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Okun Nation and the Issue of Poverty

The generation that will lead the third civilization in Okun Nation will be the generation that can evolve an economic vision that will lift the vast proportion of Okun People out of poverty.

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Leaders that cannot see Okun land in the next 50years and beyond cannot lead us out of our present economic degradation

In Okun land people are living in deep neck poverty especially at the grass root, our people are suffering for the most basic needs in life.

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Poverty is not just an economic issue, it is a personal issue, it is a community issue, it is a political issue and personally I have the conviction that it is also a spiritual issue.

What is this poverty that we are talking about?

Lack of access to a good diet

Lack of access to the most basic opportunities

A degraded livelihood

A stagnant environment

Lack of employment

Lack of intellectual development

A hopeless leadership

Wretched life of survival

The Economic Over view of Okun Nation

The first civilization was the economic progress and economic development of Okun land from the beginning of the Alafinate years around 14th century till the beginning of Colonization and this included the climax of the Oyo empire, the Islamization drive of Fulanis in the South, The slave trade and contact with the European.

At this stage of economic development the traditional structure of the economy stood for well over 200 years until slavery came to shape it in the 16th century. Shortly after slavery the Europeans altered the economic structure of slavery through legal trade and colonization. Cash crop Agriculture, legal tender and white colour secular jobs were introduced.

The second civilization was the beginning of colonization which started from the 19th century to the present hour, within we had the Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, the abandonment of the Minority Report, the independence of Nigeria and the of course the democratization of Nigeria. Within this period a lot of changes reflected on Okun Nation, for the first time a lot of Okun citizens were exposed to western education, an indigenous government structure evolved before the 60s and as such they were able to play crucial roles in forming their statehood and community development. Another critical factor was the formal partition of Okunland in to the Northern Region and the balkanization of the Okun nation into states and Local Government.

The third civilization is what we are waiting for and hoping for; the modernization of the Okun Nation, the transformation of Okun land to the field of dreams, a technological arena, and industrial nation, where our people will be able to live above the poverty line and contribute their own quota to the development of mankind and the global family at large.

The Economy of Okunland 1970-1985

70s and the mid 80s would be considered one of our finest hours in Okun Nation, as at early 70s the effort of the missionaries and post independent schools were already bearing fruits. Okun began to produce Medical Doctors, University graduates home and abroad, grade II teachers, Clergies and missionaries. Okun People were working in the civil services that were fast opening up , it is not uncommon to find Okun young people buying brand new vehicles, as at then our income per head was higher than China, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries of the world.

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The Nigerian Economy was worth its salt; people could live comfortably on their labour and skill no matter how small, inflation was very low, the Purchasing power was very high and domestic industries were thriving. Fast-forward to 2018 commerce, business, industry and the economy at large has been inflated.

The Economic Reality in Okun Nation 2018

Between early 90s and now somehow Okun nation became a civil service dependent economy. Indigenous industries died, Africa-Cola died, Mopa Breweries died, Oniya Foams Egbe died, and others. Well over 15 medium size industries collapsed and close to 100 small-scale industries collapsed. Since late 80s until now the economy of Okun Nation keeps shrinking in real terms.

The only mega industry standing in Okun-land is Dangote and the ownership is not indigenous, as a matter of fact less than 2% of the workforces are Okun indigenes  and  I mean  those working directly and indirectly in Dangote Cement. One of the problems is that while engaging with dangote cement Okun’s interest was never considered.

As early as 14th century the Okun Nation already had indigenous industries producing clothes, Black Soap, Guinean corn Beer and others but now in the information age industries barley exit in Okunland.

Look at the Awooris in Ogun State. Sango Ota is littered with world-class industries owned by indigenes and foreigners

Look at Ijebus A lot of Industries are standing Consolidate Breweries is there, plenty foam industries, Engineering Companies, Mining Companies and Paper production industries are in their community

Look at the Egbas they play host to countless industries also.

Okunland is sleeping and the world is not waiting for her to wake from her slumber!

A large chunk of our youths are riding Okada, or carrying logs in the bush the level of poverty is very palpable. We all know what payment of salaries and pension has become in the state, it is no longer business as usual. A lot of people who have built their lives around civil service are becoming pauperized by the day.

90% of people living in Okun land survive on less than $1 a day – is that a life? Just living for living sake. Okun Nation is too sick economically.

The unemployment rate in Okunland is as high as 60-70%t

Our life expectancy is less than 50

Our people rarely have access to financial institutions talk less of accessing credit for their businesses

Insecurity is very high people can no longer farm because of attack from herds man they will rather die hungry that been machete by heard men, Banks and finance houses are attacked incessantly.

For our people to eat a decent balance diet is a big problem.

Our women are not fairing better they work hard but get to little.

We must ask ourselves is Okun modernizing at all, are we stagnated or are we moving forward?

