By Rev. Fr. Okechukwu Paulinus Onyenuru OP, April 27, 2020, Article/comments
Back to palliatives! With the lockdown, there is need to give palliatives to citizens who have to stay at home. It is simply common sense to know that this has to be done. I will suppose that all the government of the world are at it. If citizens must stay at home, they must be aided to survive the Covid-19 threat. Hunger is no respecter of rules and a hungry man/woman is as volatile as cooking gas. When it became clear that hunger poses a greater threat than Covid-19, the government introduced palliative measures. Hundreds of billions of naira was declared by the government in addition to billions donated by individuals and groups. How the money is disbursed and spent is on the lips of every Nigerian.
There is no doubt that the palliatives are coming. It is what the nation cannot but do. Are palliatives from the government acts of mercy or duty? Duty I will say. However, we can see that agenda 2023 is creeping into the duty of the government to take care of her citizens at this time of pain. Did you say showmanship or campaign? I don’t think any individual or group giving out palliatives should be accused of this, whether or not they put up pictures, videos or voice notes on TV or social media. But for government officials, to place party stamps, pictures or notes suggestive of campaign on palliative materials is unacceptable. The government is not doing Nigerians a favour by giving palliatives. It is the right of the citizens. This is not a time to play politics but a time to roll up sleeves and give your best to the people who elected you into office.
From my experience, the principle of Ubuntu appears to permeate the soul of Nigerians. And here it is: “I am because we are.” It is a principle that values and promotes common good, common welfare, humanity and the human person. There is compassion, charity, kindness and empathy in Ubuntu. It is this spirit that moves Nigerians to give money and foodstuff to their neighbours in this time of need. Some even go to the extent of giving three square meals as palliative. One can only imagine the time, resources and dedication that go into such. Kudos to individuals and cooperate bodies reaching out at this time. With the level of assistance observed by many, we cannot but be grateful to kind hearted Nigerians. However, can we truly claim that Ubuntu permeates our souls if we cannot see Ubuntu in our socio-political system? Does this spirit also guide the actions of the ruling class? The second set of Covid-19 heroes are the kindhearted Nigerians who cannot dare to feed while they watch others starve. Truly, you are soldiers, warding off enemies of the stomach and pocket. Nigeria hails thee!
Just as there are two sides of a coin, there is another side to this story. It will appear in the eyes of many, both home and abroad that Nigeria is rising up to this challenge of catering for her citizens in this lockdown. This is why we must all wake up before Covid-19 lockdown is over. Revenue is generated by the government, including exploration of natural resources to address the needs of the country and cater for the citizens. When there is a disaster or mishap such as Covid-19 pandemic, it is the primary duty of the government to bear the bulk of assistance and aid given to those affected. Individuals should in charity extend help to those in need in the spirit of Ubuntu spirit. However, when the table turns around, the people will at the long run lose. Our leaders see us as “survivors,” people who can live-on irrespective of what you throw at them. As it stands, Nigerians are doing for themselves what the government can and should do for them. C’est Dommage!
Tell Nigerians that their palliative fund has been gutted by fire, they will seek other means without asking question. Tell them that the resources available are to pay 10% of the population (this group is obvious to all), they will provide for themselves. They are true to their identity as an Ubuntu people! By bearing the larger chunk of the effect of this lockdown, Nigerians are fuelling the complacency, mediocrity and greed of her leaders. “Since the masses can take care of themselves with the resources of their sweat, let us take care of ourselves with the common fund,” says the ruling class. I will be surprised if after this global threat, fuel does not rise to 200 naira per liter. The masses must pay for the losses of the elite. Surely, Nigerians will not complain.
We have to task our government to live up to their mandate. Good governance is what we demand. Good governance is not in individual’s achievement but collective achievement championed by progressive leaders. Persons do not live beyond a generation, but institutions live beyond centuries. Nigerians must realize that individual struggles cannot lead to progress except this struggle is part of a well-designed system. It is only in working with a blueprint that our individual works can lead to progress and development. This blueprint can be found in no other form than stable, well-funded and broad-minded institutions. I cannot hear anyone speak of plans to upgrade the education, health or power sectors. What prevents us from locally producing nose masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? There is a saying in Igbo language that “akpoogi onye ogbenye, ijiri ovuma baa” meaning, “if you are called a poor person, your angry response should be becoming rich.”
Where are the political scientists, where are the socio economic analysts? Where are the industrialists and political activists? While we think of where the next palliative will come from, let us think of a post-Covid-19 Nigeria. Dear Nigerians, there is life after Covid-19, a life that palliatives cannot sustain. While the average Nigerian cannot stand aloof while their neighbours suffer, it is pertinent to task the government to be dutiful towards the masses. The role of government in taking care of the masses cannot and should not be shouldered by the masses. Now is not the time to glory in palliatives, but to look ahead towards a Nigeria that can face future challenges. Now is the time to think beyond 2023. Now is the time to fix the dilapidated sectors and institutions. Now is the time to task our government to lift the nations out of this slum. God Bless Nigeria!
Fr.Onyenuru is a dominican Friar, Province of St. Joseph the Worker, Nigeria and Ghana, wrote from Saint. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy
University of Lagos, Nigeria.
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