BUILDING A MORE COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY

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As Nigeria marks 60th birthday, Noah Dallaji urges closer relations between government and civic organisations

This is a momentous time in our nationhood as Nigeria marks 60th year anniversary, having gained independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. Looking back now, it is a milestone. In spite of all the odds, the country has remained a united entity. Nigeria is still a beautiful country with great potential for greatness. It could have been worse but God in His infinite mercy has made it possible for us to witness this event as a united nation. The inherent challenges that have militated against our potential as a nation are surmountable and we would certainly attain the coveted greatness in due time but we must continually work for it.

For now while the adulations and conviviality of our celebrations are justified, one is inclined to advocate the utmost need for a more compassionate society as we move into the next phase of our evolution as a country. Of course, this tendency has gotten much attention from the government over time, spanning different administrations. The issue now transcends that of government at any level but dovetailing to the fabric of our society, to let each and every one of us come to terms that we need to do more by being our brother’s keeper. We need to pay more attention to the role of the variegated non-governmental and non-profit organizations scattered all over the country to see how, through improved partnerships, they can better perform than we have seen over time in solving myriad of socio-economic problems around the country. Adjunct to this is the critical factor of funding as a prerequisite to performance. Here, we have seen how effective and impactful the various works by leading NGOs like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation, CARE International, Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), Save the Children, etc. And back home, we can also relate with the outstanding efforts of Dangote Foundation and Tony Elumelu Foundation in adding some great value to humanity and I duly recognize all they’re doing. But not all NGOs have such level of funding to work with even with the vigour, ideals and values of earnest attention to the common good and especially in our kind of environment where there is high incidence of poverty. As I pointed out earlier, government cannot do it all and hence the need for greater level of partnerships with governments and the private sector as well as public spirited organizations to tackle the challenge of making our society a better place for all.

According to a GlobeScan poll of experts on public policy sustainability, the point was validated thus in terms of the leading role in achieving sustainability will be played by business (35%), followed by NGOs (30 %) and government (24%). This is at the nexus of the thinking here for a greater role for the NGOs in fixing sustainability relative to government in particular. No doubt, the traditional role of the NGOs will continue to subsist; basically in global social development reckoning which it helps to facilitate in human development as measured by the UN Human Development Index. Here we are concerned about such effects on the importance of promoting sustainable community development, accomplished through service delivery, welfare, education and public policy advocacy.

At the African Children Talent Development Foundation (ACTDF), these values are at the core of our operations in the last 20 years where we have functioned as a formidable platform for discovery and nurture of talented young Nigerians to stardom in areas such as music and entertainment, sports and the movie industry, where majority of the leading lights, popularly referred to as Nollywood, have been ACTDF ambassadors.

At various times, we have also intervened as exigent measures in strategic cases of education and health related dysfunction, individually or institutionally, and we are well focused to do more depending on available resources. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic was an eye opener to ACTDF team on the frontline during the peak of the crisis as we went round the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and environs to distribute palliatives (mainly food items) to the people who were under lockdown and in desperate need. We saw in greater dimension the extent of vulnerabilities the people, particularly the poor in society, face in times of national crisis. Therefore, we must all be concerned about this situation which we must note will continue to recur as a factor of nature and other causes. So beyond such pandemic, natural disaster is a possibility at intervals like the recent massive flooding in Sudan which the UN recognized as humanitarian crisis and the sad occurrences in northern Nigeria where many lives were also lost to flooding.

Issuing from the above is the critical need to localize utilities and platforms to cater for the people at the grassroots, a function which non-profit organizations are adept at and could be more effectively carried when the need arises especially in times of crisis. We then return to our earlier thesis that though everybody looks up to government as savior, the real deal is with the non-governmental entities and others in the private sector whose activities reflect a commitment to serve humanity without reservations. Moving ahead into the next 60 years of our nationhood, we at ACTDF are keen to see more robust partnerships in response to challenges faced by government, especially in articulating policy decisions. We believe it is high time government found ways and means of integrating and involving deserving NGOs more in decision making and implementation. This philosophy has been adopted by the UN and other multilateral institutions. Yet as variously canvassed, Nigerians should also do more either as individuals or organizations to serve humanity and this does not cost much. As former US President Bill Clinton posited in his remarkable work,’ Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World’, we are enjoined and inspired to “seek out what each of us, regardless of income, available time, age and skills, can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams”.

Dallaji, founder, African Children Talent Discovery Foundation, wrote from Abuja