BY CHINWEOKE AKOMA
Poverty seems to have established an enduring base in our midst .Even with the introduction of Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) designed to provide employment, the problem persists. In this interview, Olumide Emmanual, chief executive of Fingerprints Investment Club and wealth creation agent, speaks on why his foundation is creating conditions necessary for sustainable reduction in poverty in the country. Excerpts:
Poverty eradication has remained a major challenge in the country. How do you assess the efforts to tackle the problem?
We believe in poverty eradication not poverty alleviation because poverty can be eradicated. So, we are not interested in doing little in the midst of much but doing much in the midst of little. By that I mean we would rather pick one individual, sort him out completely than going to a place where there are one thousand people and sort them out temporarily. So, what we have done in the last one year is to pick individuals whose problems we can permanently solve . For instance, if there is a category of individuals that want to start their own businesses, we assist them with funds to start up and equally mentor them on how to run such businesses successfully. Also, those who want to expand their businesses, we give them money to expand and even those in life threatening situation, such as surgery, we pay for their surgical operations and those that have accommodation problems, we sort them out once and for all. That’s what we have been able to do in the first one year as people came to us with different issues. So, whatever problem we cannot completely solve, we don’t get involved, rather we refer.
What are the strategies you have adopted in fighting poverty?
Our first strategy is empowerment . We teach people how to discover their skills. So, we organise skill acquisition training for different categories of people. For instance, we have dwarfs who were the first set of people we dealt with. When we came in contact with the Dwarf Association of Nigeria, the first thing we did was to bring them into a seminar where we taught and empowered them to be able to discover what they have. When we did that, the next thing was counseling and monitoring to let them know how they could carry out what they have discovered before we now gave them money to set up. So, money was not the first thing . For instance, those who want to sell foodstuff, having satisfied us that they now know a lot about income and expenditure and fund management, it is then we would know give them a start-up capital. The same thing applies to the Okada riders as we equally conducted a seminar to empower them on how they could create much with the little money . So before giving out motorcycles to them, we first trained them so that when they start earning a living from riding the machines, they would know what to do with the money they earn.
What prompted this initiative?
It is the fulfillment of our goal of eradicating poverty. So we look at different areas where people are experiencing poverty. The foundation was built around a seven-point agenda namely: Feeding the hungry as food is now a major problem, clothing the naked, shelter for the homeless , educating the uneducated, health for the sick, empowering, skill acquisition, training and investing. So we have broken down the poverty issue into seven areas which is what we call our seven-point agenda and that’s what led to what we are doing.
How do you raise fund?
We raise partners, individuals, corporate organizations but the major fund comes primarily from me as I set up the foundation a year ago as a way of giving back to the society because I have experienced a dimension of blessings and I believe that blessing is not blessing until it is a blessing . That’s the ultimate of blessing and that is why I began to build my own partners. So, every month, I invest my money into it and we have people who give on monthly and quarterly basis to support it and we gather more people to support us. If they see what we have done and they are interested in joining us, we would together move on into the second year , that way we can fight poverty to a stand still.
How many people have you been able to transform through this program?
Well, on a practical one on one basis , we have touched over one hundred people . In our just concluded seminar for Okada riders, we had over 700 people in attendance but we have only given out 20 motorcycles to beneficiaries. So, it is the 20 people that we have impacted apart from the seminar that we control . Also we tried to empower about 47 dwarfs even though more than that figure came for the seminar.
Do you think poverty eradication is achievable?
It can, but, like I said, if somebody knows what to do with money and he decides to go into Okada business, if you buy him an Okada, you have sorted him out for life because he is not paying anybody any money. So, everyday he makes little money, he knows what to do with it because he has been taught what to do. Little is much when you know what to do.
How best do you think government can win the war against poverty?
That is why we are there as a foundation. Government cannot do everything. Each individual or group has a role to play because government of today cannot solve all the problems. The problems of today are over fifty years old and, for them to be solved, it would take time. So we would keep getting better little by little but, while we are going through the process of getting better, we would keep doing the little we can to support government efforts. What I am doing is just a corporate social responsibility to my generation.
Are your activities concentrated mainly in Lagos?
The foundation is nationally registered but definitely you start from your local environment and you move on from there. For instance, We were actively involved in the flood issue that happened in Ikorodu. Also we have farmlands in Otukpo, Benue State where we have a food barn. We have given out thousands of yams.