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POVERTY dislocation


POVERTY dislocation

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…eroding the dignity of man
Without education … what is man but a splendid slave,
   a reasoning savage vacillating between the dignity
of an intelligence derived from God and the degradation
          of passion participated with brutes…”
                      …Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC.

                      His Excellency
                 CHIMAROKE NNAMANI
                  Governor of Enugu State

               The fifth edition of pre- convocation
               Dignity of Man Lecture series of the
        University of Nigeria Alumni Association (UNAA)
     Princess Alexandria Hall, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
                     Monday 6, October 2003


There is this fact of our environment that the much it
appears that the nation is expanding in the fortunes of
natural resources, a certain regression of values threatens
to swallow the people‟s confidence in themselves. And
when people are faced with the failure of self-esteem, the
downward journey of the creativity and productivity of
the greater number is predictable.

In a way, it appears confirmed that this regression rides
the crest of subversion of the people‟s values and indeed,
upturns the reality of the challenges to propel Nigeria in
the upward global human development index.

Generally speaking, what looks like a failure of the
national system or even a suggestion of the negation of
development trends, aside the prognosis of confirmed
global economic side talks, only gives vent to the further
claim of resignation for the yet uncharted economic

Predictably, the Nigerian economic environment, when
perfected in the upper political decision realm, ought to
first ride the float of human resources and second, explore
the natural features of which much of the national
promises were hinged and periodically blown.

I have no doubt that most of you who were not involved
in the discussions with staff and myself would wonder
how the topic of today‟s (this year‟s) Dignity of Man
lecture: Poverty in Nigeria – Eroding the dignity of man
assumed the social stigma, which depicts poverty and
reduces human prestige.

In reality, I had offered to alter your earlier pattern
consequent upon the objectivity of the condition attending
the social status of current generation of Nigerians. And
when I say Nigerians, I mean every citizen finding it hard
to fulfill a life, including the streaming graduates of this
great University of Nigeria of ours who, by the sheer
perversity of the economic environment, have been
limited in abilities and potentials by the fierce hand of

But before I go into the concept of poverty as it is
perceived in our environment, I wish to advert your mind
to the reality of the conceptual philosophy of the great
institution, UNN, which today stands out as the first
indigenous university and leader in so many areas of
global undertaking.

When the great Nnamdi Azikiwe, founder and motivator,
assumed the heady challenge of founding a base for
nurturing the local African to match the emerging quality
of modern men and women in the globe, he was living his
earlier injunction that the presence of Western values was
irreversible. Indeed way back in 1937, the great Zik had

lamented that “throughout the continent of Africa, there is
not an indigenous university sustained through African
initiative … Had African universities been maintained at
their expense, they could have had their curricular filled
with important divisions of knowledge which could have
hastened their intellectual emancipation”

The Great Zik did not limit his fair understanding and
prodding of fellow compatriots to move West (United
States or England) to acquire vast learning “to be new
Africans,” but extended on the viability of New Nigeria
emerging on the creative force of proud citizens capable
of exhibiting some national pride.

It was indeed incumbent on the pioneer that he was to
erect such social institution, which must assume the duty
of building the necessary human and material
environment capable of sustaining the local people,
predictably long after the colonial order was gone.

Nnamdi Azikiwe was a massive intellectual success and
the motto he chose, as the driving force of the new
community in place, was as apt as it was phenomenal: “To
restore the dignity of man.” Zik believed as was also
embodied in the alma mata creed of UNN, that the
ennobling essence of an indigenous university should
above all be crested on:
  To seek the truth
  To teach the truth
  To preserve the truth and thereby

  To restore the dignity of man.

But for some predictable reasons, we may revisit the
background of the terse but voluble proclamation of the
founding fathers of this institution. Our knowledge of
modern Nigerian history equips us with the fact of our
society, having been severely and inhumanly assaulted as
in the despicable human slavery and trans-Atlantic slave
trade. This was to be followed by a socio-political
revolution, which upturned our political configuration and
altered permanently the value system and the other social
pillars of the emerging modern environment. The total
dislocation and eventual seizure of the society only left
the people brutalised, dehumanised, devalued and
debased, leaving in its wake, a people devoid of dignity
and robbed of other elements of self worth.

