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Friday, 14 October 2011


There are little doubts in the minds of observers around the World that absolute poverty afflicts a greater percentage of the population of Nigeria out of the official population figure of 160 million people.

President Goodluck Jonathan at the fifty first Independence anniversary public lectures in Abuja confirmed the above stark reality of the abject poverty’s affliction of the greatest number of our citizenry when he lamented that the country was still backward in terms of growth because its economy has been mismanaged by weak and ineffective institutions of the government.

President Jonathan’s factual affirmation came barely few months after the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) published its 2011 World Fact book in which it disclosed that 70% of Nigerians are living below the extreme poverty benchmark. The widely regarded historical book also affirmed that “oil rich Nigeria has been hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructures and poor microeconomic management….”

The obvious fall out of these tremendous negative economic indices is that most Nigerian families are barely surviving from hands to mouths even as majority of this segment of the society can only survive with the assistance of rich institutions and individuals who have the disposition, charisma and the rare vocation to provide humanitarian and philanthropic lifeline.

These genuine philanthropists are as rare in Nigeria as the white eagle.

However, in the recent Nigerian history one name that is easily recognizable as a leading Philanthropist is Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the Industrialist who is known more for his giant strides in the business community as the President of Dangote group.

Miss Catherine is a 32 year old unemployed Abuja resident who I ran into while researching materials for this piece and who even confided in me that her life ambition is to have the uncommon luck of benefiting from the benevolence of Aliko Dangote.
Catherine looked at me straight into my eyes and inquired why of all the people around I chose to engage her in series of interrogations. My reply was simple and I told her that I spent close to thirty minutes from a vantage position and successfully decoded that she showed some obvious outward emotional signs of a disturbed mind and a person who truly needs someone to share her problems and proffer pragmatic panacea.

It took her less than an hour to reel out the catalogue of her encounters as a young university graduate of Political Science who came into Abuja for her youth service eight yeas ago with the high hope that she could land herself a decent job that pays living wage soon after the one year compulsory national service which she did at the federal ministry of labour and productivity.

She said not only that her place of primary assignment did not retain her but that her relentless effort to secure employment over the years has indeed not yielded the desired result. The quality time I spent in conversation with this obviously distressed Miss Catherine produced the psychological trigger for this piece.

She thundered out in a voice laden with emotion and traumatic pain that she had had to offer sexual gratification on demand by some amorous highly placed civil servants with the promises of job placement but that her generous offer of sexual gratification has yielded nothing but deception, deceit and deprivation of her human dignity.

Her saddest experience of all was that only about few hours before I reached her, the notorious environmental task force from the Federal Capital Territory Administration Confiscated her umbrella and recharge cards worth over two hundred thousand naira in the guise of enforcing the so-called law against street trading.

Asked whether she has or will approach her place of religious worship for assistance especially with the loss of her only source of livelihood, she retorted that in the last couple of years that she searched for employment, her visits to several places of worship did not yield positive result but that these ‘men of God’ have even further fleeced her of her scarce fund under the guise of doing intensive intercessory prayers for her.  As I made to depart after wishing her best of luck, Catherine shouted thus; “Mr. Journalist, can you link me up to Alhaji Dangote for me to obtain little financial safety net?”

There are hundreds of thousands of our younger people who are unemployed, poor, hopeless and homeless that are all over the place desperately looking for ways that they can approach reputable philanthropists like Aliko Dangote in the society for a life line to become self reliant and to liberate themselves from the slavery of poverty, misery and want that have become the lots of most young unemployed graduates in Nigeria.

If truth be told, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has built an image for himself as one among the few genuine and credible rich persons who have successfully synergized industry with philanthropy.

Vanguard newspaper of September 27th 2011 ran a story to show that Alhaji Dangote’s total donation to social crisis reached an all time high of N524.7 million which he gave out directly to persons and institutions affected by natural and man-made disasters like floods in Lagos and Oyo States and the recent bloody post-election violence in parts of Northern Nigeria. Dangote also displayed his benevolent angle not too long ago in Sokoto when he assisted hundreds of villagers displaced by flood with tons of cash and relief materials worth several hundreds of millions of his hard earned money.

Dangote’s benevolence wears no ethnic or religious garb. Such virtues are scarce in an oasis of self centered rich persons as is the case in our clime.

Pausing a while to reflect on the severe dearth of genuine, credible and humane philanthropists in Nigeria, it struck me that the commitments to charity made by this Kano-born business executive, who has spent his productive years in South West Nigeria, were usually made directly to very poor persons who are in no position to increase the profit margin of the chain of Investments of Alhaji Dangote who has written his name in gold as the Richest black African of our contemporary period.

Responding to the interrogation “what is the true meaning of philanthropy?” Kent Holden in April 2007 stated the obvious that a real philanthropist gives without expecting pay back from the beneficiaries.

His words; “How do we envision and peruse our philanthropic calling? Do we think primarily in terms of cash flow in, and tithing out? Do we measure our success in terms of revenue, and therefore our contribution based on the ruling of the calculator? If so, we have fallen into a deep trap, one that can make our lives devoid of heart and energy. That is the trap of pursuing what we think is good for us, instead of what we know is great for all of us. Being a true philanthropist, then, begins with acknowledging the spark of creativity and potential that is our gift to declare and share. Radiate outward from that point! Then when you choose to give materially, you will be giving only a small expression of infinite love within”.

It beats my imagination that rich persons in Nigeria will rather embark on elaborate and very expensive birth day ceremonies that are mere banal and mundane, rather than emulate the shining examples of Alhaji Dangote in whom industry and philanthropy means the same.

It is in the self enlightened interest of rich Nigerians to become genuine, credible and transparent givers like Aliko Dangote because their investments are not safe if the greater population of the citizenry is left to wander endlessly in the wilderness of absolute poverty, hunger and unemployment. It is not a fluke when people say that if the poor cannot sleep because he is hungry, then the rich will also not sleep because the poor people are awake. A stitch in time saves nine.

*       Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and writes from;    


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