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Rejoinder to Garba Shehu: PDP on point notwithstanding

By Carl Umegboro

THE Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in its reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s second address to the nation on Monday 13 April, 2020 on the state of the nation vis-à-vis Coronavirus pandemic, knocked most of the points in the President’s address. Though, PDP is arguably known with carpeting all actions of the ruling party which justifies the caption, ‘campaign of disorganization’, nonetheless the opposition party has a salient point this time on account of the situation on ground.

The Senior Special Assistant (Media & Publicity) to President Buhari had exploded over PDP’s remarks against President Buhari’s address citing the remarks by European Union delegation to President Buhari as evidence that suggests the government has done well.

“Something must definitely be wrong with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if they would-as they did yesterday- dismiss the important national broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari as “disappointing,” a speech for which the European Union, through their Ambassador to Nigeria, congratulated the President, describing it as ‘‘a very powerful address to the nation last night”, Garba Shehu stated in his opening paragraph.

Without a doubt, President Buhari deserved commendations for his efforts so far in the fight against the spread of the dreadful pandemic, and therefore such remarks by external visitors are apt. Remarkably, President Buhari ensured that one of his daughters that returned from the United Kingdom self-isolated herself for the specified period as recommended by local and global health authorities. The deed alone is sufficient to attract encomiums to the President for not allowing personal interest override the interest of the general public.

However, it is important to note that the Head of EU Delegation commended President Buhari over his reported interventions, and not on appraisal from the streets and communities. By making provision for 2.6 households in dire needs, the President deserved a thumb-up. The question is how far has the implementation by government officials gone? Does it reflect Mr. President’s budget and targets or reflect the reality on ground?

Without doubt, under PDP, the social intervention will not only be diverted to individual pockets but looted lavishly with impunity, for as far as it is concerned, stealing is not corruption. However, the system must be strengthened to thrive. Thus, all avenues to corruption must be blocked for everyone. The cries of helpless masses including starving children and babies that are subjected to hunger by the lockdown demand a sober reflection.

Now, the crux of the matter is the fate of the masses that are crying and dying of hunger. This is what matters at the moment and not whatever any delegation said to the President. Buhari in his address noted that a lot of citizens live from hand to mouth which implies they struggle and survive through daily efforts and without any savings anywhere. This is the position of many artisans in the country. The presidential address emphasized that palliatives packages would get to them which is commendable. But the question is how many will eventually get the relief package as announced by the President?

Certainly, PDP having been in power for 16 years are not novice of the weak system we operate to the advantage of public officeholders, at the detriment of the masses. Yes, PDP knows that Nigerian politicians must exploit the scheme to their advantages. It is immaterial whether the officials are in PDP, APC, APGA, YPP and so on and so forth. The truth is that abuse is inevitable.

In fact, none of the developed countries in the world will adopt such primitive approach of entrusting any person with public funds to share by cash without any accountability mechanisms in place. So, this is a critical point PDP raised that will not go like its other propagandas. The party had asked for identity of 2.6 households that are beneficiaries of the intervention funds to be provided before adding funds for additional one million households. Irrefutably, that makes sense.

It is sensible on account that the masses cannot be drying up and crying without help from anywhere while politicians will divert the funds to themselves and relatives. The country has witnessed where public funds were buried in septic tanks by public officeholders. The country has witnessed unimaginable amounts of public funds warehoused in lockup shops. Even, snakes had also swallowed public funds too. So, entrusting public funds (cash) to anyone without security is a blunder.

Besides, PDP is not a visitor to the country like EU Delegation, and therefore witnesses activities as a stakeholder, and could competently ask questions on what goes on in the polity. It’s notoriety for campaign of calumny or disorganization is insufficient to snub it when it makes salient points on governance.

PDP recommended using the traditional institutions, community leaders and faith-based institutions to make the relief materials go round up to the remote villages. This advice is sound and realistic, and could be a proficient means to disburse social intervention funds to the public without or with less manipulations. Another robust means is to use the BVN to credit a resolved amount to masses that fall into the specified category. But to use government officials to disburse the funds by cash, it is faulty, primitive and will promote corruption.

The danger in it is that another government may equally adopt the same pattern in future by handing over large amounts of public funds to its appointed members in government to disburse to people without accountability. Whatever that is allowed today in APC will become a precedent for any other government in future. That’s the greatest danger in such weak options. Whatever any political party will not want another to do must be avoided. Sharing of money by government officials by cash is a sham and out of order.

In a nutshell, hunger is biting the masses in the country. Tens of unknown persons send SMS daily from different states begging for food or relief materials for survival. This is verifiable. For those with hard mind, they opt to various crimes. Suffice to say that even if PDP is notorious for campaign of disorganization, their suggestion to ensure fair disbursement of social intervention funds and sharing of foods to suffering masses should not be snubbed.

Honestly, this is not the time for exchange of blows in the political arena.  There are undeniably solemn agitations and unrests in Lagos, Ogun and FCT as well as other states under lockdown which has extremely affected those that earn their means of livelihood on daily basis, and therefore restlessly battling to withstand the pangs of hunger clearly showing on their faces. The ongoing second phase must not be messed up so as to avert dangers that may be as dreadful as Covid-19 in diverse dimensions.

Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). 08023184542-SMS only

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