• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

The palliative gambit: ‘The more you look, the less you see’

Kwara commits N1.3bn to monthly palliatives

The Nigerian political space is busy even though it is not election time. The government’s activities that lend themselves to politics are generating discourse in many quarters. Even children nowadays discuss the goings-on in society. Do not ask me their conclusions. Are you bothered by the energy that the government at various levels is squandering on so-called palliatives? Are you aware that it has even replaced core governance business in some states? Are you also aware that while members of the military apparatchiks are clinking glasses over the rescue of the abducted Kaduna school pupils, some Nigerians are telling them not to clap with two hands yet? Why? There are those who are laughing hysterically over the escape of the Binance executive from custody. When you ask them why the sarcastic laughter, they will just say, “Na today?” Don’t you think that those behind the man’s escape are worthy of many stripes? A young man of 44 years has just emerged as the next president of Senegal. The advice is that Nigeria has no business sending congratulations to him but should rather learn how democracy works and how people’s voices must be allowed to speak! You are welcome.

The palliative gambit

Everywhere one turns nowadays in Nigeria, one is confronted with the buzz word—palliative! From Abuja to Nasarawa, to Kaduna, Kano, Adamawa, and Borno, to all the states in the north and down south, the business of state governments seems to have shifted to palliative sharing and plans for more.

Confucius (551-479 BC), a Chinese philosopher, said: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”

This seems to be the reverse in Nigeria, where wealth is something to be proud of in the badly governed “Niger Area”!

Today, government officials are talking about poverty and palliatives as if they were even supposed to be mentioned in Nigeria, given the vast natural endowments that are making other nations green with envy.

Since the current administration took off on May 29, 2023, the Federal Government has announced various palliatives aimed at cushioning the harsh effects of some economic policies it rolled out in the morning of its inauguration.

The Federal Government has also released a lot of money, under various nomenclatures, to the state governors and other agencies of government to implement the palliative programme. Most of these palliative items appear like a drop of water in the ocean, as they have not even scratched the surface in terms of addressing the high level of poverty in the country.

The most unfortunate aspect of the palliative thing is that many of the state governors seem to have abandoned the core governance in their domain to focus only on giving out handouts to the over-traumatised and long-suffering indigenes of their states.

What they seem to forget is that there is no quantity of fragments one gets from the side of a pot that can satisfy one’s hunger. So, no amount of palliative can solve people’s poverty problem, which has become endemic in Nigeria.

For instance, what would a half bag of rice, garri, and a few other food items do for a family of five? Even if the items last for one month, what happens thereafter? The noise about palliative seems to be more than the benefit of the programme.

There are millions of poor and indigent families in Nigeria that will never, ever be captured in this palliative-sharing net. So, are they not Nigerians?

What has simply emerged from the palliative gambit is that some people are hiding under the programme to make more money for themselves, while it has provided an opportunity for non-performing governors to play the ostrich.

Is the palliative programme in itself totally wrong? The answer is no. What has become nauseating is its elevation to the core of governance in some states by some governors.

Nigerians are hardworking people and always want to fend for themselves, but the failure of governance over the years has remained a major drawback.

All they need from the government is a constant power supply to do their business. They also need access to their vast farmlands to cultivate them for an abundant harvest, but the insecurity that the politicians birthed has made it difficult for them.

They also want employment for their children after spending a fortune to send them to school, and they want to live in decent accommodation like their peers in other parts of the world. But the high cost of building materials has made their aspiration a pipe dream.

It is high time governments at all levels focused more attention on fixing the economy and reining in the insecurity across the country.

The aphorism “do not give a man fish but teach him how to fish” is still potent.

Eureka as abducted pupils return home, but questions abound!

Last Sunday, the news broke that the Nigerian military had rescued a total of 137 pupils from Lea Primary School and Government Secondary School Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

Before their return, the reports that trended both offline and online were that about 267 pupils were involved, and there was no refutation from any quarters.

But the statement issued by the Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, a major general, stated that only 137 and not 287 pupils were kidnapped on March 6.

