Thursday, July 28, 2016

Vote Against Poverty!

There is a recent report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, OPHI. It was carried out by the University of Oxford and released June this year 2016. At a glance, three things are clear: one, poverty of the worst and Nigerian kind cuts across board – so-called rich are actually poor, and the poor live in abject poverty. There will be no time to expand this theory but something in the way I‘m saying this gives me the impression that you get my drift.

Two, the report put it very kindly that the intensity of poverty in Nigeria varies from state to state –  not one state in Nigeria, including those considered rich like Lagos, Delta and Kaduna are able to meet the 33.3% multidimensional poverty Index – that big oyinbo to mean that in spite of huge wealth accruing from oil over the years, and in spite of the massive funds states receive either as security votes, monthly allocations and bailout, children still die at birth, we buy sachet water to drink and we are taxed very heavily to do so. Foods which we once took for granted like plantain and maize, beans and garri are beyond our reach. Power is rationed as if we have suddenly been sent back to the days of esco (essential commodities). Some roads in Benin City still resemble that that Oba Ovonramwen built. 

Matters are worse in that while we cannot access health care, our leaders and those who have been accused of stealing the monies meant for these developments, either fly out to have their noses checked or go for medical checkup as soon as they get bail for stealing. The third thing you get from reading that report is that if you were to put another human being anywhere in the world through the level of poverty in Nigeria today, they wouldn’t survive it. They would instantly or take to the streets asking for change.

But that there is abject poverty in the land is not hot news. And we have no need to be solving some kind of Mathematical equation or calculus to know that the poverty which prevails in Nigeria is not only physical but mental as well. What we know as a matter of fact is that most of the Nigerians who voted for Muhammadu Buhari in March 2016 voted thinking that the poor man was going to, with a swish of his magic wand an abracadabra, a mighty rushing wind would come blow away our poverty away like a typhoon. Such is the pervading level of mental poverty in the land to the extent that the difficulties and disappointments we are all facing now have coefficient equivalence with the astronomical increase in the level of poverty in the land. Take for example: that report says that only Lagos, Osun, Anambra, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Abia, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom are in the first ten states which are anywhere near the multidimensional poverty Index set at 33.3%. The report says that Nigerians living in states like Yobe, Borno, Oyo, Kebbi and the rest are living in severe poverty and are most vulnerable to disease and death. 

Therefore, what is news is that rather than continuing with this level of poverty, Nigerians can do something. We must vote poverty out. As Nigerians, we are supposed to have in our hands one of the greatest instruments which can irrevocably alter the course of our lives – the vote. But I must qualify this: just voting in an election cannot give us change. Why? The elections which would be coming up in Edo and Osun states are up to the highest bidder already. Gist in the market space is that a certain demagogue has already spent N1.5billion to prop up a candidate. The other party is said to be doing same. Another gist in the market as well is that the EFCC recently arrested certain INEC resident commissioners over a bribe of N20Million they accepted to write election results in favour of a political party. 

From the look of things, it seems as if the camp more likely to be dirty and slimy may clinch the elections in either Edo or Osun. And because we know as well that voting at elections is not the be-all and end-all in the democratic process, and because we know that the kind of political gerrymandering going on now, we want to encourage our people to still go out and vote. 

 Most people in Edo state are not too interested in the two Edo sons vying to be governor trust me. They know from the terrible experiences of our immediate past that politicians care only for their pockets. They care mostly for their interests. Edo people know that many politicians have two mouths – when they say good morning to you, you must begin to hurry home because as matter of fact it is nearly bedtime. What the people of Edo and Osun must do is continue to insist on the candidate more likely to make investments that will end poverty in Nigeria. The people of Edo and Osun states must begin to pursue politicians NOW and AFTER the elections. On our advocacy and campaign page on Facebook, Vote Against Poverty, there’s a video there having Charles Iyare, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of ANEEJ. He would likely be telling you what you must look out for concerning the chap who should be the next governor of either Osun or Edo State. He is not interested in the political party and neither are we. You’d likely going to hear him dramatizing from page 244 on Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty – how we can make it Happen in our lifetime.  Go to the Facebook page and find out what he’s saying.