Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the country is far behind the race in eradicating poverty. He said this at the second Abiola Ajimobi roundtable programme to mark the 70th birthday of the two-time governor of Oyo State.
The programme was well-attended by many incumbent governors, former governors, prominent traditional rulers and several other businessmen and women across the country. While speaking on the topic, ” Managing the Dynamics of Nigeria’s Advancement: The Socio-Economic options”, Prof Osinbajo said, “there are two issues and I’m glad that by the response of discussants, the two issues stood out. One is the environment for local and foreign investments and second is eradicating poverty.” “It’s very obvious that we are behind the race in eradicating poverty. The reason being that before now, there were no systematic and focused approach to eradicating poverty in our country. This is why from 2014-2015, the APC decided to write social investment into our manifestos”. “So, the social investment we are talking about is not by accident. It’s a comprehensive programme to tackle poverty. It’s a detailed programme and first of its kind anywhere in Africa. The programme is very seriously scrutinized by the World Bank and as a matter of fact, the World Bank is a collaborator”. ” Till date, that school feeding programme accounts for feeding over 9.9m pupils in 33 states and we are going to 36. 540,000 people are being paid monthly. Of course, it’s not a perfect programme but it’s the first pragmatic approach to tackle poverty”. “That’s what countries with large population of the poor did and today it has taken a large number out of poverty. It’s very important to bear in mind that we are at the first stage of the programme and we will do a lot more”. Former governor of Osun State, said for the economy to improve, the rich in the country “must be taxed mercilessly”. According to him, to help lift the poor from the mud of poverty, the rich would have to pay more than they are paying as taxes.
“My firm belief is that there must be transparency, rigorous poverty alleviation and anti-corruption. We must mercilessly tax the rich and the keyword is merciless. I mean those who are in possession of money either legitimately or through other means. It is when we have access to money that we can affect the lives of the majority of the people who are poor due to inequality in the distribution of the wealth of the nation.” “Population ought to be a blessing but it’s not because our able-bodied men and women are totally useless to the economy. Our education and other policies must stimulate people to be productive”. His views, which he said he presented as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and not as Minister of Interior, however drew the ire of Mrs Ibukunoluwa Awosika, one of the discussants who asked why the rich had to be punished for striving hard, in the same difficult environment where the poor are. The Guest Speaker, Prof Ayo Olukotun, who spoke on the topic entitled, ” Managing the Dynamics of Nigeria’s Advancement: The Socio-Economic options”, said, ” previous sections of this paper, some ideas were canvassed concerning remedial initiatives that can soften our plight and turn us off dreadful scenarios of predicted high and increasing population growth, in the midst of slow growth and dwindling resources. I intend to bring together these ideas in this section, so that it can serve as a sort of prospectus of necessary reforms and a compass for charting our way out of what looks like a forest of a thousand demons”. “However much we dislike the idea of arresting uncontrolled surge in population, we must now consider putting life into policies and institutions which already exist but allowed to lie fallow.” “According to a recent report, almost 70% of existing families have large family sizes of 6 or more persons. Consequently, government must now consider how best to incentivize the raising of small families and organizing sanctions for those who depart from that norm. The projection of almost 260 million by 2030 should jerk us awake from the current inertia. Similarly, extant but ineffective institutions such as the National Council on Population Management should be forced awake from their slumber to carry out the activities prescribed for them.” “Needless to say that corruption must be reduced so that resources and efforts invested can begin to show, I already referred to the failure of previous poverty alleviation programmes, on account of mismanagement and corruption, this cannot be allowed to continue, and here one must be thankful for the anti-corruption programme of President Muhammadu Buhari, which in a manner of speech, have put the fear of God into serving public officials. “I have often lamented however, in my back-page columns in the punch that with a few exceptions, the states are not keying in into the drive, in spite of its enormous potential. The project requires buy-in not just from civil society, but from the state, as well as local governments. There are, of course, other ideas for restoration, what is important, however, is to create what academics like to call a developmental state, whose sole priority would be to roll back the advance of poverty, increase the welfare of the people, modernize structures and processes, put political entities on the world map, copy from best practices around the globe, as well as fulfill the social contract between those who govern and the governed. “Needless to say that corruption must be reduced so that resources and efforts invested can begin to show, I already referred to the failure of previous poverty alleviation programmes, on account of mismanagement and corruption, this cannot be allowed to continue”, he said. Roll call Those at the event included wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, Governors of Lagos, Babatunde Sanwolu, Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi, Ogun, Prince Dapo Abiodun, deputy governor of Oyo, Egnr Rauf Olaniyan, and Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Umar Ghanduje. Chief Bisi Akande, former acting national chairman of APC, Chief Bode Amao, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, Former governors of Oyo, Ogun States, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala and Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba, Minister of State, Ministry of Health, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora, Chief Kola Daisi, an industrialist and many others. Traditional rulers there were the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji represented by Prof Taoheed Adedoja, Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage(rtd), Olugbon of Ilegbon, Oba Francis Olusola Alao, wife of former Ekiti State governor, Mrs Feyisetan Fayose and several others.