Of course, we cannot continue to live in the now
confirmed historical fallacy of lack of education in the
pre-colonial Africa. This is more so when it is now
confirmed that what we had served stronger points in
breeding character and leadership; relating as it were, with
the immediate and smooth values upon which foundations
of centuries of men and peoples were founded.

In that respect, it becomes compelling to accept the fact of
the previous life and socio-political pattern of the people
so entrenched but brutally plucked without respect that the
only way out was to seek a restoration of order.

According to Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in:
“To restore the dignity of man …the role of the
university”, “to restore means to repair, to make good
„again‟, to bring back to the supposed normal or former
state.” These, being a confirmation of the severe damage,
disruption, dislocation, disorientation, degradation,
defacement, depopulation and even depletion of worth,
which were the lot of the people in rediscovery or

By this same stroke of logic, it is now argued that dignity,
as prayed for and pursued with such vigour, which saw to
the fruition of the dream for the UNN, rode the crest of
new hope, belief in personal strength and courage in
confronting the then threatening environment.

We cannot forget that although the age of slavery was just
over and the rising generation had managed to secure a
lease of new values attendant upon newer suzerainty, the
bitterness or fear of the immediate past reinforced the
belief for deeper conscientisation and institutionalisation
of the philosophy on which the new order would home in

Indeed, like in the old Rome of Nero, it was like the
Appian Way – that seasonal road to Rome, upon which
disaster befell nations and peoples. In our case, it was the
Aro route of disastrous memory, leading every captive to
Igwenga, and finally into the high sea enroute plantation
sites in the West. Its pervasion and the non-sparing

dimension of it brought about the worst of tragedies in
modern times as villages; kindreds, clans and even
federations of clans were wiped out and dragged off to
slavery. It was just a pernicious economic activity which
brought a whole scale flight of values and eroded that
which reinforced the people‟s estimation of themselves
and their neighbours. It was a truncation, which was
almost headier than attempted obliteration, as it
effectively subdued cultures, causing a flight of values
that eroded, in finality, the dignity of human kind in
Africa then.

Now, with this as the case, why not re-dignify? In other
words, he who was robbed of his dignity should have it
back. In other words, the people should, once again,
achieve excellence, perfect the elevation of character and
mind and fit properly in the emerging social order without
fear of being treated with disdain and dishonour.

Tomorrow, the 7th day of October 2003, it will be 43 years
since this formed the motto of a higher institution of
human development. Where it is not a point for
compulsive understanding; and where one, on passing
interest, does not grasp the historical forces, which
induced the conceptual philosophy of this university, it
looked like any other unique selling point of a brand of a

To a great extent, it may be slightly difficult to ignore the
reality of modern pressures and social developments,

which alter social relations and indeed erode the dignity of
man. The mind blowing wickedness of the frightening
trans-Atlantic slave trade could not have been blurred so
soon in the minds of the leading nationalists who, rightly,
saw in colonialism another attempt at furthering the
degradation of the African in an age of self-assertiveness.

But the promises of indigenous administration on the
hopes of pursuing political and economic policies capable
of lifting the African beyond the point at which he was
halted, appeared threatened with repeated failure of
leadership and followers alike to re-establish the thread
and journey of life anew.

Indeed, the political economy of the African and other
Third World States has been such that its being hinged on
the track of modern global economy only came as an
imperfect supplier of raw materials and consumer of
finished products, without any roles in-between.
Consequently, the development of the economy, which
ought to ride abreast of the projected human development,
turned up as a jigsaw, baffling the growing number of
economic theorists and other pundits.

