Ogun: Opposition and the politics of palliatives -By ‘Dare Odufowokan
Following the decision of the Federal Government to allow state governments anchor its palliative programme meant to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy, state governors and their various administrations became the subjects of attention as Nigerians eagerly waited to see how the programme would be implemented. Defending the decision to give the assignment to the states, the National Economic Council (NEC) had argued that there was a need to adjust the previous ways of handling palliatives to ensure that the targeted beneficiaries actually benefit from the programme. According to NEC, making the state governments custodians of the programme will take the palliatives straight to the doorsteps of those who should partake in the programme. Expectedly, since the implementation of the programme kicked off nationwide, the kudos and knocks trailing the distributions have been largely deposited at the doorsteps of the governors.
In many states of the federation, the opposition sought to ‘play’ politics with the palliative programme, vehemently criticising the methods adopted by the ruling party to distribute the palliatives. In some places, opposition parties adopted outright lies and barefaced falsehood to drum home the impression that the palliatives weren’t properly distributed. Ogun State is no exception. In fact, the opposition in the state has been hysterical in its struggle to pin the ‘failed’ tag on the palliative programme not minding the fact that stakeholders across the state have been describing it as ‘the best ever.’ Weeks back, Governor Dapo Abiodun, while flagging off the distribution of 300,000 bags of 10kg rice palliatives to citizens of the state, made it clear that the state government was domesticating the Federal Government initiative. According to the governor, the palliatives were sent to states to be distributed to indigent residents.“This is a Federal Government initiative that is being domesticated right here in Ogun State. We have decided to use the 5,400 polling units as a reference of distribution, not wards, because we realized that using wards won’t be equitable,” Abiodun said, demonstrating his desire for the palliatives to get to the intended beneficiaries. He further revealed that a committee made up of “eminent men and women of distinguished character” is in charge of the distribution of the palliatives.
The committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, with two former deputy governors nominated to support her alongside two members of the National Assembly, one representing the House of Representatives, and the other representing the Senate, worked out the modalities for the actualisation of the governor’s desire. Promptly, the Salako-Oyedele-led committee inaugurated committees in each of the 20 LGAs of the state comprising of the council chairmen, Governor’s Liaison Officers (GLO), a member of the state House of Assembly in each LGA, religious leaders, community leaders, youths, students, Iyalojas and the traditional institution.
Instructively, the Federal Government was specific in saying that the palliatives were not meant for everybody but for the most vulnerable people in various communities across the country. The term, ‘poorest of the poor’ was used in some instances to categorize those who should benefit. Conscious of this, the implementation committees across Ogun State went to work with an approach that directly targeted the very vulnerable among us. Of course, it was obvious that 300,000 bags of rice cannot go round the entire population of the state come what may. The committees and other stakeholders worked hard in ensuring that it is largely those who really need these palliatives that got them. The result of these selfless and painstaking efforts is that the government of Prince Abiodun has been severally lauded at home and abroad for its way of distributing the state’s share of the palliatives. To any observers, this was possible because Governor Abiodun made it clear to everybody involved in sharing the palliatives that it must get to the intended beneficiaries.
Comrade Adesoji Alausa, the Ogun State Coordinator of Voters Right Agenda (VoRA) said: “The mode of distribution adopted by Ogun State is the best I have seen in the state since we started experiencing the sharing of palliatives and other social supports as well as empowerments. The governor should be appreciated for making it clear to the stakeholders that he wanted it done with the vulnerables in mind. My organisation monitored the distribution across the state and I can tell you it went far better than we have ever seen. How I wish the quantity is more than just 300,000.” Another social commentator, Barrister Patrick Ogunnowo of the Centre for Justice and Democracy (CfJD), while reviewing the distribution of the palliatives in the state, described it as “carefully planned and effectively executed with the targeted beneficiaries in mind.” But in spite of these widely applauded efforts of the government to ensure that the palliatives get to the right beneficiaries promptly, some people, especially members of the opposition and their agents, were and are still unrelenting in their bid to tar the administration with negative brushes for reasons not beyond politics. This explains the case of some social media attacks on the government, especially a recent online video released by a man who claimed to be the chairman of Shokeye Community Development Association in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of the state.
The man poured invectives on the government for initiating the palliative programme at all. His narrative that the bag of rice he was holding was meant for the whole community. He is not the first rabble-rouser to spin that web of lies. Not even the well publicised directive of the federal government that the bag of rice is meant for ONE vulnerable family in the community, and not for all residents of the community, made any sense to the enraged man as he sweated to discredit the initiative. But it didn’t take long to discover that the man lied as investigations revealed that that bag of rice was actually sent to him with a clear explanation that he should help transfer it to a vulnerable widow in his community. Rather than do as he was meant to, he chose to play politics with the gesture.
