Food or Empowerment

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The most basic need for life is food! We all know this. Food is a consumable; you eat now and will still be hungry in a few hours. Food translates to energy; the energy one needs to carry out any task including applying for work, sitting for interviews, and even doing the work for which one is hired.. So, as important as food is, when a people are food insecure what does one expect to see? When a people have been food insecure for as long as Nigeria has gained her independence, it means the issues and consequences of food insecurity have had more than enough time to make homes in the fiber of our beings. Most Nigerians in general, whether poor or rich, educated or not, tend to have a skewed mentality that is based on self. If a rich educated person is focused on self as seen even in our leaders, what does one expect from one who is food insecure? They are ready to “open office on your head” if given a chance. Every single one that meets you seems to calculate how to fabricate a story that will cause you to help them or give them money. There is a mentality of “eating without working”. And for such a religious country, we should understand that he that does not work should not eat and he that works let him eat.

Now, The Candlelight, alongside other food NGO’s have decided to help out by giving food to the needy and everywhere i go, people ask me, “is it just food?” I have written about this before. They say “why don’t you add some kind of empowerment or training of some sort”. To show we are listening, we decided to add on literacy classes and soft skills training to our programs.In the 3 months which we have been doing this, i find:

  • the number of people who indicated interest vs the number that are in actual attendance is heart breaking. We had over 100 people showing interest but we see on average 40 people in each class. So did they really want the training or its what they think we want them to say?
  • in the 2 years we have been open, we have had good testimonies but the mob characteristics still seem to be a part of them. This lifestyle of receiving or even taking, looking for a handout as a preferred means of livelihood is still predominant.

So the question i have is this; would you hire a man or woman who has this “take” mentality? who prefers a handout to performing the labor that  is required for that 30,000 a month that you want to pay? If you answered “no” then i ask, after they have been empowered and trained, who then will hire them? who will give them the finances needed to continue the trade they just learned?

I have decided that while training and empowerment is very good, we need to work on our mindset. How will a man who just got a job leave the job after one month because he has a village meeting. And says he TOLD (not asked for permission) his office that he was going for the village meeting and that by the time he came back they had given the job to someone else. Another man said he left a job because he didn’t like to work under a woman. Yet another said he left because he didn’t like the way his boss spoke to him; that his boss should understand him and his situation.

Ladies and gents, no one can know the mind of a man except that man (and God) but when you hear a person say he or she isn’t working because there is no work, its true.. but how much of it is attributed to lack of work versus lack of work ethic? This desire to have “my own” runs deep inside most of us. Only God knows how many record labels we have in this our small country and how many printing presses that exist out of tiny kiosk “offices” all because we want “our own”. The lack of collaboration and morals have kept us from partnering with each other. Why have 100 printing presses doing rubbish work and with zero customer service, when we can have 20 that understand customer service and have a pool of funds to make their processes, equipment and output better. But no, Emeka and sons must open their own motor parts company right beside onyioshi ventures motor parts. Its amazing!!!

Truth is regardless of how we got here, we need to find a way to get out. NGO’s are taking their place in making a difference but even the efforts of most of us are frustrated; either by the members of the NGO itself of by the beneficiaries. How is it that an organisation digs and installs a borehole for a community and not up to 6 months after, we hear that the taps installed have been destroyed by the people in that community. Or that the generator bought to power the school built for them has been misused to the point of destruction within the same period. Have you ever noticed how things that get into the hands of the “poor” tend to never last? Or shall we talk about getting your official travel documentation from the passport office? where if you are not willing to pay someone something extra, you will probably never get your passport out; even after the official price to get a new passport is published online with the “procedures” involved? Lets not talk about the police department or most procurement officials in quite a number of large organisations who will give contracts to friends and family or awarded based on who will give them the largest cut.

At the end of the day, we must not stop. Those of us that are real, transparent and truthful; amidst all the stigmatization must continue. We must try to make our country better in whatever capacity. But i must make a call to action. We cannot look for empowerment alone or food alone. In whatever sphare you find yourself, we must impact the minds of our people. Without sound morals or work ethics, this sustainability we seek will be just a dream!


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