By Rev. Father John Damian Adizie, OCD
Poverty has remained a perennial problem. Jesus told his disciples; “You will always have the poor among you.” The UN National Assembly has taken up the unrealistic task of eradicating poverty.
In view of this, October 17 was set aside as International Day of Eradication of Poverty. As long as the current Nigeria is concerned, this is an unrealistic venture.
There are so many factors and forces that militate against total eradication of poverty. As we join the UN to celebrate International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, so many questions come to mind. For instance, how can we eradicate poverty in a country where we are practicing capitalism, an economic system, where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? Since Nigeria embraced privatization so many people have lost their jobs.
How can we eradicate poverty when there is still ban on importation of staple foods such as rice? A country where agricultural equipment and facilities are so expensive and out of the reach of the common man? Instead of subsidizing these equipment so that everyone in the country can acquire them at a lower prize, the government is rather releasing grants and funds to the same set of few individuals who have access to them.
Is it possible to eradicate poverty when the government has refused to pay the salaries of their workers? Pensioners are dying of hunger. How can we eradicate poverty when the major roads are completely dilapidated; making it difficult for businessmen to tran-sport their goods from one part of the country to another? Truck drivers now sleep on the roads and before they can get to their destinations most of their perishable goods are destroyed.
How can we eradicate poverty in a country where gra-duates have refused to take initiatives? They are instead, roaming the streets in sear-ch of non-existent white collar jobs. Most of them are now political agitators.
Can we talk of poverty erad-ication in a country where civil servants and political leaders who are old enough to retire have bluntly refused to retire? Yet, we have so many young able men and women who are looking for jobs. Most of the elderly ones in service are not strong enough to face the challenges posed by current global world.
How can we eradicate poverty when all the refineries in Nigeria are not working? We claim to be among the oil producing nations, yet we cannot even refine our crude oil locally. Even those who are trying to refine these crude oil in a local way are not only discouraged but are labeled criminals. If these local refineries are encouraged, imagine how many youths would be gainfully employed and empowered!
How can we eradicate poverty when our textile industries, railway stations, the coal and cocoa industries, the Ewu Flour Mills that would have created employment are closed down?
How can we eradicate poverty when the government keep giving some individuals licence, whereas majority of the citizens struggling to set up businesses are discouraged with high taxation and taskforces. How can we eradicate poverty when banks have refused to give loans to beginners.
No matter how enterprising you may be, if you don’t belong to the rich class with collaterals, nobody will approve a loan for you. Without the approval of the rich as guarantors you can ne-ver get any grant. The poor will always remain at the mercy of the rich. It does not make any sense!
How can we eradicate poverty in a country that is not accountable to its citizens, a country that survives only on borrowing, a country where the rich have access to foreign medical care but the poor are not even allowed to eat foreign rice. Only God knows what happened to the fund from the removal of fuel subsidy. May God keep us alive till the day when Nigeria will start using the money they got from looters?
Above all, how can we era-dicate poverty when religious leaders have refused to work. They only rely on people’s offerings, seed sowing and tithes. Whereas St. Paul, declares: “Let him who refuse to work not eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10) St. Paul did not use his office as a gospel minister to justify his laziness. He told his followers that he toil day and night not to be a burden on anyone (I Thessalon-ians 2:9). We should not use our position in the Church to justify our laziness.
The answer to these questions is indeed the beginning of poverty eradication. May God deliver our country from the spirit of poverty and economic hardship!