Ignore palliatives and take care of yourself. Through Dele Sobowale

Ignore palliatives and take care of yourself. Through Dele Sobowale

“There are no desperate situations; only desperate men” – Joseph Goebbels, 1897-1945, Hitler’s propaganda chief

Tinubu is the most desperate man in Nigeria today; and possibly the most desperate President on Earth right now. I read at least three books on the last days of Adolf Hitler, 1899-1945, and some of what Nigerians are experiencing now remind me of the helplessness enveloping the officials of Hitler’s government. There is only one great difference. Hitler had long lost the war; but he was surrounded by sycophants who were telling him that the fight had just begun until the Russians were almost at his bunker. Hitler was still deploying imaginary men and resources in his desperate bid to avert catastrophe.

Last week, while representing Tinubu at Chief Edwin Clark’s book launch, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation delivered this BRUTALLY FRANK (incidentally that is the title of the book) message from our President: “Solutions to problems can never be as instant as coffee. But, we must certainly be there. I know the removal of fuel subsidy has created some things. And, that is why palliatives are being put in place; 100 trucks of fertilizers have been sent to the states; 100 trucks of grains have been sent; and more are coming, and more buses are coming.” In addition, the National Economic Council, NEC, approved N5 billion and 5 trucks of rice to each state on the same day.

MIRAGE OF ALLOCATIONS

“Leadership is the ability to define issues without aggravating problems” – Warren Bennis, 1980.

Nothing was said about the Federal Capital Territory, FCT – as if the people living and working under their noses don’t exist. That demonstrates vividly that Tinubu and the NEC are totally at a loss regarding on what to do to alleviate the pains of subsidy removal. What has been offered as solutions can only be regarded as mirages of allocations – nothing well-thought out and nobody knows what they hope to achieve. It is an axiom of management and economics that “you can’t manage what you can’t control”. At least two things are beyond the control of those handing out palliatives. One, nobody can control what will happen to the N5 billion once released to the states. Two, anybody who has been involved in rice business, like me, knows that “5 trucks of rice” is totally meaningless. The statement is a deliberate attempt to deceive Nigerians. There are pick-up trucks, 7-ton trucks, 10-ton trucks and trailer-trucks. Each carries maximum rice load packed in 5, 10, 20 and 50 kilogram bags. That is why people in the business and serious public officials speak in terms of tonnage – how many tons of rice? Without knowing how much rice will be sent, Tinubu and NEC are going to create discord in every state. Hungry individuals might assume the Governors received more than they did. On the other hand, Governors might receive more than they disclose. Either way trouble looms in the states.

Paradoxically, unless the states will be receiving imported rice, the FG mopping up so much rice to supply to states; and encouraging them to buy more, will actually drive up the open market price of rice. Last week, it was reported that several Kano State rice mills have closed shop on account of scarcity of paddy rice. Kano is a major rice producer; so scarcity of paddy there, as well as, reported poor harvests in the Northeast, would suggest that the FG and NEC are distributing rice which exists only in the figment of their imaginations.

Furthermore, questions must be raised about the fairness in allocating N5 billion to Lagos and Kano states with over 15 million people each; and the same amount to Nasarawa and Ebonyi with less than one quarter. Nothing purchased with N5 billion, if equitably distributed to the people, will provide more than one lunch each. Governors Sanwo-Olu and Yusuf of Kano are being set up for undeserved insults from political enemies. No Governor will go unscathed.

That leads me to the most sensible announcement I have heard from any public official since we woke up to disaster.

OBASEKI: GOVERNOR OF EDO STATE

“We are on our own”. That was his message to Edo people. Commonsense is not common; that is why it has been easy for Nigerian politicians to fool most of the people all the time. It requires very little thought to realize that Tinubu was not prepared for the problems confronting him. For eight years, he was invested with the meaningless title of National Leader. But, Buhari kept him strictly at arm’s length. He was ignorant of what was being done by the APC he was supposed to lead. He was unaware of the atrocities and unprecedented corruption which culminated in the horrors he has inherited. Given the revelations at our disposal, regarding how Buhari ran the government, if Tinubu wants to tell the absolute truth now, he must regret going and picking the man up from the political dust bin. The next three Presidents will labour hard to restore Nigeria after eight years of waste and destruction.

Already, Tinubu has started to walk back from his “subsidy is gone” announcement. The march of events, beyond his control, has taught him a big lesson – talk is cheap. Now, he is talking as if he wants to control fuel price. That means that subsidy might be back soon. He was also forced to intervene in the drift of exchange rate when almost N1, 000/US$ seemed imminent. The NNPCL was forced to borrow $3 billion to stabilize the market. ARAMCO in Saudi is not called upon to help stabilize the currency; and it is not part of NNPCL’s mandate to undertake an assignment solely meant for the CBN. “Hitting the ground running”, Tinubu is staggering under the burden of the office.

Governor Obaseki, out of all the governors, has had enough sense to raise the alarm; to warn his people not to hope for much. Even if truck means trailer truck, what each person in Edo will receive will be less than a cup of rice. Is that the palliative to cushion the impact of the policies announced so far? Obaseki recognises a wayo game when one is being played aimed at deceiving My Fellow Citizens. This is complete abracadabra. Later, they will announce to you that millions of Nigerians were fed – hot gas undoubtedly.

MY ADVICE TO FELLOW CITIZENS

“If the unemployed [and hungry] could live eat plans and promises, they would be able to spend [time in Dubai]” – W.E.B Du Bois, 1868-1963

Du Bois, one of the best black American thinkers of the last century, wrote those words in a pamphlet titled CRISIS in 1931 on the eve of the Great Depression which became a global economic crisis. At the time Du Bois wrote his predictions, U S President Herbert Hoover, 1874-1964, was telling Americans not to worry – until the economic catastrophe overwhelmed them. Millions became jobless; and the politicians then reacted as they are doing in Nigeria now.

First, they offered palliatives – free lunches in soup and bread outfits for those not too proud to beg. Despite the fact that the politicians knew that most Americans live far away from the soup-and-bread joints, they went about talking as if the problems had been solved. Du Bois knew better.

N5bn palliative: Measure shambolic, unscientific – ACF spokesman

I also know better. I know that the measures taken were induced by panic. But, I am not alone. For instance, the spokesman for the Arewa Consultative Forum observed, in a report published in Daily Trust, August 20, 2023, “This shows that we are doing things like what grammar people call “hunter’s pack”. You don’t plan, you don’t strategise… and make an announcement… There is no basis for sharing money to states on equal basis” (Prof Tukur Muhammad). I agree.

Most Nigerians will get nothing. We have had our experiences with such “poverty alleviation” programmes before in Lagos Island – in 1999, under Obasanjo when 1, 000 youths were supposed to be employed for three months and paid. In the end we could not locate up to 100 young people, mostly girls, who benefited. That was under PDP. Recently, Mr. Festus Keyamo, as Minister of State for Labour advertised employment of 1,000 youths in all the 774 Local Governments; N52 billion was allocated to the scam. We have not been able to locate anybody on the Island who received job or money. That was under APC.

If there is one reason to disbelieve that this scheme will work, it is the presence of people like Keyamo on the cabinet. Show me your Ministers and I will tell you what I think of your government. Only a fool will expect anything from them.

Fend for yourself.

LAST LINE: Let’s go there – to the houses of Senators and Representatives for food. Akpabio has already told us they collected N2 million on our behalf. We want our share.

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