And in so doing, he exposed himself as one of those who are of the opinion that the federal government should provide grains for all families everywhere in Nigeria. Clearly, he and others like him are men on hatchet missions and no amount of explanations will assuage them. Another CDA boss in this same Obafemi Owode LGA had made similar remarks about the palliative programe but later recanted his claims, saying he later discovered that many bags of rice were shared in his community while the one given to him was meant for just one vulnerable family. It has similarly been established that numerous other bags of rice were sent to beneficiaries in Shokeye community through other stakeholders aside from their CDA.
Sadly, the man chose to play the usual dirty politics of his political party on social media. Perhaps, some people are of the opinion that they could snatch the political victory they could not win at the polls and at the tribunal through the backdoor by hoodwinking the people of Ogun State with lies and half truths on social media. But like every pack of lies, the antic of the opposition is not standing the test of time. Stakeholder after stakeholder been debunking the claims of these agents of falsehood. During the week, at a meeting called by the leadership of Obafemi Owode LGA to explain how the palliatives were distributed, stakeholders again hailed the formula used to share the bags of rice as the best they’ve ever seen in the state. According to Bishop Ezekiel Olukunle, who represented CAN on the LGA committee that shared and monitored the palliatives, the online video is a hatchet job.m”CAN was given 1000 bags of rice for our members who are vulnerable. We shared these diligently and Shokeye, like every communities, got its own share. How then can he say only one bag was to be shared by all households in the estate? He is definitely up to something bad and we plead that he should be ignored,” he said.
Another stakeholder, Dr. Saheed Adeleye represented the Muslim Community on the sharing committee. He said the formula used to share the palliatives is the best he has seen in his almost 40 years of living in the council area, adding that the man who did the video lives in the same area with him. He described him as a known opposition agent. “There is no truth in the claims of the man. He is being used. We know him. He has never contributed to the development of our area but he is good at ganging up against every government. I can tell you that we in the Muslim Community got 1000 bags of rice which we distributed to the vulnerables amongst us. I live in Shokeye and I can confirm that not less than 165 bags of rice were given to the needy in the community. This is the same community the man was lying about. And we are not the only one who got rice to share. CAN, youths, market women, traditionalists, Baales, the Obas, Hausa, Igbo, Igede communities the Isese, artisans and many other stakeholders also shared rice for people in Shokeye. We have never had it so good in the last 40 years that I have been there,” he affirmed.
According to Babalola Samuel Olakunle, the Chairman of the Community Development Council (CDC) covering Shokeye Estate, not less than 2000 bags of rice were given to the CDC to be shared to the vulnerables in the various communities. He added that the CDA chairman who did the video refused to be part of the efforts to distribute the palliative when contacted.
“The one bag of rice he displayed was specifically given to him for onward transmission to an identified vulnerable widow in his estate, not for the whole estate and he knew that. He is being used by opposition politicians to tarnish the government. We know him very well and we can tell you his antecedents,” he said. Urging the public to ignore the naysayers and encourage the state government to stick to the formula used, Chief Mrs. Kemi Ogunleye, the Iyaloja of the LGA, revealed that market women were given 1000 bags of rice. In his own testimony, Chief Kasumu Jamiu Sonola, the Baale of Asese community and Chairman, Council of Baales in the local government, said he took delivery of 1000 bags of rice on behalf of the Council. “We didn’t keep it for ourselves. We shared it for the needy in our various communities. All the Baales collected and took it to the poor people in their domains. Shokeye got its own share. So the man cannot be saying the truth. I personally ensured that it was given to the targeted beneficiaries,” he said.
Speaking on the development, Oba Taofeek Owolabi, the Olu of Obafe and Chairman of the Council of Obas in the LGA, lauded Governor Abiodun for ensuring the diligent distribution of the palliatives. He noted that sharing of the palliatives was done in a manner that it got to the people who should benefit from it. Confirming the modality used to share the palliatives in his domain, Chairman of Obafemi Owode LGA, Hon. Lanre Ogunsola Adesina said the committee put in place to oversee the sharing of the palliatives did a good job.
“We started the process with the composition of palliative distribution committee that was inaugurated at the local government secretariat on 26th September 2023. The members of the committee were drawn from the three zones made up the council area namely, Obafe, Owode and Oba zones with Kabiyesis, Baales, religious associations, youths, women, market associations, Community Development Associations, people with disabilities, security agencies and others ably represented. It is now unfortunate to see a viral video being presented by the CDA chairman to the public that a bag of rice was meant for the entire household in his estate. It is pertinent to say that the bag of rice shown in the viral video was meant to be sent to a vulnerable within the community through the CDA chairman. A similar viral video earlier thrown to the public was later debunked by the CDA chairman who released it after he sought further clarification. This is why we suspected very strongly that the Sokeye CDA chairman may be out to intentionally work against the state government’s bid to reach out to the targeted vulnerables. It is politically sponsored by the opposition,” he said.
Odunfowokan contributes this piece through [email protected]