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COVID-19 And The Nigerian Government’s Palliatives: Circus By Leadership In Stupor | Marufh Bello

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What is being clamoured for by development communicators and scholars and observed in the advanced and civilized society is the concept of all-inclusive and participatory governance, and that seems the only approach left to the political economy of the countries of the world, be it capitalism, socialism, Islamic or monarchical democracy, to have an enduring peace.

According to development media, the “alternative journalism” (courtesy of Olawuyi Bisi, PhD), participatory and all inclusive governance touching every population groups in a state has been advocated as against the orthodox western approach to attainment of true national growth and development. Development communication scholars and other experts on economic growth and development have all agreed that human capital development i.e. human beings, particularly individuals, should be the corner piece of any genuine development.

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This author of this article in his master’s degree thesis, The Local Aluminium Smelting Industry in Saki and Development Media, quoting Professor Soola, E. O. (2003) in Development Journalism for Print Media and Electronic Media Journalists in Nigeria (Communicating for Development Purposes), writes that “In the new development paradigm shift, the empowerment of the excluded —the rural poor, the urban destitute, the elderly, the children and women, (and those graduates, the educated and artisans, who have been unjustly and unfairly locked out, locked up or locked down for some many years due to the ineptitude of their successive leaders)— is germane, emphasizing that it is these people that know where their shoes pinch.”

Going by the above recommendation, dated back as late as 1970s when communication and development scholars, including this writer, had come to the realization that the old development models, which premised development on indices as GDP, GNP, modernization, “democratization”, “partyism”, “digitization”, trickle-down theory (effect) and/or Marshal Plan would never bring about development to the Third World in particular, has Nigeria ever observed and practiced the recommendation which offered a new approach to development?

Honestly, any governmental actions aimed at development but fail to be all-inclusive would achieve no result because any efforts not targeted at every population group holistically would end up as an exercise in futility.

Since adulthood in my more than 40 years existence in this country, I have seen a lot of sectionalism, “divisivism” and/or “selectivism” approach in the ways our leaders and policy makers have ruled this country for close to 60 years after the colonial rule, which has echoed in the length and breadth of the country in the name of “exclusionism” and has led us into a definitive war, tribal and religious clashes, pockets of conflicts here and there and this has, in the long run, made real peace an elusive panacea for communal and national existence. When will the citizens of this country know and experience an enduring genuine comfort and peace across their territorial boundary?

From all the strata of government —ward, local, constituency, state and federal— governance of “selectivism” and “exclusionism” borne out of lack of vision and/or clear vision, goodwill and bitterness have pervaded and grown from leaps and bounds in the land —and that is what helpless lowly Nigerians have gone through for decades. I am yet to see majority of Nigerians of low citizenship raise their hands to say that they have gone their basic needs with ease or without any connection or undue advantage or favouritism from the privileged ruling elite. Mine is a country that you struggle for what ordinarily should be your rights —even when you struggle genuinely, you may not get it.

Latest of the leadership by “selectivism” and “exclusionism” is the recent conditional cash transfer of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) where the condition(s) set to benefit from the government’s kind gesture or largesse has already perpetually as ever denied and relegated a lot of people in the country. How ridiculous it is to condition that it is only those who have less than or not more than N5,000 (USD13) as the balance in their bank account(s) and cannot afford to buy more than an N100 recharge card, a group of people categorized as the poorest of the poor, at a time, that can benefit from the conditional cash transfer! There are issues to this decision and it gives away our policy makers and raises questions about their ability to offer a holistic approach to nipping in the bud the age long poverty in the land. How can you just decide and conclude that the “poorest of the poor” are ONLY those who do not have more than N5,000 in their bank account statements and cannot buy more than a hundred naira call card at a time? Doesn’t this sound awkward?

In the first instance, putting all the bank accounts across all the banks in Nigeria together, what is the total number or percentage of those having bank accounts of their own? Perhaps, Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will help us provide an answer to this question. How about those who never have a bank account, those citizens in the villages and other locked out or locked up zones in the urban centres and are in need of an intervention as this? How do you determine those who cannot buy more than a 100 naira recharge card? How about who have more than N5,000 in their account at the moment but the balance is not theirs? Our policy makers need to know that not all that glitter are gold —this is an elementary knowledge. That somebody has more than N5,000 or he puts on a good dress or he is looking good does not mean he is fine. Latest in this “selectivism” and “exclusionism” approach is when journalists across the land were/are not captured and/or considered for hazard allowances for the professionals (as for medical and health workers) in the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.

