Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
A member of the Senate representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, on Wednesday, took a swipe at the elite in the northern part of Nigeria, blaming them for the high rate of poverty in the region.
He said while there were wealthy northerners, the North still had high poverty rate.
Sani said this when he hosted leaders of lepers, the deaf and dump, the blind and the cripple in Kaduna State in his office.
The lawmaker said the visit by the group was in fulfilment of his campaign promise to bring them “for the first time to see the office of the person they elected into public office.”
He said it was unfortunate that the poor were the ones who “toiled and worked for us, and laboured hard to see us elected into public office.”
He lamented that while politicians looked out for the poor and the physically-challenged during campaigns, the people were usually abandoned when elections had been won.
Sani said, “It has always been the same pattern; each time we are aspiring for political offices, we search for them in the nook and crannies but at the very time we have won the election, the best thing is how to clear them from our cities.
“You cannot end (street) begging in any part of Nigeria without making provisions for uplifting their socio-economic and living standards. It has always been the case. Public begging and loitering is an economic problem. You cannot legislate people out of poverty; you cannot decree people out of poverty; you have to lay an economic roadmap for which these people can stand and fend for themselves.
“Begging has been a major problem in northern Nigeria but it couldn’t in any way be stopped because the economic basis that would address the problem has not been done. Many rich northerners, who own oil blocks and are in position of power, are seeing these people as pests in the society that should be cleared off. And they cannot be cleared off.”
He added, “We have enough people who are rich in the northern part of Nigeria and who could have ended this problem. But what we should understand is that philanthropy alone cannot address the problem of socio-economic inequality; we need to have an entrenched social system and social justice in which people of this social status can have their standard uplifted.”
Sani also said that it was “very unfortunate” that governments at all levels budgeted trillions of naira without consideration for the physically-challenged, to have their problems and plights addressed.
He said, “We live in a very oppressive and exploitative society; the class of the the few are the ones who are consistently supported; they are the ones who have been enriched consistently. And we have a mass of people who are in abject poverty.
“Government should not measure its achievement by the number of rich people it has created but by the number of poor people it has been able to lift out of poverty. That should be the guiding principle. But successive governments in Nigeria have been very unfair to our physically-challenged people. They were the ones who were on the queues on election day. They were the ones who were brutalised and persecuted by previous administrations. They need to see, feel and benefit from change at hand.”
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