrating these stories, what is usually not made clear is the process these great achievers go through in what can only be compared and illustrated by Diamonds in the Rough.
That diamonds exist in the rough in the midst of stones does not necessarily mean that the stones that surround those diamonds will necessarily turn into diamonds with time.
This narrative is also escapism at its best. An approach by those who hold the reins of society and those whom the bucks stop at their tables to sell entrepreneurship in the midst of one of the most non-conducive business environments on the globe as the only way to save the flailing continent.
In what is now a traditional anthem, young people need to buckle up, think about ideas, break barriers, grab opportunities, invent patents, smash down walls, crush glass ceilings, make miracles happen and in short perform magic while those at the helm of affairs continue to do things as they were done in the first republic.
This has to STOP! First, because it is condescending and ineffective in putting our continent where it needs to belong globally and Secondly because it doesn’t apply to the millions of Africans, majority of who are youths that are living constantly in absolute poverty and are not capable of doing any of the above no matter how much diamond potential lies within them and are instead concerned with the very very important issues of what to eat next.
If you don’t have any new ideas about how extreme and absolute poverty can be eradicated and how communities can be lifted out of poverty, please do us all a favour, SHUT UP! You will be doing us all a favour by at least not planting in our thought patterns the seed of the idea that mental laziness is the first and only reason seventy-percent of the world’s poorest countries are located in Africa and Nigeria is ranked third on the world poverty index where 61% of citizens continue to live in absolute poverty ( less than one dollar a day)
Those of us who insist this narrative MUST change have to double our efforts.
National Youth Leader,