By Inam Wilson
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
One of the few non political office holders I know who understands and has applied this strategy in philanthropy to good effect is Udom Uko Inoyo, currently serving as the Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil Companies in Nigeria. Inoyo has a large philanthropic heart but faced with the stack reality that all his earnings cannot satisfy the short term needs of people around him, rather than distribute the meagre resources (compared to the size of the mouths to feed) as “handouts” and “tokenism”, Inoyo, in 2007, set up the Inoyo Toro Foundation.
The Foundation has since its inception served as a veritable platform to recognize, encourage and motivate public secondary school teachers as well as provide mentorship to students in such public secondary schools.
In 2014, Inoyo opened a library in his village, Ikot Okoro Ubium, to provide learning aids, create access to research materials and develop reading and writing skills among secondary school students.
Inoyo’s investment in education through his Foundation is in recognition of the statement of Benjamin Franklyn that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Inoyo clearly recognizes the importance of teachers in creating a spark in the minds of their students and moulding their students to dream big. As someone once said, “the dream to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, IT specialist, app developer, inventor, musician, etc. begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs, pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick”
The cumulative effect and benefits of Inoyo’s investments in education is that millions of the beneficiaries will learn how to fish and provide for themselves and generations of their families in a more sustainable way.
For those who say, “Udom Inoyo isi noho owo nkpo” (Udom Inoyo does not give handouts), my unsolicited response on behalf of Inoyo is that this attitude shows Inoyo’s respect for human dignity and in his belief that it is more useful in the long run to teach a man how to fish and feed himself for life than to give him fish to eat for only a day after which the beneficiary becomes hungry again. More importantly, by virtue of his educational, professional and career training and exposure , Udom Inoyo holds himself accountable to God for the efficient management of the resources at his disposal.
He believes in encouraging people to work hard and earn their passage in life rather than live as parasites bereft of dignity and self respect.
I believe that if a man like Udom Inoyo is interested in political office and has the chance to serve, he has the capacity , experience and the right leadership pedigree to engender good governance. He can work to transform Akwa Ibom to a modern industrial and technology hub that provides employment opportunities for our ever growing youth population. Inoyo in Akwa Ibom can create a niche economy that can compete, if not outpace Lagos by exploring the significant economic and social opportunities that digital technologies offers.He can attract investments in new technologies to bring about economic growth, well-paying jobs, improvements in quality of life, increased connectedness and accessibility to the national and international markets.
Inam Wilson is a Lagos based legal practitioner.