Hunger And Hardship: Other Nigerian Governors Can Do Better.

By Monday Eze


The current hunger, inflation, hardship and other economic shocks of the fuel subsidy withdrawal, like broken waist beads, have bared the hips of some state governors. Revelations from the recent comparative study of welfare programmes of Nigerian governors in their respective states in the first ever welfare summit organized by Nigeria Parents Forum have further shown that most Nigerian governors' commitment to the welfare of their constituents or good governance were pretentious and overrated. These were evident both from the reactions of the people to the hardship in the country; and from the reactions of the governors to the situation.

For instance, it was shocking to realize that notwithstanding President Bola Tinubu's fair warning of impending pains that would trail the fuel subsidy withdrawal and the president's appeal for brace up, many governors did not make any special arrangement for their respective people. Even when reasonable increments arising from the windfall from the fuel subsidy withdrawal began to accrue to all the states, most of the governors restricted themselves to the Federal Government templates like wage awards as well as the perennially problematic feeding programmes and could not think outside the box to generate autochthonous humanitarian interventions. The fire-brigade reaction of the governor of Niger State, Muhammad Umar Bago, halting the traffic of food and agricultural products from the state to other parts of the country was pedestrian, inconsiderate and has been said to constitute a threat to the unity of Nigeria. One is disturbed that Governor Bago ignored the fact that for commercial farmers, farming is a business investment. In a capitalist economy like Nigeria, the farmers are interested in selling their farm produce to make gains and have funds for the next planting season. Governor Bago who is ordering the seizure of the consignments of farmers of Niger State received a post subsidy monthly federation account allocation with a 51% increment on behalf of the government and people of Niger State. People wonder why the governor could not deploy the 51% increment of the state's monthly federation account allocation to buy back the farm produce of farmers and distribute the food to families as humanitarian intervention against hunger in his state.

The advantages of buying back the food stuff from farmers are that it would have made farming more profitable and attractive to the army of the unemployed in Niger State; and led to geometric increase in food production, food security and more. His seizure of farm produce by fiat has made his government unpopular, discouraged farmers from farming; and would likely lead to food insecurity arising from disinterest in farming. Bago's fiat has allegedly been interpreted by people to be a threat to the nations unity. A reaction to Bago's fiat which has gained social media traction has allegedly asked the authorities in the country to call governor of Niger State to order, suggesting that if Governor Bago would not rescind his fiat against movement of farm produce to other states in Nigeria, every state might react by holding down things produced within the respective states including crude oil. This point of view, more than anything else, has exposed the dangers of Bago's thoughtless fiat.

In Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu's 'Mamaput' feeding programme is largely seen as a bid to create drain pipes for Lagos funds through reinvention of the notorious Almajiri system. Sanwo-Olu has been criticized by notable persons like Pastor Tunde Bakare for supervising the massive destruction of people's investments running into trillions of naira in Lagos State since the end of the 2023 polls. It is odd for Sanwo-Olu to destroy people's homes and shops, close markets and pull down malls and come back to serve the now idle people messes of pottage in the name Mamaput humanitarian intervention. Sanwo-Olu's reduction of work days for Lagos civil servants to three in a week amounts to promotion of indolence. What is Sanwo-Olu's criteria for determining the actual persons per LGA to benefit from the Mamaput feeding programme? Why is Sanwo-Olu not thinking of reconstructing the markets and houses he had overrun with his bulldozers, subsidizing transportation in the form of staff buses for Lagos civil servants, giving business grants and tax waivers to deserving firms/persons and other ways of encouraging productivity.

At this juncture, the Nigeria Parents Forum deserves encouragement over their recent welfare summit which revealed governors like Builder Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru of Ebonyi State whose radical welfare programmes earned the honour of Welfare Ambassador of Nigeria; Prof. Zulum whose commitment to the welfare of the people of Borno State even in the difficult times and terrain they find themselves is not in doubt; and Pastor Bassey Eno of Akwa Ibom State who has continued to impact positively on his people. The forum should also be appreciated for exposing the complicity of some Nigerian governors in the hunger and hardship which pervades the country, and for charging Nigerians to hold their respective governors to account over their investments of the fuel subsidy windfalls. Like Governors Nwifuru, Zulum, Eno, etc have demonstrated, there are lots that Nigerian governors can do to improve the quality of lives of their respective citizenry in the present situation of Nigeria. Leadership in Nigeria is a cooperative venture and not President Tinubu's one-man-show like some people especially the opposition want Nigerians to believe.

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