One of the hallmarks of great leadership is the ability of the leader to acknowledge the existence of a problem and seek solutions to it.
That was exactly what President Muhammadu Buhari exhibited last Monday when he played host to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, members of the Federal Executive Council, service chiefs and heads of MDAs to a breaking of Ramadan fast at the Presidential Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja.
He lamented the high rate of poverty in the nation and solicited the support of the elite in addressing the education needs of the less privileged in society.
For the president to have admitted we have excruciating poverty in the land instead of the usual denial of the obvious by some of his aides, shows true leadership and he should be commended for that. It is then expected of the elite, including the president, to respond positively to this clarion call putting in place programmes that will guarantee basic education for the poor. This kind of benevolent gesture has been in great lack in our country. Instead, the well-to-do persons among us prefer showing off their wealth through the acquisition of private jets, state-of-the-art vehicles, mansions and other properties.
Recall how about 30 private jets landed in Minna, Niger State, for the wedding of the daughter of a prominent Minna indigene in 2017. A visit to the garage of some of our elite, especially those in politics, will make you wonder if they are dealers of exotic cars.
They take pleasure in flaunting these material acquisitions even when many children in their villages cannot go to school due to lack of fund; many people around them go hungry for days; many people are committing suicide due to hardship.
Is it, therefore, not time these men and women considered ploughing back some of their resources into the society by creating foundations to train poor children, support research work to lift people out of poverty and others? How about giving scholarships to the brilliant less privileged ones among us? We know a few foundations like TY Danjuma Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Rochas Okorocha Foundation and others exist but we definitely need more.
States and local governments are not left out in this call for poverty alleviation and educational support for the poor and needy. No doubt some states like Rivers have set up agencies to attend to such needs. Such agencies had granted both foreign and local scholarships to hundreds of the indigenes of the states. But the question is, what caliber of people were beneficiaries of such scholarships? How many children of the poor and down trodden who the scholarships should be meant for got them? You can’t allow the rich and well placed individuals in the society to hijack the scholarship scheme and claim to be helping the poor.
It is therefore time for those at the helm of affairs in these states to look into the goings on in such agencies and with a view to ensuring that the right persons benefit from them, release more money for scholarships where necessary, while the states and local government areas yet to embark on scholarships and education support for the needy should consider doing so.
Meanwhile, the federal government should do everything necessary to save the nation from the present educational and financial predicaments. It is good the president is concerned about the situation but what are the plans of government to tackle the challenge?
Apart from the Tradermoni, free school feeding, N5000.00 for the poor and vulnerable which the government always boasts of, though many people say they don’t feel the impact, what else has the government in stock? What has been the annual budget for education and how has it been implemented? In short, what premium does government place on education?
Reacting to Buhari’s statement, leaders of some socio-cultural groups in the country made comments that ought to be given serious thought.
For instance, the Ohaneze Ndigbo said if the president is serious about solving the problem of poverty, he should address the problem of insecurity bedeviling the nation. Speaking through the Media and Publicity Adviser to the President – General, Chief Emeka Attamah, the body said, “there is no way people cannot be poor when their sources of wealth have been destroyed by insecurity”.
Similarly, the pan-Yoruba Socio-Political organization, Afenifere, posited, “Until we talk about the social system that produces Almajiris, any lamentation about their plight doesn’t mean much” It therefore means that for the pathetic situation to change, government has to rise up to the responsibility of providing adequate security for the citizens. The issue of herder/farmer clashes which had rendered many farmlands desolate and cattle breeders cattle less and idle must be urgently and sincerely addressed. Also, more importance and attention has to be paid to education as one can only reap what he sows. As the elite are being persuaded to show more interest in alleviating poverty and making the poor citizens and the society better, government has to play its own role which will encourage these people to do what is expected of them.