Osun state: When politics and palliatives clash

The rice bought by the of Osun state to cushion the effect of has pitched stakeholders against the state as LATEEF DADA writes.

Osun state on Thursday April 9, 2020 distributed 6,020 bags of rice to residents of the state to cushion the effect of hardship occasioned by the stay-at-home order to prevent further spread of the deadly Corona virus in the state. The palliatives, according to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, became necessary to enable the residents sustain the two weeks .

The state had recorded 20 cases of COVID-19 and this apparently necessitated the announcement by the state government to begin a of the state on Tuesday, 31st March, 2020.

Politicising lockdown

However, when the lockdown was announced, the Democratic Social Movement (DSM) immediately kicked against the decision, saying government has refused to address the question of how people would survive within the period.
The group in a statement jointly signed by its chairman and secretary, Alfred Adegoke and Kola Ibrahim, asked, “What about those who live by daily earnings? What about poor families who are finding it difficult to survive even before the lockdown? What about in the small scale enterprises whose jobs and incomes are affected?

“Furthermore, the same government that was quick to close down schools, offices, markets and entrances to the states has not found it necessary to provide even the basic sanitary and safety kits like nose masks, hand gloves, hand sanitiser for the citizens.”

Govt speaks

The state government had initially denied distributing expired rice as alleged by the people. The commissioner for information and civic orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, in a statement said government had commenced into the allegation.

Also, some pictures posted by aides to the commissioner for regional integration and special duties, Lekan Badmus, showed that the commissioner had embarked on of those expired rice at some polling units in Osogbo which is a confirmation that some of the rice had actually expired.

According to Egbemode, “The State of Osun under the leadership of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is particularly pained by this development considering the fact that it has never compromised quality in its provision of economic stimulus for the people of Osun in spite of its limited resources.

“This government is a very responsible ine that places premium on the well-being of its people and would not do anything to jeopardise its citizens’ .
“Upon receipt of the complaints, the state government immediately began investigations to establish the source of the few bags that appear not to have met the quality expected.”

The issue, however, reminded residents of electioneering period where each of the polling units got between N250,000 and N400,000 during the  gubernatorial election.

IPAC raises questions

Speaking with Blueprint, the chairman National Intervention Movement and secretary, Osun state IPAC, Lanre Fadahunsi, condemned the idea of allowing infectious person into the state and the mode of sharing the palliatives. He wondered why a unit that got between N250,000 to N500,000 during the election are now asked to share two bags of rice. Fadahunsi called on the state government to quickly release people to go about their works.

He said, “The entire political space applauded the noble intention of the state government in setting up a Covid-19 committee across political parties involving all major religions.

The state government’s decision to lockdown early received applause of equal measure but subsequent actions and corresponding reactions became suspect.

“The first step in the right direction would have been to prevent infiltration of our domain by carriers of the dreaded virus but we learnt the commissioner discussed with a potential victim till he drove into town. Stories abound concerning the in- house index case. The state also coordinated the Ejigbo team that brought us sizable number to give us a ‘good’ in the committee of Covid-19 infested states.

“Our neighbours, Oyo and Ondo as we speak are not under total lockdown; the people are allowed to go about their businesses maintaining , crowd control, basic sanitary cleanliness enough to allow them earn to keep body and soul together. 

“Osun state however decided to totally lockdown. People therefore were expecting to get palliatives commensurate with the two weeks stay at home. Suffice to say here that His Excellency, Governor Gboyega Oyetola promised the current executive of Inter Party Advisory Council Ipac Osun Chapter that after elections are over, collaborative governance is what should follow. The mode of sharing the one item palliative (6,020 bags of rice) has negated the idea of collegiate action. Some APC local government chairmen were quoted to have insisted that the rice was meant for members of the party. We should have tarried for Asiwaju Tunde Badmus team to start the all-inclusive sharing of palliatives or better still take the rice directly to APC secretariat and not the government secretariat.

“To say the least, this amount to a betrayal of trust of IPAC executive who were very happy with the hand of fellowship earlier extended, but the current matter actually transcend IPAC or political patronage of any kind, it questions the humanity in us.

“Osun state government as a matter of urgency should cancel the  lockdown and copy her sister states by removing the chains and noose around the people’s neck. 

Even Lagosians have a life in the worst hit state in Nigeria. One wonders how north bound trucks wade through seamlessly in Osun where the citizens are under lockdown. Osun people who have gone beyond party lines to extend goodwill to the Oyetola administration have become dissatisfied, angry and removed their confidence that the leadership is capacity driven.”

CSOs queries gov’t move

The director, Centre for Sustained Dialogue (CSD), Comrade Waheed Saka, described the process as cosmetic approach to poverty alleviation saying, “It is unfortunate that our people have been reduced to less than human in the era of Covid-19. Across the country, from a governor distributing eba and stew to a state distributing five tins of rice to the whole community development association of over 50 household and so many other denigrated give-aways that are over publicised.

“The question we should ask our leaders is whether this is payback time? The recent elections were riddle with open vote buying and inducement of electorates. Are we saying our people are like proverbial pregnant woman who ate all the food with nothing to eat after childbirth?

“One thing is clear; our people were already falling through the crack long before the Covid-19 pandemic. It only triggered the hunger emergency. It is time to prioritise and do more than cosmetic approach to poverty alleviation. Covid -19 exposed our vulnerability as citizens and as leaders at all levels. And when this is all over, we need a new direction.”

According to Akin Adeyi, a security expert, “The quantity and quality of rice government shared as palliative did not help matters. It happened to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It made people angry.

Recall how government had gone cap in hands to source donations from individuals, groups and corporate bodies and which they got in full abundance. But the biased sharing coupled with the high contamination of the rice was to later be the government’s gross undoing. It has in no small measure depicted this Oyetola-led administration as another fraud.

“A sincere and humble government would have expressed sincere apology then accompany it with a very strong word of SORRY.”

Now that the state has succeeded in discharging 11 out of 19 patients of COVID-19, people of the state have been calling on the government to consider the hunger and suffering of the masses and end the lockdown.

The firector of Media, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Osun state chapter, Bishop Seun Adeoye, appealed to the state government to stop the stay-at-home because of the frustration people have been subjected to.

In a statement Adeoye said, “The stay at home should stop. People are fed up, people are hungry, people are frustrated. It may lead to depression and if people are made to stay at home longer than enough, it may lead to increased crimes.

A social crusader, Lawal Wasiu, advised the state government not to think of extending the stay-at-home with the present condition of residents.

He said, ” They should not extend the lockdown beyond two weeks. It cannot work. They should release us and allow us to go and find means of living.

But Governor Oyetola has said the lockdown continues and could only be reviewed after the first two weeks.

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