I guess that you would not quite take in the idea of getting
so deep into the various pontifications attending the
repeated failure and recently, sluggish advancement of our
economy at this forum. To me, it is a topic of separate
discussion, which should be tackled very soon. For the
purposes of exploring the challenges of defining the

dignity of man and ascertaining the likelihood of eroding
same of the man who thirsts for self-esteem, we shall limit
this talk to the direct incidences of indignity as portrayed
in our current economic environment.

Stutton Cheffied cleared out on such incidences which
lead to indignity and concluded that much of these related
to lack of self-esteem, which on its own takes flight of the
mind of the man who has lost out in craved initiatives or
even enterprises.

Simply put, the young man (and of course woman) who
aspires to attain a university degree and fails to get it loses
out in esteem, first to himself and subsequently to his
friends, associates, family and the larger community.
Indeed, for the man in a typical Igbo setting, the journey
of life explained in the trinity of Igbo character: akpa
uche (cot of reason), aka ikenga (endeavour) and ukwu
n’ije (sojourn) is assumed to lead to ntozu
(accomplishment) and subsequently odenigbo (fame).
Many a life of Onye Igbo did run the full track with vast
success but countless numbers have had this blown on the
way, ending it all in recrimination, rage and depreciation
of self-esteem.

Relatedly, the head of a family who fails to provide for
the family faces not just the risk of losing self-esteem but
the threat of family dislocation and disorientation, which
in turn erodes loyalty, community influence and equal
access to institutions of social expression.

Beyond these basic challenges, vis-à-vis the
unpronounced affirmation that man must perform, good
weather or not, there are now so much complexity of the
socio-political environment that man may have faced the
severest of pressures, not necessarily for his failure of
response or intervention but because of the reality of the
polity and the activities of other factors of modern life.

Under the broad category of poverty, there has always
been this temptation to view the poor as just those who
lack and who may never have in abundance as to chop
and remain or even chop and thro-way. On the strength
of such fixation of thought, we sometimes try to reduce
poverty to our interpretation of one‟s direct relationship
with his God. Said the other way, we see our sudden or
even gradual rise beyond the subsistence to opulence as
reward by God or good relationship with the creator (ndi
chi ha nuru ekpere ha).

Indeed, seeing material elevation as one fetching, in one
stretch, happiness and recognition, we may not be
mistaken in seeing our material accumulation as depicting
God‟s blessings and reward (ndi kpatara ego bu ndi chi
ha goziri). Yet, strong studies already carried out on
poverty go far beyond the sentiment expressed for
material possession and such social pressures compelling
certain conducts toward material acquisition.

I will start with a view of the dictionary on poverty.
According to the New Webster Dictionary of English

Language, poverty comes in two main dominant
dimensions: unproductiveness/deficiency or inadequate
supply…(that is lack in the face of need) and the ideas
section of poverty, which is defined as the monastic
renunciation of the right to own…(that is possibly
having access or close to source but rejecting acquisition).

These – each in the final manifestation –         get proper
definition in the reduction of the person to     the margin
below the so-called poverty line which, on       its own, is
defined as the marginal income line at            which an
adequate living standard is (not) possible.

In a way, I can say without fear of contradiction that the
alumni of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) is not
inviting me here to talk about the ideas side of the poverty
question, pursuing, as would be the case, such motivations
which got pious men to renounce earthly possession, not
even in derision of those of us who wish to build castles
on earth without as much a thought for the paradise here-

My commencement of this talk has already shown that I
am – not just as a Lion of this great university – inclined
to take on the deprivation angle of the poverty question,
rather than the spiritually induced choice to stay all out of
it, in the face of the pressure to accumulate.

To that effect, poverty, as it relates to deprivation and
subjugation of man, attracts me more, not because I have

the all-season solution to the endemic malaise, but
because I have, even on my own, elected to study the
topic for present and future roles in resource definition
and, possibly, allocation. For poverty does not necessarily
exist because there are rich and poor people. It is rather
that a few are rich because so many others are poor.
Poverty according to Herbert J. Gans, survives in part
because it provides a baseline of failure which tends to
reassure the non-poor of their worth; something akin to “a
reliable and relatively permanent measuring rod for status
comparison”. Any contrary impression has the potential to
deflect attention from the larger socio-economic structure
on which poverty is embedded.

