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The President’s Palliatives

By abiodun KOMOLAFE

Not long ago, Adeola Olatunde (not his real name) fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. At a point, his condition became so critical that help had to be sought from public-spirited individuals. Eventually, former Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State heard about it and took up the challenge. Nigerians remain grateful to the Iragbiji, an Osun State-born politician for this benevolent act.

Obviously, Olatunde was fortunate because a Good Samaritan intervened when help was most needed; otherwise, the story would possibly have been worse. But then, his case was neither that of one indolent beggar nor that of non-possession of ‘a second address’ as some unreconstructable naysayers would always want the people to believe. His sin was to have worked as a political appointee for two previous governments in one of the states in the Southwest.

As we speak, Olatunde is being owed arrears in salary running into millions of naira, including the November 2022 salary deliberately seized by the incumbent governor, and ditto for others. Nigerians may ask ‘why?’ Well, the answer is that a ‘Pharaoh, which knew not Joseph’, is now in the saddle and the best way to exercise raw power is to deprive those who worked with his predecessors in the office their legitimate earnings, even when such aides were not known to be partisan politicians. And, typical of Nigerians, they’ve continued to look the other way!

Without a doubt, Olatunde’s case is one sad reminder of the fear of the future. It is a reflection of why people get into office, and instantly try to convert as many resources as they can into personal use because ‘one knows tomorrow’.

As our friend was fighting for dear life, the Federal Government was said to have secured legislative approval for N500 billion for palliatives to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy removal on Nigerians. About the same time, the National Assembly was also said to have allocated N70 billion, also for buying palliatives for its members. Needless to repeat that some Nigerians viewed these actions as repugnant to the mood of the nation and the sensitivity of Nigerians! To them, there ought to be a break from the tradition, where the norm has been wrong.

Thankfully, President Bola Tinubu has ordered a review, a step that has portrayed him as a listening leader “whose ears will not be dull to the views expressed by the citizenry”. Indeed, that rare demonstration of empathy was emblematic of a government that’s determined to redefine and broaden governance. It’s a confidence-building strategy that showed that Nigerians did not waste their votes.

Those who did not understand Karl Marx’s position on capitalism would always say that Marx fought the capitalists until he breathed his last. No! The capitalists were rather happy that Marx was fighting them because he was always highlighting the excesses of capitalism, and they (the capitalists) were able to rise up to the highlighted challenges. So, they saw him as the greatest friend of capitalism. In Nigeria, capitalism’s major problem is wickedness on the part of its adherents. In order to prevent a repeat of the past, therefore, systems that are sufficiently strong and robust should be put in place because ‘there’s more to the matter than someone understands’. 

Discreet investigations have revealed that Nigerians love their president. They want him to work for them. Nonetheless, they are beginning to lose their patience. As far as they are concerned, the present piecemeal policy approach may not continue to work. The palliatives issue for the lawmakers, if not well-managed, may also dent the president’s image. Why? To them, Tinubu has asked Nigerians to tighten their belts; and Nigerians are trying hard to cope. So, if they must sacrifice, it has to go round, not one-sided.

From the look of things, Nigerians are not interested in how the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is faring. All they want to hear is why the pump price of a litre of premium motor spirit, PMS, now hovers between N620.00 and N750.00; why a ‘mudu’ of garri fetches between N500.00 and N800.00; why a tuber of yam now costs as much as N4,000.00; and why a bag of ‘pure water’ sachets, which used to cost N150.00 before May 29, 2023, is now N250.00. They want to know what the government is doing to mitigate the sufferings brought about by Mr. President’s ‘subsidy is gone’ pronouncement as well as what needs to be done so that they won’t be perpetual tools in the hands of the rich and the powerful.

Of a fact, Nigeria’s economic indices are threatening unsmiling, with the state of her financial insecurity leaving mouths agape. In recent times, the exchange rate has been on the high side more so as her economy is import-driven. As a matter of fact, fuel imports constitute about 91% of Nigeria’s foreign earnings. The naira is also devalued; and inflation is said to have jumped to 22.79 %, the highest since 2005. Amidst these, 63% of Nigeria’s population is currently living in multi-dimensional poverty. Though these are an indictment of the past political establishment, Nigerians are not unaware of the implications of this arbitrariness. The more reason Tinubu needs to come out with a comprehensive plan of action on how to tackle the problems at hand.

In a release by a United Kingdom-based charity organization, ‘Committee of Friends (CoF), issues, ranging from the deplorable state of government hospitals to law enforcement agencies, were raised. For instance, the body, whose membership spreads worldwide, queried the rationale behind the N500b for palliatives for the over 200 million Nigerians while a whopping N70b would be for the same purpose for less than 500 national lawmakers. It also expressed worries about the “stringent conditions” attached to the newly-introduced Education Loan Scheme, saying it’s as if the government already knows “those to be given”. After all, “similar loans are given overseas without any surety. After the completion of their studies, the government provides the beneficiaries with employment opportunities which make it easier for them to repay their loans.” Not done, CoF urged the Tinubu-led administration to provide the traditional rulers with constitution-defined roles, wondering why ‘a man without a job will not sell his forefathers’ land.’      

Thank God Tinubu was able to “dialogue with Nigerians who voted him into office”, especially on the “conditional cash transfer to vulnerable households mostly affected” by the subsidy removal, an arrangement whose implementation couldn’t have been guaranteed in the first place. Besides, N8,000.00 cash gifts to the poorest of the poor and millions of naira to each of the legislators would have sparked reactions and might even serve as a window of insults to the new administration, if implemented. So, rather than pursue policies that have in the past not led us anywhere, it is better such monies are deployed to the repair of one or two refineries and the re-introduction of government-assisted mass transit schemes. What about agricultural products for mass food production? These will help in reducing the cost of transportation as well as creating employment opportunities, ultimately, creating a better economy.

A time like this calls for the repositioning of the National Orientation Agency (NOA). Presently, there’s confusion in the land and a reinvigorated NOA has important roles to play in explaining the government’s policy thrust to the populace.

In the last analysis, it will not be out of place for Tinubu to address Nigerians. Yes, we need to hear our president’s voice to, at best, fight our fears!

 ‘Hope Renewed’ must be fulfilled; otherwise, there’s a country called Nigeria!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

 •KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk; 08098614418 – SMS only)

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