FOR NOW, NO TO HANDOUTS IN NIGERIA!
I am tempted to dance naked for the new regime in Nigeria under the leadership of the venerable Muhammadu Buhari. Why? I am inebriated by the grandiose social safety net programs that are about to be rolled out in the near future for the betterment of the ordinary Nigerian! However, the one that gives me the greatest pleasure this moment is the news that some 25 million suffering Nigerians may each soon begin receiving 5000 naira monthly from the federal government of Nigeria. Isn't this thoughtful of the thinking, concerned administration currently housed in Aso Rock?
Of course, it is! After all, if America can dedicate eleven per cent of her 2014 budget to programs that, according to the Washington DC based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship,” then why not Nigeria? By the way, that percentage in actual green back was $370 billion! Call it a humongous bill and no one will look at you askance because it is for a worthy cause for a needy citizenry: government catering for the well being of the people who are the very foundation of democracy through the following social safety nets as outlined by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families through the tax code; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.” Beside these safety net programs, another twenty-four per cent of the 2014 federal budget, which translated to $836 billion, was used to “provide health coverage to around 54 million people who are over the age of 65 or have disabilities” and a separate set of “about 70 million low-income children, parents, elderly people, and people with disabilities.” In total, the US picked up the hospital tab for 124 million Americans last year! Mind you, according to the United States Census Bureau, the US population as at 4 July 2014 was 318 881 992 people. In other words, when you do the maths: America took care of the hospital bill of almost half of its population!
Apart from America, other developed countries have programs that are designed to ameliorate the social conditions of their poor citizens. However, according to Stanford University's The Poverty and Inequality Report 2015, which is a report on the state of the states as it pertains to the impact of safety net programs in the US, the poor in America are not yet out of the woods since “the economic well-being of low-income households may be especially precarious;” that is, in spite of government sustenance. Now, does this bleak study mean that the state should not cater for the people in economic distress? Not really! Any help from anywhere will cushion the pain of poverty and give hope to the miserable in society: a people whose plight isn't their fault.
So, why am I against government handouts in Nigeria? My crystal ball tells me that the 25 million Nigerians will add some 125 billion naira to monthly state expenditure. And, what else do I see? My crystal ball tells me, also, that the 5000 naira will be used to buy some 57 litres of fuel to power generators in those households while the people remain famished! Isn't this robbing Peter to pay Paul? The Pauls are those who may be denied easy access to government funds should the Buhari administration wave “good bye” to fuel subsidy.
For now, I do believe that there are immeasurable problems besetting Nigeria that need immediate attention of the men in Aso Rock, and these problems – if given priority – will pave the way for a better appreciation and profitable use by the poor of the monthly stipend from the federal government. As things are presently, in my view, Nigeria's poor and majority of the denizens are in greater need of roads that are not deplorable in every nook and cranny of the nation, electricity that is constant and security that is guaranteed. To achieve these, it means that every tier of government in Nigeria, without regard for political affiliation, must embrace its responsibility in the provision of basic amenities that will make life in Nigeria worth living because, according to Henry R. Nau in his study of power, institutions and ideas, intervention protects “people from arbitrary violence and starvation [without imposing] a specific political regime on the country.”
This is the time for the current breed of Nigerian leaders to make sacrifices because every ordinary Nigerian has heeded this call for many decades without any positive measurable result accruable. In this state, hope has diminished for many and, for others, hope has transmogrified. However, hope can still spring if the men in charge of Nigeria's fate will recognize that the time has come for leadership to be meaningful by shunning what Plato calls “bodily pleasure”. According to Greek Philosopher in The Republic, “such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character.”
The task ahead for Nigeria's leaders should be motivated by national pride.
Twitter handle: @jariole