Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
No fewer than 1,000 people in Ekiti State tuesday received a total sum of N16.5 million as economic empowerment from the Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).
During the event, 20 people received N100,000 each; 180 people got N50,000 each; 300 persons smiled home with N10,000 each while 500 beneficiaries got N5,000 each at the maiden AB Foundation Poverty Alleviation Programme.
Babalola urged privileged Nigerians to assist the poor to reduce the high rate of poverty and unemployment in the country saying: “you don’t need to be the richest person in the world to help your neighbour.”
Babalola said: “I urge the government to go down to the ordinary men, people in the grassroots and do something to assist them. I am a grassroots man, the only time I am happy is when somebody beside me is happy.
“Giving is an act I borrowed from my parents; giving is very important if we want this country to develop. The federal government alone cannot fund universities in Nigeria and make them comparable to their peers in other parts of the world.
“What Stanford University received annually from endowments is more than the whole amount Nigerian government votes for education. How then can Nigerian universities compare with them.
“We should change our attitude of wanting to leave everything for the government to do for us. Today, it has got to the ludicrous extent that
many Nigerians want to bear children and want government not only to train them but to provide the children school meals.
“We cannot abdicate our responsibilities for government, not in the face of compelling and competing duties of the government. I therefore call on the rich and the more comfortable members of the Nigerian society to come the assistance of the less privileged with the overall aim of engendering growth and development.
“What I am doing today is a token of my humble concern and love for the people generally and I will like the rich among us to take a cue from this because riches don’t become wealth until they are invested in humanity.”
Babalola urged the beneficiaries of the poverty alleviation programme to invest the cash received wisely and judiciously to give themselves economic empowerment through investment in small scale businesses.
The Chairman of the occasion, the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, said Babalola’s gesture was commendable because of the rate of poverty in the country describing poverty as a “very impatient illness needing attention..
The monarch said: “The time is so right; the gesture is so commendable and so unforgettable when poverty has spread out its curtailing wings over opportunities and hope but here comes a remedy to help generously.
“I pray that those lucky beneficiaries of AB Foundation cash gift today should go and invest in any enterprise directly or in association with friends in order to gain self-reliance and gain the needed comfort.”
The Ewi, Oba Adeyemo Adejugbe, commended Babalola for siting his university in the town alongside its subsidiaries like farm, hotel, bakery and others which has generated thousands of employment.
He advised the people to go back to the farm to ensure food security and be gainfully employed expressing concern with the huge number of people who turned out for the programme.
An elder statesman, Chief Deji Fasuan slammed politicians “who make millions from their outrageous salaries and allowances but come back at the end of the year to distribute second-hand motorcycles and grinding machines as empowerment to the people.
Describing Babalola as an “unusual human being,” Fasuan said ABUAD in its seven years of existence has given solace to many people in Ekiti and has become a reference point within and outside the country.