BALARABA J. JOHN
I love to teach. One moment I enjoy most is engaging my students in a productive but brief discussion before I start the day’s class. I remember in a certain school where I once taught in Nigeria, I threw this question to the students, “who is the poorest man in the world?” Surprisingly, the answers I got were almost the same. “The poorest man in the world is the beggar across the road”, “It’s the man in my neighbourhood that hardly eats three square meals a day and doesn’t have enough money to send his children to school”, “It‘s that person who lives in the village and tills the land with his bare hands”, “It’s the person who lives in a place without light, good road, and water”, “It’s the man who spends more than he earns, doesn’t save but borrow often”. I was dumbfounded at the fact that those responses were coming from the juveniles, albeit future leaders. Their age notwithstanding, you can tell that those answers were a result of what they have learned, their experiences, and of course, observation. They were genuine. After all, the country where they live, like many African countries, is regarded as poor.
I am sure, to adults whether poor or rich, uneducated, semi or fully educated, the answer to the question may not be too different. According to a report by World Bank, Africa is the poorest continent. It is said to have the largest number of unhappy people. If this is anything to go by, we can say that the poorest man in the world lives in Africa. Countries like Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, to mention but a few. We can go further stating characteristics of poor countries to such as, famine, drought, flood, human trafficking, despotism, corruption etc.
Be that as it may, the above-given answer(s) is a fact but certainly not the truth. There is a flip side to it, which is seldom believed, and hence precipitates a mountain of arguments especially in the intellectual circle. Regrettably, our style of education injects in and teaches us how best to consume ideas, opinions, information but does little in bringing out our hidden potentials, inherent abilities and God-given talents. It has imputed mediocrity in and unjustly placed us in both self and people imposed imprisonment. The end result of this is the scarcity of great human resources that can transform nations of the world to untold riches.
Now people who could have been employers of labour walk the streets with paper qualification in search of paid jobs, those who could have been great inventors believe less in themselves, men and women who could have been great musicians don’t sing, people who could have been great writers don’t write because they aren’t encouraged, those who could have been great motivational speakers don’t speak. The list is enormous.
One of the most talented and bestselling authors the world has ever seen, Dr. Myles Munroe, of blessed memory, said, “The poorest man in the world is the man without a dream”. This isn’t only true but is one of the most revealing quotes you can find. What you mention poverty; people begin to think of lack of money, food, clothes and shelter. They forget that the real poverty is failing to have a dream – a bigger futuristic view of you. It’s poverty when you don’t harness your great potential and release same to impact your world, when you don’t utilise your God-given talent, when you fail to discover your inherent ability. It’s poverty when you live below your potentials. It’s poverty when you can’t make any meaningful impact despite your talent and natural ability.
In conclusion, poverty is a function of ignorance. You aren’t poor because you are broke, but because you don’t know what you should know. Poverty isn’t a perpetual heritage of few in a locality or countries. Poverty isn’t a place or people. It’s mentality. It’s everywhere and can be found even in palaces. So, when next you are looking for the poorest man in the world, don’t go searching the map or reading some financial reports. You won’t find the answer there. But I guarantee you that you will find your answer among everyday people and even in the most unlikely places like Broad Street, Kensington Palace Gardens or Aso Villa.
BALARABA J. JOHN is a member of the Editorial Board and advisor to youngNigerian.com. She is a writer, motivational speaker, and founder of Cintabali Consults International and owner of BalarabaJohn.com, a blog that treats the dispirited and inspire people to achieve greatness in life. She serves as a board member of Josh & Jonbally and consultant to Sarason Resources Limited and other organisations in Nigeria. Currently, she is doing her post graduate studies at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter. Read more of her articles here