BY IFEANYIN CHUKWU NWANNAH
It is glaring that no society can surely flourish and be happy, even as the greater part of the citizens is suffering in abject poverty and want. People are miserably poor which is against the statement back in the 18th century as advocated by an economist, Adam Smith. What he advocated has come to light in the present day Nigeria.
The contrast between the haves and the have-nots has become even starker. The World Bank report has it that one Nigerian lives on less than two dollars a day as an amount that is often earned in minutes in good countries. Recent Human Development report has it that the richest 59 percent of the world’s people have income 114 times of those in the poorest including Nigeria with the percentage of about 59 percent. While some live in relative comfort, millions live as squatters, setting up shacks wherever they can, others are not fortunate, they live in the streets, with perhaps only a place of card board or plastic between them and the ground. Many of them eke out living in whatever way they can, scavenging in garbage, dumps, hauling heavy loads, or collecting recyclelables in pushcarts. The stories of inadequacies between the rich and the poor are not only found in developing nations but also in several other countries of the world.
Though it may be commonly agreed that poverty actually pervades every state of the federation, that of Zamfara needs a careful study. No matter how well off some may be, there are still others who struggle to have enough to eat or to have a roof over their heads.
The gap between the rich and the poor in Zamfara State has continued to grow with the most affluent filth of the population receiving less than half of all the household income. The poorest fifth, according to World Bank report, receives less than US1 dollar per day. This show, according to the World Bank report, that about 57 percent of the Nigeria population live on less than US2 dollars per day. The question now is about those who become wealthy under questionable circumstances? Even if nothing out rightly legal is done, many will feel that these cabals as stand in fortune are getting immensely, extra ordinary, obscenely wealthy putting it in the context of what is happening in Zamfara State.
Some wonder how much extreme windfalls estimated in the hundreds of millions of Naira for some individuals can be justified when so many live in abject poverty. The truth is that from the look of things, the state government led by Abdulaziz Yari is not trying to do anything to alleviate the sufferings of the people. There is no policy or good program to help organize proposals for noble efforts to make for good implementations.
But in spite of all these negative reports about poverty in a rural state like Zamfara, there are those who remain optimistic that something can be done to alleviate the sufferings of the common masses, if only the state government can listen to the voice of reason that something concrete can be done. They are of the opinion that there is a way to pull people from the present depths of poverty.
Some have put up certain suggestions to come forth with a long list of solutions to try to solve the problem. Among them is social instances program such as improved education, counsel debts development etc. But a large percentage of people cannot sell their products very easily even though the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 set a goal to be achieved in 2015. These include the elimination of poverty and hunger within the state, women empowerment programs, reopening of the state’s skills acquisition centre and other related programs that can develop the youth and women.
The state skills acquisition centre was established by former Governor Ahmad Sani Yarima where the youth are trained on various trades and some allowances given to them during the training; and after the training equipments were purchased for them by the state government depending on the trade learnt. These helped the youth to self reliance.
When former Governor Shinkafi came on board, he maintained the program and even increased the allowances so that the apprentices would be comfortable in their training. But the present administration led by Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, pundits believe, has allegedly scrapped off the program, sending back the youth to the streets bagging for alms. That again scored a political point for Shinkafi in his struggle to return to the seat of power. The trainees and trainers some few months back protested to the Government House demanding the payment of their allowances for over twenty months. This is a situation whereby there is a democratic set up but the youth are being denied of the dividends of democracy, a program that was suppose to eradicate poverty among the youth who can rely fully on state resources.
Governor Yari believes that purchasing of thousands of motorcycles and distributing to the youth can eradicate poverty in the society but the motorcycles have turned out to be a curse rather than blessing. These are the same motorcycles being used by unknown gunmen to perpetrate evil in the society. No report of armed robbery or killing without the mention of the use of motorcycles by armed bandits.
The fact is that hope for real progress is very slim considering the level of poverty in the state. Where can the people turn for help when the government cares less about the welfare of the people? It is a well known fact that poverty is like leprosy but the difference is that leprosy attacks the body while poverty attacks the mind. When a man’s mind is full of bitterness with poverty, he begins to think of evil ideas which have shown that most of the social menaces committed in the society are linked to poverty.
Both the youth and women have seriously been oppressed by the torture of poverty due to lack of political will of the people who pilot the affairs of the state, priority is not given to the needs of the people. The fact that the government of Abdulaziz Yari is constructing roads every where does not solve the problem of poverty. No matter the number of white elephants projects he builds or if he like let him build castle in the air without human empowerment, it is just chasing the wind because a lot of people are unhappy. The government has proved to be either unable or unwilling to eradicate poverty in the society.
There are so many problems associated with poverty, as food shortage, lack of money are as a result of the faulty administration. Many cannot claim a home of their own, while many people’s dignity has been hurt. This is a state that receives about N 3 billion from the federal allocation monthly with a population of 3.7 million people. It is one of the states in Nigeria that has the highest concentration of extremely poor people. About 80 percent of the population are walloping in abject poverty, dying in hunger and starvation due to lack of assistance.
Escalation and perversion of such hard living condition has rang an alarm into the ears of concerned moral individuals. A situation where able bodied people roam the streets begging for alms; street begging is on the increase due to hunger and starvation. A great number of people get what they eat from the garbage while some have to wait for people’s left over. Most people believe that some of these people are mad people but a psychologist, Dr. Utomi, disagrees with this belief, saying that it is frustration that has made them to only exist but not living. He said that if they can be provided with their needs (not wants) they will return to their normal lives and be useful to the society.
The rate of poverty has continued to grow because the state has failed to shift attention to economic development that can be generating revenue for the state to carter for its helpless citizens. But the state continues to rely wholly on the federal allocation every month as the only means of survival. As a result constant borrowing from the capital markets cannot stop. There is no viable industry that can provide employment to the people and generate revenue for the state. Yet there are wealthy Zamfara people who are industrialists and have chains of industries in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, and Lagos and even outside the country without any thought of putting one industry in their home state to reduce the burden of unemployment and the high rate of poverty in the state.
This is a situation where everybody waits for the government to do everything without individual or community effort to alleviate poverty in a way of employment through their industries if constructed in the state. The attempt by former Governor Shinkafi to industrialize the state was betrayed by the present administration when he started the construction of Zamfara international cargo airport, Zamfara solid minerals processing company, investment house, BSM petroleum refinery etc.
But all the billions of naira used in these projects is now a waste because of lack of economic foresight and lack of political will of the present administration of Governor Abdulaziz Yari.