Time to end government by palliatives, by Hassan Gimba

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Let’s talk hope, by Hassan Gimba
Hassan Gimba.

The Arbiter

Palliative – this ten-letter word has taken over our national discourse displacing #EndSARS. Considering how the #EndSARS protests threatened the very fabric of our existence, no one will think anything will supplant it with such ease and in such record time. However, it has turned out to be a welcome development for the authorities. But what is it about palliative that it has taken over our national discourse? What is even palliative? Is it the looted noodles and rice hidden in these dire times as many people think or the tractors and household materials stolen from government offices and people’s houses?

With a root in palliatus, a Latin word, palliative is anything meant to palliate, i.e., relieve, decrease, ease, assuage, soothe, help, etc., a situation. That situation could be a disease, wrong, dispute, deprivation or anything that discomfits. While hospitals palliate diseases by administering medicinal palliatives, in our case, the word palliative has taken a political meaning. Politicians now dole out whatever they feel the people want as a palliative, in most cases against poverty.

The principle behind palliatives is to bring succour to mitigate an aggravated situation that has no remedy. In medical terminology, it is called ‘management’. Terminal illnesses are sicknesses that ultimately lead to death. Hospitals apply medicinal palliatives to the sick to mitigate their pains.

Poverty is a lack of income and productive resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Poverty can be debilitating to the mind and soul of man. Deprivation can cause a peaceful man to become violence-prone and a loving society to turn on itself. The United Nations identified poverty eradication as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative for humanity. This made it call on governments to address its root causes and to set targets to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half by 2015. Not done yet, the UN even made the 17 of every October an international day for its eradication to drive home its message.

Too bad, our leaders are more fond of using palliatives when trying to support the poor; hardly poverty eradication. It is an indication they intend to make poverty more bearable or, in other words, less severe for us. There is no plan to remove millions of Nigerians from the poverty trap the way India and China have done. Of course, no one would be mind soft doles now and then if there is a heavy focus in eradicating poverty. Have they given up? Because not long ago, the focus was on eradicating poverty and not just mollifying it, because softening is temporary while annihilating could be permanent. But even at that, what are we seeing? The palliatives are not enough to palliate hunger for a day. Some governors gave two indomie sachets to a family for the period of the last lockdown.

The sad part of the story is that it is not even the state governments that bought the food items meant for distribution to the society’s most vulnerable five per cent to ease the hardship associated with the economic meltdown as a result of Covid-19’s interruption on the world’s economy. Not even the federal government as some people are wrongly yet desperately trying to credit a minister with its provision. Nigeria’s private sector formed the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and distributed multi-billion naira food palliatives and other relief items to reduce the adverse effects of the pandemic on this class of Nigerians. The food relief materials were worth about N23 billion and meant to cover 1.7 families or 10 million people across the 774 local governments in the country, including the federal capital territory (FCT).

For a leader to deny the needy food supplies to which he contributed nothing in sourcing but given to him for onward delivery can be considered the height of man’s inhumanity to man. Claiming you kept it for them in anticipation of another lockdown is a lame excuse. In the first place, it is on record that during the first lockdown, families got what could not be enough for them for a day. That excuse was truly indicative of an evil mind. Yet someone even wanted to share the palliatives to the people on his birthday!

But special acknowledgement must go the way of the Yobe and Borno State governors, Honourable Mai Mala Buni and Professor Babagana Umara Zulum. They have proved how honourable they are by showing empathy and love for their people. Each recipient of the palliatives distributed by their states’ emergency management agencies went home with a bag of rice, sugar, salt, cartons of noodles and, in most cases, 20 litres of palm and vegetable oils sourced by them.

But more than giving palliatives which, by universal acceptance, is a temporary poverty relief, the Yobe State governor has rolled out projects aimed at eradicating poverty. Even though statistics are not readily at hand, as of January last year, Yobe State was among the final three in the country with a poverty level of 83 per cent. But it came down to 72.34 per cent in September of the same year, according to Statista, a global business data platform. Yobe also had the second most undeveloped infrastructure among the states of the federation. Not anymore.

