Tinubu’s palliatives and the Biblical five loaves…
When the Federal Government announced this year that it would distribute palliatives aimed to reduce the pain caused by the subsidy removal, I dismissed the plan as a practical joke.
By now the term ‘palliative’, an unpopular word in Nigerian politics deployed to address a major problem, must’ve become a popular term to the common man. Whereas the development has been welcomed by hordes of uninformed plebeians, such isn’t the case with the Appollos who need a great deal of persuasion to believe the Cassandras, concerning the efficacy of President Tinubu’s palliative drugs.
In his recent nationwide address, the President built big castles in the air by listing the policies he believes will get Nigerians out of the woods. He’s optimistic that things will be all right on the night just as his poor citizens, who have no choice, see his palliative scheme as a port in a storm.
Whether the President means business or not and his employees will key into his vision or not, I’m of the opinion that his palliative scheme is unrealistic, because the fundamental cause of Nigeria’s problems hasn’t been sincerely addressed. Nigeria, apart from being plagued by corruption, has very vast population, making it difficult for government to reach out to the country’s over 150 million vulnerable citizens who are like sheep without a shepherd. A hundred thousand bags of rice can’t serve the population of 3 million plus in Port Harcourt alone, even after pairing 32 persons with a 50-kilogramme bag of rice.
Undoubtedly, the ongoing distribution of foodstuffs in some states is a direct opposite of the feeding of the multitudes recorded in the Bible. Like in many other states, the disbursement in Borno and Nasarawa States has come with hoarding, diversion and bitter complaints, contrary to people’s expectations. That’s not how Jesus Christ wants it. Exercising the faith vested in Him, Jesus effortlessly fed about 5000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. No exploitation or hoarding took place during the miracle. The multitudes, having had their fill, happily went home with 12 full baskets of fragments. In fact, the sharing of the food items would be a harvest of plenty were the disciples of Christ the distributors and the Aso Rock Villa were Bethsaida.
An understanding of the palliative scheme can be gleaned from the appropriate answers to the questions raised in this article. What’s the current population of Nigeria? Can states maintain the buses to be dispatched to them? Are the statistics: 3000 buses, N180 billion , 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizers mere propaganda or genuine commitments? Five billion naira for each state is the money safe with the governor? Will the initiative continue in the event of any force majeure? More importantly, what is 100,000 bags of rice?
The palliative scheme is apparently a scheme within a scheme; it’s given rise to a plot being perfected to deny the masses of their packages. Those on the governors’ lists are poised to become rice sellers. One of the major stakeholders on the palliative committee who says “it’s too early to ask for any accountability or sharing of the palliative; it can take up to five months before it can reach out to every part of a state”, it seems, wants everyone to die first before ordering the distribution of the items. It didn’t take Jesus Christ an hour to feed the multitudes.
What happens after the six months budgeted for the palliative programme? Will the temporary exercise permanently end hunger in Nigeria? How will the rice distributed to poor Nigerians better their lives? After six months, will the poor be able to withstand the rising cost of living? Again, how will the palliatives help them meet their children’s school/medical needs or cope with the rising dollar? Should workers compromise their futures because of the rice and N12,000 to be given to them monthly in Anambra State? The N10,000 in Borno State? Finally, the 10,000 naira added to workers’ salaries in Kwara State, and which they’ve been receiving?
We need not deny the fact that a developing country like Nigeria can’t meet the needs of all its over 150 million poor citizens; at least a fair level of attainment is expected. Be that as it may, the following steps are imperative if the government wants to be taken seriously.
President Tinubu should increase the minimum wage to 150,000 naira if he can’t reduce the price of petrol to N100 per litre. Lawmakers at the National Assembly should take it upon themselves to each sponsor 30 poor/unemployed Nigerians. If the lawmakers say no, their salaries should be slashed. The same goes for his serving and retired governors and appointees at the local, state and federal levels.
The disbursement of the palliatives should be done by foreigners of proven integrity from Norway and the U.S. There should be a twenty-five-kilogram bag of rice for each household every two months. There should be cash transfers (though this isn’t strategic) of N300,000 (i.e., N50,000 monthly) to each household, not the N48,000 (i.e., N8,000 monthly) originally meant to be paid for a period of six months. To make the task less cumbersome, the President and his nuclear family plus a few trusted hands in the Villa should work directly with the appropriate banks and create an app for the cash transfers.
The President shouldn’t divert attention from the looted funds and those recovered (if available), because doing that will erode public trust and confidence. A ‘man’ stole N109 billion in 2022. Fraudulent acquisition of hotels, estates, mansions, oil vessels, monies, cars, etc. was linked to the offices of EFCC and Attorney-General. There’s fraud everywhere – IPPIS, CBN, NNPC, NDDC, Ministry of Agriculture, Aviation and a few dozen other cases, which should be probed.
President Tinubu should stop external borrowings and retrieve all loot, and invest them in the agricultural, manufacturing, health, power, education and transportation sectors. Doing that will create jobs and better the lives of Nigerians. Nigeria will be exporting and the dollar will be tamed. There should be at least ten health centers in each local government of Nigeria. Refineries should also be working.
Nigerian billionaires, actors/actresses, athletes, musicians, etc. should work with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, and create with an establishment in each state of Nigeria, where the needs of the poor/unemployed will be regularly attended to.
In conclusion, Tinubu’s palliative scheme, though well-intentioned, can’t help Nigerians due to its inadequacies, shoddy planning and the leaders’ greed. The President shouldn’t ignore the fact that a population explosion, too, has thrown a spanner in his palliative scheme, hence there’s urgent need to sensitise Nigerians on family planning. If President Tinubu continues with this government, he should leave the palliative exercise in God’s hands because nothing is too big for God, as the feeding of the multitudes has revealed.
Sola wrote from Port Harcourt.
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