Indeed, poverty as a subject has assumed such global
dimension that it has suddenly become conditional for
debtor nations to prepare and of course foster what is now
called Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) to earn
any form of attention from the world financial institutions.
And increasingly, such global attitude at conceptualizing
the whole possible dimensions of poverty has yielded so
much angles of it, beating down in its wake such views
founded in passion, ignorance and even superstition.

Consequently, poverty, not just as an incident but as a
process in social relation forms, has been extended in
reach and impact and so giving hint of a far more
devastating effect on the environment than it down-graded
the individual life of the immediate victim. In other
words, the very bold angles of poverty, as now

established, have opened new world knowledge of it as
sources of far more diffuse impact than the despair of it on
the one man who has failed to provide for his family.

To appreciate this development in its fuller form, it will be
gainful to consider the views of Adeline Caenonis on the
trends and patterns of poverty as they manifested,
differently, in rural and urban areas.

An overview presentation represents the segmentations as
the overlap of social classifications, which bursts down
the relatively well to do in the rural areas as presenting a
true description of the definitively poor in the urban areas.

Conversely, the active player in the urban area who may
have attained a stable urban economic life but gets
suddenly transported to the rural area, will be reduced to
the deprived and poor status, if prosperity is measured in
terms of both possession of such definite property as land
and access to the social stabilizing institutions as roles in
decision making bodies and specialized societies.

In other words, he who may have attained some stability
in the urban area – marked out by certain possessions –
but who cannot even transfer such acquisitions to the rural
areas – that is if such would make any meaning there –
may have to be forced to accept severe social
downgrading if he finds himself back in the native land. In
a straight form, it is being said that poverty can be
geographically determined while wealth has social

meanings, which will never be the same everywhere we

But riding a global overview, particularly on the crest of
sociological researches driven by Elizabeth Wilkins,
poverty is termed the income of a community which in
subdivision among families and kindred, is less than 40
per cent of the norm which manifests more in poor
infrastructure, poor health, poor nutrition, poor self
esteem, low hygienic standards, low intellectual
development and lack of capacity to articulate social,
economic and political environment and low per capita

Very revealing also are the results of field investigations,
which discovered attitudinal reflections and counter social
trends as incidences of poverty. In many cases, such
severe limiting social trends as castes in the South East,
race in the North West/North East and group (ethnic) in
the West, all indicate that as in other parts of the world,
the degradation of man may not just arise from failure to
acquire vast material possession but a class imposition of
worth which can hardly ever be escaped.

Besides, the various terms of well-being or ill-being
reflect social factors and relations in the various areas
where it was studied. For instance, well being which, in
the South East (Igbo) is called ogaranya or odi na mma,
literally meaning the possession of sound property such as
house or home, food, pipe borne water, wife (for man),

children, abilities to care for family, education (various
levels) and access to factors of leadership in the
immediate environment, also means good neighbourhood
feeling and promises of eventual relevance in the social
rating of the environment.

This means that such fellow who has such good feeling
may not possess the above elements of wealth but retains
such level of confidence and hope of eventual influence in
the society.

This goes to reveal that such feeling must have come in
comparison with another life which even if it is with
noticeable material possession, may still not directly
translate in well being. So, when we say, as in Igbo land,
that poverty (ogbenye or uwa afufu) is ill being (ajo
onodu), it will include lack of all those material
possessions which we identify as giving vent to well
being but certainly not excluding, if not limited to, the
possibility of such other social rating that undermine a
man‟s worth in his community.

