On Poverty & Conflict

There is, undeniably, a nexus between poverty and conflict. Nexus is a kind of relationship, that is more of connection or tie between two factors. A “connection between things linked in series”.

Events of recent years have shown a very strong nexus between poverty and conflict. A critical analysis on some of the major conflicts we have in Nigeria will show you that poverty is at their root either as a primary factor or secondary. Take for instance, the Niger-Delta crisis, which has taken several dimensions in recently years, the Boko Haram terrorism, MASSOB/IPOB, and most recently the Fulani Herdsmen crisis. More so, when we go into the various communities we have in Nigeria, we find a lot of intra and inter-community crisis. Most times the escalation (both horizontal and vertical) of these conflict theatres spill to urban centres and result in the restiveness of majority of people, which makes them magnify some minor issues unnecessarily thereby causing conflict at any slightest provocation. It is predominantly psychological and results from the same factor; poverty.

Poverty is one of the major root causes of conflict in Nigeria. According to Ikejiaku (2009) “Poverty is a multidimensional problem that goes beyond economics to include among other things, social, political, and cultural issues”. The human needs theory championed by Burton argues that there are conflict and instability in developing countries because people are denied not only their biological needs, but also psychological needs that relate to growth and development. He further states that the overriding importance of this theory is that it understands that needs, particularly basic needs (such as food, water, shelter and health) unlike interest cannot be traded, suppressed, or bargained for; thus any attempt to do this, leads to conflict. This is what we see in our day-to-day activities in Nigeria and this makes conflicts inevitable within the different communities we have.

Inasmuch as people blame the effects and development of conflict on greed and corruption, those two are being influenced by poverty in many ways.

  1. A person from a poor background who finds himself/herself in a position of authority would first like to enrich him/herself by all means so as not to go back to the position of lack he previously found him/herself
  2. Again, the issue of disoriented value system of our community which rewards wealth irrespective of the means of acquiring it, and denounces integrity as long as it does not give wealth, flows from point 1 above and does give rise to corruption and greed.

A lot are common to the above two issues: first, they have their root in poverty; two, they also cause strife, which bring about conflict in the society. As Ikejiaku puts it, when the majority of the people are poor, without any viable means of ameliorating their condition, they are bound to be restless and seek self-help through violence. Evidences have, as well, shown that no government can hold stability and peace when it is created on a sea of poverty as he concludes.

There is the need to prevent conflict through engaging the minds of the people who could be possible tools, or put professionally, primary stakeholders to a conflict situation. These are predominantly the youths. Facts, show that these youths leave their communities and go to urban areas in search of greener pastures. But since they do not have concrete plans on how to make a living, they either hawk or join thugs in motor parks. Most of these hawkers end up as thugs as well.

Hence, we set our projects on Wealth creation by;

  1. Engaging the minds of the youth in meaningful ventures
  2. Curb rural/urban migration
  3. Reduce over dependence on government, thereby curtailing greed and preventing conflict

By doing these, our goals would be achieved.

This is the gap we all need to fill on ourselves and by ourselves, most especially as government has failed us. We need to challenge ourselves and learn, plan and work.

Ifeanyi R. Ibekwe

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