Engr. Battah Y. Ndirpaya speaks to some group of journalist in Abuja on the essence of giving. He also talks on the current trend whereby if one does not have somebody in authority he could not net employment. Excerpts:
Introduce yourself sir.
My name is Engr. Battah Y. Ndirpaya.
You are known by you people as a philanthropist, how did you go into it?
Well, I think it is born out of my belief, because as a religiously minded person I know that scripture says, the good and acceptable type of religion that God admires is the one that takes care of the orphans, the widows and the needy. So because of that my religious perspective I take it one of the things that I have to do; to take care of the needy, the orphans and the widows as a way of life. And that is what informed my being a philanthropist.
Do we have people in the society that you look up or can anybody just decide to be one?
Nobody has a special call to help. Everybody is expected to and that is why I am always surprised that people are finding it difficult to assist. And this assistance is not something gigantic. Just the minimum you have, there are people that you can help. No matter how small, there are people you can help that you are having more than they have. So you can help. You can’t say that there are special people that can help. In your position you can help. Not finance, you can even help people that are carrying loads and say let me help you. So the idea is to have that concept and precept of having the mind of assisting. And when I leave home on a daily basis, how many people am I going to meet their needs. And when I get back home I will reflect on how many people am I of benefit today, because it is a life style that is aimed at meeting the needs of the people. You don’t need to have so much, but that small that you have you can help people with it.
In a society where we people who can help and they refuse to help, how do you see it.
Actually that means that those who don’t have will never have anybody to help them. And because there will be nobody to help them, that vacuum will always remain. But you see, I know that God will always create people that can help one person or the other. There is no way God will create people that he cannot meet their need, people in that area will have their needs meet. And somebody must be there to do it for them.
Do you keep record of those you help?
I don’t because I am not expecting anything from them. It is a call, when you meet somebody in need assist him, whether you know him or not assist him. And you don’t keep record of it, because it is of no importance. You are not doing it because of the person but because that is what is expected of you to do. By the time you are giving and you are expecting something in return, you are no more a philanthropist. You are giving out so that you can get something in return and that is bribe as far as I am concerned. Or trying to cajole people or buy people to gain favour and it is not biblical in any form.
Do you keep watch to avoid beneficiaries misusing the aid extended to them?
Encouraging somebody is not necessarily because you are giving him help but because you want him to be something that is expected. So you monitor, you guide, you help in advice – putting the person on the right track so that he can achieve his life ambition. Some mentoring is quite different from the fact that you are assisting the person or not, but if you so develop interest in the person to the extent of paying his school fees, then you should also develop interest in him to the extent that you will be able to guide him properly. And nobody that I know that can receive such assistance and deviate and mismanage it because it comes once in at a time. So it is good if you are assisting somebody, monitoring and mentoring that person is okay, because you have interest in their progress and their future.
Political giving is it a kind of philanthropy?
Political giving is not philanthropy. If you are giving because of politics it is never philanthropy at all, because you are giving so that tomorrow you will get favour. And I told you that any giving you are making because you want to get favour from it one way or the other is not philanthropy. You help those that are not in position to give you anything. That is why you are now philanthropist.
Don’t you think that when we give, God will reward in more ways than you gave?
That is God now. It is God giving you and not the person you gave. God is giving you the assurance that when you give it shall be given back to you. And the way it will be given back to you is only God that knows. It is not the people you are giving that will give you in return.
Have you had any regret since you chose to be a philanthropist?
If you start having regret, that means you are looking for something in return and if you don’t get it that is when you have regret. After you give for God’s sake you don’t come and say had I known. Then the blessing is not forth-coming. You give it for God’s sake and because of your conviction that this person needs assistance let the person go. It is when you keep record of such things that you may even have regret. A philanthropist doesn’t think twice of whether the people are doing anything or not, but he has satisfied his conscience at that time.
How do you encourage your friends to start giving selflessly?
You cannot change somebody. There are people that have billions and somebody is asking them for one naira and he will not be able to give. That is their state of mind. That is who they are. But keep giving in their presence to the people that are in need, may be one day they will come to realize that they need to do something. So being a philanthropist, you don’t teach anybody to force you. And as I told you earlier, it is not because you have so much, but because you have the heart to give. You are compassionate; you look at people and say this person needs assistance.
This morning somebody just walked in to my office, and said he was discharged and acquitted in the court and he is looking for money to go home. I know he must have met one or two persons and nobody assisted him. And I have not known him. And I asked what was he looking for and he said he was just been discharged and acquitted from the court and I asked him, what was your offense? Why did you get into prison? He said he was a security man in charge of his “OGAS” site and trailer load of cement was off loaded on the site in a container. He is the security man in charge. So in the night more than ten people came with a truck arrested him, tied him and took about four hundred and fifty bags out of the six hundred bags. I guess that is the total capacity the vehicle can carry. And they left and he was saying that the following day his “OGA” came, reported the case to the Police and they took him to SARS from SARS to police, from police station to prison. Now I was asking him, I said is there any doubt in the mind of your “OGA” that you are a suspect? Otherwise I don’t see any reason somebody should just take you, knowing fully well that you were arrested, tied down and the thing was carried away. What else would he have expected you to do? The second question I asked him was that when you were there, you were not in good relationship with you neighbours. You don’t have good relationship with people. You are a bad person. Otherwise you would have gotten people that you know, that you can go to and say this is my problem. And they will assist you. And now you are looking for different people.
