Late last year, precisely on Sunday, November 10, 2019, the mass media – traditional and social – exploded with the raucous news of the donation of a whopping $14 Million (approximately NGN5 Billion ) by business Tsar cum philanthropist, Mr. Femi Otedola, to the Save the Children Fund through his daughter, Florence Otedola’s (aka DJ Cuppy) foundation to cater for destitute children in Nigeria’s North-East. The donation is said to be the highest in the history of philanthropy in Nigeria. The Cuppy Foundation is a non-profit organisation established by Otedola’s daughter, Florence Otedola. The charity works to improve the welfare of Nigeria’s vulnerable and marginalized children, focusing on early childhood education and healthcare among numerous other programmes.
Mr Femi Otedola, 57, is one of Nigeria’s most revered philanthropists. He has donated billions to fund several programs in education, health, sports, entertainment etc. From donating $6 million to the construction of a multi-storey building at the Augustine University in Epe, Lagos, sponsoring the treatment of Christian Chukwu, a former football international and one-time coach of the Super Eagles, who was suffering a life-threatening ailment, to mention just a few of his several angelic deeds, Mr. Otedola has written his name in platinum.
Agenda Watchdog in its tradition of identifying with excellence joins the rest of the world in commending this rare humanitarian gesture by one of Nigeria’s finest souls who has found it worthy to donate to this noble cause. It is a gesture that is worthy of commendation and emulation by other wealthy Nigerians who are fellow stakeholders in the Nigerian project. It is a wakeup call, a challenge to the privileged members of the polity that they have crucial roles to play in improving the welfare of the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the society.
It must be pointed out that the private sector and other privileged individuals have crucial roles to play in the task of improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, vulnerable members of the society. The efforts of government towards improving the lot of the less privileged should be complimented by the voluntary contributions of the more affluent. There is need for a multipronged approach in the fight against poverty. As fittingly captured by the Vice-President, Professor Yomi Osinbajo, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the event, “it is obvious that government cannot do it alone”. The truth is that no matter the amount of social investment a government makes towards bettering the lives of its citizens, it needs partners to make any serious impact. The rich have crucial roles to play in ensuring that no Nigerian is left to live in abject penury.
Charities are veritable avenues through which the well-to-do say “thank you” to God and their communities for making them successful in life. This is very common in the more affluent societies where various charities are set up by the rich and powerful as their own ways of given back. There are charities that regularly donate billions to several causes across the world. The funds released by these charities are used in providing crucial services in the areas of health care, education, housing etc. Charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Clinton Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation and several others dole out billions regularly to charities across the world to provide essential services for the poor. Mr. Otedola, Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu and a sprinkling of other affluent Nigerians belong to this exclusive class of humanitarians who continue to give hope and succor to the less privileged members of the human species.
The scale of poverty in Nigeria is an alarming national epidemic of crisis proportions that requires a multipronged approach to arrest. Not long ago, Nigeria was rated as the world’s poverty capital by the Brookings Institute and other rating agencies. The consequences of the cyclical increase in the poverty level in Nigeria are already being felt in multiple forms such as social unrests, increase in acts of criminality, poor nutrition with its concomitant health implications, poor housing and several other avoidable challenges.
However, to encourage more Nigerians to join in the fray, government has a key role to play. Most charities are established and funded from the proceeds of the businesses owned by philanthropists who also double as mass employers of labour. One way of encouraging these productive members of the society to dole out more funds for the upkeep of the poor is by way of generous tax holidays and other pertinent exemptions for the businesses that fund these foundations. This will go a long way in encouraging the involvement of more Nigerians in these noble initiatives.
In all, Mr. Femi Otedola’s gesture is worthy of commendation by all and sundry, and emulation by other rich members of the polity. There is still room for more entrants into this league of extraordinary human beings whose hearts overflow with the milk of human kindness.