Closely related to this is the self-rating which manifests in
the bitter feeling of those who see themselves as
needlessly getting into excessive activities to earn a living
(ike kete orie). It may surprise a non-Igbo to hear the
recrimination accompanying one‟s resignation of self as
falling under the poor class – ike kete orie when the Igbo
philosophy of life is fastened on the position that
endeavour and accomplishment are just inseparable and

the one (hard work) will certainly lead to the other

Yet, the context in which one describes himself as ike kete
orie actually originates from a near permanent situation of
uncertainty and blight such that it is not even given that
the effort made will bring about any improvement in the
person‟s well being.

It may not entirely be the case in the North West as in
Gusau and Ikara where well being is termed wadata
(wealth), kwanciyar hankali (security) and rufin ashiri
(independence and self sufficiency) while ill being is
called talaka. The pre-colonial political environment
however severely narrowed the chances of someone
crossing from the talaka-border to the other life-border,
which is associated with a reinforced integrity of man.

In the South West, the terminologies for well-being depict
reasonable social wholesomeness as in possession of
property and in abilities to take of immediate needs. In
Ayekale Odogun, well-being (igbe aye to derun) is
associated with good quality of life (igbe aye to dara).
These are believed among the people to be expressed in
wealth, good health, having successful children and belief
in God. The other coin of life – ill being – in Odogun is
igbe aye ti ko derun which eventually culminates in igbe
aye ti ko dara (ill quality of life).

So, the incidences of poverty, as already identified in the
researches of the various agencies and scholars, reveal a
world so unstable and threatened that what might be
described as isolated cases of deprivations have assumed
such global dimensions that it is now about the only such
subject with diffuse meaning and impact on the other very
important areas of life as it affects global advancement.

In Nigeria today, so many profound works have been
done on poverty but the most attractive now is the one
articulating the segmented incidences, some of which
came on the float of social forces and policy directions.
Generally, Nigeria is fully identified as sitting
uncomfortably in the bowels of poverty and so earned the
154th of 172 countries in the world marginal index. This
goes to mean that, of the countries where citizens are
merely subsistent and which have the biggest task of
developing the people and their resources, Nigeria is even
so low on the scale that it is sluggishly riding ahead of
only 18 countries.

Much earlier than now, a study of the poverty situation in
Nigeria gave this horrifying picture of down-ward slide in
the economic well being of the citizenry as depicting a
whole 87 per cent of the population or about 93 million of
the estimated 120 million people living in poverty on the
eve of democracy in 1999. But strangely, this
development has come of an avoidable slide which started
much earlier in the life of the independent State in the
1960s. In 1964, over 84 per cent of the population was

living above poverty line. But poverty level jumped from
28.1 per cent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1995. In 1996, it
had got to 65.5 per cent or 67.1 million of the population.

I am not quite sure if the magnitude of this development
has driven enough notes to those concerned with field
implementation of poverty reduction programmes but one
strong point I have noted is the strong advancement in the
areas of study and analyses of the dimensions of
incidences of poverty in our country today.

If then we bring up this argument on the trend of poverty
in the rural areas, the picture of impoverishment in the
urban areas leaves a gasp in the breathe of the right
thinking man. But as indicated above, the indices of
poverty and the manifestation may not actually mean the
same or induce the same attitude to self and others.
Usually, the tendency to resign to fate in the rural areas is
not the case in the urban areas where severe
impoverishment induces such social vices as crime,
prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, vandalism, thuggery
and other anti-social activities, most of which bring about
social tension and instability.

Of course, the first character of urban poverty is material
deprivation and powerlessness. The early hints of this are
lack of good food, potable water, steady supply of
electricity, and recently inability to send children to good
private schools and inability to pay for good health care.

These, as we know, are never the lot of the gainfully
employed and profitable business class.

For the victim, the problem begins with joblessness or
failure of the system to sustain such activities which
ensure the continued profitability of enterprise or skill or
craft. For instance, an otherwise profitable and well to do
technician (electrician in this case) can suddenly become
impoverished due to a long power outage which would
rob him of businesses and chances of sustaining his
regular personal income. Same is the case with the printer
who has no personal electricity generating set; or even the
hair dresser.

