by Jude Ndukwe
It is no longer news that Nigeria’s economy is operating at a recession. With inflation rate currently hovering at a record 16.5, global oil price falling and the effects on Nigerians being real and biting, most governments at all levels now find it difficult to meet up with their wage bills and other necessary obligations owing to these and other circumstances.
These have also badly affected the people’s purchasing power as prices of essential commodities keep rising far and above the reach of a majority of the citizenry.
There are no other incidents to highlight the extent of the reality of hunger in the land than the petty thefts especially of pots of soup even while on the fire taking place across the country.
Recently in Ilorin, there were cases of such thefts reported in several areas of the city like Tanke, Basin, Offa, Kilanko, Sango etc. In each of these places, it was reported that, at least, five cases of stolen pots of soup were recorded in just a week. Rather than steal jewelry and cash, the situation is so dire that robbers now take to stealing pots of soup.
On Sunday, 26th of June, 2016, at Singer Market, Fagge Local Government Area of Kano State, one Mallam Yusuf Bala was reported to have left his son as “collateral” for a bag of rice he “bought” pending when he paid for it that same day. But it happened that the man never returned as promised and that he actually meant to use his son as an exchange for the bag of rice. When eventually confronted by the rice dealer, Bala confessed that his shameful conduct was instigated by hunger.
The hunger is so much that even our security agents had to throw decorum to the wind when it was reported that men of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army engaged each other in a deadly clash over access to some 25kg bags of rice and semovita being distributed to citizens in Borno by the state government during the Ramadan period. This clash of hunger was reported to have left one officer injured while one lieutenant Idris was reportedly badly beaten by police officers for instigating the crisis.
It took the intervention of Major General Lucky Irabor, the commander of Opeartion Lafiya Dole, who was called in by the Borno State Attorney-General, Kaka Shehu Lawal, for order to be restored.
It is for reasons like these and others that one needs to commend the executive governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, for his recent palliative measures aimed at cushioning the debilitating effects of economic recession on the people of Ondo State.
Moved by the plight of the people, Dr Mimiko kicked off his food palliative programme tagged Eto Igbe Ayo targeted at 100,000 women resident in all the 18 local government areas of the state irrespective of their political affiliation.
This type of initiative is neither new nor a knee-jerk programme in the state but a deliberate and continuous fulfillment of government obligations to its citizens in fulfillment of its campaign obligations built around the Caring Heart initiative of the governor.
This is why Ondo State has remained the only state in the whole federation where, in its mega school programme, students enjoy exotic learning ambience and modern learning facilities, while they are conveyed to and fro school everyday free of charge in the state’s Free Bus Shuttle project irrespective of whether they are students of private or public schools.
This project has run without any form of interruption whatsoever since its inauguration on June 12, 2012. No other government, be it state or federal, in Nigeria can boast of any of such programmes made available and accessible to citizens absolutely free of charge for so long without suffering any form of interruption or even eventual closure. Ondo State is doing it, thanks to Mimiko.
This is in addition to the benefits accrued to residents of the state in the Mother and Child Hospital project and such other interventions primarily targeted at protecting and empowering the women, children and other vulnerable members of the society.
Concerned about the dwindling economic situation in the country in relation to the continued rise in prices of food stuffs, governor Mimiko at the inauguration of the food palliative programme had declared that “when you target the women and children, you have targeted the family”, insisting that “government cannot watch its people die”.
Although some critics have attempted to denigrate the free food distribution programme, claiming that it was embarked upon just to curry favour from voters in the forthcoming November 27, 2016 gubernatorial election in the state, nothing can be further from the truth given the palpable and undeniable presence of hunger in the land to the extent that a majority of the citizens acknowledge they now see hunger walking on two feet and sitting tightly in their abode as a result of the economic collapse currently being experienced in the country.
Even if elections were ten years away, it would be heartless for any government not to embark on such palliative measures for its citizens seeing that a good number of them are in need of such provision. Is it therefore a surprise that women thronged the venue of the distribution exercise in Ikare, Northern Senatorial District of the state, in their numbers to the extent that officials were easily overwhelmed? Would it not be foolhardy for anyone to have expected the governor to wait till after the November elections before he can cater for the urgent needs of his people?
The exercise is both timely and useful!
Also, to cover a larger spectrum of residents of the state in its bid to continue to cushion the effects of recession on them, Governor Mimiko’s administration has also concluded plans to buy back the state workers’ loans owed the state. No doubt, this initiative would free up some money for the Ondo State worker to take care of themselves and their families rather than use it to service loans.
It is in the light of this that other governors and leaders at all levels should device ingenuous means of alleviating the sufferings of the people in the face of a real national economic catastrophe that has elevated hunger to a worrisome level. To achieve this, the Ondo state model can be adopted.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Jude Ndukwe tweets from @StJudeNdukwe