The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has once again enlivened discourse over endemic poverty in Nigeria and ways to tackle it headlong. According to the 2019 index on Poverty and Inequality of Nigeria released in May, more than 83 million people are living below the poverty line. It means that 4 in 10 Nigerians are not meeting their feeding and non- feeding basic needs. Sokoto (87.73%), Taraba (87.72%), underscore(87.02%) had the highest poverty rate, while Lagos (4.5%), Delta (6%) and Osun (8.5%) had the least in Nigeria.
The State of Harmony, Kwara, recorded a respectable 20. 35 %. A careful study of the table and states according to their scores revealed Kwara had the 9th best result, only behind Lagos, Delta, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, and Anambra. The figures underscore the need for critical and sustained social investment to combat the spread of hunger and poverty in Kwara in the next few years. It follows all the logic and global economy concept.
On September 20, 2019, the World Bank through the Country Director, Mr Rachid Benmessaoud advised at the launch of the Africa Social Safety Nets Report by the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) Nigeria to scale up spending on social investment programmes while delivering their support for the initiative. The reality is that we do not have a better approach. Not with COVID-19 making mess of businesses and threatening to make the gap wider.
The good thing about it is Kwara is not taking chances. As demonstrated with the provision of loans for transporters during the lockdown, the government won’t be folding hands to the people’s plight.
This is why the prompt establishment of the Kwara State Social Investment Programmes (KWASSIP) by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the activation of some of its components is remarkably timely and will go down in history as a worthy people-driven initiative to extend development to all corners of the state.
Two of its components Owo Isowo and K-power (i. e digital Kwara) have started recording giant impacts on thousands of beneficiaries. In the ongoing disbursement of Owo Isowo, 21,263 petty traders are targeted in the first batch. This is as 10,000 Kwara youths are getting trained in Digital Marketing, Graphics Design, Social Media management amongst other courses becoming remarkably vital for business and career development in the 21- century economy.
What I have learnt overtime is that people do not understand the magnitude of impact such programmes have on the personal and general development of the state. It signals amongst other things a paradigm shift from the culture of indulging laziness and engendering slavery to rewarding hard work and promotion of values and innovation.
No matter how bad anyone labours to paint it black, he’d look stupid to say #10,000 business money does not rank higher than gathering women under the sun to give them #500 notes for food, or, raising a battalion of hungry youths for political adventure. Why such an old and crude method contrasts what Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is doing with KWASSIP is that we are investing in people, building businesses, and raising the standard of living of the citizens. Instead of counting the number of potential beggars on our streets and in politicians’ homes, Kwara has a good prospect of taking hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty in the next three years.
I am not alone in the estimation. The myriad of women and men beneficiaries of Owo Isowo and Digital Kwara aptly capture it. We can wait on the eventual disbursement of Owo Arugbo whose beneficiaries are already enumerated across the state and activation of the school feeding program to jug the figures. Unlike any other programme, KWASSIP has the mechanism to reach every household in one form or another remarkably. It is novel. We never had it so spelt out.
This correlated with the thoughts of market women as espoused by Alhaja Sidikat Akaje, Iyaloja- General of Kwara State. They can feel the warmth of impact Owo Isowo in particular promises for the growth of commerce and trading.
During the official flag-off of the disbursement of Owo Isowo today attended by His Excellency AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi, Senator Sadiq Umar, commissioners of finance and commerce Hon. Oyeyemi ‘Sumbo and AbdulWahab Agbaje, and host of other dignitaries, the Babaloja-General Alhaji Abdullah Saadu echoed her sentiments. The government gives them hope of an assured future. Yet, Kwara is not done. Plans are in top gear to roll out support for the SMEs. All sorts of testaments and acrobatic displays before and after the Governor’s arrival shows progression in the right direction.
If you do not get on the streets yourself and only listen to snide remarks from social media people, you may think all is doom and gloom. The reality says differently. The people clearly understand their past and appreciate the efforts at reinventing a new Kwara. I can only agree with the market women, ably led by Vice-Iyaloja Alhaja Muibat Olumo who sang thus:
Ramoni oo ma ba ise re lo x2
Ise re ma te wa lorun
Ramoni oo ma ba sere lo.
O f’onisowo lowo isowo
O fun wa ni omi, oo fun wa lona
Egbe oloja n dupe lowo e
Ramoni ma ba ise re lo.
That is the voice of the people; the voice of God. Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is sticking to KWASSIP. He appreciates the contribution of traders to the economy. They won’t be left in the lurch. Owo Arugbo will come too. Same as the school feeding program. Kwara is riding on the crest wave of change. It will be practical and far-reaching. It is a total war against hunger and hardship. What people of yesterday denied us was the dignity of labour and the benefits of hard work. It is different now. Everyone now has a fair chance at life.
KWASSIP is intimidating poverty and I really want to scream. Tomorrow is beautiful.