The politics of charity and baseless motivational speeches

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politics of charity

Political campaigns for elections present dramatic shows of humility, charity and concern for the numerous victims of social injustice. Suddenly, unreachable personalities appear on the streets, sharing food and money to beggars, eating, parading and identifying with the downtrodden. These shows of empathy often disappear after elections, only to reappear when the personality needs to shore up his/her social reputation. What will happen if there were very few poor people in the society such that it becomes difficult to find them for showing off charity? Could it be that these personalities support systems that create many poor people so that it will be easy to show off their charity? It appears that greed, social injustice and irresponsibility have found cover under the politics of charity and baseless motivational speeches.



Charity is a set of generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, helpless,[1] needy or suffering.[2] The true aim of charity is to liberate humanity from different forms of suffering – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual suffering. There is nobody, even the rich, who does not require generous actions from other people in his life. However, the most obvious directions of charity focus on response to people with physical and observable problems. These are the sick, poor, homeless, hungry, persecuted, displaced,mentally/physically challenged and other people with observable physical suffering.

There are natural and man-made factors for sufferings requiring charity:

Natural factors

Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, erosion, flood and other natural misfortunes suddenly affect people such that they require charity.

Serious medical cases like cancer suddenly render an individual helpless and dependent on charity.


Man-Made factors

Erroneous decisions: Many human ventures are filled with risks, and people get unlucky with the outcome of some decisions. Some go bankrupt as a result of such mistakes that they require charity.

Laziness: some people who are not ready to work hard emphasize their misfortune or weaknesses to attract pity and charity. These set of people wait for handouts, allowances and quick resources.

Social injustice: human society is formed so that people collaborate in using their resources for producing and obtaining what they need. If this structure of collaboration for general human satisfaction is twisted, many people are denied the opportunity to obtain what they need. Hence, these victims of twisted social structures are made to struggle endlessly or to require charity for survival.

Artificial disasters like fire incidences, accidents, terrorism, robbery and other crimes can affect people so much that they become dependent on charity.


workable social structure

Does a society need charity when there is a right social structure for common good? When the society is properly ordered for collaboration towards common good, the man-made factors are well-avoided, while the natural factors are tackled collectively. Through proper education and social order, man-made factors are significantly managed or reduced. But when the society is not ordered for common good, suffering increases for people to show off individual charity. “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”[3] Thus, the lasting charity to extensively liberate people from suffering is reorganizing the society and its institutions for common good.

POLITICS OF CHARITY is the sustenance of man-made factors of suffering, in order to treat the symptoms for popularity. Malaria is a disease that comes with symptoms like headache, fever, weakness, cold, pains and others. If a doctor decides to treat only headache without treating the root cause, malaria, he is only masking the main problem for his personal agenda. The highest politics of charity is treating some effects of institutionalized social injustice while covertly supporting/allowing the main cause. Politicians and their business allies show off charity in churches, mosques, schools, markets and other public places, while maintaining unjust policies that cause poverty and suffering in the society.


The two major roots of institutionalized social injustice in Nigeria are found in the Land Use Act and the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act. The Land Use Act is a military decree which was used…


“… to vest all land comprised in the territory of each state (except land vested in the federal government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State, who would hold such land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the state and to organization for residential, agricultural, commercial and other purposes while similar powers with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on local government.”[4]



“… all lands in which minerals have been found in Nigeria and any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone shall, from the commencement of this Act be acquired by the Government of the Federation…”[5] “No person shall search for or exploit mineral resources in Nigeria or divert or impound any water for the purpose of mining except as provided in this Act.[6]The property in mineral resources shall pass from the Government to the person by whom the mineral resources are lawfully won, upon their recovery in accordance with this Act.”[7]

With this totalitarian confiscation of people’s lands and resources, it becomes difficult for Nigerians to be productive or subsistent. Hence, unproductivity, hunger, poverty and dependence on foreign products grip Nigerians without connection to government officials or foreign companies for importation. Any attempt by indigenes to reclaim ownership or control of their lands and resources for production is met with serious military assault.[8] Thus, people who are stripped off rights to their lands and resources are made dependent on charity and importation. While beneficiaries of exploitation engage in politics of charity and baseless motivational speeches for the downtrodden.

Charity is a noble activity that cures emptiness of life, enriches the soul and brings fulfilment to the charitable. “When we give and carry out acts of kindness, it’s as though something inside our body responds and says, ‘Yes, this is how I ought to feel.’”[9] It is a way of spreading the good news of love to people around the world, and encouraging other people to be charitable. However, engaging in the politics of charity contradicts the meaning and aim of charity, which is liberation. “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”[10]

Inspired by the politics of charity, individuals fail to help unless there is media-publicity or some strings attached. The intention of the politics of charity is not to liberate the suffering persons, but to get recognition. Religions, educationists and common sense stand against politics of charity since it does not lead to social justice. “O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity with reminders of your generosity or by injury, like those who spend their wealth to be seen of men.”[11] “When you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is giving”[12]


The difference between charity and politics of charity lies in the intention of the actor: to liberate people or to get publicity. Charity aims to change the social-structure that causes poverty, while politics of charity creates social injustice in order to show off generosity. Charity becomes necessary when it comes as a response to mistakes and misfortunes, not as a reward for laziness nor cover-up for social injustice.




[3] ― Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

[4] 29th March 1978, Land use act. P7

[5] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 2

[6] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, paragraph 1

[7] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 3

[8] Odi experience of massacre under President Olusegun Obasanjo comes to mind

[9] Rabbi Harold Kushner

[10] Hélder CâmaraDom Helder Camara: Essential Writings

[11] Al Baqarah, 264

[12] Matthew 6:2