Palliatives: man of the moment.

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir.

‘Palliatives’ is now household vocabulary in our dear motherland. It is also a brand new conduit or pipeline if you may, for corrupt government officials to siphon public funds meant for the alleviation of the sufferings of the common man. It is now the most lucrative business where cash, food items and other measures and means of cushioning the bad times and its devastation on the suffered life of the poor Nigerian are looted calmly. Looting is no longer restricted to the TSA or other government coffers. It has been successfully transferred to the special purpose vehicles that were manufactured to deliver governmental support, directly into the hands of the common man. The last time any meaningful or significant impact any government programme on poverty reduction had on the masses, was perhaps back in the days of the poverty alleviation programmes of the Obasanjo era, of the fourth Republic.

Terrorism, Covid 19, and hard economic policies, and their after shock-waves, have been the three most prevalent driving factors that have caused for the initiation of various palliative measures that are meant to whittle down the toiling average Nigerian. The economic hardships we face, and the bewilderment that Internally displaced persons found themselves in, were meant to be managed to an appreciable degree. Alas nationwide we have witnessed very poor, lackadaisical and corruptive tendencies in the distribution of palliatives and cash advances, as well as loans, targeting the destitute and the downtrodden.

The Endsars violent protests cum ‘insurrection’ that rocked the nation, exposed the heartlessness of government officials, especially in the States, where food items labeled covid palliatives, continued to be warehoused and hoarded. These were supposed to have been disbursed freely to the needy. Infact, back then, everyone needed it because Covid had crippled everyone. No income for businesses and no ‘chuwa-chuwa’ for civil servants. Salaries were unpaid and even government was broke. Nigeria suffered economic depression twice in quick succession and the general pulse of the nation was that of poverty and depression. Schemes and policies were invented to get food and cash into the hands of the poor Nigerians who suffered it the most. Alas government officials pounced on them and cornered them mostly to their selfish gains. Millions were deprived for the self aggrandisement of a few. The looting was unprecedented and unbelievable. Ludicrous to define it more appropriately.

Not all the States did this. Some of the States did share the palliatives and in those cases, they weren’t just enough to cater for everyone. But there was sanity in the distribution and there was certainty in the processes. The Federal Government invented the table payments method where people lined up at designated centres provided by The Ministry of Humanitarian Services. The cash sent to accounts directly, was eventually ‘corrupted’ and details of individuals and their bank numbers were merely warehoused as databases, and the cash transferred to these supposed beneficiaries were few and far between.

A shining example worthy of recognition and commendation is the Zulum methodology of hosting programmes in the rural areas where the food items and other palliative means, are displayed for all to see. Some are even packaged and lined up like in a primary or secondary school assembly arrangement or mosque prayer service, with neatly spaced rows and columns. The numbers are clear for all to see, and the food items are there to be distributed openly. The entire process is transparent and not fraught with sharp practices. The silver lining of it all is that the HE is there himself to not only witness the distribution but to partake in it. Sometimes you can even spot him with a whip, to whip fear into the minds of round trippers in line. HE is drenched in sweat like a laborer and he is toiling physically like a proper public servant.

Sometimes HE is in the filling stations trying to sort out the fuel scarcity hardships and to tackle the horders of petroleum products especially PMS. Some may view him as being too exuberant but the truth is, Nigerians and Nigeria as a whole not only need a hands on approach, but a hands-on with iron hands. Even the recipients of the palliatives are enmeshed in the same corruptive tendencies as their tenders. All this HE does, not minding the harsh terroristic climate of the State, especially in the rural areas. Today he is in Bama, tomorrow he is in Konduga, spending the night sharing food, clothes and money. I am sure the terrorists are dumbfounded by his approach and nerve.

Lately, there have been reports that Zulum has shared over 36 million Naira to corpers in his State, along with cows and bags of food. 100 bags of rice, 10 bags of beans, 10 cows and several gallons of cooking oil to be precise. There are over 1200 Corp members in Borno State and each one of them is to get 30,000 Naira. He said that their accounts would be credited as soon as their account numbers are forwarded to him. Nigerians call it ‘Talk and do’. It means that he is not handing over the money to anyone, but he will police it and make sure the 1,215 corpers get their stipend. It means no one will embezzle their monies, neither would they have to negotiate out a token from their cash before they are credited. He enjoined them to be law abiding and to get out there and build friendships with people from this part of the country, for a more prosperous and united Nigeria. Borno is having its first NYSC camp orientation after a 13 year suspension peripd due to the insecurity crises of the State.

I ran into Zulum when he visited his friend, Sen. Abu Kyari, CON; at his new office, when he resumed as The Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Food Security. Kyari ofcourse was the nominee from Borno State. Zulum was there to support Kyari as he assumed office, and as he received briefings from the ministry’s officials. Zulum accompanied Kyari to the reception organised in honor of Kyari and thereafter followed him home. He was more humble than we see or hear from dailies and TV programmes that have updated us about Zulum The Phenomenon. Surely Kashim has left Borno with the most valuable and priceless gift any Governor can give his people. I am almost certain that this has been one of the blessings that have followed The amiable Vice President to where he is today. Kyari was also Kashim’s Chief of Staff back in 2011. For what it’s worth, Zulum stands out and is being celebrated nationwide. It is more than pictures and media coverage. It is actual and factual, The Zulum Phenomenon. May we have more Zulums across the States, amen.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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