The governor has so far restored no fewer than ten hitherto dormant industries spread across the state, which in turn have given direct and indirect employment to thousands of people. His policy of ‘Yobe First’ has seen more and more indigenous contractors getting jobs that hitherto went to ‘foreign’ contractors. This deliberate process has dramatically reduced capital flight. Coupled with these, the state government has also embarked on the massive building of houses to be purchased at cheap rates and flexible modes of payment by residents.

Another deliberate policy is how the state governor consciously empowers individuals, artisans, petty traders, etc., with start-up capital. Additionally, there is also an aggressive drive to impart various types of trade skills on youths and provide them with working materials after their training.

World Bank: Nigerians may experience extreme poverty

Ultimately, this is the only way out for our country. A commendable action is that the youths in the north spared it the violence that replaced the initially peaceful #EndSARS protests. However, the north and Nigeria should not relent on the quest to give a better life to the teeming out-of-school kids, otherwise called almajirai. Whenever something happens that will make them pour into the streets, what happened in the south would be a child’s play.

All over the country, able-bodied but jobless youths roam our streets. They are frustrated because the system no longer caters or cares for them. Most have lost hope in government which they see as tall on promises but short on deliverance.

It is not good thinking to always wait till there is a crisis as a result of disillusioned youth venting their frustrations. Then we begin to run from pillar to post, looking for how to douse the tension. We cannot wait until they start burning our national assets and those of innocent individuals, including the shedding of citizens’ blood. The time to take care of tomorrow is always today.

The way to go is for governments at all levels to resuscitate moribund industries and build more. The government must avoid playing Father Christmas to foreign countries when the country hosts the largest proportion of impoverished people in the whole world! We must also, as a matter of deliberate policy of patriotic nation-building, use our locally made products, from cars to toothpicks, especially for official purposes. With such a system in place, it will cause various local industries, including our steel mills, to grow exponentially. The ripple effect of that will translate to providing tens of millions of direct and indirect jobs for our youths.

Our leaders need to enunciate well-structured and sustainable programmes to give the youth a sense of belonging and mould them into responsible citizens. There used to be intra and inter-schools competitions for primary and secondary school students. Higher institutions too had their own. We used to look forward to national sports competitions as well. There were others like debates, quizzes, poetry and essay contests, etc. These activities have to come back because apart from moulding children into disciplined and responsible citizens, they fostered unity and lifelong friendships among youths across the country. Again, sporting activities are another industry that offers gainful employment to millions of youths. Whether we like it or not, the entertainment sector influences the child and provides another opportunity at gainful employment. The government must come in and not only regulate but guide the youth to excel therein, or else other characters like Naira Marley will do it for the nation, turning them into Marlians.

But all these will not be possible without functional education. We have toyed with our education for far too long. Those at the helm of governance, I am sure, will always recall their school days with nostalgia. They must not think that because they can send their children to schools abroad (with our commonwealth at that), it is all right to abandon these poor kids in decadent schools.

One aspect that indicates we are yet to move away from colonial mentality is our admission policy. What do you call a scenario when a student with a good grade cannot study medicine here, for instance, because of poor JAMB result? Yet, his mate with more inferior grades, who have moneyed parents, can go abroad, study medicine and return to practice as a medical doctor. We need to learn to be just and fair to ourselves, our people and our country. And we need the youth to see such fairness everywhere.

Lest I forget

Anyone out there observed how America swooped on “our” bandits, killed the killable and ferried off with their sole kidnapped citizen last week? Please ask yourself, which American citizen will not be proud of his country, president and armed forces? What sacrifices would they not do for their country that they know have their backs in words and deed? How many Nigerians are currently in the custody of Boko Haram, armed bandits and plain kidnappers? Yet we claim to have “special forces”, but they prefer staying in towns and cosy hotels harassing soft targets. May God save Nigeria, our country.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m so much in love with this Sir Gimba.
    You’ve earnestly said it all. My warmth regards to Gov Mai Buni and Gov Babagana Zullum. They’ve done well.
    After all, how did the US Army did that operation successfully in Nigeria? Can’t we have our Forces trained in such manner? Can’t Nigerian leaders CEO out for help from international community to help fight insurgency and insecurity?

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