But in the case of the pensioner whose erstwhile stable
earning got truncated in the various administrative or
bureaucratic muddling which is incessant in our system,
or the teacher whose salary is severely hampered for
months by failure of data collection, the downward swing
of fortune may, as in many cases, be so devastating and
irretrievable that poverty will set its foot and make it a
permanent place of domicile.

I do not know whether we all appreciate the vehemence of
urban poverty when it seizes the better part of the man.
Much as the man can lash out at his God, the government,
neighbours and even family, claiming in the main, that he
was set up to be trapped in the cove of deadly squalor, the
reality of the viciousness of it all further devastates and
erodes whatever dignity he has. And even if it is for a split

second, a confrontation with the cold hand of poverty
such that compels the man to view a once-upon-a-life as
gone to pieces and portending devastation, is the crudest
reminder of the erosion of the dignity of man.

Against that backdrop then and attendant upon the fact of
perversity of poverty in our system, can we rightfully
argue that for the over 87 per cent or 93 million of
Nigerians who live below poverty line, dignity has been
permanently brutalized, eroded and in many cases, never
to be recovered? If the answer is predictably “yes” for the
prevalence of poverty, it cannot be the case for the
possibility of its reduction or even alleviation.

You may wonder why I am so confident of the position of
possibility of reduction and alleviation. Frankly speaking,
I have had causes to doubt the possibility of reviving the
erstwhile self-sustaining system upon which our various
economies achieved phenomenal growth and status, which
baffled the world in the 1960s.

It looked even impossible in the erstwhile assumption that
where an agrarian economy as those of the old regions
managed a simple break through, yet giving way to a
petro-dollar mega earning regime, such hope of reviving
the orderliness of the past and the cohesion of the
community economies which serviced the bigger regional
economies was wishful thinking.

In that regard, it was easily assumed that whatever could
be retrieved of the old economies would only serve as
relics and never elixirs in the current state of
intercontinental and global power economy which wipes
every state of its erstwhile exclusivity and peculiarity.

Indeed, I soon found out that I was wrong as it became
more compelling to accept that no matter the powers of
the intercontinental economic players and even the
perversion of a nearby national government, local
knowledge and local sensibility are the very cords of basic
economies. It was actually in line with this that the
phenomenal leaps of the economies of the old regions
came in recognition of the social cohesion and economic
relevance of each social and political entity.

This was the basis of our reactivating the Community
County Council (CCC). In a way, this simply meant
giving some political teeth to every recognized
community in Enugu State, the purpose of which is to
encourage the formation of basic governments at the
lowest levels of our State. In doing that, we tried, now
with success, to play out the variety card of the State and
urged each entity to be developmentally assertive if a
semblance of initiative could be identified.

Remember, our interest was in halting poverty
encroachment and see to the restoration of the dignity of
man in this political entity. Of course, it cannot be ignored
that various programmes of government actually sought to

tackle poverty, even with such vast cash volume but our
own peculiar searches revealed that most of the planning
and implementation lacked in local knowledge, content
and viability.

In that respect, such worthy attempts as the Directorate of
Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), National
Directorate of Employment (NDE), People‟s Bank of
Nigeria (PBN), Better Life Programme and its successor,
the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP),
each rode the fillip of heavy media presence and national
might without the requisite locality touch and instant

And where it could be said that these great projects
worked, they did not survive the ambivalence of the
people who considered the location and pattern of their
foundation and operations as alien and avoidable.

A reference to previous, particularly regional, practices,
which carried the locality people along, revealed the
viability of projects initiated by the communities
themselves and in line with their own prioritization. Such
was the case in the old Eastern region where the
multiplicity of communities would have proven
impossible to co-ordinate if the regional government did
not open up the various segments of the societies to go for
its priorities and by its peculiar strategies.

