This Is Pro-Poverty, Not Pro-Poor,By Garba Shehu



Garba-Shehu1-580x340“The world’s hunger is getting ridiculous. There is more fruit in a rich man’s shampoo that in a poor man’s plate.” – An Inspirational thought online.
Evidence that Northern states governments’ half-hearted attempt to lift their Muslim masses out of hunger in the Ramadan fasting people did not bear fruit was brought to the consciousness of Nigerians by a recent News Agency of Nigerian, NAN report.
M.A. Islahi, a Muslim thinker states that “fasting inculcates in a sense of sharing and therefore, we feel a compassion for all beings”. He says “one who observes fasting becomes kind-hearted and avoids crudeness while dealing with . There is greater understanding.”
It is thought that this was the driving spirit in the decision of many of the states up-North to free feeding to the poor and the destitute throughout the Ramadan period. This had the effect of removing beggars off city streets. Fasting now over, the feeding schemes have stopped and the beggars have poured back onto the streets. What kind of thing is this? What is the message that the governments wants to convey their various publics?
Without meaning to pontificate, or engaging in moral one-up-manship, the lesson of that period is simply this: Bad habits dropped during the cleansing period should be done away for good; good deeds imbibed should conversely be taken forward beyond the Ramadan. The man who womanizes, or is a smoker, an alcoholic or an excessive consumer of even the good things of life is not expected to resume the bad habits because the Ramadan period passed. If this is the lesson for individuals, why should state or local governments which take up the responsibility of feeding their poor drop out of it because the month-long period of fasting is over? The sense I make of this is that governments in this flip-flop are telling their people that they are wicked and heartless. They pretended that they cared for the poor people in Ramadan but in truth they did not. If they can undertake the feeding of the poor for the Ramadan period in July, why not take it through August, September, and on and on?
This inconsistency only serves to underline the shaky grasp of our political class in general over our economic and social issues. It confirms that Northern political across party lines is out of touch with the reality of the living of their people.
The NAN report in question states that “a week after the termination of the Ramadan feeding programme, destitutes have resurfaced on the streets of Kano begging for alms.”
According to the report, “the destitutes have taken over major junctions, markets, motor parks, public places and other strategic locations of the metropolis seeking for alms…”
The report went on: “some of them told NAN that they disappeared the streets during the fasting period because of the free feeding programme by various state governments in the North during Ramadan”.
“Saminu Audu, one of the destitute said if the governments would continue with the largesse, or at least a meal a day, they would vacate the streets.” To borrow words Chetan Bhagat, who wrote an article with a similar headline “poverty is a terrible thing. There are few things as demeaning to a being as not having the means to fulfill his basic needs in life.”
Northern Nigeria is one of the greatest poverty havens of the world. the existing level of poverty, governments’ attempt to administer welfare homeopathically (through minute doses) simply doesn’t work. The problem calls for more than half measures. It is only when our government cast aside their hesitancy, laziness and selfishness and adopt bold approaches to reform that this segment of the population can be lifted the scourge of poverty.
In this regard, the revival of textile and other agricultural industries in the region will make for a good start. When these agro-industries thrived in the past, they created a lot of jobs. Nigeria been importing nearly all of its textile and processed agricultural goods leading to massive unemployment at home.
This, coupled with the lethargy and poor at the top created a situation in which crime and insurgencies like the Boko Haram thrive in the region.
To get out of the illness, one needs to take some bitter medicines. Northern governments must listen to advice by experts on the issue of poverty and implement them. They should increase in agriculture, industry and infrastructure especially independent supply. They should open up governance by imbibing transparency and accountability. Let them cut much of the wasteful expenditure.
Political leaders must also reduce their corrupt acts. They have taken enough from the people and it is time now that they give back to the nation.
By way of atonement, they may quickly prevail on the National Assembly to pass the Food Security Bill, which among other things, seeks to ensure this country did not allow its poor to die of hunger.
States that have fed their destitute and poor for a month have no moral right to suddenly withdraw this arrangement simply because the Holy month of Ramadan is over. An Arab proverb says “a hungry man can the king”.
Does anyone sincerely think that the North can get out of the debilitating Boko Haram insurgency if they continue with this type of complacency, paying shabby attention to the hungry men and women in their midst?

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