All other palliatives and relief packages such as food distribution, anchor borrower, market or trader “moni”, all sorts of loans and cash empowerments through community banks and tax reliefs have not been programmed and activated in a way that the packages would get to every nook and cranny of the country touching every family. Failure has been recorded in the food palliatives organized by some state government(s) across the country as a result of the deceptive approach adopted by the states in the collection of data and distribution of the relief packages. The handlers of these relief packages claimed that they had collected the data of those to benefit from the palliatives and that is exactly where they missed it. Sure, the relief materials got to the contacts and fans of the handlers! Which other means of collection of data is better than using the voters’ registers, voters’ cards, Biometric Verification Numbers (BVNs) and community landlord associations? If the man that lives next door to me cannot benefit from such a palliative, then it is “selectivism” and it is an excellent failure! How can you conduct distribution of palliatives at local government headquarters with politicians handling the operations?

Our health, education, economic, housing, job placement, industrial policies and emergency social security scheme always scheme some people out as if they were not part of the country. When our leaders make policies about housing, they will put a barrier that will naturally and automatically make the common men and middle level people unable to take an advantage of the offer; when they make a policy to make life better for the graduates, they set lots of uncomplementary barriers as age and year of graduation to qualify for the benefits, where a lot of people who graduated 10-20 years back and have been unduly locked up, treated and subjected to suffering and lacks of so many different dimensions for so many years due to lack of holistic approach arising from deficit of accurate census statistics, would be schemed out —they are never captured or considered to wipe away their tears of several years! And this trend has also made some people think that going through all the rigours and pains to acquire a western education for four to seven years is not worth it and is regarded as a waste of time. If graduates, irrespective of their years of graduation, cannot be tracked and captured well to form a policy that will touch all of them, what then do we say about other classes of our graduates who did not have education to the point of partaking in the national youth service, NYSC, and others who were not formally educated? The policies in this country have always been the type that makes every citizen to be on his own —On Your Own (OYO)— and that is why it will be difficult to have a community of people who will sincerely love one another. Everybody will have to be struggling to outsmart one another, of a worrisome trend, would be to stab the other man next to him in the back!

It is imperative for our leaders and policy makers to review holistically how they usually arrive at policies aimed to make our lives worthwhile to live. If it is lack of vision and/or clear vision, dumbness or goodwill, they need to recoil and put a square peg in a square hole. If it is sheer insensitivity, it will be better that they add the highest degree of human face to their operations and welfare programmes in particular.

In the case of the FGN’s conditional cash transfer, albeit it is understandable that the nation’s economy is under a serious threat due to Covid-19 induced fall in the oil price at the international market, why not evolve policies —emergency, palliative or all round/comprehensive— that will capture every population group with all their members instead of anti-common people “selectivism” and “exclusionism” approach? Why not let all Nigerians for the first time in the country’s history enjoy the bounty of their Nigerian citizenship? Why not let all Nigerians benefit from the conditional cash transfer and other palliatives without some obnoxious condition(s)? Afraid of the huge sum involved in fulfilling this patriotic national duty? The confirmed rich and comfortable citizens, including public and political office holders, among us may be excluded in the emergency welfare package. Exclusion of this class of people in a situation as this is not a bad idea!

In other climes with good leadership, your certificate as a graduate or an evidence of craftsmanship or apprenticeship is enough to access all the financial resource support needed to survive economically. In fact, it is on record, you do not need to be a graduate of a university in certain part(s) of the world before you can get long-term loans to invest in any economic sector of your choice. If citizens are well and adequately empowered economically, the government may have a less burden on its hand(s) in a crisis situation as Covid-19 pandemic.

Marufh Bello is an independent journalist, writer, book editor, publisher and development media practitioner. Email: marufhbello@gmail.com (08055892936).

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