Now this post is not about tithing or pastors but the more I recollected those words the more I began to do some soul searching about our attitudes to giving and charitable work. Let me first put things into perspective of some sort. In the UK, there are over 160,000 charities according to the Charity Commission, that gives about 1 charity serving about 372 people. The list is growing all the time as charities of all sorts spring up all the time to cater for vast range of needs in their society. In Nigeria there is no record from a simple Google search about the number of charities in Nigeria, not even from the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission, the official government body responsible for registering them. I know there are some International charities in Nigeria like the Red Cross, Steppingstones, Save the children etc. However, I don't know of too many charities by Nigerians for Nigerians, maybe somebody reading this post might point me to the direction of many I do not know of. It doesn't help when official figures are difficult to come by which leaves us to dig up the ones we know or seek the help of our friend Google. A few that springs to mind are the Kanu heart foundation and the usual Motherless babies home and orphanages.
I'm not in the business of comparing the UK and Nigeria but what I do know is that a lot of people in privileged positions, even ordinary citizens and corporate bodies do a lot to support charities in the UK. Then there is The Children in Needs day, RedNose Day and other nationwide events that raise millions of pounds for many good causes. I'm sure there are many people who do a lot to support charity in Nigeria but can more still be done? Of course there is an awful lot more that can be done to make it a national obsession.
The charity that I'm advocating for is not just about helping family members and friends. Yes charity needs to begin at home but it doesn't need to end there. Charity and giving for me is more to do with the ability of the human spirit to show love beyond the boundaries of family and friends. It's about the common good.
We do often criticise bad governance in Nigeria (that includes me) and in most cases rightly so but I believe we all have a moral responsibility to act by way of charitable work to help make a difference in the lives of those in desperate and varying needs. Please let me make it clear that I'm not trying to patronise anyone or make people feel bad about themselves, far from it. This post is about highlighting an issue that doesn't get a lot of press and publicity. I'm very lucky that I had an upbringing that sowed the seeds of giving and charity in me from an early age. It helped me to play an active role as director of Community services in my university days at Rotaract club. That role was an eye opener as it gave me an opportunity together with my colleagues at the time to do lots of charity work visiting and donating food items/money to motherless babies' homes, disabled peoples' homes and orphanages. The smiles on the faces of those children lit up my world and has stayed with me ever since then. I am pleased we had an opportunity to make a small difference in their lives.
If you're reading this post and you feel the need to get involved in charitable work, then you can either find one whose work interests you or even set up one yourself in an area you feel passionate about. Charities can be local, they don't necessarily have to be big. It doesn't always involve lots of money, sometimes it can be as simple as volunteering or even mentoring young people who need some direction in their lives. We can never have too many charities because ours is a country that for over 50 years has failed its citizens but we certainly cannot fail ourselves. Even if the Nigerian state eventually wakes up from its slumber and begins to function and operate as we expect it to, there'll always be those who will remain on the bottom spectrum of society and in my conviction, we as citizens have a moral responsibility to intervene in their life chances.
The more our people begin to engage in charitable ventures, I believe we'll reap the rewards in a gradual change in attitudes. The problems of Nigeria in my view are not just about corruption and bad governance. We desperately need a paradigm shift in attitudes and selflessness to begin to think more about what we can do to benefit others and not necessarily looking for what's in it to be gained. If there's anything to be gained then it should be taking huge satisfaction from doing good.
Let me make a distinction that the charity I've been harping on about is not some of the numerous NGOs we have of questionable motives being mindful not to generalise or the First lady this and First lady that 'pet projects'. I joined an NGO shortly before I left Nigeria whose aim was to promote youth involvement in good governance, democracy and raise political consciousness among young people. However, it later turned into an opportunity for some individuals to cosy up to the political aspirations of the then senate president. It soon became clear that either I towed the line or make way, I felt betrayed and misled and I had no choice but to say au revoir.
There's also a need for the values of charity and giving to be promoted in our schools. Only recently me and a few of my students organised a charity cancer appeal for a cancer charity and in just one day we raised a reasonable amount. What struck me the most was the passion and enthusiasm of young people to engage in charitable work. Something I'm very keen we replicate in Nigerian schools. If we are to raise leaders for the future, who we expect to become selfless in their actions and think more about the greater good and less of personal and financial rewards, then we have to invest in moulding and shaping their attitudes. Giving and charitable attitudes is not all that they need but is certainly something that we cannot allow to elude them.
Please do something for charity, don't leave it till tomorrow, you can start today, right now. God bless.
NB: The 'Give a Book, Save our Future' campaign had a successful media outing (more on that soon) and support is growing steadily and gradually all the time. What are you waiting for? Please join the campaign and make a difference. The campaign will be moving to its own independent platform soon, watch this space!!!