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Nigerians mull best way to get COVID-19 palliatives to the needy

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Deploy vote-buying tactics to disburse palliatives, politicians told
• Big business donations as profiteering stunts

Politicians eagerly donating their two months’ salaries and other palliatives to the federal purse in response to Covid-19 pandemic have been advised to stop playing to the gallery. Instead, they should go to the grassroots where their electoral fortunes lie to make such donations.

Specifically, they have been told to go back to their constituencies to use the ‘vote-buying’ tactics they usually deploy during elections in distributing cash, rice, garri, salt, sugar, and ‘pure water’ to the poor electorate in exchange for votes as palliatives at this critical time. From the Lagos example, it appears that the mode of distributing whatever palliatives available has failed and the need to rethink the system has become inevitable.

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Also, business moguls donating billions to the federal purse have been told to make similar donations to their respective home states, local government councils, and communities if such donations are not intended as rent-seeking and profiteering measures from the federal government in lieu of expected contracts and other business favours.

In fact, elder statesman Chief Ayo Opadokun stated categorically that the self-advertisement of the donors is designed to attract cheap and fair weather political objectives, which should fool no discerning minds.

According to him, “The attitude of political operators in Nigeria and their fellow collaborators is self-serving, to be noticed, for cheap publicity, and whatever they can gain from it and not for genuine interest. And if you consider that they got their wealth from the public purse, their action is to curry favour and not for any sincerity to public service. Any time you find people inviting and attracting major focus for this kind of donation, discerning minds would know it is never for the public good, but attracting cheap, fair-weather political objective.”

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So rather than playing to the gallery in Abuja, Opadokun advised them to instead “go back to their constituencies, identify needy ones, who live on daily work and provide succor and palliatives. It is better that way than disbursing such donations by unknown quantity unlikely to be for the public good.

“Nigeria has witnessed such human frailty in the past as evidenced by the devastation of the Northeast where donations for internally displaced persons are being pocketed by public officials of various dimensions. So, anyone who is really desirous of helping the needy should return to their constituencies to do serious work to begin urgent work in their constituencies.”

A veteran media practitioner, Mr. Oguejiofor F. Abugu, questioned the rationale behind Nigeria’s big businessmen and women donating so much money to the federal purse while leaving out their respective states and local councils. He said if the donations weren’t for profiteering purposes then a portion of it should have gone to the local levels where ordinary Nigerians that patronize their respective businesses reside so they too benefit from the coronavirus lockdown largesse.

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According to him, “At a time the rich and powerful have painfully realised that money and power may no longer be a guarantee for good health and against death; at a time the rich and powerful have unwillingly, not to say agonisingly, realised that money and power are only good, in fact, useful, when deployed for the greater good (or whose money buys him or her safety from the Coronavirus pandemic in the best hospital in the world now?), our rich and powerful are still playing politics (and playing to the gallery) with their money. 

“Tell me, why is every big man or business donating only to the federal government’s anti-Covid-19 effort? How much did Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu donate to Delta State to assist the state in the fight against the virus? How much did Herbert Wigwe or, for that matter, Access Bank, donate to Rivers, Edo and Imo States? How much did Shell donate to Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Abia States or Mobil to Akwa Ibom? How much did Leo Stan Eke donate to Imo State or Emeka Offor to Anambra State? How much did Mike Adenuga donate to Ogun State or Aliko Dangote to Kano? Why hasn’t the Baywood Foundation donated to Enugu? Why didn’t the House of Reps ask members to donate their two-month salaries to their states?”

Abugu specifically charge these class of Nigerians to think home and not only where they get big contracts, noting, “Listen, brethren: this is not about how good or bad your state governments are. That you don’t like an Uzodinma or a Wike is not the issue. After all, Aso Rock isn’t occupied by the most likeable man in the world. Hear me, big shots: it is about your own people, your own immediate communities! Do something for them not because of what is in it for you but because what you or not do may just save or cost lives. Do you want your own people to die? 

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“The hypocrisy of the Nigerian elite does, indeed, rankle. Why do we pretend that this Nigeria is America where the federal government is truly for all? Why do we so misguidedly abandon our own just to please an impervious federal administration that has demonstrated imponderable unwillingness to show goodwill in equal measures to all parts of the country in times of emergency like this?

“So, go home, big shots. Donate to the anti-Covid-19 effort of your state government and, better still, your local government area. Trust me, history will be kind to you.”

Another veteran media practitioner, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo also echoed Abugu in his diatribe against these donors, when he said, “These rent-seekers understand how to seek more rents with feeble humanitarian gestures. Nobody is fooled!”

Ogbodo, however, expressed bigger worries when he referenced the 2012 flood disaster in parts of the country when similar huge donations were made, but which latter vanished into thin air soon after and victims remained victims while the caregivers became victims and walked away with billions with no questions asked ever since.

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“In all of these, where is government responsibility outside creating committees to ambush the COVID 19 budgets?” he asked. “In 2012, committees, and so many of them were created by state governors to ameliorate the sufferings of flood victims after the federal government under President Jonathan had doled out N19 billion to states most affected by the flood. Till date, the victims have remained victims as caregivers degenerated into victims! Elsewhere, governments proclaimed lockdowns in the context of palliatives to citizens and business owners. But not so here! “

Ogbodo is emphatic in his summation of what the COVID-19 might do to Nigerians and Africans if perennial greed is not suppressed and drastic measures adopted to check it.

As he put it, “What will kill more in Nigeria, in the final analysis, is incompetent leadership and not COVID 19. In any case, the virus called incompetent leader, which is far more virulent than any ever discovered has been killing us in Africa!”

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Last week Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lent its voice to how the donations should be managed so it achieves the desired results. The party had canvased the setting up of an Eminent Persons Group to handle the donations so they do not disappear, saying it does not trust the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to do the right thing.

A social critic and legal practitioner, Mr. Martin Ezimano was categorical in criticising the lockdown was being handled. He also did not spare donors for going through the federal route to announce their donation knowing that it would not get to the intended beneficiaries.

According to him, “It is irresponsible if not, evil system that compels its citizens to stay at home without making provisions to cushion the effects of the order as against standard practices worldwide. They are enablers of evil that noise their donations of billions of naira to ameliorate the sufferings of the people through that same system irresponsible, if not evil, system.

“It is mindless callousness of this nature that drives even the mildest of citizens to resistance and revolt against the unfeeling so-called government. This is this an advice to government to swiftly do the needful to end needless agony of our people. It is also a call to those hypocritical philanthropists misdirecting their people’s assistance to the government to directly channel that much-noised help to the suffering people.”Ezimano suggested that the electricity distribution companies be charged with the responsibility of delivering the palliatives to Nigerians and not only crazy electricity bills for which they have become infamous.

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