And I asked him how did you even get to know me here? That I am from that area and you are coming to ask me for transport money, because I have never heard of you. He said he was looking for one Engr. Umar. And when he asked for Engr. Umar they said there was no Engr. Umar but Engr. Battah. And I know that it is not true. Somebody must have said with your problem go to that man. If you are lucky he will assist you. That is why he came. So you don’t look at people because of what they are and what they do, but once they come with need and assistance you do what you can afford.
What is your advice to those who do not help?
Let me tell the truth of the matter. When God was talking in the Bible he said good acceptable religion is for you to help the poor, the orphans and the widows. It is supposed to be everybody’s work because God did not say this is Christian, this is Islam but God is talking about true religion. It is to meet the needs of those in need. And that is why the truth of the matter is where our religious belief is defective because we don’t see religion as means of helping those that are in need. And that is heart of God. That is why when James was talking he said; look true religion that is acceptable before God is to help the widows and the orphans. Those people who are defenseless; those people that have nobody to assist them. And therefore if we are to choose the type of religion that is good. It is not that miracle religion. It is not this religion that talks about prosperity. True religion is meeting the needs of your neighbours. Just as is preached by the prophets and preachers of old. So I will rather advice that let us go back to the foundation of a true religion; all of us, those that have, and those that have not. If our government should make policies and programmes in favour of the weak, then that will be able to solve the problems of humanity. Because once you take care of the down trodden, of those defenseless people, the defensive one is also safe.
Once you make policies that poor man can have food, then the rich man also can eat. Once you make policies that take care of the weak, the strong is also taken care of. And, when our policies in the government will be directed at helping and meeting up the needs of the weak in the society then, we come to a solution to the crisis. What brings about all these things that are happening now is because somebody is having a need and nobody is doing anything to meet it up. The next thing you see, he takes up arms. He must survive. We have armed robbers, those people that don’t have food; they will use religion to rise against you. That is why we have people like Boko Haram and all that. Those Niger Delta people that don’t have anything to eat will come tomorrow; they will come in the name of resource control and then be looking for relevance. Any society that you see is peaceful; it is the society that the weak is taken care of. And therefore my plea to everyone is ‘let us in any corner that we have responsibility try to meet up the needs of the weak among us’.
And I think one and very important aspect of something we need to consider as a country is this new trend that is coming up. That the weak feels that he cannot have anything until he knows somebody. The youths and the defenseless people are coming with the philosophy, and it is being practiced in the government – except you know somebody you cannot have anything. In other words we have thrown away merit. We have thrown away the fact that everybody has the right to aspire to be what he can be. All we are trying to do is that we are now fixing our own people where they are supposed to be and leaving out majority who have nobody. And except that trend is stopped, (I don’t know how it will stop) that people will start having confidence in themselves. Then they can go and apply for a job and get it on their merit. Or go and look for admission and get it on their merit. And this idea of giving to people in charge stopped. The weak is being disenfranchised. The widow and the orphans have no chance. And we are building a disastrous foundation.
Tomorrow it will be so bad in this country except we start retracing our steps towards going to merit where a man will deny his child admission because he is not qualified and give to those that are qualified. Where a politician will look at somebody from the east and say this person is the right person and forget about the person that is from his area. And we go on merit base.
Tomorrow we are in disaster. All these cut-off marks that we are putting in place; this year cut-off mark for JAMB for some states is ridiculously low and some states are so high as if you are running different society. What will the other man that score so high that is denied admission feel of you and the person that scored low and got admission. We as a country should go merit base where everybody will be picked and given what he deserves based on merit. Otherwise we are building a society that will be so much divided at the end of the day.
And my own thinking is that we don’t want to build a country. We don’t want to build a nation. That is why all these things are there, quota system, the segregation that before you get a job someone must give you a note. A note from the senators, a note from the House of Assembly, a note from the Minister, that is what is going on. What is going now is that there will be vacancy in a particular institution, before you know it the vacancies are filled up by notes from the people in leadership.
Where will the weak have theirs? They are more qualified, they have the qualifications, in a country of their own and nothing is given to them. We need to revisit this philosophy of meeting the needs of the weak, in terms of admission, in terms of employment, in terms of sharing benefits based on merits. Then we are on our way towards building a nation where everybody will be proud to be; not now that is only the rich. Children of the powerful and rich can have access to education, the rest are disenfranchised.
Thanks for your time!
You are welcome