OPINION: Wealth Creation as the best approach to Poverty Alleviation in Ilorin Emirate. By La-Kadri Yusuf Bolaji
As we gather together to mark this year’s edition of the annual lunch of Almanac for Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, I would like to congratulate every son and daughter of the Emirate for the grace of being alive to witness this glorious event again. As a rider to the August event, I would like to share some thoughts on how we can advance the course of our people by making our poverty alleviation drive to be more of an institutional-based approach rather than the current practice. It is instructive to mention that we need more of institutionalised schemes to achieve our short, medium and long term objectives of placing our beloved Emirate on the pedestal of the desired development.
Poverty as a phenomenon is as old as human history. It is a cruel master which has affected our psyche as a people to such an extent that we have accepted it as inevitable. A look at our societal settings and our self-imposed demographic division where the elites and politicians are seen as the privileged who must be worshiped and adored before the underprivileged can survive and make ends meet.
A despicable situation where our elderly and youths walk several kilometres to politicians’ houses to queue for cash and material gifts whose worth cannot last them beyond the day it was given. What about our children - the leaders of tomorrow, who ought to be in school, but found themselves hawking on the streets with goods less than a thousand naira on their head just in the name of meeting their ends as a family. Needless to mention also is a situation where in the 21st century, our people still travel several kilometres in the rural communities of our local governments just to have access to potable water. Politicians take advantage the underprivileged in our midst to win elections by sharing a thousand naira to adults. We have also found ourselves in a deplorable circumstance where dashing out free health care services has become a political campaign tool rather than being seen as a right of every citizen of the emirate. Right before our very eyes, rather than making education affordable and accessible to the citizen of the emirate, our politicians now offer scholarship from stolen wealth in the name of “philanthropism” and political sympathy.
In my opinon, I think it’s high time we regrouped away from partisan politics and forge an economic agenda that is focused on the gift God bestowed on us as a people. Can we just take some reflections and imagine that the ugly incident that happened in Offa last year occurred in Ilorin, how ready are we as a people to forge a common front against its recurrence and provide succour to the affected people? Are we comfortable as a people with great history of human and natural resources to continue to be tagged as a civil service community?
Efforts by successive government since the start of the current democratic dispensation have been around scratching the issues on the surface and not putting an enabling structure which will outlive their respective terms. It started with distribution of motor bikes to the youths for Okada business as a form of empowerment, however the adverse impact of this scheme to our society cannot be quantified. Distribution of cash to the women folks is another form of empowerment scheme by the successive government not minding the fact that without having access to basic amenities of live and the knowledge to turn the gifts into wealth, such exercises are bound to be futile.
Wealthy individuals have also joined the train of establishing poverty eradication foundations with the intention of giving out gifts (cash and non-cash) to the less privileged in the Emirate. The big question to ask is whether these schemes are actually making the desired impact? How sustainable are these approaches? Are they really targeted at humanitarian purposes or for gathering of political followership? Are the beneficiaries knowledgeable enough to transform these gestures into wealth?
As an alternative, why can’t we use the established medium of unity in the emirate which is the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) as a tool to change the cause of our narratives. One way this can be achieved by towing the direction of establishing a central trust fund for the Union. Finance is a major requirement in liberating and providing future for any society. Our wealthy individuals should jettison politically implied empowerment schemes and focus on positioning the IEDPU to serve as a trust in pulling fund for implementation of sustainable poverty alleviation programmes. This will ensure that there is a consistent stream of resources to enable us implement our agenda and achieve results. Contributors to the fund should include a range of stakeholders, including the local government itself, wealthy individuals, corporates bodies and non-profit organizations within the Emirate. The pooled resources can thus be channelled towards building the capacity of our people. This can be in form of establishing institutions such as Artisans Schools for up skilling the informal knowledge gathered through the apprenticeship learning that is well established within the emirate. Children of the less privileged will enrol into this school after concluding their training with their respective masters. They will be taught about entrepreneurship and how to sustain their businesses with the little income they earn. The established Artisans schools will focus on identifying lacking skills within the populace, designing programmes to train young adults as well deliver trainings through variety of platforms to the audience. These will no doubt improve the skills sets and craft value chain of our local artisans.
In addition to the above, encouraging Local Start-ups especially youths with interest in information technology should be a focal point of this drive. It is not sufficient to inculcate entrepreneurial drive and skills in youths, rather, it is necessary to give life to their dreams. This can be achieved by providing small loans to youths for the execution of business ideas. In addition, mentorship, training, learning and development and general capacity building must be a central theme to ensure businesses attain consistent growth while business owners equally keep evolving. Only by doing these, can the economic cycle of the Emirate sustain a steady growth.
Primary and secondary agricultural activities must be encouraged in Ilorin Emirate. With the natural gift of verse land in the rural areas of Asa and some part of Ilorin, farming, harvesting and processing of commodities either for local sales, consumption or export to other states and countries must be encouraged. Variety of agro-focused activities can be explored including fisheries, crop farming, extension services, and animal husbandry. To ensure quality agro commodities are produced, standards and quality assessment agencies will be created within IEDPU to monitor and certify the produces emerging from agro producers in the scheme.
The establishment of an Industrial village and Innovation hub would not be a bad idea. Localization must be encouraged to ensure effective execution of industrial initiatives by youths in the emirate. This will ensure that artisans, small businesses and entrepreneurs have access to resources as well as create a sustainable value chain. This chain will further encourage expansion of economic activities in the emirate while also promoting overall growth and development. Priority industrial activities for the Industrial villages should include but not be limited to power creation through solar and other alternative energy sources, science and technological activities, arts and crafts, cottage industries using local raw materials and textile manufacturing.
This is by no means an exhaustive view of actions that can promote the economic wellbeing and our status as a people. However, with consistency of effort and dedication, the Emirate will record immense progress, deliver value to citizens; contribute to the economic growth of Kwara State and Nigeria while equally achieving wealth creation for its indigenes. Consequently, the glory of the Emirate will be restored and our beloved state will stand tall amongst states in our nation Nigeria
La-Kadri Yusuf is an Associate of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and Member - Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria.
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