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Misgovernance: Distribution of COVID-19 palliatives and the bad case of Enugu State Government

By: Onyiorah Paschal Chiduluemije,                                                                                                                                      

It is though arguable that more often than not the government of Enugu State under the watch of Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi tends to be in the news for some pleasant and commendable reasons. And part of the reasons widely emphasized for this is not unconnected with the belief that the governor has been relatively doing well, especially in terms of the provision of infrastructure as well as the protection of lives and properties in the State. Little wonder that most times, if the news about the State is not centered on projecting the supposedly giant strides accomplished by the Governor, it would be focused on how the good people of the state are purportedly glad and quite beholden to him (the Governor) for, among other things, his touted show of uncommon kindness and humility for all and sundry, irrespective of age or status. On this score, therefore, rightly or wrongly, it is believed to be a conventional wisdom that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is not only trying in terms of the development of the state, but also that in so doing he has successfully entrusted the state in the hands of God. Hence the state Slogan that Enugu State is in the hands of God.

But however correct this perception is, it is in the same vein unarguable that no matter how well-intentioned the governor might appear to be or how wonderful his performance in term of delivering democratic dividends to the people of Enugu State might seem, there are lots of issues of concern in the state which are mostly unreported or, perhaps, under-reported by the press for some inexplicable reasons. Unfortunately, this ill-development has often predisposed many an observer or people living outside the state to be mistakenly reveling in the well-packaged world of make-believe by usually eulogizing the governor over his so-called developmental strides – a World which often makes it look as if almost everything is perfect in the state. But, conversely, nothing can be further from the truth.

As noted earlier, some of these issues in the state which have been either ignored or, probably, deliberately downplayed by the government and the press alike include, but not limited to, poor, selective and, most at times, non-payment of gratuities to retired civil servants as and when due, irregular or, also, non-payment of monthly pensions to these Senior citizens of the State. And, of course, worse-hit among them are the retired teachers, both at primary and post-primary school levels. In fact, there are sundry other issues which, due to space constraint, this piece will not be dwelling upon them.

Even so, by highlighting these ones so conspicuously apparent in the misgovernance of the coal-city state, the essence of which is to spot-light the fact that though Enugu State may be projected, rightly or wrongly, to be in the hands of the Almighty God, there appear to exist a number of seemingly ungodly actions and inactions of the government of the day that seriously vitiate this obviously sanctimonies claim and thus render as stupid the sacrilegious mis(use) of God’s name in vain.

Now come to think of it, it is an open secret that following what is currently aptly viewed as the lockdown strategy of governance in Nigeria of today which has been precipitated by the arrival in the country of the global trending Covid-19 pandemic, a number of good spirited, wealthy and generous individuals, cooperate bodies as well as Churches, the latter ably represented by the Enugu State Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), had made some wonderful donations in various forms, such as Food stuffs like bags of rice, loads of cartons of noodles as well as gallons of vegetable oils, to the care of both the state and local governments within the same state.

Apparently, all of these were given out to these two tiers of government in an attempt to complement their heavily advertised efforts in cushioning the effects of the prevailing lockdown on the poor people of the state. Of significant here is the fact that the launching of the coal-city rice on Friday, April 10, 2020, by no other than the Governor ably represented by Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, the secretary to the State government, further gave the whole idea of Covid-19 palliatives in Enugu State the best of lofty expectations to be ever entertained by the good and hardworking people of the state.

In reality however, these expectations were not only subsequently dashed but also the basis for building them turned out to be the usual Nigerian mirage of the more you look, the less you see. In other words, the actual distribution of covid-19 palliatives in Enugu State represented at its best a lesson on how not to share things among people in dire need. Though, in Nigeria, scores of people are won’t to criticize the Buhari-led regime over his bigotry and clannishness in the distribution of similar palliatives at the national level, yet the manner the Enugu State version of such distribution at state level was effected can hardly be divorced from the parochialism of its Federal government counterpart. Interestingly, according to a People’s Democratic Party Stalwart and an insider privy to the distribution of the relief materials, “much of these lockdown palliatives publicly advertised to be meant mainly for the poor and the less privilege, ended up in the hands of the high-ranking PDP chieftains and within the domains of our so-called traditional ruler.  

Like Father Christmas, according to the source, “these two groups carefully dished out these palliatives to their numerous girlfriends, concubines and all those Women yet on the line to pander to the canal needs of these distributors”. Seriously volunteered on the grounds of assured anonymity, the source further divulged that it was following this glaring appropriation of the initial Covid-19 palliatives meant for the poor and the vulnerable by the Party bigwigs and these modern-day warrant Chiefs in Enugu State (who call themselves traditional rulers or Chiefs) that propelled the state governor to suddenly and recently remember “the PWDS”-that is People with Disabilities – a development aptly described as “an afterthought” by this source.

Indeed, it appears so unfortunate that today there is practically total absence of opposition political party in Enugu State, part of whose task it is to spot-light these glaring instances of misgovernance apparently being suppressed by the ruling party and corrupt members of the civil society by dint of conspiracy of silence, a trend which does not even seem to exonerate the Clergy and the Church in the state from sharing in this “small or big sin”. – as the case may be.

Be that as it may, and as a matter of fact, the projection that “Enugu State is in the hands of God” can neither be faulted nor disputed for the obvious reason that no State naturally is either in the hands of devil or wants to be identified as such. However, in so far as the distribution of the Covid-19 palliatives by the Enugu State Government through the 17 local government council Chairmen remains a vexed issue or a public controversy as to who got what, when and how, the case of Enugu State will remain in the annals a very bad reference point that reeks of dishonesty. Perhaps, who knows, this might of course be in tandem with the phenomenon of Nrashi/Arashi, conceptualized in Nsukka (the Governor’s) dialect to entail the whole gamut of everything bordering on embezzlement in turn by turn basis.

Onyiorah, a Journalist, writes from Nsukka. Enugu State via: 08130822962                                                                                                                

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