The Way Forward

Self Realization

We the Okun people must realize ourselves both at the individual and community level, clearly it has to begin with the individual. There is the need for self-confidence and cultural renaissance. The Okun People must believe in their selves, not just believing for believing sake but to believe that they themselves carry the potentials and power to do far great things than they can imagine. I am afraid without that spirit we shall not achieve much in Okunland.

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Without a sense of self realization and a strong believe system their wont be A Booker T Washington, their wont be a Mohandas K Gandhi and their wont be a Chief Obafemi Awolowo, more than ever we need this kind of people to emerge from Okunland.

Okunland have every reason to be proud of herself- in the whole of the Northern Region very few people have the kind of cultural intensity and diversity that we have

We have existed with the same cultural institutions in the last 500years we are direct descendants of the first heir of Oduduwa. We know where we are coming from

Thirdly nowhere in the Northern Region can boast of the kind of Natural resources we are endowed with. Okunland is too rich, too wealthy and too fertile

We have produced more professors than many states in the Northern Region put together, and we have a strong base in the international community, Okun people are everywhere in the world and they are doing fine for themselves and mankind in general.

What we need is Okun people that believes in themselves, that is willing to go extra length to achieve great things, Okun people that will raise their shoulder in dignity, Okun people that will unite and submit to an ideal leadership that will deepen our narratives and change the structure of our economy for good.

What we need is an Okun people that are willing to be heroic, willing to make sacrifices for the future; we mean the kind of people that will forsake immediate gain for the common good and the future of the new generation of Okun people. This is the only way we can discover our greatness.

Economic Unity

There are six local government areas covering Okun land but one of them is shared with the Nupes which is Lokoja Local Government .

Even when we restrict ourselves to the five LGAs which are Yagba West, Yagba East, Mopa/Amuro, Ijumu and Kabba/Bunnu we could still achieve much for ourselves as a community.

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The five Local Government Areas I mentioned above have received as much as much as 6-7billion in the last four years, as much as 12billion in the last eight years and as much as 20billion in the last 12 years. Yet there is very little to show for it because we are not dedicated to community development as much as we should.

Imagine if the five local government in Okunland had come together to unite as one family and dedicate 5% of their income to Okun Community development then we would have been able to pull together 300million naira in the last four years, 1billion naira in the last eight years and N4billion naira in the last 12 years. In the worst case scenario we could have created funded and maintained a Community College of Education for Okunland. That is even if we cannot kick start a university!

Again imagine if we had pumped N300million into indigenous industries in Okunland in the last four years alone, we would have expand the economy of Okunland by over 1.2billion naira. Well over 25,000 jobs would have been created directly and indirectly. This will have significantly reduced poverty.

What if we had committed this same 300million naira to all our community schools in the last four years, our schools would have been the best community schools in West Africa not just Nigeria

Again what if we had committed 300million naira in to our community health systems in the last four years, a lot of lives would have been saved, a lot of sickness would have been cured.

If we had committed 300million naira to agriculture in the last three years Okun would have been the bread basket of the Middle Belt, we would have employed close to 50,000 people and expand our economy by no less than 1billion naira.

We will keep enduring hardship and set back until we learn to unite purposefully!

The five Local Government Areas can lead the transformation of Okunland for Good is they are willing to pull their financial resources together.

Okun Economic Council

I propose the establishment of Okun Economic Council. A council of about 12 members; which cut across Okunland in terms of membership. The members should be intellectuals, business moguls, captains of industries, Renowned teachers, thinkers, writers and leaders. They are to be brought together to put forward ideas on how to move Okun forward economically. We can expand the council to 24 if we so wish to include all elected officials and first class kings in Okunland.

These are some of the mandate of the council:

  1. To prepare a modernization plan for Okun nation – I have said it time and time again that Okun nation cannot be an agrarian community forever, we need to modernize and innovate, we are now in the fourth industrial revolution, Okun nation must not be left behind.

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  1. To prepare an economic plan that befits Okun Nation, as such the council can come up with five-year plan or even 10 year development plan that will make our economy catch up with other community in a very short span of time.
  2. To prepare budget annually on viable economic projects to be executed with the Okun Nation and I don’t mean white elephant projects like the politicians have always done across Okunland an Kogi state at large
  3. To source for funding and come up with ideas on how to generate funds for the economic development of Okun-land
  4. To ensure that employment opportunities and commercial activities are enhanced within the Okun nation at all times
  5. And all other objectives that can improve the economic situation of Okun nation and Okun People

The Structure of Okun Economic council

  1. The office of the chairman
  2. The office of the Secretary
  3. Research Unit
  4. The office of the Strategist
  5. Business development Unit
  6. Innovation unit
  7. Revenue unit
  8. Finance office

I have a lot of confidence in Okun People! God has a lot of confidence in Okun Nation that is why he gave us plenty mineral resources, endless tracts of land and sound human capital. Until we unite we can’t bring out the best of ourselves.

Okun people let us unite!

Adeyemi Abidemi Adebola, a public affairs analyst writes from Lokoja


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.