The CCC which is run by the Community County
Development Council (CCDC) in each case has the
necessary state law to carry out certain programmes of
development such that culverts, bridges, community halls,
local markets, village pathways, health centers, local
libraries and such other enterprises which can stimulate
the local economy would no longer wait indefinitely for
the state or “a far away” federal government if the
developments could easily be brought about by the local

It may not be too apparent that this marks a departure
point in the reduction of poverty but a closer inspection
shows that one significant reason for the heightening of
poverty in our land is total disorientation which is the lot
of those countrymen who cannot even appreciate the
complexity of this deafening petro-dollar economy. More
so, the activation of the local populace into building a
semblance of government at the community level actually
infuses some sense of worth and revitalization of the
dignity once harassed by poverty and ignorance.

At the last count, the CCC programme has brought about
erection or renovation of cottage hospitals, schools,
boreholes, bridges, roads, libraries and other vital
infrastructure which hitherto would have been left to
decay and to cause deprivation and want among the local

Indeed, we have taken another giant step to confront
poverty and restore the dignity of man in Enugu State.
We have created a full-fledged:
        Ministry of
        Poverty Reduction and
        Human Development,
        (MPR & HD).

Here in Enugu, we cannot pretend that we are not
impelled in many ways by the fear of poverty and the risk
of social instability as ridden by the high prevalence of ill
being. We cannot even pretend that we are not aware that
whereas it could be tolerated that the past systems failed
or crumbled due mainly to over centralization of
administration as in every military culture, the fact of
democracy compels an attention and result-oriented
programmes such that the impact of each action ought to
be felt sooner than later.

We could not have ignored the necessity to seek ways of
expanding the functional segments of our social
environment in such ways that will augment gainful
enterprises within the state. It is, therefore, compelling to
even consider a proper framework on which this new
ministry would take off.

Again, the promises of openness as ensured and indeed
lived in a democracy reinforce the argument in favour of
discussing poverty and other malaises such that the whole

dimensions would be          ascertained    and   remedies
unreservedly proffered.

To that effect, the Enugu Poverty Reduction Strategy
(EPRS), which will give its fuller meaning in the activities
of the new ministry, will pursue, first and foremost, brand
new local information order which will increase our
people‟s awareness in such vital areas of life as
agriculture, healthcare, childcare, justice, rural
development, commerce and industry, governance,
minimal expenditure management and child and adult
literacy, among others.

Already, this is articulated in the broad outline of our
framework, which now rides such various sub-themes as
employment generation, poverty reduction and wealth
creation. Of course, it is true that in our kind of economy,
you cannot even begin to talk about creating wealth when
it is going to be exclusively for a select few. Consequent
upon this, we have to develop this three-pronged strategy
to pursue poverty reduction and creation of wealth.

Employment generation as a step to achieving poverty
reduction, we also hope, will advance to wealth creation,
which in our calculation, would ride smoothly the crest of
our successful attempts at expanding the infrastructure
base of the state.

In fact, infrastructure expansion is an area we have so
done well in the last four years; we have now to take up

the challenge of expanding on the promises of revealed
areas of gainful economic enterprises. Besides the new
possibilities of transportation occasioned by our new road
network, mobility of produces and goods, we hope, will
bring further economic balancing, equalisation and

And since we have already resolved to reverse the image
of civil-service-city as Enugu was previously described, it
definitively became a part of our design to expand the
private sector roles in the economy. This will also dovetail
into promoting individual initiatives in small-scale

But as we do this, we are also conscious of the fact of
rural-urban migration, which alters planning, and utilities
allocation. Certainly, we cannot quarantine our budding
youth in the village just as we cannot guarantee full
services of our public utilities in the face of the pressure
of sudden entries into the cities.

To achieve a gainful middle point with entrepreneurial
initiatives on tow, we have now designated some
important junction towns, which will serve as basic
industrial zones and springboards of new cities. The first
in this rating are Ninth Mile Corner and Ozalla while such
newer clusters as Oji River and Obolloafor, now coming
viably on the heels of the first ones, will follow suit.