While Nigerians have lauded the return of the schoolchildren, there are many questions they are asking that only the military can answer.

How were the pupils moved from Kaduna to Zamfara? Were they marching on foot or conveyed in trailers or Hilux vehicles? Were there no police checkpoints, unlike what happens in some other parts of the country? How possible is it that over 130 human beings were moved from one state to another and no security agency noticed the movement?

The Federal Government said a few days after the abduction of the pupils that ransom would no longer be paid to kidnappers. After the announcement, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a Kaduna-based Moslem cleric, said he was ready to lead negotiations that could free the pupils.

Upon the freedom of the pupils last Sunday, the Federal Government was beside itself with celebration, saying that the military achieved the feat.

Nigerians want to know whether the military used a kinetic or non-kinetic approach. How possible was it that all the abducted pupils were rescued without any scratch on their bodies? Were the bandits hypnotised while the rescue operation was going on? How many of them were arrested or injured in the process? What win-win arrangement rocked the bandits to deep slumber while the pupils were being rescued?

Gumi met with some security apparatchiks in Abuja on Monday over his utterances. Was he told to shut his mouth over whatever he may have seen, heard, or been told by his bandit contacts about what really transpired?

Whatever back channels were used to achieve the feat are now immaterial. The major concern at the moment is the need to thoroughly debrief the pupils to ensure that their academic pursuit does not suffer a haemorrhage out of fear of falling victim a second time.

The most worrisome aspect of the rescue is that since the military did not announce any arrests of the elements that perpetrated the dastardly act, the kidnappers are likely to launch fresh attacks. Is it the way we have chosen to go as a country?

Binance executive’s escape: ‘The more you look, the less you see’

Last Friday, Nigerians were served with a news item that was unsettling: ‘Detained Binance executive escapes from custody, flees Nigeria.’

Nadeem Anjarwalla, one of the two Biance executives detained in Nigeria for alleged tax evasion and other offences, was said to have escaped from custody.

Anjarwalla reportedly escaped from an Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were being detained. In February, the Federal Government detained the executives of Binance over non-payment of value-added tax, company income tax, failure to file tax returns, and complexity in aiding customers to evade taxes through its platform.

The arrest of the two executives was aimed at checking speculation on the naira by cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges.

In a country where a snake was alleged to have swallowed N36 million from an examination board in 2018; monkeys carted away N70 million belonging to a group in the then Senate, kept under a former governor Abdullahi Adamu’s watch; and termites were fingered to have eaten up vouchers of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) totaling N17.128 billion, nothing on earth is impossible here!

Was it not here that a few years ago, a bizarre occurrence that was initially thought impossible was discovered to be true? Do you remember the gist? A Russian tanker laden with 30,000 barrels of oil disappeared in Nigeria’s version of the Bermuda Triangle without traces from the very custody of the Nigerian Navy! The vessel, African Pride, was seized in Nigerian territorial waters on suspicion of being used by oil smugglers. The Navy impounded the vessel and detained its crew of 13 Russians.

The mysterious escape of the Binance executive is one of those unfortunate and bizarre occurrences that leave the right-thinking members of the public tongue-tied.

They will continue to happen because there has been no punishment for bad behavior. Those who perpetrated the heist in the past were not punished, so it has become a way of life in Nigeria.

In climes where government is seen as working and active, by now, heads would have rolled over Anjarwalla’s escape, which has the imprimatur of twin sisters of connivance and compromise.

There was a classic case of irresponsibility recorded in the Book of 1 Kings. A king’s servant was detailed to keep an eye on a captive and sternly warned never to allow the captive to escape.

But as the servant meddled in other irrelevances, he lost sight of his main assignment. The captive escaped!

“As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the King of Israel said unto him, “So shall thy judgement be; thyself hast decided it.” (1 Kings 20:40).

By the same token, those who allowed the Binance executive to flee by being ‘here and there’ through unintended carelessness of money-induced carelessness must be made to bear the brunt of their action.

For the government to do otherwise will be tantamount to announcing to the whole world that indeed, ‘In Nigeria, anything goes!”