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Magnus Eze, Abuja
Nigeria ranks 126 of 198 countries on the Global Poverty Index and the 6th poorest country in Africawith 70 per cent of its population below poverty line. It is therefore, apt to say that the 10th inaugural lecture of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, (IBBU), Lapai, Niger State, on the theme: “That evil called poverty: Entrepreneurial escape to a comfort zone” which took place recently, was both relevant and timely.
The inaugural lecture was delivered by May Ifeoma Nwoye; an acclaimed author and Professor of Business Administration.
Setting the stage, Vice Chancellor of IBBU, Prof. Muhammad Maiturare said the 10th inaugural lecture was unique especially with the calibre of guests.
He said management would continue to sustain the cherished university tradition of showcasing long years of research through inaugural lectures.
“Inaugural lectures are a central part of university academic life. It is the pulpit of professors from which they gin an illuminating overview of their contribution to their field as well as commemorate their academic achievement. It is also a platform for the university to showcase its academics and entrench a highly cherished university tradition of communicating the outcome of years of research to the public.
According to him, poverty is a weapon of mass destruction but noted that collective efforts were required in the task of turning around the fortunes of the country.
“The university has several landmark research-focussed achievements in the last 2 years alone. We undertook capacity building in organic agriculture for resource-poor farmers in Uganda, funded by African Development Bank (AfDB). We are commissioned by NNPC for field mapping and geological studies of the Sokoto and Bida Basins. We successfully carried out physical mapping and geochemical characterisation of some industrial mineral occurrences in North Central Nigeria, funded by RMRDC, among several others,” he stated.
The truth was that even the distance could not deter the array of dignitaries from the academic community as well as leaders in the public and private sectors of the economy from across the country that witnessed the epochal lecture. They included principal officers of the university, representatives of the University Governing Council; former Vice Chancellor University of Benin, Emeritus Prof. Andrew Onokerhoraye, former Vice Chancellor, Othman Danfodio University, Sokoto, Prof Aminu Maikailu, former Vice Chancellor, Benson Idahosa University, Benin City, Prof. Gideon Omuta, Vice Chancellor, University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State, Prof. Friday Okonofua represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, ex-President of Certified National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), Chief Anthony Nzom, Dean of Administration, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof Hassan Ibrahim, and Director of Studies, National College of Accountancy, Jos, Plateau state, Dr Kayode Fasua.
Others were Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mike Igini, past and current Presidents of University of Benin Alumni Association worldwide, Chief Richard Ahonorhogho and Ikenna Obiasor, respectively; Dean of Students Affairs, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Otu Ekpenyong; spouse of inaugural lecturer, Prof. Gregory Nwoye, representative of President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Denja Abdulahi, the Igbo Community, Lapai, and Catholic Women from Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Pro Cathedral, Abuja.
Entrepreneurial skills, tool for poverty eradication
In the lecture, Prof Nwoye advocated implementation of poverty alleviation solutions that can foster and stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in poverty-stricken areas of Nigeria.
She would want the government to offer resource-assistance to the poor, posting that “the leaders should do so not through handouts’’.
Instead of handouts, Nwoye said the poor should be empowered through boosting of programmes to be “handled by the poor themselves and non-governmental organisations and through programmes with features of sustainability.”
Her postulation was that charity and almsgiving played good roles in efforts to help the poor” but the goal for even charitable organisation should be to help the poor move beyond dependency.
Harping that “only entrepreneurial intervention, with its scalable nature can pull the poor from the war zone unto the voyage to comfort zone and ensure sustainable quality life”, the scholar also advised that civil servants should not be involved in poverty alleviation programmes.
Their role, she said, “should focus on policies for creating positive climate for business and creativity.”
Nwoye lamented the dearth of data on poor, noting that previous poverty alleviation programmes executed by successive administrations never mentioned the statistics of the poor they were trying to help.
With scaring poverty in the country, she said that investment on business enterprises was the surest way that poor communities would have economic independence and move from poverty to prosperity.
“This is one of the reasons why government policies need to become more pro-business to be able to promote self-reliant enterprises as well as employment opportunities.
“This should be made possible by elements of business education.”
Nwoye said states and local governments should broaden their vision of entrepreneurial policy.
“The main task is to put in place a broad environment that can attract people and in which creativity and entrepreneurship can flourish.
“In an entrepreneurial society, job creation is a common feature as new actors in the economy have new characteristics through open source-philosophy.
“Entrepreneurship culture is an environment, where someone is motivated to innovate, to create and take risks.’’
Nwoye also said government must “review intervention strategy of one size fits all’’.
Aware that there was no easy answer to poverty eradication, the lecturer maintained that implementation of poverty related programmes must be shifted from politicians and civil servants to the poor themselves and groups they trusted.
On this, she made case for formation of industrial cooperative societies across all communities for the purpose of fighting poverty. Such cooperatives should be encouraged in every way and the state should give constant attention to the development of cottage, village and small-scale industries.
“We don’t need a political movement for poverty. What we need is to build environments and policies that will lead the poor to a comfort zone,” she stated.