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Nigeria And The Giving Pledge.

Warren buffett

According to news reports,40 of America’s wealthiest individuals and families,have agreed to give half their  wealth to charity during their lifetimes or after their deaths.Known as the  “Giving pledge”,it was organized by Mr Warren Buffett and Mr and Mrs Gates,who hope that,by publicly declaring their commitment to give their riches away,these people  would influence the behaviour of other people,not only now,but also many many years from now,just as Carnegie and Rockefeller inspired them.Although most of these people were used to giving privately,and more comfortably,the normative potential of this public declaration,convinced them to sign up.

The potential to change people’s attitude,not only in America,but as far afield as Nigeria,is enormous.With an insignificant middle-class,Nigerian society is polarized between the poor and the super rich.Nigeria has more than it’s fair share of billionaires.With the majority of it’s people poor,the money that it’s super rich might donate would certainly go a long way,given the government’s seemingly limited capacity to meet the challenge posed by the delivery of educational and health services to the people.Especially health.And in areas of health,dominated by diseases which seemingly afflict Nigeria more than the western world.E.g,HIV,Malaria,Tuberculosis e.t.c.

It is easy to complain and vilify western pharmaceutical companies about the price of their drugs.We moralize about these companies profiting from human misery,conveniently forgetting that,at the supply end,drugs are  mere products.And they have to be seen that way.The reality is that,if the drugs firms are not producing these drugs profitably,they would simply stop making them.Given the limited research and technological capacity down here,this would be disastrous.One option for us,is to build a funds-pool dedicated to subsidizing the process of acquiring and distributing these drugs locally.This is where our billionaires come in.

To organize such a pledge in Nigeria will not be easy.Not because these  people are not generous.But because they would be afraid of the publicity.In a country with a very high level of corruption,the popular feeling is that much of their wealth is ill-gotten.In such a climate of suspicion and distrust,the rich might be unwilling to invite the scrutiny that a public declaration would bring,from the tax and anti-corruption authorities.A creative way to get them involved is needed.An intelligently crafted,tax and fraud,amnesty programme,might be the price society has to pay,if we are to reap the benefits of a “giving pledge”.

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2 responses to “Nigeria And The Giving Pledge.

  1. codliveroil September 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    HenryIK, your posts are good, no doubt, I enjoy reading them.

    From my interaction with Nigerian members of my family and Nigerians at large, if someone gives something to you, it is enmeshed in strings and favours stored up down the line. So much so, that accepting the gift is more like a “poison chalice” which you will end up regretting in the long run. You will be compromised, and because favours maybe asked of you that you are obliged to comply with, it’s better to simply decline the “gift” and remain free and uncompromised. The Americans have a saying, “there is no such thing as free lunch”.

    My personal belief, give because you are moved to and expect nothing in return, anything you do get simply regard it as a plus.

    When I see people giving in Nigeria, it’s usually “well- to-do” religious types who want to hire a “rent-a-mob”, so that violence can be unleashed on someone or members of society that they have taken a disliking to for either economic or political gain, they select the poor and destitute and exploit their poverty and need, recruiting them as foot soldiers. This kind of behaviour I’ve seen in other parts of the world, but it’s usually members of criminal fraternity, that engage in these acts to bolster their support amongst the local community, amongst whom they dwell. An example can be Mr Coke of West Kingston in Jamaica, many people died resisting the police, when the government executed an arrest warrant for him.

    The other thing when you give, you may give with one intention, and what happens could be completely different and unexpected.

    Your suggestion about the rich is still a good one. It is sad that the system has been so configured they are inhibited from taking such actions. Buffett and co, have visited China and India with the same message, we don’t know what the take up will be. But from what I understand in China, the emphasis is to take care of one’s family first before giving to strangers.

    It would be good that should such benevolence occur in Nigeria, it should be a “no-strings” attached donation. Whatever the donation, people should use it wisely in the way it was intended.

    • henryik2009 September 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

      Codliveroil Thanks for your comment.I agree with you that most Nigerians would give only in return for certain favours.My idea is that a sort of tax and financial crime amnesty program for those who give,might be a compelling enough favour,especially with the EFCC sniffing around.

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