Frankly speaking, we are not too keen on establishing
more townships as we never believed the more townships
we have mean better economic conditions. But we are
currently driven into this in the hope of realizing a rapid
development of the new industrial ventures that will
eventually keep bases in Ninth Mile, Ozalla, Oji River and

We hope to achieve this on the wings of a measure of
enlightenment, which will also alter the unnecessary
preconception of poverty as a fatally, if not supernaturally
induced, incident, viewed in some customs as a curse,
instead of the socio-economic malaise, it is. One key
factor in realizing this will be basic community based
organizations (CBO), which shall pursue the enterprise of
enlightenment and education to achieve people‟s
awareness. The Ministry will, of course, have to
encourage the springing of these organizations to fill in
the gap and bring up the people‟s level of knowledge and
eventual interaction in the evolving order.

Besides this industry-based arrangement, the readiness of
our people to grasp the emerging Nigerian economic
pattern, will, as shown in the annexed strategies plot,
mark a striding progression of economic opportunities in
our environment. (Annexure: Road map of the Enugu
State Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation Strategy,
2004 – 2009).

The challenge of this venture is not just in creating a
ministry but also in the capacity of the same ministry to
contextualise a proper definition of the subject, with
particular reference to our peculiar environment, local
understanding and application. This will form the second
plank of the targets of the new ministry, as deep and
multi-dimensional studies will be carried out to sustain the
relevance of the evolving conceptualization and
classification of poverty.

This, in a particular way, is very important to us because
we have also discovered that in the past, what is termed
poverty has hardly ever earned any universal meaning of
which its reduction or eradication could not have been
universally sustained.

For the universal thesis on poverty to make much impact
in our own environment, we must work at hooking in on
the scientific efforts at achieving an objective definition
and characterization of poverty. Such will help us in
situating our various manifestations of poverty to be
relevant in our local parlance and to achieve such
meaning, which will aide restoration of the dignity of

But while we do this, we have not stopped wondering, in
our world, why, instead of receding to the backwaters, as
has been the case in most of the western nations, poverty
has turned an octopus in our own polity. Although I am
not too inclined to following the thesis acquitting the

African (nay Nigerian) polity on the condition of being so
unfairly treated in the allocation of global resources, the
unusually long journey to reinvent the people may have,
in my estimation, fallen a victim of phantom chases in line
with Western economic patterns. It is only too strange that
we have not yet tried to explore, in the fullest form, the
possibilities of local content and local sensibilities.

My position has nothing to do with the truth of our history
being replete with humiliation and degradation of which it
became necessary to restore the dignity of man, of the
African genre. It is more informed by the fact of our
having assumed the reins of authority over our
environment and resources but lacking in the capacity to
approximate same for the benefit of all, certainly not for
the greed of a few.

It is on this note that we consider this topic a challenge,
not just to come and speak before a top-notch gathering of
alumni but in paying further attention to the motivation of
the founder(s) of this great institution.

This great university was founded on high ideals and
supreme desire to reverse a trend. Such trend was the
devaluation of the African of the pre-colonial and colonial
eras, which, by our own University of Nigeria Nsukka‟s
phenomenal growth and products, we say that the stage to
restore the dignity of man was properly set and gainfully
pursued here.

Ceaselessly working the strength of the truth that, as
Nnamdi Azikiwe said in time, as it was due, it shall never
be the same again, for which we now say, as usual in
Enugu State:

                 To God Be The Glory.

1. Ayoola, GB, et al: Nigeria: Voice of the poor; World Development
   Report (Consultation with the poor), 2000/2001.
2. Enugu State Ministry of Poverty Reduction and Human
   Development: Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation Strategy;
   Enugu, September 2003.
3. DFID: Background Briefing; Poverty Reduction Strategies, London
4. Hillpoint University Centre: Restoring the Dignity of the university,
   New Generation Books, Enugu, 1998.
5. McGee, Rosemary: Approaches to policy design, implementation
   and monitoring; Institute of Development Studies, University of
   Sussex; Brighton, 2000.
6. IMF/World Bank: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers – Optional
   Issues, (discussion), December 1999.


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